The first 45 minutes of Victor Salva’s “Jeepers Creepers” is one of the best opening halves of a horror movie that I have seen. It is tense, has good acting and is well directed. Although the second half does keep up a good pace, it just cant keep the tension of the first. I will go on to explain why I feel this way later on in my review. But first the plot:
Darry (Justin Long) and Trish (Gina Philips) are brother and sister who are travelling home from college to their parents. As they drive through the isolated North Florida countryside they encounter a mysterious driver who, using his old rusty and very threatening looking van, tries to ram them off the road. The driver finally passes and goes on with his journey. Shaken and frightened Danny and Trish continue driving but again come across the same van which is parked outside an old church. They see the driver throwing what is presumably bodies into a large pipeline which leads to the basement of the church. The mysterious driver sees them and once again tries to ram them off the road but is again unsuccessful. As the van continues down the road Darry thinks that they should go back to the church because there may be someone in need of their help. They return to the church and, as Darry tries to climb in the pipe for a closer look, he falls and slides down the pipe. In the basement Darry finds hundreds of corpses sewn together and stuck to the walls. He manages to get out but is left traumatised by what he has seen. Trish and Darry then travel to the nearest town to call the police (as there cell phones don’t work – of course). Whilst waiting for the police to arrive they receive a mysterious phone call from a psychic, Giselle (Patricia Belcher), who warns them that if they should hear the song “Jeepers Creepers” then they are in grave danger. Darry ignores the warning and leaves the diner with the police officers, however as they travel back to church, the police officer gets a radio call that the church is on fire. Darry who is travelling with Trish in front of the Police hears “Jeepers Creepers” on the radio and we see the police officers in the background being killed by the van driver. The mysterious driver goes on to eat parts of the officers and we are shown the killer is some kind of monster. They manage to escape and try to get help from a woman who is also killed by what is known as “The Creeper”. Trish drives over the creeper repeatedly with the car and it is believed to be dead so Trish and Darry leave the scene and seek refuge in the local police station where some information about the creeper is revealed and there is a final showdown in the police station which leads to a respectable yet open ending.
Justin Long and Gina Philips have a good brother/sister chemistry on screen. Long shows his fear and trauma well as does Philips although her character does seem the stronger of the two.
My two favourite scenes in this film actually happen within the first 15 minutes.
The first scene, only a few minutes in, shows the two characters speaking inside their car. The shot is filmed from the hood of the car and we see through the rear window the first sight of The Creepers’ van as he accelerates towards Trish and Darry’s car with the intention of ramming them. The first time I viewed this film I didn’t actually notice the truck in the window until the last moment but after seeing it again I see how well this scene has been done and is very tense and menacing.
The second of my favourite scenes lasts only a few seconds but is very effective in making the viewer feel uneasy. The shot shows Trish and Darry driving past the old church for the first time where they notice the creepers van. They see the creeper throwing bodies wrapped in blood stained sheets down the pipe. The Creeper is then obscured from view by trees as they drive by. When The Creeper comes back into view he is staring directly at them. At this point in the movie we are just assuming it is bodies he is throwing down the pipe and its the “not knowing” that makes this scene disturbing.
Back to my original criticism with this movie. I think Jeepers Creepers would be almost perfect if the killer was not revealed to be inhuman. If “it” was left as a human serial killer or even left for the viewer to decide it would have been able to match the first half of the movie. A lot of the original fear of not knowing the exact situation is diluted when we are shown what the creeper is. It actually reminded me of an evil villain from Power Rangers. Its not a terrifying creature and you are not as disturbed as you should be when you see it.
I feel I should also mention that attached to this movie is Francis Ford Coppola who is credited as an Executive Producer.
In conclusion “Jeepers Creepers” is a straight forward Horror film but is let down in the second half when it becomes a “monster flick” instead of the tense fright fest of first half. I am not saying the film is ruined by this and it is still highly entertaining.
Overall I rate “Jeepers Creepers” 6.5 out of 8.