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Movie Review

Antagonizing each other to pass the time, Darry and Trish Jenner are taking the scenic route home from college for spring break. Miles from nowhere, they’re nearly run off the road by an enormous old truck. Minutes later, the brother and sister duo spot the truck stopped at a decaying church building. A driver gets out, tosses a blood-stained body bag down a drainage pipe and jumps back in the vehicle, again lurching and careening toward the Jenner kids’ car. This time it does run them into a ditch. At which point Darry gets the bright idea to go back and investigate the drainage pipe. ("You know the part in scary movies when someone does something really stupid and everyone hates them for it?" asks Trish. "This is it.") Of course looking down the pipe leads to falling down the pipe, and Darry discovers an underground torture chamber whose walls and ceiling are covered with weirdly preserved corpses ("like some psycho version of the Sistine Chapel").

Trish and Darry race their slightly disabled car into town and call the police from a podunk diner. While they’re waiting for the officers to show up, a ringing pay phone puts them in contact with Jezelle, a psychic lady whose dreams provide clues to the killer’s identity. The Creeper, it seems, comes out every 23 years to kill and eat people. He’s not a man, but he dresses like one, and he eats humans for the purpose of assimilating and utilizing their parts. When his leg is crushed, he goes looking for a victim with strong legs. His invincibility, Jezelle says, is a result of eating so many hearts that his own will never stop. "Jeepers, creepers. Where’d you get those peepers?" Jezelle’s old turntable plays for Darry to hear. "Jeepers, creepers. Where’d you get those eyes?" Hmmm ... wonder what body part he’s after next. The last puzzle piece Jezelle provides is a sketchy vision in which Darry is trapped in a dark place with The Creeper, screaming in terror. "Jeepers Creepers" is playing in the background, and then he dies.

All of this groundwork is laid in the first half of the movie. The second half is comprised entirely of chasing, killing and eating, accompanied by horror flick standbys such as bad dialogue, illogical decision-making and cars that conveniently malfunction on foggy, deserted roads.

positive content: When Darry tries to convince Trish to return to the church yard and check out the drainage pipe, he appeals to her sense of "the right thing to do." Besides that, Darry and Trish really do care for each other. At the film’s climax, she offers herself as a sacrificial substitution, begging the monster to kill her instead of Darry.

spiritual content: Jeepers Creepers has a strange spiritual aura, simply because The Creeper’s torture chamber is in a church basement. Nothing is really made of that fact beyond some eerie clapboard church house images.

Jezelle is pegged as "just a crazy old lady," but when it turns out that her dreams are true, psychic powers get a credibility boost. Of course, the compliment is a little back-handed, since this fatalistic film basically says that even if you can see the future, there’s no way to change it.

sexual content: Before their initial encounter with the hideous villain (no high-tech effects here—this is an old-fashioned monster makeup job), Darry and Trish make a potty stop along the road. From behind, the audience sees Darry urinating. When Trish pulls up her pants, her black string bikini shows for a second.

The Creeper’s victims are strung up nude on his walls and ceiling. One female victim is shown in full—though brief and distorted—frontal nudity.

violent content: When Darry falls down the drainage pipe and lands hard on his back, he finds two fresh bodies in the basement torture chamber. One, not quite dead, grabs his leg. Trish runs over the monster three times with her car. And then things start to get bloody. A few of the killings are shown in low light, and even more of the killings’ aftermath is revealed. For example, The Creeper shoots an old lady (not shown), then carries her out to the porch for Trish and Darry to see. He shoots a police officer (not shown) and the man’s silhouette can be seen with light pouring through the gaping hole in his chest. In the most gruesome scenes, the audience sees a man’s leg being chewed off (the sound effects are worse than the video footage), and The Creeper picks up the head of a decapitated man and tears out the tongue with his teeth. A man’s preserved corpse is shown, strung up with his eyes and the back of his skull completely gone. As if the corpse is a mask, the camera pans to where The Creeper, newly outfitted with borrowed "peepers," peers through the holes in his victim’s head.

crude or profane language: Nearly a dozen f-words and other "lesser" profanities (including 12 s-words) adds a distinct linguistic stench to the gory action. The Jenner duo also has a fondness for using the Lord’s name in vain. Harshly. About 20 times.

drug and alcohol content: None.

conclusion: If Jeepers Creepers seems sick and twisted, perhaps it’s wise to consider who MGM put behind the moviemaking controls. Writer and director Victor Salva was convicted in 1988 of molesting a young male actor over a four-year period starting when the boy was 8 years old. In Salva’s house, police found homemade pornographic videos, one of which included this young victim. Out of the depths of the heart, art speaks.

Its creator’s criminal and moral issues aside, Jeepers Creepers just isn’t good storytelling. Fans of suspenseful stories know that there’s a difference between "smart" scary movies and dumb ones. In clever films, unraveling well-laid clues leads to the villain’s defeat. Also, well-written heart-pounders have less need for guts and gore. They can accomplish their purpose without exploitation and gratuity. Jeepers Creepers is not a "smart" scary movie. What starts out as an intriguing set-up dissolves into a nauseating series of "scary" gross-out scenes. And the bad guy wins! Sure, it’s unconventional, but defying the laws of good storytelling solely for the sake of being defiant does not a genius make. Even if it did top the typically slow Labor Day box office chart and set a record doing so, this film isn’t worth even a peep.

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Gina Phillips as Trish Jenner; Josh Long as Darry Jenner; Jonathan Breck as The Creeper; Eileen Brennan as Jezelle Gay Hartman


Victor Salva ( )





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Lindy Keffer

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