Jeepers Creepers

-

Jeepers Creepers

For much of the mid- to late '90s, the unironic teen horror film seemed headed for extinction. After all, how could audiences be expected to swallow the genre's myriad conventions after they'd been skewered and dissected by a film as popular and influential as Scream, not to mention its postmodern progeny? But as box-office grosses regularly prove, audiences are generally willing to swallow just about anything on celluloid and in focus, as evidenced by the return of teen terror in such forgettable would-be fright-fests as Valentine and Forsaken. Jeepers Creepers makes occasional reference to its cinematic forebears, but is distinguished largely by its adherence to the stripped-down template of the no-frills horror B-movie. Paring down its story to the bare essentials—a girl, a boy, a beastie, a backward town, and the open road—Jeepers Creepers casts Gina Philips and David Schwimmer lookalike Justin Long as bickering collegiate siblings driving home for break. Passing through an eerily empty small town, they happen upon a creature disposing of a red-streaked sheet, and they decide to investigate, which leads to numerous run-ins with a shape-shifting ghoul with a fondness for human flesh, both as cuisine and as unconventional interior decoration. Quintessential drive-in fodder for the post-drive-in era, Jeepers Creepers begins promisingly with an economical first half devoid of extraneous subplots and supporting characters. Writer-director Vincent Salva wisely avoids revealing the film's flesh-eating bogeyman until the film's second half, but once its monster takes center stage, Jeepers Creepers heads downhill in a hurry. Resembling a cross between The Phantom Of The Opera's country cousin and Todd McFarlane's Spawn, the creature is clearly intended as a figure of unstoppable, supernatural menace, but its eccentricities—laundry-sniffing, leaping over cars, listening to old records—seem more comical than frightening. Jeepers Creepers unfolds with the archetypal simplicity of a campfire ghost story, but this tale has been told far too many times. Incidentally, Francis Ford Coppola is listed among the movie's executive producers (so much for Zoetrope's lofty ideals), but Fangoria diehards waiting for a definitive, four-hour director's cut will probably have to wait more than 20 years.