October Horror Reviews - Jeepers Creepers "Where'd you get those peepers?"
2001 wasn't exactly a crowning moment for horror. Maybe I shouldn't say *that*, but long gone were the days of movie monsters. We were still in that "Scream"/"I Know What You Did Last Summer" phase where every horror movie was about someone in a mask or a hat or a raincoat, taking out revenge on some clichéd teenagers, always followed by a million uninspired sequels. Don't get me wrong, some of them are entertaining films, but that entire era of those films weren't my favorite. The formula was one of introducing a group of characters, having them slowly killed off one by one, with the main draw being a murder-mystery aspect, and you trying to figure out who the killer is, before it's finally revealed in the last act. Like I said, they were entertaining, but very sterile. They weren't gory enough to be all that fun, they took themselves entirely too seriously, and they ultimately lacked that sense of wonder and the ability of suspending disbelief. Gone were the days of creature features, with fantastic monsters and creative, bloody kills. This was the era of reality tv. So I can't tell you how immensely pleased i was when a little horror movie called 'Jeepers Creepers' came out that summer.
Our main characters, Darry and Trish, are a brother and sister going on Spring break. You immediately love these two characters, as they're written to be very smart and just kind of "with it". They're everyday people, but they make smart decisions, make realistic decisions, and really exemplify that sibling bond. The decision to make them a brother and sister unit was intentional and done to maximum effect, as it added such a dynamic to their relationship. As our characters are driving down a country road, they're passed by a beat up truck, and the license plates says "BEATNGU"...*cough*foreshadowing*cough. During their conversations, we actually get a lot of exposition and background on our duo, talking about relationships, their mom, their laundry. As they're driving, they see an old country church, and they notice to beat up truck parked there. Beside it, they say a dark figure in a hat and trenchcoat dumping what looks to be bodies down a shaft. This scene is actually pretty chilling in how the Creeper (the monster), sees them driving by and seeing him, and he just stares at them, not taking his eyes off them. Before too long, our Creeper and his truck are back on the road and chasing them. Let it be said that I love that the Creeper drives this POS truck. I just love the idea that that is his method of transportation and the truck alone is a big part of his character.
So when I said that Trish and Darry make smart decisions, that was a half truth. After getting run off the road, the better part of their conscience gets to them and they decide to go back to the church to see if the person being dumped was still alive. Not necessarily the most logical decision, but who knows what you'd be thinking if that was you. In hindsight, I'd be pretty damn thankful that someone was caring enough to go back and check on me. After traveling down this shaft, Darry discovers the Creeper's lair, if you will. He finds multiple bodies, all mutilated, having been sliced up and sewn back together. The ceiling is covered with hundreds of bodies up there, and the analogy between that and the painting on a Cathedral is not lost. Having been pretty much disturbed from what he seen, Darry makes it back out and they decide they have to get away. A lot of what follows is a big cat and mouse game between the Creeper and the siblings, but everything about it is all done so well. We end up finding out exactly what this Creeper guy is, and what I love, is he has an entire mythos about him. He's not just a deranged killer or a monster than randomly kills to be killing. We find out that he comes out of hiding once so many years, and that he kills to eat the body parts of what he needs to be healed. For example, he eats lungs if he's having trouble breathing, eyes if his vision is going bad, etc. It's not a groundbreaking concept per se, but it's wholly original. There are other unique aspects to him such as he hunts you down by smelling you, and I haven't even mentioned how badass his design is. The creeper himself is the size of a human, and he's human-ish, but is physical features are just really unique. So much so, that I'm having trouble describing him. He has almost bat-like qualities, as he has wings, can fly, but his skin is almost leathery. And badass rusty truck aside, he wears a trenchcoat, a big hat, and has this kickass medieval-type axe made from junk parts. He is an all encompassing character, and everything from the clothes he wears to the truck he drives is shown and explained in great detail. That kind of care and logic just is not put into monsters anymore.
If I went into much more detail about how the rest of the movie unfolds, it would honestly take a lot of really cool, memorable moments away from you. This is one of those movies where, and still, to this day, I watch it and think "Wow! *That* was a great moment." We get the creature running amok, him hunting people down in a police station where there's no electricity, and even some great, spooky moments at an old cat lady's house. We ultimately get a very appropriate conclusion, and one that was pretty ballsy. I very distinctly remember watching this at the movies, and that ending scene, you could hear people just gasp and say "Ahhhh, I can't believe they did that!!" Overall, I sincerely do contend that this is one of the waaaaay better horror movies of the last 20 years (man, time flies!), and certainly one of the better monsters and monster movies since the 80's. You can tell so much thought and creativity was put into every minute aspect of the Creeper, including his mythos, and you just really don't find that too often in movies anymore, of any genre. There is a sequel, which I haven't watched in some time, though I remember not being quite as impressed by it. And I'm very intrigued that they're officially making a part 3, subtitled "Cathedral", which was rumored for years to have an old West setting, which I think could have a ton of potential. The Creeper has been around for generations, and the potential for telling stories in different settings and time periods through history is almost unlimited. I'm waiting with baited breath. "Jeepers Creepers" get 9 "BEATNGU" License Plates out of 10!