The accepted belief with Jeepers Creepers is that the first half of this film is borderline classic and the second half is a load of old crap. Well, I watched this again for the first time since it came out back in the heady days of 2001 (which seems about a week ago to me but never mind) and I have to say, maybe because I know the mystery, its all good from beginning to end.
If you haven’t seen it then its the classic horror road movie trope of a couple being terrorized by a crazed driver on a deserted back road in the middle of Nowhere, USA, well Florida anyway. But that’s just the start of it. You have to accept that this isn’t going to be your normal, predictable horror movie. And maybe that’s why people don’t like the second half of the film because it goes in directions you might not expect, and, to be fair, those directions are really, really goofy at times.
However, I don’t think that the second half should be considered the problem, if you really do want to split hairs then you could say that its only the final reveal of the creature that is an issue because while a lot of the early parts of the film seem grounded in reality, by the time we see what our two heroes are up against, we are totally in the realms of fantasy. But I love a good monster, and this thing is pretty fresh, even if he is a bit camp at times.
Its good to see that the couple are in fact brother and sister, rather than the usual bickering lovers. This makes their moaning and sniping much more believable, like they have a lifetime of picking on each other before being confined to a car for a long journey across the states. It helps that Justin Long and Gina Philips are talented and likable actors because they are prone to the usual stupid decision-making that most characters are in horror movies. I mean, Long gives good reasons why they should go to the mysterious hole outside the abandoned church where they saw their assailant throw a body down, but there is no way I nor any sane person would ever do such a thing. On the other hand the film would have come to an sudden ending if they have have just carried on so maybe its fair enough.
There”s another moment where Philips is standing on look-out for the villainous driver and she is, quite frankly, not doing a good job of it at all. We can see the lights of the truck coming a mile off, while she is staring at her shoes. However, as infuriating as Philips is by failing to do the one thing she’s tasked to do, what is so masterful about this long, one-take shot, is not only that we see the lights appear way before she does, but that for a long time before that we can’t be sure there is something coming, but also we can’t be sure that there is not something coming. This is because of the over-hanging tree which just blocks out the view of the road. Not much, just enough to add to the infuriation and tension. Its great film making.
The whole film is really well made, with clever compositions and beautiful imagery of the Florida countryside passing by. It manages to make the bright, well lit scenery creepy and atmospheric. The action scenes later on when the brother and sister are being escorted by a police car are also clearly and inventively executed, almost reminiscent of Spielberg in their set-piece structure and orchestral scoring. In fact what comes across most is how well the film is directed. Taking a good premise and running with it, with conviction but also strong sense of fun and entertainment. Shame the director turned out to be a paedo though, eh?
By the dark and gruesome end of Jeepers Creepers we have got to a very different film than the one at the beginning. It starts off as a slick brother to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with its hot warm days and grisly body reassembly, but by the end it has become something somwhere between Freddy Krueger and Gargoyles the Cartoon Show. That’s not too mention funny old ladies with cats and mystic powers in the middle who seem to have been written by Steven King, or the Terminator homage in the cop station. Once the creature is fully exposed for what he/she/it is the sequel had nowhere to go but to carry on with this bizarre and slightly whacky mythos. I can see why many people don’t like where this film goes, but for my money the idea that what seems like a typical American psycho can turn out to be something far more ancient and evil is a good thing. Even if it does have dirty great big bat wings…
(MASSIVE SPOILER FOR THE END) Actually when I saw the film in the cinema, with that final scene with Justin Long’s corpse and his eye holes gouged out, the monster peeping through his empty sockets now sporting Long’s eyeballs, my friend Chris Reynolds said “huh!?!” so loud all the audience turned around to look at us. At the time I thought it was a bit of an abrupt ending, but the more I think about it the more I think there is too it. Obviously it is relating to the psychic saying “I can see you screaming silently in the dark” earlier on, so that’s the horrific fate she can actually see. But also with the song playing “Jeepers Creepers, where d’you get those peepers?”. Did the creature just here that song and think “Damn! That’s a good idea, I need to get me some new eyes.” Because although we find out he eats people and turns them into a weird kind of wall art, he doesn’t ever use their parts to replace his own before. Its just like he was inspired by the song. Its kind of off the wall. I like it.