Movies like “Jeepers Creepers” gives me hope that the Teen Slasher genre still has some life left in it. Written and directed by Victor Salva (“Powder”), the film follows college students Trish (Gina Philips) and her brother Darry (Justin Long) on their way home from school for a vacation. Finding themselves on what appears to be a long stretch of empty road somewhere in the Midwest, the siblings encounter a creature (called the Creeper, played by Jonathan Breck) that tries to run them off the road with his large, modified truck (although it looks more like an armored car).
Later, and further up the road, the siblings spot the Creeper dumping bodies into a sewer pipe. Always the curious kind, Darry decides to make sure he saw what he thought he saw despite Trish’s warnings. As it turns out, Darry saw exactly what he thought he saw — an old sewer system filled with bodies. The problem is, although Darry and Trish had seen the Creeper dump the bodies, the Creeper had seen them, too. And that armored car behind them looks like it’s coming up on their vehicle pretty fast…
What follows is an intense cat and mouse game as Darry and Trish seek help to uncover the Creeper’s killing spree. (It seems the Creeper had been killing for quite a long time, and using the bodies for… Well, I won’t spoil it.) Here, the film takes a drastic departure from the standard Teen Slasher movie, defying conventions by actually featuring cops with brains. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, in case you were wondering, it is possible for cops in Teen Slasher movies to have brains. The cops of “Jeepers Creepers” are so helpful to our heroes that their police precinct becomes a sitting duck when the Creeper comes calling, Terminator-style. (The Creeper’s bloody assault on the darkened police precinct is probably the inspiration for a similar police assault in the inferior Teen Slasher movie “Darkness Falls”.)
Taking the whole “breaking the rules” idea to another level, “Jeepers Creepers” ends very unexpectedly and quite abruptly. I was waiting for another 30 minutes of intense fighting when the film suddenly quit on me. (I didn’t see this ending coming at all, and I love the film for it.) Although it could be said that the ending is familiar in the way it leaves plenty of room for a sequel. (The sequel will be released in 2003, if you were wondering.)
The performances by the two young leads are quite good. Justin Long (“Galaxy Quest”) is not your typical Slasher movie kid, and his character actually shows plenty of ingenuity and brains to go along with his curiosity. Gina Philips also defies type as the concerned sister who shows initiative as well as resourcefulness. The two actors perform admirably as sister and brother, and their attempts to save each other throughout the movie are very believable. And no, there’s no superfluous love interest for either sibling. The movie doesn’t have time for that nonsense, since the whole thing takes place in, I believe, a single day.
“Jeepers Creepers” is a bloody and violent movie, but it’s also a really fun movie. The Creeper, it’s revealed, is not exactly human, and if the film can be faulted for anything, it’s showing the Creeper’s true identity much too soon. Beyond that, “Jeepers Creepers” is an atmospheric and terrific movie. It has enough style and originality for a dozen movies of its kind, and Victor Salva’s screenplay is well thought out, well plotted, and despite the presence of a large inhuman killer, quite grounded. In fact, the only reason why the assault on the police precinct surprised me so much wasn’t because it couldn’t happen, but because after seeing so many Teen Slasher movies, I didn’t expect the killer to show itself to the whole world like that.
If I make it seem as if “Jeepers Creepers” is full of surprises, that’s probably because it is. It’s a shame the movie hasn’t gotten enough attention for its unconventional take on what’s already becoming a stale genre. Yes, the film looks familiar, but that’s the beauty of it. It looks familiar, and yet it’s different. God knows Teen Slasher movies can use some injection of fresh blood. It looks like Victor Salva is the man to do it.
Victor Salva (director) / Victor Salva (screenplay)
CAST: Gina Philips …. Trish
Justin Long …. Darry
Jonathan Breck …. The Creeper