Monday 18 September 2006

Monday 18 September 2006
CAST: Ray Wise (Jack Taggart), Jonathan Breck (The Creeper), Garikayi Mutambirwa (Deaundre Davis), Eric Nenninger (Scott), Nicki Aycox (Minxie Hayes) & Marieh Delfino (Rhona Truitt)

On the final day of its 23 day feast, a bat-like creature known as The Creeper descends on a basketball team trapped inside their coach...

Horror sequels are typically unnecessary exercises where the law of diminishing returns is rarely disproven; just look at Friday The 13th, Halloween, A Nightmare On Elm Street and Scream. But, with relatively small budgets and a custom-made audience, they do tend to make money... and heaven knows Jeepers Creepers 2 is a title with little else to warrant its existence.

Jeepers Creepers (2001) was an effective little horror of two distinct halves; the first demonstrated commendable restraint and effective shocks, evoking memories of Spielberg classic Duel, before the second half degenerated into an obvious Stephen King-esque TV Movie. Still, it was rescued from complete oblivion with a chilling final shot...

The sequel continues the story of "The Creeper", a demonic bat-like man-creature that awakens every 23rd Spring to eat for 23 days. Director Victor Salva apparently wrote this rule to prevent sequels (as a movie set in 2024 would be too expensive), but producer Francis Ford Coppolla simply suggested having the sequel take place on the final day of The Creeper's 2001 banquet. D'oh! Sssh, don't tell Mr Salva, but I'm guessing a 1978 prequel would be the next logical step...

Jeepers Creepers 2 finds a victorious basketball team travelling across sunny Poho County, only to suffer a flat tyre (actually the result of a "ninja-star" made of human flesh, uh-oh...) It transpires that the passengers (your stereotypical gang of bickering jocks, dumb adults, and braindead cheerleaders) have all been targeted by The Creeper.

This simple premise of teens trapped in a broken bus and having to fight a creature outside is the film's entire plot, save a weak sub-plot about farmer Jack Taggart (Ray Wise) tracking The Creeper down after it killed his young son the day before.

Something quite insulting to audiences is the film's inability to explain The Creeper's modus operandi to its new characters, so the script throws in the unexplained psychic visions of cheerleader Minxie Hayes (Nicki Aycox) that helps fill in the gaps for them all! Handy, that.

But the problems with Jeepers Creepers 2 don't stop with a terrible plot contrivance. Of primary concern is that the original lost its effectiveness once the antagonist was unveiled as a human-bat that steals victims' body parts. Therefore, the sequel is simply an extension of the first film's disappointing latter half. However, if you're watching a sequel, you've probably seen the first movie and are already prepared to lower your expectations...

Viewed strictly as a creature feature, JC2 does it job on a basic level: there are death scenes (but only a few inventive or effective), a few icky moments (the Creeper's replacement head), and a smattering of clever low-budget effects (just watch the coach get plucked from the road!)

However, the film is crippled by its insipid cast and uninteresting plot. The characters are all broad stroke characatures, with no attempt to make anyone particularly memorable or likeable. It's not even clear who is supposed to be the "hero" -- my money was on sensitive Scott (Eric Nenninger), or perhaps psychic Minxie would pull a Ripley in the latter stages... but no, I was wrong on both counts. They're all just dull cliches begging to be killed.

Ray Wise (RoboCop) becomes the film's sole hope for salvation, but his character proves to be wholly unbelievable. If your son had been killed by a monster, would you spend the next day building a massive truck-mounted gun and stay glued to the radio listening for clues as to the killer's whereabouts? Nah, me neither. But for the purposes of pulp horror, I can let debatable motivation slide. Wise's character should have been this film's version of Quint in Jaws... but he just comes across as a monosyllabic crazy hick.

Director Victor Salva was responsible for Powder (1995), a personal favourite of mine that I recommend you seek out. Powder exhibited a humanity and resonance Salva has never achieved since, and lest we forget the first chunk of Jeepers Creepers was genuinely Spielbergian at times. I find it a shame Salva seems keen to focus on a horror franchise with his Creeper character, as it's clear he's capable of more interesting work.

The opening corn field attack is strong visual horror with its crucifixion iconography and spooky scarecrows, and there are some brief moments throughout JC2 that illustrate Salva's verve and style. But for long stretches this is just a run-of-the-mill horror with little to say thanks to its poor script and weak characters.

The silly epilogue hints at the possibility of a third outing for The Creeper, but I hope Victor Salva steers clear and directs something with the humanity of Powder and the skill of Jeepers Creepers' first half.