Trish and her brother Darry are making the ten-hour drive from their college campus to their hometown. It’s spring break and the pair opts to take the scenic route to their destination. Their trip starts out perfectly ordinary but takes a sinister turn when they are rear ended by a maniac driving a truck with the horsepower and invulnerability of a tank. The crazed driver – known as The Creeper – passes them but continues to reappear throughout the siblings’ drive home. The Creeper leaves a wake of destruction everywhere he goes and Darry and Trish appear to be his next targets.
Jeepers Creepers is a little like The Hitcher crossed with a Friday the 13t film. It blends the vehicular torment of The Hitcher with the teens against an invincible killer intent upon doing them harm angle of a Friday the 13th movie. The end result is a terror-laden journey with plenty of high points.
Victor Salva (Clownhouse) writes and directs this highly character driven horror film. His screenplay is original. It delivers one of the most noteworthy horror killers introduced in the past fifteen years. Salva has brought to life a very unsettling presence with The Creeper and it has resonated with audiences.
Another strong point of the screenplay is the authenticity of the relationship between Trish and Darry. Their bond is a key ingredient to the film’s success and the onscreen dynamic between Gina Phillips (Chained) and Justin Long (Drag me to Hell) further solidifies the believability of their relationship. They are very natural and very believable as brother and sister.
One of the other factors that make Salva’s script function so well is that it isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself a bit. Jeepers Creepers is very self-referential in a way that makes viewers feel they are in on the joke. In one memorable example, Trish Says, “You know the part in scary movies where somebody does something really stupid and everyone hates them for it? This is it.” There are a couple of other points where the film proves that it doesn’t take itself too seriously by poking fun at itself and at the horror genre.
In addition to penning a great screenplay, Salva also proves himself as a director that understands the importance of lighting and editing in creating atmosphere. Jeepers Creepers is one of a select few horror films that still makes me jump from time to time. The high level of ambiance that Salva generates makes it difficult not to get caught up in this taut horror thriller.
While Jeepers Creepers is guilty of relying on jump scares in the beginning that is done to put the viewer on edge for the second and third acts. Though I am not normally a proponent of the jump scare, this picture uses them wisely and sparingly enough that it doesn’t get too out of hand. The pacing is very finely executed. The feature steadily builds to a climax and includes plenty of intensity during the journey to the third act.
There have been countless unsubstantiated reports that a third Jeepers Creepers film is on the way. Finally, in November of 2013, Shock Till You Drop reported that Victor Salva had hinted that a third film is an eventuality. The site also suggested that at least one day of shooting was already in the can. The news has been sparse since then but it would be nice if all of that turned out to be accurate as a third installment has been talked about for roughly a decade and nothing other than false starts have really come to fruition.
If you’re reading this retrospective, you’ve probably already seen Jeepers Creepers. But on the off chance you’ve missed it, this is a very noteworthy horror film and a must see.
Director(s): Victor Salva
Writer(s): Victor Salva
Stars: Justin Long Gina Phillips
Studio/ Production Co: LionsGate
Budget: $10 Million
Length: 91 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Monster Movie