Movie Review by Neil Ryan
Starring: Ray Wise, Jonathan Breck, Travis Schiffner, Eric Nenninger
Director: Victor Salva
Horror movie sequels are generally pointless affairs for anyone other than studio bean counters. Reserves of fresh ideas have usually been exhausted by the first film and the spark of originality and shock of the new is replaced by adherence to formula in the quest for repeat success. The original JEEPERS CREEPERS was an unheralded but genuinely effective serving of popcorn horror. Its efficacy was due in no small measure to the skilful manipulation of the fear of the unknown: the film’s tension saturated opening scenes were augmented by the anonymity of the impending menace. When, however, the demonic Creeper was revealed halfway through the film a lot of the heart-in-mouth suspense was diffused. It follows, therefore, that a sequel would be significantly undermined by the viewer’s foreknowledge of the bogeyman. But despite this fact JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 still has enough on offer to titillate the less demanding viewer.
The film picks up where the last one finished: the Creeper (Jonathan Breck) has forty-eight hours remaining of its twenty-three day feeding cycle before it must hibernate for another twenty-three years. Maintaining its strategy of seeking victims on isolated rural roads the Creeper stalks a school bus containing a varsity basketball team. Having disabled the bus it proceeds to pick off its designated prey one by one whilst the confused and terrified teenagers panic and bicker among themselves. Meanwhile, a dogged and grizzled farmer, Taggart (Ray Wise), is determined to avenge the death of his son, and is tracking the Creeper’s trail of terror via short wave radio. Having intercepted the hapless students’ pleas for help Taggart sets off in pursuit of the winged demon like a modern day Ahab, his pick-up truck converted to accommodate a purpose-built harpoon.
Okay, so JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 has inherent negative factors: the Creeper holds no shock value for anyone who has seen the original; the focus on the high school kids reinforces the notion that American teens in horror films are always obnoxious and hateful individuals fully deserving a bloody demise; and, pray tell, why do characters who are scared witless decide to venture alone into darkened rooms, stick their head above the precipice, or stand still and stare at the gradually revealed malevolence instead of turning tail and making like a cheetah on steroids. And whilst I’m nit-picking, how is it that despite a roomful of armed police witnessing the Creeper in action at the climax of film number one there is no general alert or manhunt underway in the sequel? And – deus-ex-machina alert – what is with the chick that, on this of all days, conveniently discovers that she is psychic.
But despite the cliches and obvious plot devices I must say that JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 did surprise me with a number of commendable aspects. The opening scene features an unexpected inversion of viewer expectations when the sympathetic younger brother is lost to the Creeper instead of the traditional slasher fodder: i.e. the bullying older brother and the stubborn humourless father. It is also quite a coup to maintain a fair degree of suspense throughout the film despite having all of your victims trapped in the limited confines of a bus. Further kudos is due for the depiction of racial tension between some of the black and white basketball players. The growing enmity between these near-hysterical adolescents could have been broached in a number of ways but, in an era when Hollywood is terrified of acknowledging racial disharmony, it is a brave move on the part of writer/director Victor Salva to utilise it as an incidental element of the plot.
Bottom line? This really could have been a lot worse. So let’s give it….