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Review by Dustin Putman
2 stars out of 4
When "Jeepers Creepers" came to theaters on the Labor Day weekend
of 2001, I wrote in my review that it was "the best thing to happen
to the horror genre since 1999's groundbreaking 'The Blair Witch Project'."
Two years and multiple viewings later, this statement still stands
as a fair enough assessment. "Jeepers Creepers" was serious about
its scares and brave in its chilling and unexpected denouement. When
every other slasher picture of the time was being overly clever and
doing the same old thing with a killer in a mask, "Jeepers Creepers"
dared to be something different and smarter.
Despite original writer-director Victor Salva's return to the helm,
"Jeepers Creepers 2" is a terminally lame sequel that pales in the
shadow of its superior predecessor. Everything this film does, the
first film did better. And everything it chooses not to do at all
are the very things that were most memorable in that 2001 shocker.
What made "Jeepers Creepers" so very notable within the horror field
was its success in gradually ratcheting up real suspense and innovative
ideas all the while developing its main charactersa college-aged brother
and sisterto the point that the audience genuinely cared about their
fates. In "Jeepers Creepers 2," the teenage victims-to-be are so shamelessly
one-note and interchangeable that they might as well have been listed
in the end credits as "Asshole Jock #1-8" and "Cheerleader #1-3."
I've seen more complex character development in a "Friday the 13th" sequel.
The 8-minute prologue is the only setpiece that faithfully recreates
the taut and disturbing air of the original, as a young boy putting
up scarecrows in his father's (Ray Wise) cornfield is attacked and
whisked away by the Creeper, a half-human/half-winged monster that
awakens for 23 days every 23rd spring to feed on human body parts.
Switch to the final day of the Creeper's wakeful period, a school
bus carrying a slew of bickering basketball players and three cheerleaders
breaks down on the desolate, backcountry Highway 9. Finding a spike
with a human tooth in one of the tires and, later, another spike made
out of a bellybutton, the no-nonsense bus driver (Diane Delano) suspects
something sinister is afoot. She would be right. Before long, the
bus's inhabitants are being terrorized by the monster lurking outside,
while meek cheerleader Minxie (Nicki Lynn Aycox) starts experiencing
psychic visions about the Creeper and his victims.
In "Jeepers Creepers 2," director Victor Salva's ideas of originality
and suspense boil down to little more than the villain swooping down
to the bus every few minutes, grabbing one of the ill-fated stick
figures, and flying back up into the nighttime sky. One of the elements
that made the Creeper so frightening the first time around was that,
no only was he a monster with the capabilities to fly if need be,
he also posed as a human psychopath who constantly drove the backwoods
highway in his broken-down truck, searching for his next victim. Gone
this time is the unforgettable truckthe subject of some of the first
film's tauter scenesand the Creeper's demonic lair. Gone, too, is
his apparent ability to walk around.
Jonathan Breck has a field day reprising his role of the Creeper,
but he doesn't have as much to do here other than pose as a bat with
a person's body. Sure, the sight of him can still elicit goosebumps
from time to time (truth be told, his make-up is one of the few areas
that has improved), but not a single thing is learned about him that
the viewer didn't already discover in the previous installment. Furthermore,
precious time is dedicated to a set of inane dreams Minxie has, but
nothing comes of them, and no reason is given for why she is suddenly
experiencing psychic powers. As the stupidly named Minxie, Nicki Lynn
Aycox plays the part as if she is always one step away from being
either comatose or mute. And if you were hoping to finally find out
who or what the Creeper actually is, and where he came from, don't
hold your breath. Director Salva sure didn't.
In scope, "Jeepers Creepers 2" is grander than the first film, its
special effects more extensive, and its action sequences more plentiful.
Ultimately, what it has gained financially it has lost in imagination
and brain power. Despite the aforementioned opening scene getting
things off to a jolting start, and a few individual stalking setpieces
workmanlike and amicably spooky, its mood is constantly being ruined
every time one of the dimwitted characters open their hateful little
mouth. Additionally, hints of racism and homosexuality do not further
the story and only make the characters even vaguer ciphers. Adding
insult to injury, the famous title song, which was used to such memorable
effect in the first film, is also missing-in-action, making the very
name of the movie meaningless. Whereas "Jeepers Creepers" was a grisly
and memorable mini-triumph of nightmarish glee, "Jeepers Creepers
2" is nothing more than a joyless, by-the-numbers, paper-thin disappointment.
Copyright © 2003 Dustin Putman