Fall is the time of year when students return to school, the leaves fall from the trees, and as sure as the weather changes, we see a horror films in the local multiplex. There is always a crop of filmgoers anxious to be scared out of their wits by the latest Hollywood dealings. Sadly, there have been very few good horror films released, as most of the efforts have borrowed heavily from previous film and offered little in the way of originality.
The teen horror film had waned in years past as most of the new efforts had their debut on video rather than in the theaters. That all changed with the runaway success of “Scream” and a new batch of horror films was unleashed to capture some of the new and vibrant horror film box office.
The lure of horror films is big for film studios as they are generally cheap to make, and if the film is a modest success, then a line of sequels is likely to follow ensuring big returns from video and cable revenue. With this is mind, writer/director Victor Salva created a new horror film that began to get some interesting buzz in the horror circles, the film is “Jeepers Creepers”
The film is inspired by a real life incident where a couple of motorists investigated a mysterious situation only to make a shocking discovery. “Jeepers” tells the tale of a Darry and Patricia (Justin Long, Gina Philips) who are a brother and sister on the way home from college for Spring Break. Patricia wants to take the longer scenic route and the two siblings are driving down a long desolate highway towards terror.
During the trip, Darry and Patricia are almost run off the road by a maniacal truck, which invokes memories of the classic film “Duel” by Steven Spielberg many years ago. Shaken but undaunted the two continue on their journey only to pass the truck later. The truck is now parked next to an abandoned building, and the two notice a cloaked figure dumping what appears to be a body wrapped in a sheet down a large drain. The cloaked figure notices the two driving by, and the chase begins with the two being run off the road soon after. It is at this point, that the film loses a good bit of its premise, as large gaps of reason and common sense seem to be missing from the title characters. One would think after two close calls, Darry and Patricia would consider themselves lucky and get home as fast as they can. Instead, Darry convinces his sister that they need to return to the old building and discover what was dropped down the old pipe.
Against all better judgment, the two go back to the old building and make a ghastly discovery. What follows is the two trying to get away from the nightmare that they stumbled into. It is this situation that makes the movie hard for the audience to get involved with, as the two siblings keep waiting around for the police, the investigation, and all manner of mayhem, instead of letting it go and getting out of the area safely. There are segments when all manner of ghastly things are unfolding, and the two sit and watch. Even when his sister says that they need to leave, the two remain like statues waiting to see what happens next.
The evil of the story is said to be a Demon that returns every 23rd spring to feed. It seems that it scares people in order to get their scents as only when frightened can it smell if a person has what it needs to survive. Often this is done by the demon consuming the person in question.
What could have been an interesting film quickly becomes a series of situations that were inspired by other films. We have the police station standoff from “The Terminator” the zany psychic from the “Poltergeist” films, and a setting that is taken straight from the “Texas Chainsaw” series.
The film could have been a very good horror film, but the premise is destroyed by a lack of originality and a pacing that is dead slow. There is little tension in large parts of the film, and the back-story of the Demon is given little attention. It was announced that a sequel to the film is already in pre-production as I figured it would be. It seems that we ill be seeing a series of films that one can hope will expand on the missing elements to the story, and perhaps capture the potential that this film could have been. For now though, “Jeepers Creepers” is as an empty shell of unfilled potential and promise, just like the remains of the Demon’s victims.
2 stars out of 5