Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2016-06-11 19:33

Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003)
Studio: Scream Factory
Release date: June 14th, 2016

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman (@brettgallman)

The movie:

Note: consider this review to be a companion piece to the one for Jeepers Creepers, which discusses the controversy surrounding Victor Salva—obviously, much of the same applies to the sequel.

There was never even supposed to be a Jeepers Creepers 2, at least if you believe its director, who purposely built a short window into its creature’s mythology in order to limit over-exposure—The Creeper can only feed for 23 days every 23rd year, thus limiting any follow-up potential. It’s almost ironic that some horror fans have spent over a decade awaiting the next entry when this was supposed to be a one-off in the first place. Money talks, however, so when the first film was a surprise hit during Labor Day weekend—a time frame usually considered a graveyard at the box office—it’s no surprise that a sequel was suddenly inevitable. Arriving in the same spot on the calendar two years later, Jeepers Creepers 2 upped the ante in true sequel fashion; however, in doing so, it basically confirms the original suspicion that this was never quite cut out to be a franchise.

It’s not that the follow-up is an aggressive affront to the original so much as it’s just a lesser shade of it. Obviously, it can’t thrive on the same sense of mystery as its predecessor since that film blew the lid off of its secrets, leaving little room for the sequel to take a similar approach. Without this option, it takes the typical escalation route: this one is essentially the first film’s climax—wherein the Creeper dispatches most of a police station—drawn out and blown up over the course of 105 minutes (a runtime that’s fifteen minutes longer than the original to boot, and you often feel it). Just about everything is bigger, from the cast (and, ergo, the body count) to the more robust effects—this is spiritually very much the Aliens to Jeepers Creepers’s Alien.

Not that it ascends anywhere close to those kinds of heights, of course. Hell, it’s unable to capture the spark of its predecessor, especially as it pertains to character work. Where Trish and Derry were terrifically human audience surrogates, the main group here is literally a bunch of disposable teens who find themselves targeted by the Creeper (with the last half of that synopsis kind of efficiently capturing just why these movies are creepy for all the wrong reasons). Now at the end of his feeding cycle, the monster preys upon a state champion basketball team composed of the usual stereotypes: the homophobic jock, the shy outcast, the sweet cheerleader (who suddenly becomes psychic for no other reason than to recount the mythos—okay, maybe that one’s not too cliché).

Ranging from “forgettable” to “obnoxious” to “holy shit, I hope he dies first,” this group never makes a case that they should consume so much screen time. Nobody has much of an arc, and it detracts from what should be a compelling story involving Jack Taggert (Ray Wise) and his son (Luke Edwards), who are pursuing the Creeper themselves after it snatches away the youngest Taggert son from their farm. It feels as if the story should be couched from their point-of-view: they have a motivation and an actual story, whereas the group of kids is literally just stranded in the road, practically waiting to die. Instead, the Taggerts mostly recede to the background until the climax summons them to take on a more prominent role.

You almost sense that there are two concepts here that have been haphazardly mashed up here: one’s mostly a gratuitous gore movie, while the other’s more of a revenge/obsession thriller. Each has the potential to thrive separately, but they never quite get out of each other’s way here. Watching the Creeper's gory rampage through a bus full of victims (all while enduring his own gruesome punishment—there’s a great self-decapitation here) has its obvious appeals, and many sequels have gotten away with that kind of approach. Here, though, it mostly just detracts from what should be a more interesting story: Wise injects a tremendous amount of pathos in a short amount of time as the elder Taggert, whose presence as an obvious Ahab figure isn’t fully realized until the final scene.

Had the script managed to weave its two plot threads together more elegantly, Jeepers Creepers 2 might have come together and proved to be more memorable. Granted, it had been 13 years since I saw it in theaters, but I had so few enduring memories of the movie, and it turns out that’s for good reason—there’s just not that much to it outside of Wise’s brief flashes of brilliance and some of the more inspired effects sequences. To be fair, finding it forgettable is somewhat of an improvement over my initial impression: back in 2003, I didn’t like it very much at all, though I can now admit that was mostly a byproduct of the film’s “rivalry” with Freddy vs. Jason, the film it actually toppled at the box office (but only because FvJ was in its third weekend, it should be noted). Because I was a (very) dumb 19-year-old (weren’t we all?), I was probably a little too invested in all of this, so I never gave Jeepers Creepers 2 much of a chance and subsequently wrote it off for a decade (despite owning it on DVD for about half of that time).

Now that I’m (supposedly) more mature and can more fairly judge it, I don’t feel like I’ve been missing out on much—something about this series never truly clicked with me, and I doubt it ever will considering the obvious unseemliness surrounding them. And just like the original film, Jeepers Creepers 2 does very little to help you to forget about Salva’s horrific crimes: the movie literally begins with a Creeper abducting a young boy from his backyard, and there are several instances where the teenage boys are inexplicably shirtless—and this is not to mention a scene where they leave the bus to take a piss. I have no idea how nobody thought to challenge Salva on this—it’s a scene that never should have made the shooting script, let alone shot and included in the final cut. The sexual nature of the Creeper seems to be more emphasized in this film as well: at one point, he leers at his prey before winking and licking at them in another display that’s all too skin-crawling.

That the Creeper almost feels like a monster anti-hero here provides further evidence that Salva is either tone deaf or malicious—it’d be one thing if his creature were completely revolting, but instead it almost feels like you’re supposed to be in awe of its indestructability. No matter what you do to this monster, it remains an impervious, relentless machine that will eventually devour and snuff out youth and innocence. Even when it’s “defeated,” it only goes into hibernation, a stasis from which it will eventually return. There’s no repressing the Creeper and its urges. Not even time itself—in this case a 23-year sentence—can curb it; when you consider that Salva himself only served a small fraction of that time in prison, you can only shudder at the implications here.

The disc:

Scream Factory’s new collector’s edition Blu-ray has some shudder (or at least cringe) inducing moments as well, particularly during the “Jeepers Creepers 2: Then and Now” retrospective. Once again, Salva is prominently featured and even kicks off the proceedings by blaming 9/11 for the first film’s fade at the box office. Call me crazy, but that’s probably among the most trivial things to arise out of that tragedy, not that I think anyone should feel sorry for him anyway, for obvious reasons. At one point, he also bemoans the fact that he’s had some “bad things happen to him,” another galling declaration that makes you wonder just how oblivious he is.

These moments aside, though, the retrospective has some nice insights from other crew members, including DP Don FauntLeRoy, editor Ed Marx, and actor Tom Tarantini, all of whom are quite candid about what does and doesn’t work about the sequel. Many of the participants point towards the higher budget leading to more complex effects shots and sequences, which both helped and hindered the film in some respects. It also features some discussion about the long-rumored Jeepers Creepers 3, which will apparently be set between the first and second films, a reveal that was news to me. Salva also acts as if it’s eminent, but any news about that project should be taken with a grain of salt.

Two other newly-produced features also grace the disc: “A Father’s Revenge” is a conversation with Wise, who discusses how he came aboard the film as a replacement for Randy Quaid before describing his experience. He has kind words about it and even laments that he won’t be in the third one, so anyone expecting to see a continuation of part 2’s epilogue is likely to be disappointed. “Don’t Get off the Bus” gathers together Tarantini, Thom Gossom, Jr., and Diane Delano, the film’s trio of adult actors, all of whom share some memories and anecdotes that make Jeepers Creepers 2 seems like an unusually pleasant experience considering, well, you know.

All of the supplements from the film’s previous DVD release have made the trip over to Blu-ray as well, including a commentary with Salva and the cast, another commentary with Jonathan Breck, production illustrator Brad Parker, and effects artist Brian Penikas, a couple of vintage behind-the-scenes looks, a visual effects reel, a look at the film’s creature effects, storyboards of un-filmed scenes, a conversation with composer Bennet Salvay, deleted scenes, a photo gallery, and a trailer. This quite comprehensive, arguably even more so than the disc for this original film—between its thorough look at the sequel and even a look ahead to the next movie, it provides all the information any Creepers fan would ever need.

What it also unwittingly highlights is Hollywood’s tendency to overlook its issues with child predators; some—including Corey Feldman and Elijah Wood—have recently attempted to call attention to it, with the latter going so far as to describe it as an “organized” epidemic. While it’s true that Salva has served his time in the eyes of the law, what message does it send his victim when he’s allowed to blithely appear on special features like this? Certainly, Hollywood is silencing the wrong voices as it essentially talks around this issue without actually confronting it. If there's a silver lining to Salva's participation here, it lies in the possibility that people will recognize that this is how firmly entrenched this epidemic has become.
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