When was the last time you saw a teen horror film and were honestly scared? Most of today’s horror flicks are wrought with jokes, one-liners, cheap scares using tremendous bursts in sound level, annoying pop music soundtracks and characters that rings so false they make pizza delivery guys getting action in porn films seem realistic. There’s nothing at all frightening about the experience. “Jeepers Creepers” avoids most of these clichés in its first harrowing half hour. Unfortunately, it then devolves into the typical cat-and-mouse-chase crap the genre is best known for. However, the attempt is admirable during those first 30 minutes where there are some genuine scares.
Teenage brother and sister (played by Justin Long and Gina Philips) are traveling home from college to meet sweet mom and dad to visit and do some laundry. Sounds nice. After a long drive through the nothingness of the countryside, a truck nearly runs them off the road. Strangely they pass the same truck parked at a church. The driver seems to be dumping bodies down a sewer pipe. That’s strange. Here’s where our twosome do something really stupid – something only really moronic people in movies do – they decide to take a look down the sewer pipe. Brother makes a sickening discovery — a mountain of bodies made into some kind of patchwork quilt on the walls and ceilings of an abandoned church. It’s kind of like the Sistine Chapel with dead people preserved in varnish and it looks like something out of an H.R. Giger painting. These scenes are spine-tingling and truly horrific. The slow pacing of this initial first act adds to the creepy mood. The tone works beautifully until the Boogeyman discovers the two. The mutating people-eater then relentlessly pursues the teens to a diner quickly leading to some dead cops, a gun-toting cat lady, a concerned psychic and a showdown in a police station, all while the body count continues to rise. This seemingly endless chase takes up the entire rest of the film. Hilarity and gore ensue.
“Jeepers Creepers” director Victor Salva showed us some promise when he wasn’t required to fall into the genres trappings. I can honestly say there are moments of sheer terror and glimpses into something new. Then the story falls into the ridiculous. As soon as the last two-thirds kicks in, it just starts to feel like the beginning of a new franchise. All the clichés and necessary story beats are there for a few sequels, some action figures, a line of comics and the inevitable boxed set. If only Salva had stuck with the first third’s mysterious tone, the result would have been something original. And original is what the horror genre is desperately in need of. What we’re left with is a mute Freddy Kreuger with wings and a sewing machine – it’s laughable, not scary.