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JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 (2003)
aka LIKE HELL: JEEPERS CREEPERS 2, JEEPERS CREEPERS 2: THE SECOND NIGHT
Directed by Victor Salva
Written by Victor Salva
Starring Ray Wise, Nicki Aycox, Garikayi Mutambirwa, Eric Nenninger, Travis Schiffner, Lena Cardwell, Billy Aaron Brown, Marieh Delfino, Diane Delano, Thom Gossom Jr., Tom Tarantini, Al Santos, Josh Hammond, Kasan Butcher, Drew Tyler Bell, Luke Edwards, Shaun Fleming, Jon Powell, Justin Long, Jonathan Breck as the Creeper!
JEEPERS CREEPERS was a film that came out of the gates with both guns blazing. Sporting an iconic character, a simple road movie plot, some fun acting, and a taste for gore and perversion, the film really did hit home with audiences and the Creeper became somewhat of a household name. The follow-up, while lacking in a few essential things that made the original a modern classic, still delivers some down-right horror movie goodness.
Every 23rd Spring, it feasts for 23 days. That’s all we get in the opening scrawl of JEEPERS CREEPERS II before it leaps right into a daytime horror scene set in an open field as a boy hangs up scarecrows. After the boy is abducted by the Creeper, leaving grieving father Jack Taggert (Ray Wise) behind, we cut to a busload of jocks and a smattering of cheerleaders and coaching crew as they make their way home after winning the big game. When the bus breaks down in the middle of open fields on either side, they soon realize that the Creeper has his eye on a select few of the kids on board and with one night left to feed, the Creeper is bound and determined to get what he’s hankerin’ for. Meanwhile, Jack Taggert is on the road with a while lot of vengeance on his mind and a harpoon gun in the back of his truck.
Now, I know it is hard to look past Victor Salva’s notorious past for many. While I try to judge a film on its merits, not on the history and personal life of the people behind the film, it is difficult to do sometimes and that is especially true with JEEPERS CREEPERS II as Salva seems to go out of his way throughout the film to depict the entire football team as shirtless boy-beasts running around grunting tough guy lines. The sheer amount of scenes where these guys, for no real reason, take their shirts off was enough to make me squirm. But even while one could say this is an establishing shot of the kids set up in a clever juxtaposition and scene transition (the teens sunning on the bus is set up to be in the same position a picture of one of the Creeper’s knives is in making for a fun little bridge between scenes), it still feels creepy and fetishistic and it’s a feeling that is hard to shake given that scene after scene of shirtless teens occurs throughout this film. One would think that Salva would avoid this, given his sordid history, but its almost an in your face F.U. to his critics who gave him crap about the relentless pursuit of Justin Long by the Creeper in the original, filled with all sorts of perversions such as sniffing his underwear and tearing his shirt off to reveal a tattoo on Long’s bellybutton (something that is highlighted once again in this film in a dream-like flashback). Given that this is a film about a monster who stalks teens in the middle of nowhere, maybe this is Salva’s way of taking care of his inner demons. Either way, it made me feel rather ooky the entire way through.
That said, I have to give it to Salva, he really knows how to make a thrilling movie on a somewhat simple, yet still most likely bigger budget than most, budget. The film takes place in and around a bus on a small stretch of the road for the better part of the film. That’s not a lot of sets to manage, but Salva makes the most of it. One would think that setting the whole thing on a crowded bus would get tedious, but there are enough adventures in and around the bus that occur in this one to make it last. Salva does have a gift for setting up some tense scenes, as he does numerous times leading in to the discovery of just what is stalking the kids and swooping around the bus like a circling vulture.
The story of JEEPERS CREEPRS II is a mixed bag of fun little details and some what the fuck moments of script-fuckery. I love the idea of Jack Taggert roaming the countryside with a giant harpoon gun strapped to his truck like a modern day Ahab after his white whale Creeper. While Wise’s Taggert is not in this film a lot, he does make for the most thrilling scenes as Salva evokes films like JAWS as the Creeper gets tethered to the truck and ends up dragging it across the road and into the bus. The way Taggert yells at his son is reminiscent of the way Quint screams at Hooper in Spielberg’s shark tale.
But then, as a means for the kids to understand just what the fuck is going on, Salva injects a psychic girl Minxy (the adorable Nicki Aycox) who dreams about the Creeper and his victims and suddenly becomes an info dumpster, reciting what the Creeper is and what his purpose is. I don’t know why the kids need to know all of the details Minxy tells the crew. I think it would have been more powerful for these kids to face the Creeper without knowing shit about him and having to survive on their own wits without the help of a psychic dream. This felt like Salva painted himself in a corner script-wise and used magic to get himself out. In terms of story, the film’s main problem is that there are too many characters and not one clear central character. I guess one would say the emotional investment is in Jack Taggert and his quest for revenge, but that would make the busload of kids tertiary. But since the film focuses most of the action on the kids in the bus, it doesn’t make sense to only show your protagonist in a few key scenes. In some ways, this makes it harder to pin down the usual horror movie tropes as to who lives and who dies, but it also feels like we never really get to know anyone enough to care.
As with the original, the effects here are pretty amazing. Be it the cool way the CG Creeper flies away with its articulated bat wings or the simple practical effects when the Creeper is blown to bits, yet still relentlessly pursuing its prey. All of this looks great here and while I think the flirtation scene where the Creeper picks his favorite kids from a lineup from outside the bus was a little over the top, Jonathan Breck does a great job of bringing some iconic menace to the character.
This Special Edition BluRay goes all out in terms of bells and whistles. It’s got two disks full of features such as audio commentary tracks from writer/director Victor Salva and cast members, another by Jonathan Breck (The Creeper), Brad Parker (Production Illustrator) & Brian Penikas (Special Effects Makeup), new featurettes “Jeepers Creepers 2: Then And Now” interviewing cast and crew, “A Father’s Revenge” interviewing actor Ray Wise, “Don’t Get Off The Bus” interviewing actors Tom Tarantini, Thom Gossom Jr. & Diane Delano, “A Day In Hell” taking a behind the scenes look at a day in the filming of the movie, “Lights, Camera, Creeper: The Making Of Jeepers Creepers 2”, “Creeper Composer” interviewing composer Bennett Salvay & writer/director Victor Salva, effects featurettes “Creeper Creation” and “The Orphanage Visual Effects Reel”, storyboard renditions of scenes not filmed such as the Creeper’s Lair and the Creeper’s Ventriloquist gag, deleted scenes, photos, and trailers.
That’s a whole hell of a lot about a sometimes disturbing, yet still technically awesome little film.