Holy shazbot, this makes three days in a row, and this time I’m back with an old favorite. Sometimes with all the new flicks I want to talk about, I neglect to go back and really talk about old favorites that deserve a place on your shelf, your queue, and definitely on the Lair. I’m talking about 2001’s Jeepers Creepers, everyone’s favorite supernatural slasher film with a vague connection to a 1930’s Johnny Mercer tune. Some say that United Artists was all for the connection as they were the original rights owners of the song, but little known are the other Johnny Mercer themed slashers they intended to make after Jeepers Creepersmade big box office. The Girlfriend of the Whirling Dervish,The Lady on the Two Cent Stamp, and Hooray for Spinach all went into pre-production, but none of them ended up making it to the big screen. The world will never know what randomly thrown together plots and loose collection of powers those song-powered sadists might have contained. All we can do is appreciate what we do have and enjoy watching Jeepers Creepers.
Darry and Trish (Justin Long and Gina Phillips) star as a brother and sister on their way home for spring break. Trish, in no hurry to get home and face her mother’s endless questions about her boyfriend, asks Darry to take the long way down two-lane country roads to delay their arrival. (I’m betting she never took anything that wasn’t an Interstate ever again.) After having an encounter with a rusty, aggressive truck on the road, they spot the driver dropping what looks like a human body down a shaft. Derry (being softhearted as well as softheaded) wants to go back and see if anyone needs help. Naturally, this only gets them deeper involved with “The Creeper”, a flying, axe wielding demon that’s woken up for its annual feeding like a bloodthirsty cicada. Working from a sense of smell, “The Creeper” is soon hunting down the siblings and killing off anyone who might help them. Hence look for deaths from the great Eileen Brennan (Clue, The Sting, Private Benjamin), Brandon Smith (Robocop 2, No Country for Old Men), and Patricia Belcher (Bones, Flatliners, every sitcom in the last 15 years).
Given the curtest inspection to the plot, the killer’s motivations, origins, etc, or the actions of 95% of the film’s characters,Jeepers Creepers fades faster than fingerprints left by dead skin cells. For me,Jeepers is one of those films where it’s best I turn my brain off, sit back, and start yelling at people for being stupid. Knowingly Gina even says to Derry as he tries to lean down “The Creepers“ body chute, “You know that point in horror movies where somebody does something stupid and everybody hates them for it. This is it.” It was, but there are also a jillion examples of that very behavior in this film. No matter what is happening around Gina and Derry, they have to stop and look at it. These two really are a supernatural serial killer’s dream, bratty, brash, dumb, and always ready to stop for help and provide a few more bodies. Trying to make Jeepers Creepersmake sense (don’t even get me started on actual on screen continuity), is a fools errand, and I know while fools are off doing such things I could be gleefully watching the Mac guy get it.
Writer/Director Victor Salva broke through to the mainstream in 1995 when his strange little film Powder became something of a surprise hit. Before then Salva had stuck to genre type features, but after he took one more stab at family friendly fare with Rites of Passage in 1999. It’s success (or lack thereof) is probably best illustrated by the fact that two years later he returned to horror with Jeepers and has kept on the path of terror ever since. Jeepers Creepers, while lacking some in the story and sense department, is a gorgeously filmed movie. Salva worked with his frequent collaborator Don E. FauntLeRoy, and they did a great job both setting the movie’s tone and working out great shots for their killer. With such a high concept design, demon head, silver spiked axe, frizzy hair, duster, wings, and so forth, Salva did an excellent job slowly revealing portions of the killer, slowly building the whole picture in the audience’s mind.
Jeepers Creepers would never go on my shortlist of great horror films unless the category was “winged slashers” then it would probably take top honors. It would however go on a list of films I just find to be super enjoyable to watch. The kills are grotesque enough, the killer interesting enough, and the characters completely enjoyable to yell at when they do stupid things. This is especially true of Justin Long. (While I’ve never been a big fan of Justin, his acting is particularly sketchy in JC and it doesn’t help that his character is fairly unlikable. Drew, what do you see in that dimwit?) Jeepers Creepers is the perfect type of film to put on and have fun watching. Who cares where you got them eyes as long as they’re watching something that you enjoy.