I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Jeepers Creepers 2

tn_jeeperscreepersiiJEEPERS CREEPERS 2 is a confident, well-constructed movie about a weird monster dude flying around eating a whole bunch of people. It starts out with the admirably to-the-point text:

“Every 23rd Spring
for 23 days
it gets to eat”

This is day 22, shortly after the events of part 1. We hear in a TEXAS CHAIN SAW-esque radio broadcast that the authorities are still dealing with the “The Horror in Poho County,” the “well past 300” dead bodies with missing organs that they discovered under a burned down church.

This is the handiwork of “the Creeper” (Jonathan Breck, SPY KIDS: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD IN 4D), who seemed at first like a spooky serial killer in a big farmer hat and long coat driving around in a creepy truck, but turned out to be a demon with big ol’ wings tucked under there. Well, it’s no secret anymore so this time he uses the wings for most of the movie, which leads to some cool action ideas, but also some special effects-related weaknesses. There are some shots of him flying that take you out of the movie with fakiness. But there are some good ones too. This scene where he chases after a car at night looks pretty convincing:

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In the opening scene he attacks Jack Taggart (Ray Wise) and his boys while they’re putting up scarecrows. Their planting of the scarecrows is clever set-up for how Taggart will try to hunt the demon, firing its own weird indestructible spear at it using an industrial post-puncher.

The vengeful corn farmer is out there searching Ahab-style for this Creeper gentleman, but the movie’s main focus is a school bus full of football players (and a couple cheerleaders) on the way home from their championship game when they get a flat tire from a weird Creeper ninja star made out of sharpened bones and teeth. It turns into a siege movie with them hiding inside the bus, trying to get help, attempting various escapes, etc. They try different ways to injure or kill the Creeper. Not much seems to work.

There are many good gimmicks. One of the first kills happens out of focus in the background of a shot of people talking. The coach is putting a flare in the street and a blurry winged-creature swoops down and snatches him up, leaving a trail of smoke. Nobody even sees it happen.

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I would not say this is a movie with particularly good characters, and some of them are aggressively unlikable. At first it seems like this guy Scotty (Eric Nenninger) is gonna be the hero, because the camera finds him looking out the window mp_jeeperscreepersiisolemnly while everybody else screws around like yahoos, and he has some inner turmoil he won’t let his girlfriend help him with. But then we find out what he’s upset about is he thinks he didn’t get to play enough in the game because he’s white. Other people pick on a guy for allegedly being gay and on the team manager for being a nerd. There are other characters who aren’t assholes, but they’re not very memorable and pretty interchangeable. And they all spend alot of time arguing and almost getting in fights.

But believe it or not that’s not a dealbreaker. It’s fun to watch them get terrorized by this taloned freak, and there are some really good monster effects (designer and supervisor: Brian Penikas). In the beginning we get the shadowy, scarecrow looking guy from the first movie, but mostly we see him in all his demonic glory, big madman eyes, in one scene a pulsating nostril on the bridge of his nose. One notable scene has him outside of the bus looking in, making faces at them, licking the window at one point. It dispels that notion that not seeing something is always better. This is the thing nobody ever wants to see outside of the window at night. And it’s standing there making hard eye contact with every one of them. Creepy as hell.

And he goes through some gooey transformations, all done with very good rubber and motors and shit, no cheesy morphing. To replace a heavily damaged head, he tears off somebody else’s head, consumes it, pushes it up through his open neck stump and sort of grows it into a new head.

Also at one point he really freaks out and gets a big wiggly gila lizard type of mane behind his head, fanning out while he makes his weird clicking and slurping noises. That’s some freaky shit.

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Hey, in the first one, was there something about Justin Long’s character having a rose tattoo by his bellybutton? I don’t think so, and I hope not because it makes this weird little bit funnier. Long has a cameo in a dream, he’s standing bloody on the edge of a cornfield trying to warn the living to stay away. And the camera lingers on a tear in the front of his shirt that exposes his belly button and the tattoo. Later the bus driver takes a look at a weird weapon that pierced their tire, and she points out that the skin stretched across the middle is from a bellybutton. And of course it has that tattoo on it.

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I’m pretty sure that was made up for this movie, and it makes you wonder: the first time around did Justin Long knowingly play his character as a guy who has a rose tattooed around his bellybutton, or is it just a coincidence that he played it that way? I bet he knew. I bet they went over this.

Like the first one this is a solidly constructed movie, a very straight forward monster idea with little pretension, lots of tension, good atmosphere, clever, well-staged setpieces, good mythology, if bad characters. And it does a good job of capturing the fun and creepiness of the first one without rehashing it at all. We’ve already gone through the mystery of what this guy is, we don’t start over from square one, we cut to the chase and escalate from what we saw before. And there are some really cool action ideas, like when Taggart shoots a spear with a cable into the Creeper from the back of his truck, but the Creeper flies and yanks the truck around and it’s bouncing around like it’s on hydraulics.

But also like the first one, and moreso I think, the knowledge that writer-director Victor Salva is a convicted child molester causes a distraction. Once again he has teenage boys going shirtless constantly. He has them peeing together. Since their football team is the Bannon Bantams he’s able to have them singing “Better not mess with the fighting cock!” a bunch of times.

And yes, the actors all look like grown men, so that’s not as bad, but in the opening scene the Creeper kills a little boy. In the first one I was skeezed out by the Creeper sniffing Justin Long’s dirty laundry. Here, the little kid’s older brother calls him “butt sniff,” not an insult I have heard before. On the bus, a bullied kid is accused of sniffing jock straps. And the Creeper is supposed to be a sniffer too. “Whatever it is, it’s a smell freak, man,” says one guy, for some reason, when they first see him. It’s entirely too many sniff references for me.

So that’s a problem. If not for that, I would definitely recommend this picture.

Last week they announced they’re officially doing a part 3. I’m sure it will be pretty good too. Watching this now it reminds me of something missing from today’s horror: good monsters. I know we’re past the Freddy Age, but maybe it’s time for memorable horror villains to have a comeback. If you look at what’s popular you got invisible ghosts that move furniture around, you got the terror of your fellow man, you don’t really got a specific guy with a name who looks a certain way and has a personality or a goal. The movies that do try to create an iconic monster villain end up with a corny looking dork like the Slipknot cover band bass player in SINISTER or the Tim Burton cosplayer in THE BABADOOK. Where are our Jasons, our Michaels, our Candymen?

Come on horror directors, get it together. Your sauce is so weak they’re calling in a former child rapist to do your job for you. I’m not comfortable with this.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, September 14th, 2015 at 11:29 am and is filed under Horror, Monster, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

21 Responses to “Jeepers Creepers 2”

  1. I’m not sure if this was in an interview or a commentary or what, but I believe it was Salva who compared Jeepers Creepers and Jeepers Creepers 2 to Jaws and Jaws 2 in their approach and I can totally see that. Not that the JC movies are anywhere near as good as the first two Jaws movies, but I can still totally see that parallel.

  2. Justin Long *did* have a rose tattoo in the first movie, which was visible after he fell inside in Creeper’s lair. Call me a sicko, but I think that Salva’s past works somewhat in favor of the movies, where the Creeper can be seen as the manifestation of horrific, predatory sexual pulsions. I have to say I’m reasonably curious/optimistic about a third movie…

  3. I’m with Magiclapinou: there’s something fascinating about the idea that Salva’s past makes watching these movies uncomfortable, because creating discomfort is often a virtue in horror, but also to Vern’s point, it can verge on being *too* fascinating and become distracting. It’s a little too real, which makes it cool, but also makes it weird, which also makes it cool, but it’s still weird. The Ouroborous of Jeepers Creepers. Jeeporoborous Creeperborous.

  4. Set the Creeper loose on the “clowns” from Clownhouse… and then at the climax, as a deus ex machina, Powder shows up and defeats the Creeper AND the surviving “clowns” by way of hundreds of sharp. magnetized kitchen utensils.

  5. This film is my go-to reference point when discussing the male gaze. It makes the concept very clear because it’s a gay, pedophilic male gaze.

    These films really do seem like Victor Salva exorcizing his personal demons, and I’m okay with that. He hasn’t uhh…backslid as near as I can tell, so maybe there is something therapeutic to the whole thing. Don’t give him a long leash with child actor’s, certainly; but consider that he might be an example of the human capacity to change and further that this content of the film itselfight be a manifestation of that internal struggle.

    He’s certainly not positioning the Creeper as an audience identification character. We’re not rooting for him as we might with Freddy in the latter half of the Nightmare franchise.

    Considering that Salva is pretty overt with the sexual fetishism, so I honestly think he is inviting the comparisons, wanting us to know that the Creeper finds origin in his own personal sickness. If he wanted to avoid this point, JC2 would be less “twink”-centric.

  6. Damnit. Every time I post from a phone it comes out totally garbled. #sorry

  7. Tawdry–

    I guess the issue is we don’t know if has backslid and so we don’t know if this is a work of exorcism or a pervert’s grim mocking, like Sandusky titling his autobiography “Touched”.

  8. I love how people will watch a million movies with the theme of redemption at their core yet be completely unwilling that anyone in real life can ever be redeemed. Tawdry’s comments on these films over the years give me hope that even the most twisted among us can not only learn and change and teach, but all be forgiven. Eternal punishment and revenge just leads to…well, the exact piece of shit world we live in now where terrorist attacks lead to military strikes lead to more terrorist attacks and the exclusion of convicted felons from the workforce leaves them little choice but to return to crime. If we don’t actually believe that people can be rehabilitated, that peaceful solutions to our behavior can be found, why bother with diplomacy or the criminal justice system at all? Let’s just admit our own savagery and execute all undesirables in the street. The world will be a living nightmare but at least it will be honest.

  9. Tawdry, I know how you feel about the phone thing. My post made a lot more sense before my thumbs mangled it.

  10. Well I quite liked the first one, but heard enough bad things about the second one to avoid it. Might have to reconsider that. The thing that puts me off is that (the brilliant HOSTEL excepted) annoying characters in a horror movie are the one thing that can spoil it for me – look at WAR OF THE WORLDS. (Not that the characters alone account for just how much I hated the experience of watching that movie, but you know what I mean.) So I get the feeling I might not like this one as much as Vern did.

  11. You should watch this movie. There’s a great scene where the Creeper SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER gets his head cut off, and you’re like “well I guess that’s it for the Creeper then!” and he eats another dude’s head and his head regrows, and then he literally looks into the camera with a look on his face like “Yeah, I can do that. Did you think it was going to be that easy?” At that point I was utterly endeared to the movie, this is basically the story of a psycho demon fucking with some kids and it’s great.

  12. Majestyk–

    I think if Salva had served like 5-6 years in jail for raping a kid instead of 15 months the redemption arc might be more compelling. He got off easy largely because he’s rich. How many movies do we watch where guys like that get away with shit and we’re furious, or they get nailed and we cheer?

  13. I think that iconic horror monsters really haven’t dissapeared, they’ve just moved away from films. We get shit like Slenderman, or the weird animatronic nigthmares from Five Nights at Freddy’s. The people that buy into ‘horror icons’ (Read: Teenagers) are moving away from films as their prefered medium of entertainment so it only makes sense that the horror icons that they love would move to where they are.

  14. Oh man, Victor Salva, where do I begin?

    All I know is that I rented JEEPERS CREEPERS when it first came out on video and thought to myself “wow, that was a well above average horror movie”, then years later I learned about Salva molesting a kid and haven’t had a desire to watch JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 or revisit the first, at least not yet.

    So I certainly wouldn’t begrudge anyone who doesn’t want to watch his movies either because it would make them unconformable or they don’t want to financially support the guy, I understand, but at the same time some of the attitude I’ve seen online makes me uncomfortable as well, you can argue the guy’s sentence was way too short, but he nevertheless served his time and as far as we know has not committed any more crimes since, I mean what else do you want from the guy? This implication that he “has no right” to be making or movies or that he, like all pedophiles should be shunned from society, like Majestyk said it seems to only encourage vicious cycles that make the world a worse place instead of chances for redemption that might make the world a better place.

  15. Poeface a.k.a. Poeny Starks

    September 15th, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    Being branded a pedophile or a child molester is a stigma that sticks. Like the Mark Of Cain. It needs to be that way, for the future safety of innocent kids.

    There is redemption and forgiveness for that person, but it’s gonna be the long hard road out of Hell. If you’re gonna commit the atrocities in the first place, the Piper will require his payment.

  16. Interesting theory that I’m sure has some truth to it, but teenagers haven’t abandoned horror movies. I’m sure they are a big chunk of the audience for the CONJURING series, the SINISTER series, the INSIDIOUS series, the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY series. They just only like ghosts. Get it together, teens. You’re blowing it. Ghosts are for weiners.

  17. Crushinator – I’ll give it a look if I come across it.

  18. Anybody seen Salva’s first horror film, CLOWNHOUSE? I guess that’s the movie the abuse actually happened on (the victim is the film’s star) so I don’t know, it might be too uncomfortable a watch. But Salva’s other horror films are pretty good, so I guess I’m sort of morbidly curious. It’s Sam Rockwell’s first movie, so there’s that.

  19. I’ve seen it. Don’t really remember much, but it’s surprisingly downbeat and non-ridiculous for a killer clown movie. it’s closer to HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER than to, I don’t know, KILLJOY or whatever. It is not a body count funtime slasher movie. More of a psychothriller. I seem to recall an awful lot of queasy-making shots of boys in their underwear, but that’s what makes the movie morbidly interesting. You’re watching the work of a man who is currently in the process of going over the edge. I don’t know if he was trying to exorcise his demons or if he was just trying to see what kind of perversion he could get away with in a more-or-less mainstream film, but either way, it’s a peek into a truly disturbed mind. It’s still not that great but it’s worth a watch if you can find/stomach it.

  20. Poeface a.k.a. Poeny Starks

    September 17th, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Having said that, I thought JC1 was one of the better horrors of the early mill. It was original, dark, and ultimately disturbing once we found out the Creepers agenda with the brother. And The Creeper was a truly terrifying creation. By the time JC2 came around I knew what I was getting into, because every review mentioned the teen-fetishizing as an extension of Salva’s sordid past. Which, like Majestyk said carries a certain morbid curiosity to see what the director will do with it.

    But I didn’t like this one so much precisely because of all the teen-loving creepiness. The horror that The Creeper represented in JC1 re-manifested itself in JC2 not through The Creeper, but through the way Salva directed his film, where his camera went. I knew Scorsese was a rampant coke-fiend during the 70’s and early 80’s, but I didn’t watch RAGING BULL and THE KING OF COMEDY and think “Oh fuck, this guys got major drug issues.” But I’m afraid Salva drew attention to himself because he was a sick puppy and couldn’t help himself.

    I saw his latest horror, the generically titled DARK HOUSE with Tobin Bell recently. And while it’s a confused mess, it’s worth noting the contrast in theme. The JC’s were about this demon who consumed (mostly teenage) body parts to stay alive, the way sexual predators prey on youth. There was never any doubt that this Creeper could be changed from his creepiness. He existed to hunt and consume. DARK HOUSE, in a nutshell is about a young male with the ability to touch people and have visions about how they will die, sort of like Johnny in THE DEAD ZONE, and he get’s caught up in a battle between an army of axe-wielding Rob Zombie-lookalike Angels (seriously), and Demons who live in disguise as humans and prey on babies and teens. It’s also about floating haunted houses, and people who talk to Satan through air-vents, but don’t ask.

    There’s a part in the film where the demon’s are explained and revealed for what they are, brought out “Into the light”, and destroyed by the Rob Zombie Angels. So you could read that as a step in the right direction. And I only noticed one young-adult-male-butt-shot. So there’s that.

  21. I have to admit me and my mate hired this out back in highschool without knowing much about em and had absolutely no idea about Salva’s past (infact this review is the first I heard about it) we never got any of the untoward shit going on, and just saw them as good fun horror movies that thankfully weren’t scream rip offs.

    Though reading about his pervy shit, does explain a lot. Curious to re-watch em now with that knowledge and see how different they become.

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