Every Summer of Horror, I yearn for that feeling of watching an older movie for the first time and thinking “how did I miss this?” I got it with The Monster Squad, Suspiria, Bride of Frankenstein, and a handful of others. But more often, I’m simply reminded of why nobody ever implored me to watch it over the years, “cult following” be damned.
Well Jeepers Creepers is kind of one of those.
Now, it’s not terrible. Actually there’s bits and pieces of good horror there. It’s just that it mashes together two or three potentially great horror premises, and then takes the least interesting route through all of them. The setup: two young whippersnappers driving through the sticks witness a suspicious looking person dumping what appears to be dead bodies into a drain pipe, and he sees them. Great! That’s a perfectly simple premise for a tense, isolated cat and mouse thriller. Throw in a dead cell phone and a sputtering car engine – you got yourself a stew goin’! But then the creep leaves the scene, allowing the kids plenty of time to conduct a thorough investigation, get away, and make it to a very well populated diner to call the police. So much for the terror of isolation.
Then they receive a phone call from a psychic and… um… it soon becomes clear that the murderer is something more (or less) than human, and, OK, I’m still on board. You could still salvage that into a decent creature feature. But then the creature is finally revealed in full light and, ugh. There’s no way around it – he looks like a Star Trek villain. Think Idris Elba in Star Trek Beyond or some of the more flamboyant depictions of Klingons. All angry eyes and forehead ridges. And bat wings.
So, a promising, tense horror setup ends up devolving into something more akin to a young adult adventure horror flick that happens to have scattered moments of R-rated gore. The psychic character is completely, utterly superfluous in every way, and only serves to make things seem even more silly than they already were. In fact, that’s the best word to sum up the whole movie: Silly.
I know I’m being overly harsh. The late 90’s and early 00’s were a low point in horror. Nobody really seemed to know what the Next Big Thing was going to be, so studios were fumbling around putting money into anything that had teen appeal. There are original ideas in Jeepers Creepers and a legitimately well-executed first act. Having seen it I can now see exactly the makeup of the audience that made it a big enough hit to warrant two sequels: older teens, and adults who watch maybe one horror movie a year and cover their eyes during most of the scary scenes. It’s light and easily digestible, but gory enough to feel “legit”. I imagine if I were born in, say, 1993 and saw this on TV at a formative age, maybe it would feel like a classic. Alas, I’m too old for this shit.