Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Victor Salva
Stars: Justin Long, Gina Phillips.
Squabbling Jenner siblings Darius (Justin Long, from Galaxy Quest and tv’s ED, etc) and Patricia (Gina Phillips) are taking a long scenic drive home for the holidays via some quiet, remote backroads. The couple are nearly run off the road by an anonymous psychopath in a filthy old van. Soon afterwards, they spot the driver dropping what looks suspiciously like bodies wrapped in sheets down a well beside an old abandoned church. Deciding to investigate further, Darius finds himself stumbling upon a crypt full of dismembered bodies. The pair has stumbled upon a mysterious serial killer bogeyman, who seems to have supernatural powers and a taste for human flesh.
Unlike most recent horror films aimed at teen audiences though, Jeepers Creepers doesn’t descend into mere self-parody or corny cliches. Nor does it merely equate a high body count with genuine horror or suspense. Jeepers Creepers deliberately tries to recapture the creepy mood of more classic horror films like Psycho, Jaws, etc, and it has more and respect for the intelligence of its audience. That is not to say that writer/director Victor Salva is not beyond resorting to the occasional cliche or formulaic touch, but he brings a genuine sense of menace to the familiar material that will effectively scare the bejesus out of many. There are a number of creepy moments here, and Salva increases the uneasy atmosphere through some moody lighting and an industrial strength soundtrack and sound design. There are also some inconsistencies and an element of confusion surrounding the mysterious origins and motivations of the crazed killer here that ultimately undermine the film.
The performances of the relatively unknown cast are pitched at the right level of intensity and sweaty desperation, and they carry the film to peaks of white knuckled suspense. Salva, a self-confessed fan the of old fashioned horror movies he grew up watching, admits that his career has been largely influenced by Spielberg, and this becomes obvious with a Duel-like sequence in the film’s early scenes. With Jeepers Creepers he is also working under the auspices of his mentor, Oscar winning producer and director Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather trilogy, etc). Salva is best known for his creepy thriller Powder, but his career has mainly been overshadowed by controversy and allegations of child molestation. The effectively scary and chilling Jeepers Creepers may at least focus the attention back onto his screen achievements for a while!