At the start of the new millennium out of nowhere a film appeared that became an instant horror classic and that film was Jeepers Creepers. Written and directed by Victor Salva this twisted tale of something sinister stalking the countryside roads contained originality and plenty of scares was a huge success and spawned two sequels 2003 and 2017.
The story starts off simple as we join brother and sister Trish and Darry (Ally McBeal’s Gina Philips and Justin Long from Tusk and Live Free or Die Hard) on their 10 hour drive back from their colleges through the empty countryside to their family home.
Entertaining themselves by arguing and playing car games the journey seems uneventful until they encounter a strange suped up yet rusted truck which aggressively honks and hounds them nearly causing the siblings to crash before speeding off.
Shaken by the encounter things take a turn towards the terrifying when a bit further down the highway they see the violent vehicle parked by an abandoned church and the driver dumping what looks like bound bodies wrapped in blood stained sheets down a dark chute.
Although unwilling to face the ominous truck owner again the duo know what they saw and Darry takes the moral high ground appealing to Trish’s sensibilities insisting his sister heads back with him to see if anyone needs their help. What Darry discovers down the pipe petrifies him and sets the pair on a dark journey directly into the path of the monstrous murderer who will stop at nothing to keep his secrets safe and his hunger satisfied.
The power of Jeepers Creepers is in its inventiveness and how it takes horror movie traditions and injects them with something new. The straightforward slow build up as Trish and Darry discuss an urban legend about mutilated teens who traveled along the same stretch of road they are now on teases the audience as does the initial encounter with The Creeper (Jonathan Breck who plays the villain in all 3 films) first hidden in his truck and then only witnessed from afar.
Keeping the exact details of who or what has being living in the evil abandoned church and storing dead people in its basement in order to create hideous works of art makes the first half of Jeepers Creepers even creepier. Blending apocalyptic religious imagery, psychic predictions, ancient myths and straight up stalk and slash scenes it is a movie that effortlessly jumps genres refusing to be tied down increasing its unique quality.
The film throws all sorts of explanations and ideas at the viewer from the supernatural to straight up serial killers with and the shifting motive of the main villain makes him even more menacing. The power and terror in the first act sadly decreases the more we see of The Creeper however in its place is a increasing insanity as the ante and body count is upped and the final scene will send chills down even the most hardened horror fans spine for sure.
The elephant in the room when it comes to any evaluation of Jeepers Creepers is Victor Salva himself whose career has been marred with controversy since his conviction of child abuse and child pornography charges in 1988 whilst making his first horror film Clownhouse.
Serving his time in prison and completing his parole in 1992 Salva’s dark distasteful past has led to protest and boycotts of his films however whether his personal life and early crimes should have any weight or impediment against the art he creates is a contentious issue that would take up much more time and typing than this humble reviewer can muster.
From the excellent cast to the gripping story, the solid effects and imaginative scares Jeepers Creepers is a treat for the eyes and judged without the aforementioned information it most definitely deserves its place amongst the classic horror films of the genre. Ultimately it is perhaps the shadow hanging over Salva that has prevented it being a wider known series beyond horror fans.
With 101 Films bringing Jeepers Creepers to Blu-ray for the first time in the UK packed with extras including recent interviews, commentaries and extensive archive extras, including feature-length making-of documentary Behind the Peepers on a bonus DVD it is the perfect time for the movie to be revisited and viewers to make their own minds up about it.