Jeepers Creepers film review

What’s with Hollywood and road trips? Lately it seems like everything evolves from adventures while traveling across highways and small towns. To the credit of the filmmakers who think of these common ideas, most of the time, at least for the time being, these ideas work well.

This year alone, we have seen plenty of eventful stuff occur on the road. From the comedy Jay and Silent Bob to the thriller Joy Ride, it’s been anything but your ordinary drive across the nation. This time out, fear takes the road trip in the surprisingly effective monster movie Jeepers Creepers.

The film stars the young, fresh, lively faces of Justin Long (Galaxy Quest) and Gina Philips (Living Out Loud) as Darryl and Trish, a college-aged brother and sister who are driving home from spring break, passing the hours by bickering and insulting each other. The film engages us early with charisma generated in the early scenes of their playfulness. Soon enough we learn of an old tale that involves a college student who has mysteriously disappeared on the same road the two siblings travel, and then the siblings encounter a puke-colored truck that almost tramples their aging car in its path.

Later, on the same road, they spot the truck parked in the lot of an abandoned church. From a distance, they watch the bizarre-looking driver toss big, body-shaped bundles in a nearby sewer pipe. He spots their spying and soon runs them off the road. Darryl and Trish decide they should return to the pipe to scope it out. But Darryl falls down the pipe, and what he finds will leave both of them on a fast-paced, terrifying fight for their lives. This figure wants something from one of them. Who? What? You’ll have to ride this coaster for yourself to find out.

Jeepers Creepers isn’t the kind of monster movie that relies on special effects and gory images to terrify the audience. In the film’s press notes, director Victor Salva quotes his conscious decision not to “predicate on gore, but rather suspense and images that would be hard to forget – not because they’re graphic, but because they’re unnerving and indelible.” And he’s right.

The frightening stuff works because the film contains believable, strong central characters and lots of unexpected shocks, and it gives us time to catch our breath and react to the events. Jeepers Creepers (never mind the silly title) doesn’t try to keep the same heart-racing pace throughout. Instead, it creates new terrifying circumstances for the characters. Some of these circumstances evolve from subplots that don’t really go anywhere, but otherwise the film stays focused.

Jeepers Creepers is the kind of movie that will definitely make you grab the arm of your date. If you happen to be a guy, well, we’re sorry if you look like a sissy.

The double-sided DVD features a commentary by Salva – predictable but impressive in his description of some of the budget limitations of the film. Deleted scenes and a making-of documentary fill side two. None of this is very interesting; most of the extra scenes are obvious cuts or indistinguishable from those still in the film, which I guess means Silva and his editor did good work. Where’d ya get them peepers?

Where’d ya get them peepers?

Review by Blake French © 2001

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