Monday, October 4

Some quick thoughts on Jeepers Creepers (2001)

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These thoughts were inevitable since this damn movie seems to keep finding me online through seemingly unrelated searches. Random occurrences of pictures of The Creeper popping up in Google Image Search for some unknown reason. So I guess some distant cosmic flare is calling upon me for a revisit. To be honest, while one should always divorce the art from the artist in criticism, it's hard not to think of writer/director Victor Salva as a deplorable excuse for a human being.

One could make the Polanski excuse and say Salva had a hard childhood, but that's absolutely no excuse for harming a child regardless of life's circumstances. The filmmaker has served the time that the state deemed fit, paroled early from a three-year sentence, although that does not absolve his abhorrent actions whatsoever. And not to defend Mel Gibson, but it's funny how the media ballyhoos a loudmouthed anti-semitic racist in Hollywood as something akin to a crime against humanity. Yet a convicted pedophile like Salva is allowed to continue and achieve his greatest career success with this feature without much incident. Hell, the only thing I can recall is MGM canceling their DVD edition of Clownhouse (1989), the film in which Salva molested the 12-year-old lead, in the twilight hour (hence the abundance of sealed copies floating around) due to complaints from the victim's family.  

All this said, Jeepers Creepers is one hell of an offering given its year of release. Horror was in a transitional period at the dawn of the most recent millennium. Craven's Scream in 1996 spurred a rather pretty boy cycle of postmodern slashers. After four years, the box office luster had worn thin as these derivatives gradually shifted from horror to more glossy melodramatic hot young talent showcase. The vastly underrated Idle Hands tanked, the Blair Witch phenomenon quickly hit oversaturation, the absolute classic Session 9 totally ignored, and Scary Movie lampooned the hurting state of the genre. To add insult to this floundering, the Far East horror invasion was in full effect and handing America its own ass. The stateside mainstream needed a hero and Salva's The Creeper ended up being the strongest new horror icon before the Asian remakes and torture porn cycle plowed over the franchise.

There's simply much to love about Jeepers Creepers despite some contrived bumps. Salva constructs a palpable sibling relationship between leads Justin Long and Gina Philips. The somewhat predictable resolution to The Creeper's quest has a great deal of genuine impact from how strongly these two anchor the film. Disregarding the goofy truck (some love it); the mythos behind The Creeper, Jonathan Breck's performance, and Brian Penikas's creature make-up are all fantastic. There's something inherently "frankensteinish" about an "assemblage monster", but Salva adds an additional kick in his creation's need to self-acquire these parts through smell and its ability to continually "replace" damaged pieces. It's simply an excellent, well-devised concept deserving of further exploration and celebration. The only needless aspect is Jezelle, the African American psychic/quack that essentially serves as a prototypical "magical negro" with her insight into the futures of the white protagonist bro and sis. Should have just omitted her and saved all that for later...

I've never seen the sequel, but Salva's third entry appears to tie back to the first feature with Gina Philips reprising her role and teaming up with Ray Wise's character from the sequel. It'll be interesting to see if the franchise can prove successful, if granted a big wide theatrical release, in today's climate. Then again, the whole Saw thing is dying on the vine and Paranormal Activity has rekindled the spark of The Blair Witch Project. Perhaps The Creeper's boomeranged comeback could do the same. As an aside, MGM's SE DVD of Jeepers Creepers is a rare bird being one of the only mass-produced triple-layer DVDs. The single-layer "top" houses the special features while the dual-layer "bottom" features the full screen and widescreen versions of the film. No word of a U.S. Blu-ray release as of yet.
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4 comments:

Steve said...

Agreed.

The Creeper imprints itself as a total package icon of the millennium. Horror needed a solid creature feature face that rides along with Ghostface in the slasher genre leading early pre-2000 and ending with John Kramer (Jigsaw) in the latter of the decade. The Creeper is (as in my own opinion) more constructively fascinating and memorable. Perhaps it is the mystery behind the lore of him unlike the previous decade examples where we get too much exposition as the sequels continue.

Buscemi said...

That so-called "triple layer" DVD was reissued as a two-disc DVD. I have the two-disc version.

J. Astro said...

I am an enthusiastic supporter of the JEEPERS CREEPERS flicks m'self - they are fun, well-executed monster flicks that aren't afraid to get a little dirt under their fingernails. I would watch the shit out of a third one.

initforthekills said...

Glad you mentioned what happened with Clownhouse, because I wasn't aware of it. I was about to feature it on my blog; I'll watch any 80s horror movie and the worse they are the better. But it's better that that one not get any more publicity.

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