Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 31 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Terror Violence/Gore, Language and Brief Nudity
Directed by: Victor Salva
Written by: Victor Salva
Starring: Gina Philips, Justin Long, Jonathan Breck, Patricia Belcher
JEEPERS CREEPERS was a huge hit on the horror scene back in 2001. I remember reading rave reviews from Fangoria and hearing Clive Barker call it one of the best in the decade. In fact, it wound up being so successful at the box office that a sequel was released two years later. I was far too young to see the film on the big screen and had to wait to see the tame censored version on TV. Watching it now for the first time in about a decade, I can see how this would be refreshing for genre fans to be coming out of the late-90’s self-aware slasher craze and how they might wind up loving this little film. It’s definitely not the second coming of horror, but JEEPERS CREEPERS is what more wide-theatrical horror movies should be. It’s original, R-rated, and focuses on scaring the bejesus out of you!
A pair of siblings are driving through the Florida countryside. Trish has picked up her brother, Darry, from college and the two are planning on spending Spring Break at their parents’ house. Along a deserted highway (which has been the source of many urban legends), the two encounter a foreboding truck. The driver behind the wheel seems to attempt to run them off the road. They let him pass and laugh it off. It’s when they see said driver of the truck further down the highway that things begin to get strange. It appears that he’s dumping a group of bodies down a drain pipe. Without warning, the siblings find themselves being hunted by something much worse than a serial killer….something that isn’t human.
This is a good old-fashioned monster movie that features a frightening boogeyman, a creature that hasn’t gotten enough recognition. This “Creeper” (as he’s listed in the credits) isn’t fully shown until about halfway into the movie and even then, he’s still hiding in the shadows for the most part. We catch brief glimpses of him throughout the movie, silhouettes and we only see the Creeper full-on in the conclusion. Mercifully, the monster is unique and very creepy (which suits his character just fine).
One thing that is especially refreshing about JEEPERS CREEPERS is that the two main characters are siblings. If this were another film about a girl and her boyfriend encountering a monster, it wouldn’t be the same. It feels like there’s real chemistry between the lead actor and actress in a bickering, playful, but loving brother/sister relationship. As much as I usually can’t stand Justin Long, he does a decent job in this flick as Darry. Gina Philips is especially convincing as his sister. Then there’s Jonathan Breck. Hidden under layers of make-up, he’s a formidable foe in the form of The Creeper. Patricia Belcher is the weakest cast member in the film. She’s plays an annoying psychic, who really doesn’t do much except deliver exposition.
That’s the main problem I have with JEEEPERS CREEPERS. At points, it’s scary and atmospheric. During other moments, it feels like it’s poorly written and must explain the little details to you. I like the idea that there’s a creature that feeds every 23rd Spring for 23 days, but there must have been a better way of telling us this than an annoying psychic who keeps giving large portions of exposition. Sometimes things are scarier when they aren’t explained. If the film had found a way of giving this back story of the Creeper and not divulging any other information that occurs later on in the film, then it would have been nothing short of absolutely terrifying. Instead, the Victor Salva practically reveals his hand with the psychic giving cryptic hints at where the film will go.
Even with some predictable turns and too much exposition, JEEPERS CREEPERS is a really cool creature feature. Salva makes the wise decision of regulating his beast to the shadows for the most part. The Creeper is indeed a very creepy menace and the two leads are believable as siblings too. This whole movie has great ideas and executes them to varying degrees of success, but overall, I would recommend JEEPERS CREEPERS as one to watch in the dark with the sound cranked up!