Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003)
Cast: Jonathan Beck, Ray Wise, Travis Schiffner, Jaii Isaac Sanchez
Director: Victor Salva
Nutshell: Finally a Hollywood horror film that puts the “H’ back into Horror! Top Draw
This sequel to the sleeper horror hit from 2001 arrives with a glowing reputation from insiders who have been fortunate enough to get an advance viewing. Does it live up to the reputation of being “a follow up that is one of those rare cases where a scare sequel surpasses the original in every respect”? In one word – emphatically!
Fans of genuine horror (as opposed to juvenile horror – Freddy V Jason anybody?) will revel in this back to basics exercise in pared down terror and suspense which junks the idea of providing ridiculous explanations for on screen events (a la Final Destination 2) and simply goes for a 90 minute terror ride – nothing more nothing less. Victor Salva’s refreshingly no nonsense approach works brilliantly and those who were drooling at the prospect of a film that pays hefty homage to terror classics The Birds and Jaws should find themselves very pleasantly surprised.
The only thing the audience needs to know is that every 23 years, a vile creature that has been given the name “The Creeper” awakens in order to go on a feeding frenzy and this time he finds some tasty potential snacks in the form of a bus full of high school students returning home from a regional basketball tournament. A rather basic idea but one that has been expertly manipulated by the director to provide a maximum amount of horrifying roller-coaster shocks and scares that ought to leave its audience shaken, stirred and ultimately exhilarated.
The opening scenes, loaded with menace, set the tone perfectly for what’s to follow with The Creeper making its presence felt within the first few minutes launching a spectacular attack on a hapless family of farmers swooping down from the skies to strike terror. The influence of Bruce the robotic runaway Great White Shark from Jaws is palpably evident – while Bruce gorged on his victims by picking them off one by one from the vast murky depths while The Creeper stalks his victims from the still blackness of the night. The beleaguered bus is similar to Jaws’ doomed Orca and the Creepers teeth are at least as razor sharp as those of the Great White however this time around there are no musical cues to forewarn the audience of impending doom and while Spielberg held back his monster for the most part, Victor Salva relishes in brandishing his almost relentlessly at the hapless audience.
What is refreshing is the lack of many ingredients considered essential to most modern horror flicks – i.e. there are no randy teenagers spouting crowd pleasing one liners, nor do they feel the need to go for the obligatory skinny dip, there isn’t the usual moronic dope head to provide giggles and for a change the audience isn’t provided a feisty, virginal “bitch” who will vanquish the beast. In fact it’s rather refreshingly unclear who our survivors are likely to be and who won’t make the cut as it were. Also, how pleasant a change it is to have a teenage cast without the obligatory rapper to provide a stream of brain-dead one liners and profanity and also that the film is refreshingly bereft of the usual head-banging heavy metal-driven soundtrack, the bane of many a modern horror flick.. The gore is held in check yet Salva still cleverly goes for the jugular using relentless menace rather than gross out, spectacularly gory deaths. The similarities to Hitchcock’s Birds might not be quite so evident other than the fact that both protagonists were winged creatures with a murderous agenda.
Jeepers Creepers 2 scores on every level – it’s beautifully shot, relentlessly exhilarating and the tension remains tantalizingly taut right from the brilliant opening scenes of the kid fixing the scarecrows and remains palpable till the very end. The strengths of this film over its predecessor and most current Hollywood horror is that it doesn’t feel the need to provide ridiculous, wordy explanations for events on screen and basically concentrates on doing the job any self respecting horror movie should aim for; to scare the pants off its audience! Following on the coat-tails of the hugely successful Freddy Vs Jason which is essentially NOT a horror movie, as not for single moment does it attempt to create unease or dread or terror within its audience – Freddy and Jason are on screen to provide giggles and guffaws with their cheap, infantile one liners rather than evoke any shred of horror – objects of ridicule rather than instruments of terror.
Thankfully, for those of us who look to horror to provide some scares and tension, Jeepers Creepers 2 shows that there is still life left in the genre and that you don’t have to be Japanese to turn on a good horror show. What an wonderful surprise this film is – a rare modern horror film going for the gut rather than the giggles. Hats off to the scriptwriters and the director for eschewing all that stinks about the post-Scream era of mock horror and hopefully it will make so much money that horror films will once again be designed to scare rather than provide cheap comic relief.
Jeepers Creepers 2 – finally a horror movie that should go a long way to reminding horror movie makers and indeed audiences of their priorities – to provide scares with the occasional comic relief rather than the other way around. This is a film that goes a considerable way to restoring ones faith in mainstream Hollywood horror; hopefully it will be the first in a revival and horror movies might yet attempt to scare their audience rather than provide infantile comic relief and special effects that make you go “like wow!”
Note: there is a growing number of people who reckon that the director Victor Salva ought to be shunned for his dreadful misdeeds. That is a personal matter and though the man was charged, convicted and served time, this review of his work has nothing to do with his personal life or his “issues”. The review is solely based upon the content of his film. There are people out there who watch Salman Khan movies at will, knowing that he was responsible for the death of several people. People can make their own minds up about matters such as these. This is just a review of his work, not in any way advocating his crimes or his person.