Just like in the early nineties, where it was hard to find a good iconic horror film villain, it was possibly even harder in the early two thousands to find a horror film not starting teen TV stars and practical makeup FX monsters were very sparse. Francis Ford Coppola the man who gave us the Godfather and started his career with the Roger Corman horror classic Dementia 13, saw great promise in Victor Salva's script which was back then titled, "Here comes the Boogeyman." What got made was a classically shot road trip horror that heightened the film's terror with its rural backdrop of small towns and long winding roads for the creeper to chase our heroes through. Beware the Creeper!

8758_4Siblings Darry and Trish are driving cross country from college to their home on a school break. As their drive goes they encounter a beat up old looking truck with the license plate, "BEATINGU" that begins to honk and almost run them off the road scaring them but eventually passing by and speeding off. As they pass by an old church they notice the same truck parked by a huge pipe and a man throwing what looks to be wrapped up dead bodies down it, the man sees them looking and gets in the truck and chases them down this time actually ramming them off the road and driving off. Wanting to see if they can help, Darry convinces Trish to go back to the church and check out the pipe to see if anyone needs help. Darry falls in and discovers a mural of stitched together flesh and dead bodies that surround the walls and ceiling of an underground workshop. After discovering this the two drive off to a diner to call the police and while at the diner get a mysterious phone call about what they saw and the women on the other line describes what Darry looks like and warns them if they hear the song Jeepers Creepers that it has come for them. When the police arrive to question them their car is broken into by a dirty old man who was sniffing their clothes. Escorted by the police Darry and Trish try to continue on until the man appears standing on top of the police car as the song Jeepers Creepers plays on the radio alerting Darry to danger as the man kills the police with an axe! They watch in horror as the man who now looks more like a creature feasts on the cops bodies. Going through houses and back roads the two try to escape the beast that hunts them as it has a taste for one of them, but they don't know which one it wants.

jeepers_car_13The dynamic between Justin Long's Darry and Gina Phillip's Trish is what sells and invests you in the movie. For the first ten to fifteen minutes it's just them bickering about life, playing road games and really selling that they've grown up together and while they get on each other's nerves they do truly care for one another. Once you are invested in them it shifts gears and turns itself into a slasher movie akin to The Hitcher or Duel as the BEATINGU truck becomes a character to contend with itself and its driver shrouded in mystery until Darry discovers the sadistic workshop.

Once the Creeper is revealed, the film takes on a whole new life. Before the horror was the truck and a dirty old man. Now it's a monstrous creature that feeds on people's body parts and the very look of the Creeper freezes Darry and Trish. The Creeper isn't fully revealed until the end of the film and the most genius thing about its presentation is the evolution of the reveal from truck to old man to monster face all the way to the end when it's revealed in its true glory. One of my favorite parts is when Trish continuously runs it over with the car and we get a few close ups of its decaying claw like arm and dirty clothes, then a wing protrudes from the body and begins flapping until Trish runs it over again. Jonathon Breck never once speaks as the Creeper but his movements do the character menacing justice which is amplified by his terrifying smile as he tortures the kids.

ScarecrowWhere most films would have any character encountering the protagonists in complete disbelief of them, everyone who encounters them is immediately thrust into the danger fighting off the Creeper which leads us to one of the coolest endings in recent memory. Darry and Trish have made it to a police station and are hiding out there when the woman who called Darry, named Gazelle shows up revealing she has visions and reveals things about the Creeper to the kids. The lights go out and as a policeman checks on the prisoners in the jail cells the Creeper is eating one to regain his strength and we get a shadowy glimpse of the Creeper's full figure. It then proceeds to slaughter through most of the police force in the station to get to Darry and Trish as Gazelle tries to save them. There's a lot of times where a horror film will set up something on this scale but never go through with its potential, here the film just goes full crazy and it's epic.

At a brisk hour and a half the tempo of the film switches gears almost as a representation of the road trip itself from road trip to slasher to monster film ending almost on a siege flick. The Creeper is a great addition to the horror icons of old and the film boasts amazing performances from Phillips and Long as two protagonists you just can't help but care about that aren't idiotic, just young and caring. What really drove it home for me was the inclusion of the old school Jeepers Creepers music as well as the Here Comes The Boogeyman song that goes over the ending and into the credits. Innocence lost to the appetite of the Creeper.

14 Days til' Halloween! Halloween!
14 Days til' Halloween! Silver Shamrock!