Where'd You Get Them Eyes?

Let's forget, just for a moment, that Jeepers Creepers was directed by a child molester. OK?
Good, now that that's out of the way it's time to enjoy JC for what it is: a magnificent little horror movie that manages to combine elements of Steven Spielberg's Duel, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, as well as pieces of urban legends, serial killer myths, and a good old fashioned monster movie.

Justin Long and Gina Phillips play brother and sister, Darry and Trish Jenner who are driving along a country road on their way home from college for Spring break. - It has to be mentioned that Long and Phillips are wonderfully believable as siblings, and it's a real treat watching these two trade jibes, discuss their family and play a silly license plate game as they pass the time.

Unfortunately the good times don't last for long as about ten minutes into the film, the Jenner's are set upon by what appears to be a rusted out old milk truck on steroids that chases them down the road, slams into the back of their car, and then eventually passes them, all the while bleating a horn which makes a godforsaken, nerve-racking racket.

Freaked out, but happy that the monster truck is long gone, the kids regain their composure and continue along their way, until they happen upon the rusted out bucket of nightmares parked on the side of the road, and catch a glimpse of an oddly attired somebody (or something) dumping what appears to be a body wrapped in a sheet, into an old stand pipe next to an abandoned church. Because Darry and Gina are decent people, they actually decide to go back to the scene of the crime and see if they can help - bad move; before long Darry falls into the standpipe and comes across a bevy of bodies that have been stitched and sewn into a nightmare canvas. Corpses are attached to the walls and ceiling of the church basement in a sort of Sistine Chapel of horrors.

Though Darry manages to escape, the siblings are still not safe.

Once they find a local diner, they receive an anonymous call on a pay phone; a woman's voice cryptically warns Darry about cats and an old song ... the police show up, but like always, are of no real help (though the male policeman is pretty damn hot, and can't seem to keep his eyes off of Darry, and that little tattoo of his near his navel - for what that's worth).

Things go from bad to worse as the cops don't believe what the Jenner kids tell them, and then, someone is spied in the diner's parking lot going through Gina's car. Once everyone gets outside, the lot is strewn with clothing - that's when a waitress tells Gina and Darry that some man was picking up the clothes and sniffing them! Oh, and it seems that the sniffing creep was especially interested in Darry's tighty-whities (which seemed to have been thrown into the wash with a red shirt).

Well, things just go from bad to worse ...The Creeper beheads Officer Hot Stuff...
...and then seemingly French kisses the noggin before chewing up and sucking out the tongue.
And then the kids meet Eileen Brennan who is a crazy cat lady...and the Creeper does her in.
Later on, at the police station, the lady from the pay phone shows up and tells the kids all about the Creeper,"Every 23rd Spring, for 23 days, it gets to... eat."

...say what?

It seems that the beastie who is stalking the Jenner kids emerges from his slumber every 23 years to hunt young nubile teens. The patchwork of bodies that Darry found earlier were all past victims of the demon. Furthermore, it appears that the Creeper not only eats his victims, but skins some of them, and uses their body parts to replace his own. And it seems that the Creeper really wants Darry for...well, you'll have to wait and see what body part he's craving.

Considering that director Victor Salva is gay, it stands to reason that he makes the stalked victim in his horror film a male - I loved that twist in this film. After watching millions of beautiful young women fall prey to a movie monster, how refreshing to see a young beautiful guy be the object of the monster's attention. And then, during the film's thrilling climax, the tables are really turned when the female lead confronts the demon and begs it not to take Darry , but to take her, because she's "stronger" than her brother. Of course it does not work, and the Creeper makes off with the struggling young man, flying off into the evening sky while his sister is left screaming his name as she watches the winged demon clutching her younger brother as they soar off into the moon lit night...
And then......the lyrics to the old song, Jeepers Creepers take on a much more sinister meaning. (Jeepers creepers, where'd you get them peepers, jeepers creepers, where'd you get them eyes...)

I saw Jeepers Creepers at the movies when it first came out back in 2001, and absolutely loved it - to me it was a throw back to old school horror, and of course, the gay element was an added treat. Later on, director Salva would revisit the Creeper with Jeepers Creepers II and make an even more heavy handed gay themed film - but for whatever reason, I did not enjoy it as much as the original. gratuitous justin long from jeepers creepers
For those who have a problem with the director's admittedly disturbing past, all I can say is, as tasteless and disturbing as Salva's crime was, it was no worse than that of director's like Woody Allen and Roman Polanski ; two men whose personal lives I abhor, and whose work I admire.


MonsterScholar said...

Well said Pax. Just because I love Michael Jackson's music doesn't mean I condone what he allegedly did. I also think Salva's case is skewed by a sexual double standard. People are more likely to forgive an indescretion between a man and an underage girl (Polanski) than one between a man and boy.

Pax Romano said...

MS, I was going to say the same thing about the double standard.

Ninja Dixon said...

I like the movie to, but strangely enough I prefer the second movie. Especially the ending where Ray Wise just waits for the creeper to wake up again.

Pax Romano said...

ND, glad you liked part II - I enjoyed it, but for whatever reason, I found part I much more satisfying.

Word is that they are working on III and that Gina Phillips will be back!

Ninja Dixon said...

I think I prefer part 2 because it's more straightforward. Just a couple of hunks in a bus. More or less anyway.

Vince Liaguno said...

The first film is a classic. Very tense and atmospheric! I have fond memories of seeing this in the theater, not knowing a thing about what it was about (other than the fact that it had a super-freaky-cool poster!), and being incredibly surprised by how freakin' scary it was! A complete and very pleasant surprise.

And, yes, Justin Long's tummy is yummy, but when it comes to those slabs of hunk you're so fond of, it's hard to beat Al Santos in the sequel!

jennypower said...

I wish I enjoyed this film as much as you did. I found the whole scare sequence to be way overly complicated. He has to chase you to get your adrenaline flowing to smell you to see if he'd like to have any of your organs, then actually find you and disembowel you... every 23 years. For a film that channels the old-school horrors I thought it was a little too convoluted, but it does reflect that he's fixated on the Justin Long character and not just the local unattended hot young thing.

That said, I agree with you completely on separating the personal lives from the work. As a young GNR fan I often had to defend my love of Appetite for Destruction in light of the fact that Axl Rose probably hit his wife. But look at someone like Kurt Cobain and it's almost impossible to separate the two.