Jeepers Creepers

Review by Mike Long


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Jeepers Creepers  (2001)
MGM Home Entertainment

Length:        90 mins.
Rated:          R
Format:       Anamorphic Widescreen · 1.85:1
                      Fullframe
Languages:English, French, Spanish
Subtitles:    English, French, Spanish
Extras:        Commentary Track
                     Deleted Scenes
                     Making-of Featurettes
                     Still Gallery
                     Trailer
                     Filmographies

With the success of "Scream", we have seen a resurgence of the horror film in the last five years. However, for the most part, this new crop of scary movies lacks the punch that the horror films of the ’70s and ’80s had. Those older films had a certain visceral quality and for lack of a better term, mean spiritedness, which always kept the viewer on the edge of their seat. The newly released "Jeepers Creepers" attempts to recapture that magic by becoming the straight ahead horror film that so many of us have been missing.

The opening of "Jeepers Creepers" doesn’t seem very promising, as it’s very reminiscent of "Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III". A brother and sister, Darry (Justin Long) and Trish (Gina Phillips), are traveling the back roads on their way home from college. Their good-natured banter is broken up by the arrival of an old, menacing truck, which attempts to run them off the road. They encounter the truck again when they see it parked at an old church. Here, they witness a strange figure dumping what appear to be bodies down a drainpipe. Feeling a sense of social obligation, Darry and Trish decide to investigate this odd occurrence. Little do they know that their act of curiosity will be the beginning of a hellish night in which they come face-to-face with pure evil.

I really don’t want to say any more about the plot of "Jeepers Creepers", because the story is full of many surprises. "Jeepers Creepers" succeeds where many other recent films have failed. It takes the viewer into familiar territory (once again, the opening borders on rip-off) and then totally changes the rules. Many of the scenes in "Jeepers Creepers" had an odd sense of familiarity to them, but the viewer is still surprised by what happens next. Actually, the only problem here is that things get so far from the norm during the third act that some viewers may be turned off by the film. Writer/director Victor Salva keeps things moving at a breakneck pace and is constantly setting up genre conventions and then shattering our expectations.

Salva has also done a wonderful job shooting the film. The look of "Jeepers Creepers" is very reminiscent of John Carpenter, in that there is a great balance between light and dark, and there is also something lurking/happening in the background. Using these techniques, along with the score by Bennet Salvay, "Jeepers Creepers" is able to create a level of suspense that hasn’t been seen in a horror film in years.

"Jeepers Creepers" scampers onto DVD from MGM Home Entertainment in a very impressive Special Edition. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. (A full-frame version is also included on this DVD.) The first thing that must be said about this transfer is that it is unusually grainy. Whether or not this was intentional on the part of the filmmaker is unknown, but the grain during the daylight scenes is difficult to ignore. For a comparison, simply watch the trailer of the film and you’ll see that there is far less grain. Now, this isn’t to imply that the picture is so grainy as to be unwatchable, for compared to some other DVDs, it isn’t that bad. The point here is that for a film that was just in theaters four months ago, the transfer should be better. Other than the grain issue, the image looks great. The picture is sharp and clear, showing no overt artifacting, or problems from edge enhancement. During the nighttime scenes (which make up 2/3 of the film), the grain is negligible. This is where Salva’s use of dark photography really stands out, and the rich, black tones of this transfer make these scenes very effective. In other words, the scene is dark, for atmosphere’s sake, but the viewer never has any problem telling what is going on in the scene.

On the audio side, things fall much closer to being perfect. The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel audio track is used to heighten the horror in the film by incorporating all of the aspects of the surround sound system. When the truck attacks the kids, the rear speaker action, combined with the throbbing bass, doubles the impact of the scene. Also, the effective score is reproduced very well here. The audio is never distorted and the dialogue is always clear and audible. Overall, a very powerful and successful audio track.

The extra features on the "Jeepers Creepers" DVD open with an audio commentary by writer/director Victor Salva. On this track, Salva speaks consistently throughout the film and shares many anecdotes about the production. He is very candid about the film’s budgetary constraints and also very quick to praise his cast and crew. This talk is rarely boring and the only drawback here is that Salva mentions the 20-pages cut from the script due to financial issues, but never really elaborates on them.

The "making-of" featurettes on this DVD have been split up into six sub-sections. One; "Finding Trish and Darry", 11 minutes, which examines how Justin Long and Gina Phillips were cast and includes audition video. Two; "Designing the Creeper", 7 minutes, includes interviews with Salva and artist Brad Parker. Many sketches of The Creepers are included here. Three; "Cars and Trucks", 12 minutes, discusses how Trish’s car and the Creeper truck were created. Also mentions that neither ran very well. Four; "The Creeper Comes to Florida", 8 minutes, here Salva and company discuss the location shooting in hot central-Florida. This section also includes Jonathan Beck’s very creepy Creeper audition tape. Five; "Night Shoots", 10 minutes, this section focuses mainly on the stunt work and CGI effects used in the film. Six; "Composed by Bennet Salvay", 12 minutes, contains interviews with composer Salvay and offers scenes with isolated scores. All of these featurettes are thorough, but watching them all in one sitting can be a challenge.

This DVD contains ten deleted or extended scenes, but most of them amount to only a few seconds of new footage. Neither the alternate opening or ending scene is significantly different from what appears in the finished film. A still gallery features many behind-the-scenes pictures and several "hero" shots of The Creeper. The theatrical trailer for the film is offered here and has been letterboxed at 1.85:1. Rounding out the extras are cast & crew filmographies.

"Jeepers Creepers" brings back memories of films such as "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Halloween" in the sense that it doesn’t pull any punches as it offers no-nonsense scares. The movie is great fun and should be a welcome addition to any horror fan’s DVD collection. The DVD itself offers an acceptable transfer with excellent sound, and also contains exhaustive extras. If I had a license plate to describe "Jeepers Creepers", it would read "BLUVNGIT".

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January 7, 2002

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