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Release: 2001, MGM
Starring: Gina Philips, Justin Long, Jonathan Breck, Patricia Belcher
Director: Victor Salva
MPAA Rating: [R] violence, language, nudity
Genre: Horror

What's eating you?...

A brother and sister are stalked by a murderous creature that must eat people to stay alive.

What's Good
the monster is sufficiently grotesque

What's Bad
uses too many conventions of monster-horror films
the characters do virtually every stupid thing imaginable
not particularly terrifying or disturbing
an abrupt and unsatisfying ending

Reviewer: Andrew Manning (09/01)

"Jeepers Creepers...where'd they get this crap?"

That was one of the two things I was thinking about all through Jeepers Creepers--the other thing was, "When is the girl going to get naked?" But as this uninspired horror flick lumbered through its dusty repertoire of tired genre cliches, a few facts became perfectly clear: the movie was never going to elicit terror, and the spunky heroine was never going to get raw. (The nudity note in the film's rating is due to a naked corpse, not any hot flesh.)

When Trish (Gina Philips) and her doofus brother Darius (Justin Long) are driving home one fateful day, they encounter a strange figure dumping what appears to be bodies down a chute. Foolishly, they decide to stop and investigate, and their curiosity uncovers a gruesome fact: a creature is stockpiling corpses in an abandoned church basement. It's not long before the monster picks up the scent of these meddling kids, and the siblings are soon running for their lives.

That's the basis for a short but not-so-sweet monster movie that starts off with a creepy serial killer atmosphere, but ends on a yawn-inspiring note. A flood of bad horror stereotypes are indulged, with just enough seriousness to prevent it from ever attaining a self-aware level of campy fun. The result is a futile endeavor trapped in limbo: too bad to be good, yet not bad enough to be cheesy, entertaining B-grade fodder like Leprechaun.

To make things worse, the two main characters make it a habit to do the most idiotic things they can think of: stopping to investigate the possible serial killer, examining corpses while the monster is still nearby, exploring the creature's lair, and pausing in reflection instead of getting the hell out of Dodge. They try to diffuse this brain damage when Trish glibly compares their first major act of stupidity to a bad scary movie. But this single piece of cinematic commentary is quickly buried under a pile of folly, with Trish and Darius taking turns being the moron. First, the girl acts as the voice of reason, then they switch off and the boy becomes the one with common sense. However, a change of heart does little to salvage his character--he established himself as the ultimate dunce early on by skulking around in the monster's home. (But what should you expect from a guy who can't even pull the car over when he is being tailgated by a runaway truck on the highway?)

The movie is largely predictable, from the biggest plot devices to the smallest details. For example, when someone leans against a window in a wide shot, you just know something is going to slam into that window for an audience-jolting shock--and sure enough, it happens. Jeepers Creepers is packed full of such non-surprises.

The monster, for its part, is sufficiently grotesque. Looking like a refugee from the Black Lagoon, the winged, reptilian beast must eat specific body parts to sustain itself. It must consume lungs in order to breathe, and it must chow down on eyes in order to see. However, this begs the question, "Whose ass does it eat when it wants to sit down?" (Interesting point of trivia: Gina Philips, who plays Trish, has a recurring role on TV's Boston Public as a hot young teacher who talks about the magnificence of her posterior. So my vote is for her.)

But though the monster is ugly as sin, there's nothing to really make it interesting--no definitive history, no real definition of what it is supposed to be. It's just a ghoulish freak with a murderous appetite, and it's inconsistent to boot: even though it can fly quickly and is seemingly indestructible, it still feels the need to disguise itself in a trenchcoat and drive a truck for the first half of the movie. It also wields battle-axes and is really handy with a needle and thread, to make things even more whacked out.

Also questionable is the constant use of the old 1930s jingle "Jeepers Creepers" as a harbinger of doom. No matter how you cut it, this pop song has all the menace of "Chattanooga Choo Choo" or the theme song to Gilligan's Island. Imagine Hollywood making a horror movie seventy years from now in which someone is killed every time a Backstreet Boys song is heard. Who's going to lose sleep over this?

The only thing modestly surprising about Jeepers Creepers is its tragic ending. But it comes so abruptly and anticlimactically that it doesn't even come close to making the movie worthwhile. In fact, all it does is leave you disappointed and yearning for a resolution with more substance. Ultimately, this flick is forgettable and not particularly scary (hell, I've seen episodes of The X-Files scarier than this thing). At best, Jeepers Creepers is a rental. And then only if your first five picks aren't available, and you have a coupon that makes the rental free.

Rating: 3 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)

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