Movie review by Greg Carlson
Writer-director Victor Salva attempts to establish a horror franchise with the release of “Jeepers Creepers 2,” an uninspired sequel to the clever, well-directed 2001 original. It is certainly too bad that this new installment of the story fails to reach beyond the standard “group of teenagers get picked off one by one” formula, because the design of the creature and its attendant mythology are conceptually top-flight. Adding a few flourishes to the details that made the Creeper so compelling in the first film, Salva doesn’t go nearly as far as he did before in making the terror resonate with psychological intensity.
A supernatural humanoid with gigantic bat wings, razor teeth, and clawed feet, the Creeper inspires additional fright by occasionally appearing as a scarecrow – complete with old, raggedy clothes and beat-up hat. We learn that the monster only awakens from a kind of hibernation once every twenty-three years, and only then for twenty-three days before it shuts down its body clock. Those twenty-three days, however, are going to be seriously unpleasant for the hapless people selected by the Creeper as breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
“Jeepers Creepers 2” mostly does things one at a time, but at least initially, two different stories begin to unfold. In the first, salt-of-the-earth farmer Jack Taggart (the always intriguing Ray Wise) loses his youngest son to the Creeper in broad daylight. Fueled by a desire to seek revenge, Taggart and his surviving son set out to track and kill the Creeper. Meanwhile, a small high school basketball team has won the state championship and is heading for home when a flat tire hamstrings their celebratory road trip. A weird bone-and-claw throwing star turns out to be the source of the blowout, and it isn’t too long before the marauding Creeper begins to prey on the sitting ducks.
Salva obviously studied “Jaws” while preparing his movie, and the modus operandi of Taggart echoes the single-minded obsession of Robert Shaw’s Quint – even down to the specially modified tools employed in order to bring down the beast. Taggart’s weapon of choice is a nasty harpoon: a pickup truck-mounted fencepost hole puncher, tricked out with hand-forged skewers attached to strong cable. It’s a good thing someone has prepared to do battle with the Creeper, because the kids on the bus aren’t particularly resourceful.
Weaving in an odd subplot dealing with racial tensions on the basketball team (which never really goes anywhere), the high-schoolers are crudely sketched. There is a bitter, racist, homophobe, a bookish equipment manager with oversized glasses, a cute cheerleader who has unexplained visions in which she comes to understand the Creeper’s ghastly motivations, and a budding journalist pegged as gay by his insensitive classmates. Salva misses the boat by not investing any time in the development of these characters, and the audience is left with broad types instead of three-dimensional people. By the time the credits roll, it is painfully apparent (despite an appealing flash-forward coda) that no new lessons have been learned – which is not a good sign for the unlucky ones who will be around the next time the Creeper takes flight.
This review was originally published in the High Plains Reader the week of 9/1/03.