Jeepers Creepers is a revelation for one reason: it’s the first horror film in years to have real balls. This movie pulls no punches and is all the better for it. Though many can argue about the merits of the film’s second and third acts, every critic agreed that the first thirty minutes are easily the scariest thing this side of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” In the glutted market of teen slasher flicks with the sole purpose of selling pop-rock soundtracks, this is a callback to those creepy 80’s favorites such as “Maniac,” “Dead Alive,” or Friday the 13th where all bets are off and everyone is susceptible. This film sets up its protagonists well, makes the two leads both likable and real (the two hardest traits to nail with any horror movie character), and then places them in situations that are so nerve wracking you’ll be lucky to have fingernails left by the finale.
The story involves brother/sister combo Darry (Justin Long) and Trish (Gina Phillips) who are both heading back home from college. After deciding to take the scenic route home, the two discuss topics from what cryptic license plates really say to the odd disappearance of a high school couple on the very same road back in the seventies. Suddenly from behind an old truck appears and begins bearing down on them for no reason at all…
That’s all I can reveal for now. If the setup sounds a bit bland, it’s purposefully done and leaves the door wide open for the possibilities writer/director Victor Salva takes advantage of. Salva is well aware of the horror genre and the cliché’s therein. Sure it’s a knock-off, but a certifiably great one. Throw in a bit of Halloween, The Blair Witch Project, “Duel,” and the fresh originality of that legendary first act and you have a slick horror film that at a swift 90 minutes certainly doesn’t wear out its welcome. Though by the third act the movie is a haughty mess of missed opportunities and conventions, this clever flick is definitely the best horror film to show up in our post “Scream” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer” world. Self-reference is kept to an absolute minimum, keeping itself to one line that is actually quite funny: “You know that part in scary movies where somebody does something stupid and everybody hates them for it?-well, this is it!”
If that third act seems like its droning to a conclusion, part of me speculates this is deliberate so by the time that brilliant ending hits you the affect is jarring and complete. Salva got a lot of flack from test screenings and the studio to change the ending and thankfully didn’t cave in. This one will not only leave you whistling that title tune, but bring back those final haunting images every time you do so.
VIDEO ^ Jeepers Creepers is presented in both full frame (pan & scan) and 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. Not even bothering with the former (who does?), the latter is actually quite a bit brighter than the release prints sent to theaters. Salva was worried that such bright, vibrant colors and “magic hour” golden hues might lessen the scares (they don’t) so he decided to tone the color down for the theatrical release. This DVD however features the original telecine transfer and it simply sparkles. The grain contained herein is intentional but the edge enhancement is not. On widescreen or monster projection sets the halos around hard edges is noticeable enough to get distracting, but the rest of us won’t notice.
AUDIO ^ Presented in a rocking Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, this option delivers. The powerful bass and the active surrounds are nice, if not a bit restrained, and the pulse-quickening score registers well with no pops or distortion in sight. The pan effects are well done and the sound effects are even better. For such a low-budget production the sound mixing is top notch.
MGM also saw fit to include French and Spanish 2.0 Surround tracks and subtitles, as well as English closed captions.
EXTRAS ^ MGM, the studio that is finally realizing the potential of DVD Special Editions, has provided a lot of great material here, including an hour long documentary that suits the film perfectly.
Screen-Specific Commentary by Director Victor Salva ^ This is a yack track that is a blow job to anyone connected to the film. Everyone did a fantastic job, the actors were incredible, the production value was amazing for the budget, yadda yadda. You really wish the guy would stop stroking his crew members and get on with the trials and tribulations of getting this type of film made. These types of stories do rear their head later on in the commentary but you have to get around the brown-nosing first. And seeing as he repeats these complements over and over, it’s almost grating by the time you finish the film. A forgetful track at best, you can find better ways than spend 90 minutes hearing him go on about how he ripped off such and such film and how everyone was spectacular.
That’s the only special feature on Side One, with all the rest accessed by flipping the disc over.
The Making of Jeepers Creepers (59:00) This engrossing documentary covers every aspect of production from casting, vehicles, shooting, creature make-up, and scoring. The only stone unturned is the premier and the box-office success stories that came after the film was a hit. While I miss what could’ve been said on that subject, it remains small change compared to what is included. The feature is broken up into six sections, each averaging 8 to 12 minutes a piece. They are: “Finding Trish and Darry,” “Designing the Creeper,” “Cars and Trucks,” “The Creeper Comes To Florida,” “Night Shoots,” and “Composed by Bennett Salvay.” This is an above-average feature that took me off guard. One would expect an EPK-like addition, filled with fluff and meaningless drivel but instead we get a superbly edited treasure that is more than any fan could’ve asked for. From wonderful on the set stories from almost everyone involved to audition tapes you’d be hard pressed to find a better behind the scenes document for this film.
Deleted Scenes ^ 10 Deleted Scenes are included, mostly snippets that bookend existing scenes. The best ones here are the character development scenes, most of which unfortunately had to be left on the cutting room floor to keep the pacing up to par. They are: “Original Opening” (2:59), “Worried About Mom” (1:08), “Where There’s A Hell, There’s A Way” (1:07), “Drive To The Diner” (1:26), “Strip-O-Gram Cop” (1:02), “More Creeper, More Tongue” (1:31), “The Creeper Attacks” (3:20), “Calling Home” (1:57), “It’s In The Building” (:44); and the “Original Ending” (1:25). While there are a few gems (“Worried About Mom,” and “Calling Home,” come to mind) most of it is useless. The Original Ending thankfully stays that way, since it takes all of the bite out of the finale that is in the final cut. The “More Creeper, More Tongue,” is just…sick. What’s most unfortunate is that Salva talks (at length) in the commentary about the amount of deleted scenes that were shot but not included in the film, yet none of them show up here.
Still Gallery ^ Nine minutes or so of stills played against Bennett Salvay’s great score. Averaging about 50 (I didn’t count), there are some great shots of the characters, production, and sets though one wishes for a way to watch them at your own pace.
Trailers ^ Non-anamorphic widescreen trailers (1.85:1) are included for the film itself and “Hannibal.” Full frame DVD promos are included for “Carrie,” “The Terminator,” and “Silence of the Lambs: Special Edition.”
OVERALL ^ For a shlock genre picture that borrows from as many movies as it can in 90 minutes, this is a keeper. The villain is great, the casting is spot on, and the script isn’t as dumb as you’d think. Guaranteed to get a few jumps out of the viewer, this is a great DVD with an excellent documentary and even includes a pan&scan (also known as chopped&cropped) version for those who don’t wish to watch films as the director or cinematographer intended. Best seen in the dark of night, prepare to have a hell of a time getting that theme song out of your head.
OVERALL (DVD): * * * ½ – 3.5 Stars ^ MOVIE: * * * ½ – 3.5 Stars ^ VIDEO: * * * * – 4 Stars ^ AUDIO: * * * * – 4 Stars