Victor Salva’s Jeepers Creepers will be remembered for being Justin Long‘s breakout role and for turning the 1938 Louis Armstrong hit into a iconic horror ballad. Beyond that, it’s an above average horror film, that, despite the end being much weaker than the majority of the film, is quite entertaining and provides some quality scares.
We first meet Trish (Gina Philips) and her brother Darius (Long) as they drive along a deserted road, surrounded by meadows and farmland, on their way home from college. Their sibling banter is suddenly interrupted by an old, rusted truck that comes flying up on their car, horn blaring.
After letting the truck pass, and spending a few moments filling us in on the legend of a murder on that same highway, it seems the trip is back on schedule, that is until they spot the very same truck parked outside a dilapidated church, and its driver dumping what may be a body down an eerie pipe.
Of course, as any stupid teens in a horror film must, they decide to investigate, just in case the body is still alive. Darry falls into the pipe, and finds a cellar, where years worth of bodies make up the ceiling and walls. Once he is able to escape the cellar, him and his sister hit the road again, only to be pursued by an increasingly demonic beast, who wants something that one of them has.
The opening of the film drags on a bit, with the audience spending a bit more time than needed planted in the car with the lead sibling duo, but as soon as the terrifying truck enters the scene, the film successfully balances moments of calm with scenes of terror, at least for the first two-thirds.
The slow reveal of the Creeper makes for a pretty scary monster, much more so than one whose background is revealed. As the film develops he turns from an almost-man to a ferocious demonic-gargoyle, with his full intentions not revealed until the last minutes of the film.
The Creeper’s van is probably the most terrifying bit of the film. Those who’ve seen it will feel uneasy about any rusted truck appearing in their rearview for a long time. The sound design on the horn is also brilliant, providing a memorable and original sound.
Jonathan Breck’s performance as the Creeper is by far the best acting of the film. His wide-piercing eyes, beast-like movements, and haunting head-sniffing lead to sheer terror for viewers.
Unfortunately, the rest of the acting isn’t quite up to Breck’s level. Philips does a quality job, providing probably the best performance of her career. She far outshines Long when it comes to the horror scenes, but still isn’t everything a leading lady should be. The ever-loveable Long is well out of his league in a horror film. He’s adequate in the lighter, non-intense, moments of the film, but his portrayal of fear falls far short of the level where a top-notch horror lead needs to be. His “shock” at seeing the dead bodies is far from believable, and his other reactions are almost laughable at times.
The characters introduced towards the end of the film all seemed odd and unnecessary. Eileen Brennan’s cat lady is saved only by her line “that’s not my scarecrow,” and the psychic adds an odd, out of place dimension, only serving to explain the Creeper.
The film is sharply directed, with well choreographed stunts and beautifully designed shots. It’s obvious great detail and planning went into the creepy locations, the monster, and the vehicles and it’s a shame that the same detail didn’t go into the ending of the script.
Jeepers Creepers won’t be considered an iconic horror film, but it is a good monster movie with a fairly innovative premise, providing some entertaining horror, and a new beast to fear on a dark country road.
Bennett Salvay’s score is one of the strongest parts of the film, properly providing both suspense and emotion for the film. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio does an excellent job at immersing you in the film and the score is greatly improved on this Blu-Tay release, as is the audio.
The video is not quite at the level of the audio, but it’s still solid. The transfer is certainly not perfect, but the original was beautifully shot, providing rich colors and minimal visible flaws. The Creeper shows up especially well in the moonlight, with the wrinkles of his face popping off the screen, adding to the already terrifying look he has.
The special features aren’t as extensive as fans would hope, with nothing significantly different from the DVD release. Behind The Peepers – The Making Of Jeepers Creepers gives some quality insight into the actual production of the film, especially the creation of the Creeper. It’s certainly a must-watch for any of the film’s fans, but other than that there’s nothing else of note. The deleted/extended scenes are minimal and it’s obvious why they were cut from the final film. Salva’s commentary, though informative, doesn’t add much worthwhile that wasn’t included in the behind the scenes featurettes, making it a drag to listen to after watching the making of.
Despite the weaker ending, Jeepers Creepers is still a quality monster movie and above average horror flick that provides some genuine scares to stick with you long after seeing the film. Though it may not be as terrifying as it was when it first came out, it still holds up well by today’s standards.