The new trends in horror tend to be nauseating found footage and super low-fi ’80s throwbacks. Some of these installments work better than others—my use of the word “nauseating” probably gives away which variety I don’t care as much for—but there’s something all too cutesy about all parties. After all, there’s nothing wrong with a good, solid, tension-building, dread-creating, gory monster movie, with a little sense of humor as well. In 2001, while “torture porn” was still a little ways off, writer-director Victor Salva gave us a brilliant, barebones, offbeat horror gem and followed it up a couple years later with one almost as good. Boy, Jeepers Creepers is still great.
There’s no real reason the first film should have been made; it didn’t have any stars, didn’t have a huge cast of teens, and didn’t even have Freddy and/or Jason in it. But there’s something kind of brilliant about the movie, especially its super tense first half. Mixing together some of Spielberg’s best tricks, Salva combined elements of Duel, Jaws, and even Jurassic Park to create something delightful.
In the film, Justin Long and Gina Phillips play a pair of siblings driving home through country roads when they find themselves menaced by a huge, scary-looking truck. It eventually speeds off and leaves them alone, but soon their car passes an old, disused church and they see the truck in front. A large man in a duster and ratty cowboy hat looks as though it’s dumping a body into a pipe. Now, anyone else would just get the heck out of there and find some police, but the kids decide to check it out themselves after the truck leaves. And yup, the pipe is full of bodies… and the man in the truck is coming back.
Soon, through a confrontation with a local psychic, the kids learn that this man isn’t a man at all, but an ancient being who awakens every 23 years for 23 days to feast on human flesh and organs. More encounters reveal the beast has somewhat reptilian and/or insectoid features, and big, huge bat wings, and he’s decided he wants to feast on our two heroes. Naturally.
Jeepers Creepers had an unprecedented opening on Labor Day weekend, but the events of the following Tuesday, 9/11, left people not quite in the mood for a horror movie. Still, the movie found success on home video and eventually became a classic, which led executive producer Francis Ford Coppola to want a second film. Though Salva was initially resistant, the idea of setting the sequel on the 23rd day of the 23-year cycle proved interesting.
Jeepers Creepers 2 was, again, very similar to Jaws, but instead of a shark menacing people on the water, it’s the Creeper menacing a basketball team in a school bus that’s been disabled and stranded in the middle of nowhere. While the students don’t prove as charismatic or likable as the siblings in the first movie, the sequel does have the added treat of actor Ray Wise playing an Ahab (or Quint) figure who is hunting the Creeper as revenge for its killing of his younger son. Wise brings to the role a ferocity and damaged quality that makes for a hell of a protagonist. Plus, there are some awesome aerial maneuvers by the creeper and some impressive car crash/explosion sequences.
Both films are incredibly fun watches, much more so than I was expecting upon this revisit. Though certainly far from perfect—especially with the now very dated CGI—there’s an undeniable charm to them both, and the inclusion of one of the coolest new horror monsters to come around in a long, long time.
Scream Factory has, yet again, delivered the same care and pride to their special edition Blu-rays as ever. In addition to gorgeous new scans of the films, there’s also length making-of material with interviews with Victor Salva, producer Barry Opper, director of photography Don Faunt le Roy, and editor Ed Marx. There are also newly recorded commentary tracks on both films, and some interviews with actors—most interestingly, Ray Wise, who is just a delight to listen to.
There’s talk on the discs of the still-undetermined third Jeepers Creepers, and I’m really hoping we get it, because the Creeper needs to creep again.
Jeepers Creepers and Jeepers Creepers 2 special edition Blu-rays are available beginning Tuesday, June 14. Let us know what you think of these movies in the comments below!
Images: United Artists/Scream Factory