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Jeepers Creepers

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Jeepers Creepers

Starring: Justin Long, Gina Phillips
Director: Victor Salva
Rated: R
RunTime: 90 Minutes
Release Date: August 2001
Genre: Horror

*Also starring: Patricia Belcher, Jon Beshara, Jonathan Breck, Eileen Brennan

Review by Jerry Saravia
No Rating Supplied

I might give more credit than deserved but I must declare that "Jeepers Creepers" is, despite lapses in logic and plot holes big enough to drive a semi through, alternately chilling and frightfully good entertainment. It is a hark back to movies like "Fright Night" and "Return of the Living Dead" where good, scary thrills and chills, not to mention characters we care about, were central to our enjoyment. The film begins in an ominous tone recalling the open roadways out in the middle of nowhere of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." We see two kids in the car, Trish (Gina Philips) and her younger brother, Darryl (Justin Long), leaving for spring break from college and headed home. There is the usual banter between siblings about former boyfriends, dirty laundry, parents and urban legends. One particular legend is about a prom couple that died out in the same road they are driving on - they were found minus a head and a body. Suddenly, a roaring, tootin truck that seems to have come out of hell chases them and nearly runs them over. The truck disappears but later, Darryl spots a cloaked figure dumping bodybags down a silo. The upshot is that the very same truck that almost killed them is also there. Instead of continuing on their way home, Darryl decides to go back to the church and find if anyone is alive in those bodybags. What happens next is often terrifying, eerie and blackly comical - almost a horror-comedy but not quite.

"Jeepers Creepers" is sometimes uneven as it awkwardly balances itself between humor and horror. The first half-hour, however, is great, terrifically chilling fun since we are not sure where the movie is headed. When Darryl ends up in the basement of the church, he finds bodies stitched together and decorating the walls like the Sistine Chapel. We sense the killer is out there and that he could be in the basement. The question is: what is this killer? In the credits, he is known as the Creeper whose murderous strategy is taken from the lyrics of the song "Jeepers Creepers." He is also able to drive a mean truck at fast speeds and materialize from one place to another.

Director Victor Salva ("Powder") does a splendid job of crafting what would normally be a poor man's Clive Barker freakshow. Salva knows how to milk suspense out of deserted roadways, dark basements, silhouetted scarecrows, black crows, and so on. Most of the movie is saturated in atmospheric details, a nice respite from slasher film cliches and postmodernist winking. There is a great moment where the Creeper assumes a scarecrow position. I also like the constant birdcalls from the crows, a reminder that death is nearby.

Surprisingly, the acting by the two leads is astonishingly good. We are not talking about prettified teens from the Freddie Prinze and Sarah Michelle Gellar school. Gina Philips and Justin Long create credible teenagers facing an unknowing, evil force. Their bickering, bantering moments are upstaged by moments where they simply talk to each other, understanding and sizing each other up. The film spends at least fifteen to twenty minutes establishing their characters and that is a noble achievement in this day and age of soulless teen characters who make self-reverential horror movie statements.

"Jeepers Creepers" would have benefitted from tighter pacing towards its conclusion, less of a Psychic Lady character who gives away too much information, and less of the cops who try to kill the Creeper at the police station. I would have loved to learn more about the bodies that decorate the walls of the church and more of the Creeper's superhuman abilities. We are unsure of what to make of this creature nor do we know its ultimate goal. But that is part of the fun of "Jeepers Creepers" - its vagueness supplies the

Copyright 2001 Jerry Saravia

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