NOW PLAYING: Jeepers Creepers 2

Posted: Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Let me just say at the outset, that Jeepers Creepers 2 was on the low end of the list of films I would have preferred to review this weekend. I mean, c'mon. Have we gone sequel crazy or what? You can't tell me that the public is demanding the continuing storyline of a mediocre horror movie that did mediocre business at the box office and that is really only notable for it's continued mediocre success on video. They're not. I know they're not because every time I mention this movie to someone, the inevitable response is "Jeepers Creepers 2? What?!" So, needless to say, I was surprised to find that I actually enjoyed this silly bit of late summer trash.

The reason this movie succeeds is in direct correlation to the reason the first film did not. Jeepers Creepers, though it did have a few scary parts, didn't really know what it wanted to be. Is it a serial killer movie? The first half certainly seems to suggest it. The scary country bumpkin in the dirty, rundown van chasing terrified kids down the highway, then dragging them back to his basement where he would perform unspeakable acts of depravity is pretty creepy. Or is the film, as the second half suggests, a monster movie? Indeed, the big surprise comes when our "serial killer" sprouts giant, membranous wings that probably were supposed to be kind of bat-like, but look more like they come from a six-foot fairy who's seen his better days. As the movie continues in this vein, all the fear we built up during the first part of the movie dissipates. After all, demons from Hell who like to eat specific body parts from different people in order to stay alive for a twenty-three day feeding frenzy? No one actually believes that's going to happen to them. Now a freaky hillbilly who drags teenagers off to an underground lair where he papers the walls and ceiling with their mutilated bodies? Well, that happens all the time. That's scary. I realize the filmmakers may have been trying to double-dip genres with that film, but it just doesn't come together. The sequel, however, has no such identity crisis.

JC2 dispenses with any notion of the serial killer right off the bat. This is a monster movie, pure and simple, and, if watched from that point of view, it's cheesy fun, kind of like Tremors, without the laughs. The film begins on Day 21 of the aforementioned twenty-three day cycle, only a few days after the ending of the original. We know that time is running short for our friendly neighborhood Creeper because as the ad campaign for this movie refuses to let us forget, "Every twenty-third spring, for twenty-three days, it gets to eat." So, he's only got a couple more days, and he's gonna make 'em count. First, he nabs a kid out of a wheat field after posing as a scarecrow. This scene is actually pretty creepy and made for a great trailer. Then, the next day, he disables a school bus out on a rural road and proceeds to pick off the occupants one by one, swooping overhead and winging them off to their doom. It's typical horror-fare: the dark, abandoned area, the enclosed space with the monster right outside the door, the occupants going crazy with fear, and the movie plays it well. Will any of them escape? Can they survive 'til morning? Will the grieving father and his homemade harpoon gun be able to save them all? You'll have to watch and see.

It's interesting to compare horror movies from the seventies and early eighties with ones from today. In those earlier films, the killers were bad, but the killed usually were no angels either. Generally, the slaughtered teens were either underage drinkers or pot smokers, were almost always promiscuous, and were always dispatched without mercy. Only the pure got a chance to fight back, and they inevitably won. Nowadays we like to feel more empowered, I guess, and the killer no longer gets the upper hand. Take for example, the Scream movies. Essentially a series that embraced all the old horror cliches, it added a new one to the mix: the victims fight back. Granted, the killer gets them in the end - wouldn't be much of a slasher flick if he didn't - but not before getting beat to hell with everything from baseball bats to beer bottles. Jeepers Creepers 2 takes it up a notch. Realizing that their killer is an indestructible demon who can regenerate body parts by chowing down on his victims, they really let him have it, with everything from javelins to car wrecks. I imagine much of this attitude stems from our society's refusal to be victims. Everything from the self-defense classes that became vogue in the eighties to the nationalistic anger we felt after September 11 suggests that movie bad guys are going to have to work a lot harder to achieve their nefarious ends. Luckily, for the Creeper, he can simply grow back, but only time will tell if he can generate a true franchise. Grade: B-

Jeepers Creepers 2 is rated R for gruesome violence and language.

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