Jeepers Creepers

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JEEPERS CREEPERS delivered substantial certifiable creepiness in 2001, the relatively lean horror chiller taking in $59,200,000, racking up as a hit from its modest $10,000,000 roll out. It’s gained a significant cult following since, and generated two sequels. Unpretentious, measured, imaginative, truly unnerving, it’s an inspired serving of freakout. *

You know the part in scary movies when somebody does something really stupid, and everybody hates them for it? This is it.

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‘Trish’ (Gina Philips) and her brother ‘Darry’ (Justin Long) are driving home on their college break. Teasing each other mercilessly, their trip down a lonely country highway is suddenly and violently interrupted by some crazy driver in a battered truck. When they take a curiosity detour to investigate something else ominous they see the stranger doing, things go from spooky to horrifying, with terrifying close behind. The man behind their dilemma turns out to be—not a man. Just…partly.

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Saying more takes away from the delicious yuck & jump factor of this slim-dandy, self-propelled descent into wracking nightmare, written & directed by Victor Salva (tell me that doesn’t sound like the name of a guy who would do a horror movie), accomplishing a lot with a little and injecting it without so much as a “Hello, I’ll be your fiend” into your chilled blood for 91 minutes.

Then-unknown, Philips, 30 passing for 20, and Long, 23, are choice casting picks as the bickering but mutually protective siblings, acing the banter so that they come across as real rather than standard irritating youth-in-jeopardy types. Under his elaborate makeup, Jonathan Breck does first-rate physical acting as the demonic ‘WTF!?’ on their trail. If a road-raging stranger like this starts sniffing you (literally), just hope you signed the “accidental death or dismemberment” insurance policy.

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Shot in rural Florida, around Ocala, with atmosphere-enhancing camerawork from Don E. FauntLeRoy, and increasingly monsterific twists charged up by a creatively ominous score from Bennett Salvy, it also features neat turns by Patricia Belcher and Eileen Brennan in small but lively supporting roles. The marvelously malevolent makeup, art direction, costume design and various visual effects seal the deal (and assorted fates). Francis Ford Coppola was Executive Producer.

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* Two years later, the costlier 2003 sequel Jeeper Creepers 2, also written & directed by Victor Salva, did even better business, but praise was shy. In 2017, sixteen years after the creeper first jeep’d, Salva delivered himself of Jeepers Creepers 3, but it was given limited release and barely made a dent. The director’s decidedly unsavory personal issues played havoc with appreciation of his film-making skills. ‘Creep’ indeed.

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