Jeepers Creepers

A new Boogeyman in town

It may be a bit early to call this one a horror classic, but Jeepers Creepers has a lot of the same spirit of invention and old fashioned scare tactics as Halloween, if you can get past a few hurdles. The first problem may be the title, which sounds too cutesy, despite the fact that the script tries to justify it. The second hurdle is the fact that the protagonists pull some major blunders – the kind that have the audience screaming at them (though the characters acknowledge the fact even as they’re screwing up).

Trish (Gina Philips of Deadly Invasion: The Killer Bee Nightmare) and her brother Darius (Justin Long of Galaxy Quest) are on their way home from college for break. On the road, they are suddenly harassed by some loco in a big old rusty truck that nevertheless gives their car a pounding at speeds over 100 mph. They escape, but later spot the truck parked by an old abandoned church. As they pass, they see a shadowy figure (Jonathan Breck of Spiders) dumping a bloody, body-shaped package down a big pipe. And he sees them.

With that, the monster truck is chasing after them again. They manage to get away a second time. However, Darry gets the brave but foolish idea that what they saw dumped down the pipe might be somebody still alive that needs help. Trish is talked into going back with him to take a peek. They’re young, folks.

Part of the joy of The Terminator was that you didn’t know who the bad guy was for the first act. I won’t spoil that feeling of discovery for you here, except that what they find at the bottom of the tube rivals the horrors of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and what comes after them is a truly original horror creation that’s revealed a bit at a time. By the end, it may be revealed too much, but there’s still an air of mystery and savage menace left.

Another flaw comes in late in the game in the form of an Old Psychic Lady – a creaking cliché that too conveniently appears to explain a few mysteries. These flaws might add up to spoil the whole show, except the leads are too good (Long especially comes across as believably freaked out by events that would have you or me in the same shape), the script and direction (by convicted child molester Victor Salva) are too on the mark, and the menace is too well presented. The end feels a little unsatisfying, as if too eagerly anticipating a sequel, but it’s not what I’d consider a cheat – it’s just the kind of ending we don’t see much of these days. If given half a chance, this is one to give you the creeps.

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