Day 23: Jeepers Creepers (2001)

Director: Victor Salva

Starring: Jonathan Breck, Justin Long, Gina Philips

Runtime: 91 minutes

Let me start by saying that I am surprised at how many horror movies I am covering made in 2000 or after. Perhaps this shows that I am not as “old school” as I thought. I think it may also just have to do with the fact that some of these I’ve seen more recently, and so they’re easier to talk about.

Anyway, Jeepers Creepers divided a lot of horror fans when it came out, since it tried to be a mash-up of the slasher subgenre (which seemed slated for resurgence with the success of the Scream films and American Psycho), and the monster subgenre (which seemed to be dormant). But whether effective or not, I think this aspect of it makes “The Creeper” one of the more interesting of villains in recent years.

POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOLLOW

The focus of the movie is limited mostly to two college student siblings, Darry (Justin Long) and Trish (Gina Philips), coming home for spring break. On their way driving through rural Florida, they begin to be stalked by the Creeper (Jonathan Breck), who drives an old antique car. During this time, you learn a little about Darry and Trish, though not much. You start to see some of their insecurities, and although not special or terribly sympathetic, you get the impression they are fairly typical college kids who care about each other, even if they don’t always get along.

Before we even see The Creeper, some good suspenseful scenes lead us up to his appearance, making good use of his menacing car. There is a scene in a drainage pipe that will put anyone with the slightest bit of claustrophobia on edge. We see that the Creeper has collected and mutilated a number of bodies, but only gradually after that, as he zeros in on Darry and Trish, do we start to see that he is not quite human. They go to a psychic (Patricia Belcher) to find out what he/it is; she tells them some disturbing info, but nothing quite useful.

Like in Halloween, the killer looks human, partly through disguise, but has supernatural powers of mysterious origin, and can’t be killed. He also stalks his victims before killing them. Unlike Halloween, though, there is no psychosexual aspect to the killings; he is attracted, for whatever to someone’s particular scent, so he’s more animal than human.

The first half of the film is in the slasher style, with the violence more threat than real, but the second half seems to turn into a whole other movie. It turns into a monster movie, with a lot of violence and gore, and it gets more predictable. Still, I think there are some eerie images that make it more than just a creature rampage. By the end, it seems apparent that there’s no stopping the Creeper, and I found myself asking: what the hell is it? A demon? Some mutated or cursed man? There’s a sequel which doesn’t do much interesting, but there’s a third film coming out next year, which is supposed to be the final installment, so maybe it will answer some questions.

By the way, I feel that I must mention that the director, Victor Salva, has a had short directing career because of acts of child molestation he committed back in 1989 (when Salva was 29). Like with Roman Polanski, some people will refuse to watch his films because of this, so I figured I should mention it. Apparently he only spent 15 months in prison (he was sentenced to 3 years)—this seems ridiculously low for child molestation. He claims to regret what he did and has been trying to redeem himself and help others since getting out of jail. See this article:

http://articles.latimes.com/2006/jun/11/entertainment/ca-salva11

Jeepers Creepers car

Trish and Darry are menaced by The Creeper’s 1941 Chevy COE.

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