THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Jeepers Creepers is one of those movies that starts promisingly, then goes downhill very quickly. It begins with two young siblings - Darry (Justin Long) and Trish (Gina Philips) - heading home in an old car. They have taken the scenic route, which has the unfortunate effect of plopping them deep in the heart of nowhere. Aside from a Winnebago, the only other vehicle they see is a huge, menacing old truck with tinted windows that tries to run them off the road.

A few miles later, they spot the truck in front of a dilapidated old church. A shadowy, hooded man is pulling dead bodies wrapped in bloody sheets out of the truck and throwing them down a large drainpipe. Darry and Trish slow down, watching in horror. Then the guy sees them. They take off, but before long he is on their tail again. The car is run off the road by the truck, which continues to speed on by. Wondering if anyone might be left alive, the siblings return to the church to get a quick look down that pipe. This being a horror movie, one of them naturally falls in, discovering that what lies beneath the ground indicates an unspeakable horror.

Not an ad for Clearasil...just the bogeyman of Jeepers Creepers
I was really with Jeepers Creepers at this point. It was scary. I wondered who that sicko guy was and what he was doing. The film unnerved me with its spooky implications.

Then the other shoe dropped. This is not just some demented psychopath. No, it's some kind of demon. One with wings. One who can seemingly show up anywhere, at any time, with no warning whatsoever. One who is "unstoppable." A generic movie bogeyman.

The moment we discover this is the exact point where Jeepers Creepers changes from an eerie thriller into a standard gore picture. The creature stalks the siblings, ripping apart anyone who stands in his way. Eventually, they meet a psychic who tells of a vision: one them emitting their last scream while the song "Jeepers Creepers (Where'd You Get Those Peepers?)" plays on an old turntable. The monster traps them inside a police station, where he mangles the bodies of several cops before finally confronting Darry and Trish.

Here's a truism about movies: monsters are rarely scary because monsters aren't real. The beast in Jeepers Creepers is terrifying when we think he's some kind of Norman Bates/Hannibal Lecter serial killer. Once we know he's otherworldly, the picture quickly drains itself of all suspense. It becomes little more than an excuse to dump buckets of fake blood and guts all over the screen.

The performances don't help. Gina Philips exudes one emotion: bitchiness. And Justin Long can't even muster that up. When you don't like the human characters, it's hard not to root for the monster. And while I'm thinking about it, can we please put a moratorium on scenes in which the car won't start when the killer is coming?

Jeepers Creepers was written and directed by Victor Salva, who made the unwatchable film Powder back in 1995. This one is effectively scary for about half an hour. After that, it's not bad so much as just innocuous and dull. My interest faded rapidly. I did regain it briefly at the end, which is suitably cynical for a horror movie. Strong start, nice conclusion - it's just a shame that everything in between had to be more "blah" than "boo."

( out of four)

Jeepers Creepers is rated R for terror violence/gore, language and brief nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.
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