The original, 2001 "Jeepers Creepers" wasn't half bad. Unfortunately, it wasn't too good, either. It was a toss-up, with a first half that was genuinely creepy and a second half that slid pretty fast into the mundane. The trouble was, it showed too much. When the creature at its core was left to our imagination, the film was great. When we got to see the thing running amuck, all the mystery went out of it and the whole picture fizzled. Anyway, the first movie did fairly well at the box office so a year later MGM decided to let writer-director Victor Salva have a second go at it. The result is not quite the same. "Jeepers Creepers 2" isn't half bad; it's all bad.
With the success of "The Others" and "The Ring" in recent years, you'd have thought that Hollywood filmmakers would have gotten the hint that maybe building a little old-fashioned tension and suspense could be more terrifying to an audience than splattering blood and gore around the screen, but apparently not. Salva takes up where he left off in the second half of the first movie and pours on more of the same. Worse, this time his movie looks like a parody of a bad slasher flick.
You know the standard formula for an eighties-style slasher: Gather together a group of teenagers and strand them somewhere; then set a maniacal killer loose picking them off one by one until the last person standing finally knocks off the monster. The only reason people went to see these things was to enjoy the innovative ways the characters would die and to guess the order of their demise. Oh, dear; did I give away the plot of "Jeepers Creepers 2"? I'm sorry. Ignore this paragraph.
If you recall from the previous episode, there's an invincible winged monster called "the Creeper" (Jonathan Breck) that comes flying out of the cornfields once every few decades in search of food; mostly, teenagers to dispatch. The why's and wherefore's are hard to explain because they're never spelled out in the film. Just accept it; monsters live in our midst and some of them are more ornery than others. And ugly, too. I've often wondered what would happen if we could harness all the power of the Creepers, Jasons, Freddies, Michaels, Candymen, and Tooth Fairies into one big army. Why, we could devastate entire countries without taking a single casualty. Think of what the present administration could do with that! But I digress. I was saying this creature is plenty mean and plenty ugly. And that just about puts him into the same category as every other monster in Hollywood since the good old days of Dr. Frankenstein's handiwork. It also tells you how old the story idea is.
The plot? You still want to know about plot? OK. "Every 23rd spring for 23 days, it gets to eat." That's as much as the prologue tells us, and it's about all we need to know. It's the bogeyman come to get us. The movie starts with a charming family of farmers, a father and his two sons, so cranky we look forward to their imminent extinction. Then the scene fades to a school bus full of food, er, teenagers. Three adults, three teenage cheerleaders, and about a dozen teenage boys, to be more precise, returning along a road in the middle of nowhere from a state championship game of some sort.
The bus gets a flat tire, twice, and is left marooned because for reasons unknown their two-way radio and their cell phones will no longer work. And there you have it. A regular radio broadcast tells them that a burned-out church in the area was discovered to contain hundreds of dismembered corpses, some of them hundreds of years old. All we need to do next is sit back and wait for the inevitable killing off of the new victims.
It's said the Creeper can smell your fear, so, naturally, it kills the adults first. Fair enough. Besides, the teens are straight out of the Hollywood horror-movie tradition, the boys handsome, the girls beautiful, and all of them in their mid twenties. Save them for dessert. I'm telling you, if this thing had kept its tongue in its cheek, it might have been funny. What do you mean, "Who says it isn't?"
As I said, there are no explanations for what this Creeper creature might be, where it came from, how it's been preying on the citizenry for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years without ever being noticed, why cell phones in its vicinity don't work, how it keeps its hat on when it's upside down, how, why, what.... It just is, and it kills. None of which would have mattered if the movie had been in the least bit suspenseful. But flying scarecrows ceased to frighten most folks a long time ago.
Nobody in the film is particularly memorable, and only Ray Wise as Taggert, the aforementioned farmer, is recognizable in a cast of largely unknowns. Among the teens there are flare-ups of prejudice, and one of their number has premonitions, but these concerns amount to little. One kid, the moronic Scotty, refuses to believe in the psychic girl's dreams about the creature, but he fully accepts the concept of a fanged, flying demon. Go figure.
In the end, "Jeepers Creepers 2" is just another monster flick, with most of its budget going into the Creeper's makeup. Francis Ford Coppola was executive producer of the film and his American Zoetrope Pictures helped bankroll it, so, yes, the film does look good. But there is a reason why most major movie directors seldom do sequels. "JC 2" illustrates the point. By the end of the first movie we had seen the monster, and its just being ugly wasn't enough to make an impression. The second movie takes it from there and with a static, predictable plot goes nowhere. Well, to be honest, it does go somewhere; it gets sillier as it goes along and ends up being corny. Famous last words: "It looks dead to me." If only.
Almost everything about the video quality is agreeable. The screen size measures a robust 2.13:1 anamorphic ratio. The colors are beautiful. A healthy bit rate ensures deep, solid hues and little need for edge enhancement to effect reasonably good definition. Grain is nowhere to be found, nor are there many jittery lines to annoy one. Still, there is some small obscuring of inner detail, especially during nighttime scenes, and there is a minor blurry softness to the overall image.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 sonics do their job well, too. Dynamic impact is strong, bass is effectively deep, and the surrounds are used to moderate but persuasive advantage. The back speakers reinforce musical ambiance, of course, but they also disperse the occasional necessary noises for horror films, like the Creeper's wings flapping, fields of crickets chirping, and eerie voices behind us. There's nothing here that will knock your socks off, but you needed your socks to keep your shoes from falling off, anyhow.
If it's the sheer quantity of extras you're after, this disc's got it all. Quality is another matter. To begin, there are two separate audio commentaries: The first is with director Victor Salvo and the majority of the principal cast, mainly the kids on the bus; the second is with actor Jonathan Breck, production illustrator Brad Parker, and special effects and makeup artist Brian Penikas. Listening to parts of these commentaries was more entertaining to me than watching the movie.
Next, there are four production featurettes, each lasting from five to fifteen minutes: "Lights, Camera, Creeper," "Creeper Creation," "Digital Effects," and "Creeper Composer." After those items is a twenty-six minute, behind-the-scenes documentary, "A Day in Hell." Then, there are fifteen minutes worth of deleted scenes and moments; storyboard realizations of scenes not filmed: "The Creeper's Lair" and "Ventriloquist's Creeper"; two photo galleries; thirty-two scene selections; a theatrical trailer; and an informational paper insert. English, French, and Spanish are provided for spoken languages and subtitles.
"Jeepers Creepers 2" (or "Jeepers Creepers II," the filmmakers never quite sure whether to use an Arabic or Roman numeral) is a horror movie, after all, and you're probably wondering why I haven't said much about whether it's scary or not.