Written By: Casey Powers
Directed By: Victor Salva
Cast: Justin Long, Gina Philips, and Johnathan Breck
Controversial writer/director Victor Silva’s Jeepers Creepers is a 2001 horror film that’s one part Duel, one part Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and one part The Fly. And while it never quite gets up to the same level of quality as any of those movies, it’s still an entertaining ride for horror fans.
Oh, and yes, that is a Scooby-Doo reference in the review title.
The story follows a college aged pair of siblings (Justin Long and Gina Phillips) as they head home for spring break by taking the back roads of Kansas. Suddenly, the two are run off the road by a large and loud truck. After catching up to the truck down the road, the two see the driver (Johnathan Breck) dumping what appears to be a body down a chute by an old church. Naturally they find the nearest phone and call the police…just kidding–this is a horror movie, so they decide to investigate the body chute by themselves.
While investigating, Darry (Justin Long) finds a large collection of bodies sewn together in a bizarre tapestry of death. Seriously disturbed, the siblings now decide to contact the police. Along the way they come into contact with a local psychic, because why not? The psychic tells them that the man they saw dumping bodies is actually a demon that gets to live for 23 days every 23 years, and it spends its time alive eating peoples’ organs, thus adding them to its own body, thus allowing it to live forever. And the demon, aka the Creeper, can smell the scent of an organ it needs from one of the siblings, and won’t stop hunting them until it gets it.
Jeepers Creepers is a mixed bag of a movie. It sets up then subverts a lot of traditional horror tropes. The movie is set during spring break, but not at an isolated party resort. It has a male and female lead, but they are not romantically involved. And it has a slasher style villain, with slasher style kills, but doesn’t have a slasher structure. It is nice to see something a little different done within the horror genre, but it also falls onto old clichés. There are plenty of moments where the car won’t start, or the phone doesn’t work, or jump scares come out of nowhere, which brings down some of the movie’s better moments.
Jeepers Creepers has some genuinely creepy and suspenseful moments, but most of those are loaded towards the front of the film. Salva uses the ‘Hitchcock reveal’ rather well, meaning that something dangerous is seen in the background and is completely unseen by the people about to be put in danger. These moments were done well and build up tension. The chemistry between the two leads is also a positive for the film. Justin Long and Gina Philips are believable as brother and sister, and at no point do the characters feel annoying. The audience is actually on the victim’s side and doesn’t want them to die. But really, there are two great reasons to see this movie.
The first is the villain himself. The Creeper is, well, creepy. He has a cool design and MO. He harvests people’s organs so that he can live forever, and doesn’t just kill them because he can. He combines the silent unstoppable killer of Jason, with personality and fun of Freddy. He’s a unique horror killer, and is easily the most memorable part of the movie.
The other great part of this movie is surprisingly Justin Long’s performance. Yeah, the guy from the Mac commercials and who works almost exclusively in stoner comedies gives one of the most convincing fear performances I’ve ever seen. It’s kind of depressing actually to see how much wasted talent is in Mr. Long. If he ever decided to do some serious movies I could actually see him get nominated for an academy award…which is a sentence I never thought that I would ever say. But hey, James Franco and Jonah Hill did it, so it’s not out of the realm of believability.
Overall, Jeepers Creepers is a film that has some good and bad in it which ultimately lands somewhere in the middle. However, I think that the good acting and the superb monster and monster effects makes the movie worth a watch.