August 30, 2001
For anyone unfamiliar with the rules of bad horror movies, writer-director Victor Salva ("Powder") has put together a helpful little primer called "Jeepers Creepers." A brother and sister (Justin Long and Gina Philips) witness a horrific crime while driving through rural Florida, and soon find a demonic killer after them. Their ensuing adventure is a virtual how-to for those intent on using sheer stupidity to live out their worst nightmares.
A few of the film's handy tips:
No. 1: When traveling, you must drive through the most remote, backwater areas you can find, preferably using an unreliable form of transportation. This ensures that, when the bad guy comes after you, there will be no one around to help, and your vehicle will fail to carry you away fast enough (assuming it carries you away at all).
No. 2: If you see something sinister, it is imperative that you investigate, alone and unarmed, with nothing remotely resembling a plan. Be sure to stay out in the open and make lots of noise, just in case the villain comes back. You wouldn't want him to miss you.
No. 3: Don't bother calling the police. By the time they finally believe your story, half of them will already be dead.
No. 4: If you are unable to kill your attacker through conventional means, keep trying. Repetition equals success. Once he has stopped moving, it is safe to assume that he is dead and you are perfectly safe.
No. 5: Always trust crazy old people, particularly if they claim to have special knowledge of the danger at hand. They won't be able to protect you, but they can at least tell you how you're going to die.
No. 6: Don't be in a hurry. Getting a good look at the monster and its handiwork is much more important than surviving the encounter.
No. 7: Cheerful songs are inherently evil. If you hear one, you're in trouble.
There are more, but we have limited space.
To be fair, Salva adds a few twists to the rule book, like making the small-town folks the siblings encounter reasonably kind and intelligent (as opposed to the standard inbred hicks). He also makes the creature itself frightening once in a while, and has the courage to write an ending that isn't a cop out, although it is telegraphed at least 10 minutes before it actually happens. TV actors Philips ("Boston Public") and Long ("Ed") make passable leads for this sort of thing, but it is quite disheartening to see Eileen Brennan, a normally great character actress, reduced to a tiny role as a foul-mouthed, gun-toting "cat lady."
Even when Salva pulls off a really creepy moment, he follows it up with something so absurd it wipes out what little he's accomplished. Tense scenes of the killer trying to run the kids off the road or infiltrating a police station are undone by wretched dialogue and sick jokes that make "Hannibal" look like a Family Channel movie. Camera angles and musical cues give away almost every potential shock the only people who would be scared by "Jeepers Creepers" are the ones who haven't seen a horror movie in about 30 years.
It's usually fun to ridicule the colossal idiocy of stuff like this, and Salva provides some choice opportunities for heckling, especially during the climactic final showdown. But he even takes some of the joy out of that by making the whole thing so relentlessly gruesome and unpleasant. There's an off-putting disdain for the audience here, as if Salva expects viewers to congratulate him for both grossing them out and insulting their intelligence. At one point, the sister tells her too-adventurous brother, "You know the part in scary movies where somebody does something really stupid and everybody hates them for it? Well, this is it!" Truer words were never spoken. Too bad she was summing up the entire film.
Originally published at: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2001/aug/30/film_review_jeepers/