Review Date: October 19, 2012
Released by: MGM
Release date: September 11, 2012
Codec: AVC, 1080p
Widescreen 1.85 | 16x9: Yes
The original Jeepers Creepers
came out of nowhere in 2001. Released with little to no marketing push on the Labor Day long weekend, traditionally the worst weekend of the year at the box office, it surprised everybody by setting a weekend record. It also garnered an unexpected amount of critical praise. By the end of its run the $10 million movie has grossed nearly $40 million and won enough of a following that a sequel was fast tracked and released two years later and met with similar success.
While it certainly has point worthy of admiration, I can’t help but feel Jeepers Creepers
’ success is somewhat underserved. Jeepers Creepers
starts out strong but by the end is, sadly, a hodgepodge of interesting ideas, a couple of strong lead performances and an amazing looking creature in a jumbled mess of a movie that doesn’t know how to utilize any of these elements. In its admirable attempt to harken back to old school monster films, Jeepers Creepers
forgets to include what made those films so memorable: a reason for existing.
Trish Jenner (Gina Phillips
) and younger brother Darry (Justin Long
) are taking a scenic road trip, driving Trish’s beater car to visit their parents during spring break. Prickly Trish is still hurting from a recent break up, the fact of which smart ass Darry can’t help but needle her about. In between trading insults and playing a travel game involving license plates, Trish recalls the story of a group of teenagers that went missing on the road they’re travelling. Darry laughs off both the story as a modern folktale about the dangers of underage drinking, and Trish’s unease while thinking of it. Their banter is interrupted when they are nearly run off the road by a seemingly homicidal motorist in a giant rusty truck with the license plate “BEATINGU.” After harassing them, the truck plows off into the distance. A few miles down the road, Trish and Darry again spy the truck; this time, it’s parked behind a dilapidated church while a hulking man dumps suspicious looking bundles down a sewer pipe in the yard. Darry And Trish avoid nearly being run off the road a second time and, when they’re sure “BEATINGU” is gone, return to the church to investigate the pipe. At the bottom of the pipe, Darry finds in one of the bundles a dying boy whose chest is a mass of crude stitch work, like he’d been the subject of some improvised surgical procedure. The ceiling of this chamber is a mass of preserved corpses, each with different body parts removed; looks like there’s more to the story of the missing kids than Darry first thought.
The Jenner kids head directly for the nearest payphone, at a roadside diner, to report what they found but before they’re able to call the police the payphone rings. Darry answers his and to his shock, the woman on the other end seems to know him and Trish: she’s able to describe the shirt Darry’s wearing right down to the rip on his stomach. The woman warns Darry to beware of the old diddy “Jeepers Creepers
.” When they hear the song, they should run for safety for danger is imminent. When the local police finally arrive to take a statement, they are skeptical of Darry and Trish’s story. While they’re inside trying desperately to get the police to take them seriously the driver of the truck, let’s call him The Creeper (Jonathan Breck
), ransacks their car, sniffing Darry’s dirty laundry. Seeing the frightened teenagers personal effects strewn all over the parking lot and observing a dusty claw print on the car’s door handle, the cops are a little less disbelieving. They escort Darry and Trish back to the police station, but are intercepted by the Creeper who kills the cops with a big axe and relishes in eating the tongue out of one of the served heads with the Jenners look on in horror. They attempt to kill the monster by running it over with Trish’s car but that just seems to piss it off. The beast sprouts wings and flies off into the night. The Jenner kids burn rubber for the safety of the nearest police station. There they are quickly joined by Jezelle (Patricia Belcher
), the psychic who called them at the diner. Jezelle has insight into the creature’s nature and an idea of what it wants but, when the Creeper attacks the police station, she realizes that she may have acted too late to save the Jenners.
The first act of Jeepers Creepers
is pretty damned good. It introduces its protagonists and gives them dialogue good enough that we don’t realize that we’re watching character development. Justin Long and Gina Phillips are very strong in these scenes; they create both a believable brother-sister dynamic and quickly manage to get the audience on their side. It then introduces its villain in an effective way and establishes the central mystery quickly. All this is done with great visual style and is quite suspenseful. If only the next two acts were as good as the first. It’s a great set up but, as the film progresses, the story starts to throw in ideas without developing them so that all the incidents that follow feel completely random. The film is rife with incident but not story; things happen but there’s no progression, no sense of narrative pull. It’s only the brisk pace that kept me from totally checking out. It was a wise move to keep the running time under 90 minutes, sans credits.
Introducing a psychic subplot in at the beginning of the second act is pretty risky but not even paying it off until the third is downright ludicrous. It sets up the expectation that the psychic will fill us in on some lore, perhaps give the creature some motivation, but the character is completely arbitrary and superfluous. Instead of being a integral to the central conflict, she becomes a lazy way to introduce exposition to a story that’s been seriously lacking in it. The film would have been far better, and scarier, if it dropped all the second sight nonsense – the films weakest element - and been about a brother and sister that are stalked by a supernatural monster for reasons unknown. The half assed explanation we’re given feels forced and unconvincing. By the time Jezelle actually makes her appearance, 62 minutes into a 90 minute movie, there’s no time to adequately justify her presence. This is a film that has a first act, two second acts and no ending.
I’m not sure it’s possible to evaluate Jeepers Creepers
without at least touching on its controversial director, Victor Salva. Salva was convicted of molesting the 12-year-old star of his first feature, Clownhouse, pleaded guilty and served 15 months in prison followed by lengthy parole. In most cases dredging up this personal information would be beyond gauche, but in Salva’s case it is essential to understanding his movies. I can’t think of a director whose inner demons are so literally displayed on the cinema screen. What is the Creeper if not the personification of the “inner beast” Salva wrestles with? An uncontrollable monster that rises from the depths to feed on the flesh of young boys? The subtext quite literally becomes the text midway through Jeepers Creepers
. Perhaps he’s hedging his bets by not trying to wade too deep into such dark waters but soft pedaling these aspects only undercuts would could have been a great “Ah-HAH!” moment when the film subverts the “damsel in distress” cliché in the final reel. The reveal of the Creeper’s goal doesn’t pack the surprise it should, though at that point the film is already irreparably damaged. I’m willing to divorce my feelings about the mistakes a director’s made in his personal life from his films and let the works stand or fall on their own merits. In this case, however, after an admittedly strong start the work falls flat on its face.
is beautifully shot by cinematographer Don FauntLeRoy who went on to carve a niche as director of the lion’s share of Steven Seagal’s post-theatrical career. Whatever you think of the movie itself, his work here is fantastic; good enough to buy goodwill from the audience that the screenplay then squanders. Colors are vibrant, grain is well preserved: present but unobtrusive. Darkly lit shots show the greatest improvement over the DVD; the Blu lacks the noisy harshness and overly compressed look of the DVD. The color timing is also a bit warmer. Overall the Blu has a much nicer, film-like appearance. The shots of the creeper silhouetted show a remarkable level of detail amid the inky blacks. Source material shows no signs of damage. A little bit of color banding is present during the climactic police station shootout, but this is a fine looking presentation of a mediocre movie.
is given an audio upgrade to go along with the video. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, like the film itself, is a bit of a mixed bag. On the plus side, there are lots of great panning effects and in the quieter scenes the surrounds are filled with subtle atmosphere. It’s during the more intense scenes, especially the chase scenes in the beginning, that there’s a surprising amount of high-end distortion. Turn down your receiver at the beginning and save your speakers.
was originally released as a 2-sided special edition which quickly went out of print. Since then Jeepers Creepers
has only been available as a single-sided, barebones release. All the features from the 2002 special edition are ported over to this Blu-ray release.
I’d be disappointed in Victor Salva’s Audio Commentary if I had expected that he would address the films’ homoerotic subtext and his own checkered past, but I knew that there was no way a major studio would ever let that fly. What we get is a decent enough commentary filled with a lot of production information that leaves the most fertile grounds for discussion unturned.
The collection of making-of featurettes can be played contiguously as a nearly feature length documentary, Behind the Peepers (59:44). From concept to ADD it’s a fairly thorough look at the road to the completed film. The comic book-inspired concept art is especially cool to see.
Surprisingly lengthy is the collection of Deleted and Extended Scenes (16:41). Most of the material was cut from the first half of the film so none of really mitigates what I found to be the biggest problem with the film: the structure and resolution of the last act, though they do offer a few tidbits of character development and information and even gives the silent Creeper a couple of lines of dialogue.
A little bit better than the usual photo gallery is “Last Looks” (7:55), an animated collection of production still set to the score. Not a fan of photo galleries in general but I appreciate that a bit more effort was made with this one.
Not listed on the packaging but included as a supplement is a brief clip of The Director’s Cameo (0:24) as a corpse on the ceiling of the Creeper’s lair. Not much to say about that, other than I’m glad they didn’t try to use is as a selling point for the Blu-ray.
Finally, the Theatrical Trailer (1:55) is included and given the full HD upgrade as well. Hilariously, it’s set to Macro Beltrami’s Scream theme and a song by Disturbed, which date the movie far more than the movie dates itself.
is a pretty divisive film; it has passionate defenders (genre luminary Clive Barker among them) and equally passionate detractors. Me? I’m in the middle. There’s a lot to appreciate, especially the cool creature design and moody cinematography. These can’t mitigate the fact that the slipshod screenplay is an unstructured jumble of ideas in search of a story. Ultimately, Jeepers Creepers
is let down by writer/director Victor Salva’s inability to commit to and develop one of the story threads he introduces.
My issues with the film aside, MGM has really done right by Jeepers Creepers
with this inclusive and smartly priced release. The video is a huge improvement over the DVD even if the audio is a bit lacking. If you were unable to snag a copy of the DVD special edition before it went out of print, then the Blu-ray represents an opportunity to get the features you’ve been missing out on. While not my favorite film ever I have to grudgingly agree that it has aged surprisingly well and I can unqualifiedly recommend fans upgrade from the DVD. Hell, considering it can easily found for under $10, even the curious uninitiated can safely take the plunge.
Movie - C
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B+
Supplements - B+
- Running time - 1 hour and 30 minutes
- Rated R, 18A
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
- French 2.0 Dolby Digital
- Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital
- English SDH
- Spanish subtitles
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Victor Salva
- “Behind the Peepers” Making-Of Documentary
- Deleted and Extended Scenes
- “Last Looks” Photo Gallery
- Theatrical Trailer