Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Jeepers Creepers II



aka Jeepers Creepers 2 : USA 2002* (released 2003) : Victor SALVA : 103 mins

2001s Jeepers Creepers was a terrific surprise: an economic and imaginative low-budget horror-movie that struck the right balance between chills and laughs. Unexpected box-office success made a sequel inevitable, even though part of the the films joy lay in its elegant self-containment. How could writer-director Victor Salva possibly continue the story without losing what made the first movie special?

And the answer is he couldnt. Though watchable, Jeepers II only very rarely reaches the heights of the first picture this feels more like a slightly lazy cash-in. Where JC1 was direct and relentless, JC2 is more diffuse, cobbled-together and incoherent. The basic problem is an excess of potential victims: this time around, the Creeper (Jonathan Breck) a winged, seemingly indestructible demon of unspecified origin who feeds on human prey for 23 days every 23 years targets a basketball team returning home from a successful state championship. (Incidentally, The Creeper, although never referred to by that phrase in either movie, must be the most inappropriately-named screen psycho in movie history – his zooming around, both in the air and on the ground, is about as far from creeping as possible.)

After sabotaging their tyres, the Creeper periodically swoops down to pick off the kids and their teachers one by one. But with the best part of two dozen passengers on the bus, none are given the time or space to assert their personality beyond the level of horror-teen stereotype, and thus give the audience something to latch on to. It also doesn’t help that the kid who emerges with anything like a distinctive personality malcontent star-player Scott (Eric Nenninger) is an obnoxious egotist with (at least) borderline racist tendencies. Another, a cheerleader named Minxy (Nicki Lynn Aycox) turns out to have extremely handy paranormal powers: in her dreams, she is told key details of the Creepers habits meaning she spends most of the movie spouting exposition for the benefit of viewers didn’t catch the first Jeepers picture.

And as if the bus-full of youngsters (whose sporting abilities are never called into play) wasn’t already too much to handle, Salva splits his focus by repeatedly cutting away to Taggart (Ray Wise), a farmer out for revenge after seeing his son spirited away (in the nicely atmospheric prologue.) When Taggart finally does make it to the school bus, his clashes with the Creeper are played out in a lumberingly over-extended series of climaxes capped with a low-key epilogue that, like the film as a whole, doesn’t quite hit the mark. Sequel duties now discharged, lets hope the talented Salva can move on, confirm the promise of the first Jeepers, and abandon this franchise to the grim netherworld of straight-to-video-meisters.

30th August, 2003
(seen 29th August : Odeon, Chester)

* 2002 is the copyright year as given on the films end credits

by Neil Young