A nasty, ingenious little item that forgoes the glossy style of today's
slasher movies for genuine scares and almost non-stop suspense, "Jeepers
Creepers" is the best thing to happen to the horror genre since 1999's
groundbreaking "The Blair Witch Project." A welcome, gritty throwback to "The
Texas Chainsaw Massacre" era, the film offers up a generous helping of edgy
gore and violence to tell the story of two normal, everyday college kids who
find themselves inexplicably being stalked by the most vicious, unrelenting
psychopath this side of Leatherface.
It's spring break, and siblings Trish (Gina Philips) and Darry (Justin Long)
have bypassed the boring freeway to travel home on the backroads of rural
America. Following a nasty run-in with a trucker with serious road rage
issues, Trish and Darry spot a dark figure getting out of the very same
automobile (license plate reading "BEATNGU") a few mile down the road, as it
dumps two bloodied, life-sized objects wrapped in sheets down a drain pipe.
Making the serious mistake of going back to investigate, Trish and Darry are
hurled further and further into a whirlwind of terror as they try, and fail,
to escape the cleaver-wielding, trench-coat-wearing, possibly inhuman maniac.
Borrowing its title from the classic 1930s Louis Armstrong song ("Jeepers
Creepers/Where'd you get those peepers?/Jeepers Creepers/Where'd you get
those eyes?")--a running theme throughout--"Jeepers Creepers" couldn't have
come at a more opportune time. A gratifying return to the days when horror
movies weren't about selling pop/rock soundtracks and starring the latest
television starlets, the picture is unapologetic in its singular goal to
scare audiences out of their wits.
Wasting no time in setting up the premise, savvy writer-director Victor Salva
(1990's "Clownhouse") quickly hurls our two realistic protagonists, and
subsequently the viewer, into a freakish nightmare that can't be woken up
from. At a fast, highly appropriate 90 minutes, "Jeepers Creepers" runs at a
clip pace that makes each scene all the more ineradicably absorbing and
tense. The tight, expert editing, by Ed Marx, helps to make the goings-on all
the more nailbiting.
Virtually a two-character show, Justin Long (1999's "Galaxy Quest") and Gina
Philips (1998's "Living Out Loud") make for a believable, charismatic
brother-and-sister pair. Credit Salva for choosing the make the protagonists
related; it makes the situations they get in all the more real, and does away
with the inevitable romantic subplot that usually hinders films of this ilk.
Their love-hate relationship is set up with many delightful nuances in the
early scenes, as they hold conversations and bicker childishly while driving
in the car. Even when arguing, however, it's obvious they love each other as
siblings only can. In small roles, Patricia Belcher (2001's "Heartbreakers")
is a standout, not to mention subtly funny, as a local psychic who has
visions of what is in store for Trish and Darry, while Eileen Brennan (1997's
"Changing Habits") memorably plays an ill-fated backwoods local they seek for
With atmospheric cinematography, by Don E. FauntLeRoy, that paints the back
country roads as a location you would never want to get stuck at alone,
"Jeepers Creepers" cleverly taps into the deep-seated fears everyone has
about feeling helpless in the eyes of great danger. And like the excellent
dessert that comes after a fine main course, "Jeepers Creepers" saves its
most unforgettable image for last--a horrifyingly disturbing, surprisingly
touching final shot that courageously proves, once and for all, good does not
always prevail in the face of pure evil.
Copyright © 2001 Dustin Putman