Jeepers Creepers II
Director : Victor Salva
Screenplay : Victor Salva
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2003
Stars : Ray Wise (Jack Taggart), Jonathan Breck (The Creeper), Travis Schiffner (Izzy Bohen), Nicki Aycox (Minxie Hayes), Thom Gossom Jr. (Coach Charlie Hannah), Eric Nenninger (Scott Braddock), Tom Tarantini (Coach Dwayne Barnes)
Even in its best moments, Victor Salva’s Jeepers Creepers II comes nowhere close to matching the thrilling creepiness of the opening half-hour of the original, 2001’s modest hit Jeepers Creepers. That movie worked incredibly well when Salva spent more time suggesting horror rather than directly showing it, and perhaps it is because of the increased budget that Jeepers Creepers II shows us everything and suggests virtually nothing. It’s a more direct horror film, and also one that is infinitely more redundant. It has its moments, but by the hour mark you realize that absolutely nothing new is going to happen—it’s all retread.
Salva got some of his scariest imagery in the first movie by using the barren, open landscape of middle America, and he sets his sequel in the same amber-hued heartland just a few days later. His monster is once again a largely unexplained batlike, demonic humanoid called “The Creeper” in the credits, except this time we learn that this thing comes out of the earth every 23 years to feed for 23 days. Of course, his diet consists entirely of humans, which he can dismember and use to repair his own body parts (the movie’s best gory moment is when he decapitates a teenager and uses the head to repair his own, which was damaged by a well-aimed javelin).
Jeepers Creepers II starts off on a good note in a cornfield where a young boy comes face to face with the Creeper hanging out on a cross with the other scarecrows. The scene works because it goes against horror movie conventions, taking place in the middle of the day in the broiling sunlight in an open field. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the movie takes place in the murky darkness of night on a broken down school bus filled with a group of catty teenagers—all of whom are either basketball players or cheerleaders and none of whom are worth caring about. The lack of care in creating interesting young characters is one area in which Salva gravely missteps where the first movie worked.
One error he replicates almost exactly is the use of unexplainable dreams to deliver narrative information that no one would otherwise know. In the first movie, he used an old psychic, which was a useful, if strained plot device. Here, a cheerleader has dream visions that include a victim from the first movie (Justin Long) explaining what the Creeper is and how long he will be around. Why this particular girl has these visions is never explained, although the visions themselves, which replicate the scary brightness of the movie’s opening scene, are some of the movie’s most effective moments.
The ultimate problem with Jeepers Creepers II is that there’s no sense of discovery. The first movie presented the Creeper as a mystery—at first, it seemed to be a hulking serial killer, and only later was its supernatural dimension revealed. In the sequel, the only thing we learn is about its history of feeding every 23 years, and we find that out through a scroll in the movie’s opening seconds. After that, it’s just the same thing over and over again, with the Creeper stalking its victims and jumping out of the corner of the frame. Because it becomes so rote so fast, it’s never particularly scary or enthralling. The movie as a whole is, in fact, the very definition of unnecessary.
Copyright © 2003 James Kendrick