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Jeepers Creepers

Starring Gina Philips, Justin Long and Jonathan Breck; Eileen Brennan, Patricia Belcher
Written and Directed by Victor Salva

IN SHORT: It could've been a great popcorn movie. [Rated R for terror violence/gore, language and brief nudity. 90 minutes]

On the surface of things, Jeepers Creepers was a very pleasant surprise. We walked in expecting a slice 'n' dice scareflick, which is not to our tastes and which it is not. We walked out thinking it would have been nice if someone in the Francis Ford Coppola shop (Coppola has Executive Producer credit and mentored the helmer) had passed Victor Salva's script over to a horror buff for a quick read through. Any horror buff would have said, "Dude, this is great. So. Where's the ending?!" -- to which Hollywood has a pat answer.

They also have a disease we'll call sequel-itis. That is the need to leave an ending so wide open that an audience will coming running back for more in a year or two. We will put this in monosyllabic words so The Suits on The Coast understand what we're trying to say: Make Good Movie First. Audience Like. Come Next Year. But Make Good Movie First.

The shame of it all is that Jeepers Creepers balances the necessary dumb as a doornail character actions with enough suggested gore that it isn't a bad sit. Until the end. What this film is desperately missing is a reason why the murderous bad guy is the murderous bad guy -- what passes for an explanation feels like it got hacked to pieces, sorry, in the editing room. Something about every 23 seasons for 23 days (the killer runs rampant, we think). But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Trish (Gina Philips) and Darry Jenner (Justin Long, click for StarTalk), a bickering brother and sister team are driving the back roads at the start of their college break, because Trish prefers the country scenery to the monotonous highway. The country, farmland all, is mysteriously deserted. Most of the houses are rundown or seem abandoned. Only an occasional truck passes by on the local roads. The area is empty because everyone, it seems, is at the local Food 'n' Gas Diner combo. So there is no one but our dynamic duo to see a tall stranger (who kind of resembles the original WWF Undertaker) dump what lookS to be like two bodies down a sewer pipe next to an abandoned church -- now the nesting ground for a flock of crows. The kidlets, of course, go back for a closer look and it's off to the races from there.

Trish knows it's a dumb idea. She knows what happens in horror movies. She knows they should just find a cop -- that's one of the delightful aspects of the flick -- but no, she buckles. Jason falls down the pipe and discovers something awful and, while he makes his way back to the surface, the Stranger returns... maybe.

Jeepers Creepers knows all the moves of a scareflick inside out. "The Creeper" (Jonathan Breck) as the stranger is called, has his own perverse ideas hinted at on the custom license plate (BEATNGU) on his massive truck. He's a classic bad guy. He prefers sharp implements to things that go bang. He cannot be killed. He can climb walls and he looks pretty darn disgusting. Problem is, he's not terrifying. Though the "why" of his killing style is explained, the character's history is a mystery. You don't need much history in these things but the pittance previously mentioned just isn't enough. As to why his killing sprees are accompanied by random plays of the old song "Jeepers Creepers," well, your guess is as good as mine. Sometimes dumb can be fun. Sometimes dumb is just dumb.

That negative is balanced by the fact that the rest of the supporting cast is downright weird. Eileen Brennan does a short turn as a crazy old lady, mother to 500 or so cats, and a shotgun. Patricia Belcher plays Jezelle Gay Hartman, locally regarded as the "crazy psychic lady" who has dreamed of everything that is going to happen, but is too scared to tell. Hartman is necessary to tell us about everything the story can't show us. But, yeah we'll repeat ourselves, she doesn't tell enough. Every location is dark and lonely. The cops are plentiful and, for once, aren't flat out morons. The special effects are adequate.

But the final ending bites big time.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Jeepers Creepers, he would have paid . . .


just under our Dateflick level, with this caveat: If you're in to scareflicks, hunt this out with a large crowd. It's stupid enough to be funny and enjoyable and not gory enough (which will piss off a good lot of you) to make old dweebs like Cranky sick to his stomach. In a large crowd, you can all cry out "That's It?????????" when all was said and done. That was the reaction in my crowd. That's the only place that Jeepers Creepers fails.

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