August 28, 2012

Jeepers Creepers (2001)

"A brother and sister driving home for spring break encounter a flesh-eating creature in the isolated countryside that is on the last day of its ritualistic eating spree."

Can you believe that "Jeepers Creepers" is 11 years old now? I still think of it as one of the newer horror movies and, just to compound my error, I've always considered it to be a teen movie when, on closer inspection, it really wasn't.

I'm not the only one who thought that the lead characters were supposed to be teenagers. With over 900 reviews of "Jeepers Creepers" on the IMDb which (as far as I could tell by skimming them) all seem to copy each other, not one of them pointed out some of the things which I'm going to tell you now.

To start with, the older sister, Trish, who occasionally looked like an even hotter version of Brooke Shields, was way closer to thirty than she was to her teens. In fact, Gina Philips was slightly over thirty when she played the part not that it really showed or mattered that much. She still had incredibly sexy arms. Justin Long, as Darry, was about the right age for being a student, but even then he was still too old for the part in spite of his boyish looks. So, basically, people can all stop calling "Jeepers Creepers" a "teen horror movie" now.

One thing everyone agrees on is that the beginning of the film looked a lot like Steven Spielberg's "Duel" (1971). If you listen to the commentary on the DVD, you'll discover that it was intentional. Victor Salva liked Spielberg's early TV movie and decided to create an homage in his own. There's nothing wrong with that at all when done correctly. I don't see any problem with the lack of originality in those scenes especially as the rest of "Jeepers Creepers" was vastly different to anything Spielberg ever came up with.

There were some nice touches even in the first ten minutes with the playfully squabbling siblings actually coming across like a real brother and sister in spite of not really looking very much like each other. I'm not entirely sure, but I think Darry was supposed to be gay. That facet of his character was surprisingly underplayed considering Victor Salva's sexual preferences.

I'm not going to get into the Victor Salva bashing which so many other reviewers dwell on. If you don't know about his past, just look it up. I will just say that no matter what anyone has done, if they've served their time, it's over. None of it should negate the good things they've done before or after. If people hate "Jeepers Creepers" because Victor Salva directed it, it's their loss. Similarly, I'm not even going to despise "Leader of the Gang" just because of Gary Glitter, and I'd be an idiot to write any of Roman Polanski's films off. I may, of course, change my mind about this later.

With that slight digression out of the way, the only truly weak point in "Jeepers Creepers" was the stupid decision 14 minutes in which was completely unrealistic. Without it, there wouldn't have been any more movie, but it could have been handled better.

After that, things settled down nicely to a slightly contrived and somewhat action-packed "cat and mouse" adventure. I wouldn't say that it was the scariest or goriest movie that I've ever seen, but it had quite high production values, some impressive stunts, and came across as a very well thought out piece of work. Since it had a budget of $10,000,000, there was a good reason for all that too although I must say that the "Creeper" (played by Jonathan Breck) could have looked better. There was too much of a resemblance to the Djinn from Wes Craven's "Wishmaster" (1997) and, in some scenes, it just looked like a guy in a rubber mask (which of course it was).

I think the intention was to make an very iconic and unstoppable creature which would appeal to the same fanbase that enjoyed Freddy and Jason. Maybe that aspect of "Jeepers Creepers" was too ambitious especially as the sequel was pretty horrible overall.

Where "Jeepers Creepers" fell down a bit for me was by including a psychic to give some exposition. Patricia Belcher, who is better known now for playing the judge in the "Bones" TV series, didn't seem believable as Jezelle the psychic. She didn't play the part very well and had the weakest character in the whole movie. If you edited all of her scenes out, you wouldn't be missing anything. It's a pity that her character hadn't been conflated with the crazy old cat-lady played by Eileen Brennan since she rocked!

"Jeepers Creepers" might have been an even stronger movie if it had ended at the one hour mark without giving any more explanation. I've seen a lot of reviews which say that the first half of the movie was better than the second, but, clearly, the reviewers weren't timing things properly. In movie terms, it's only the final reel which wasn't as good as the rest. Anyone who had seen "Salem's Lot" would have known that the last place you could be safe was in a County police station so it was a tad predictable. The final ten minute (or less) epilogue was also unnecessary.

All things considered, "Jeepers Creepers" was easily the best horror movie from 2001 although, to be blunt, it didn't have very much competition.

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