'Jeepers Creepers' is one of those sad cases where the movie starts off strong and quite effective but quickly devolves into formulaic drivel because the filmmakers can't figure what to do with their otherwise terrific premise. Eleven years since its release — which is more of a frightful thought than the movie itself (Where did the time go?) — the story's most memorable aspect is the suspenseful mystery at the beginning, and its remains so, just as creepy and scary as ever. But as it drags along into the second half, made worse by Justin Long's terrible performance and a dreadfully weak third act, we're soon reminded of the film's flaws and why it's ultimately another forgettable genre entry.
From producer Francis Ford Coppola, the film is actually two stories in one, a sudden shift in tone and plot that occurs awkwardly at the midway point. The first half follows siblings, Darry (Long) and Trish (Gina Philips), driving though the lonely Florida countryside on their way home for Spring Break. Why they decided to miss out on traditional college debauchery in The Sunshine State is not entirely clear and becomes a bit of a mystery. Nevertheless, there's an amusing, lighthearted rapport between the two that's believable and soon ratchets up the chilling fun when they share an urban legend associated with the road they're on.
It's particularly cool when a medium two-shot from the front of their car shows an RV pulling off the road in the distance and a badly-aged, rust-covered 1940s Chevy truck quickly pulls up behind them, blasting its banshee-like horn. Its unique shape and build makes the classic truck an imposing figure demanding respect, while its ugly, weathered appearance makes it a disturbing vehicle of road-rage. In those first couple minutes, the truck becomes a terrifyingly daunting character in and of itself, with distinct, memorable features. Our first glimpse of the driver, parked next to an abandoned church throwing out bodies wrapped in blood-stained sheets, suddenly turns the movie into a cross between Steven Spielberg's 'Duel' and Tobe Hooper's 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.'
Even as the pair stupidly decide to investigate the large pipe, the entire first half is a frighteningly suspenseful ride of two kids trying to survive a maniac's bloodlust. And to this day, the image of the truck barreling down the road and of its creepy driver standing alone at a church remain ingrained in memory. Then, it starts going downhill when it's revealed what he actually is.
Much the same way Philips's character handles and pretty much ruins the transmission on a beautiful 1960 Chevy Impala, writer and director Victor Salva changes gears from a road thriller with a classic-horror overtone to a supernatural slasher flick with aspirations of a creature-feature. It's loud and grating to the ears as well as the imagination, and discovering the driver is some kind of demon or devil that feeds every twenty-three years cheapens the experience of everything that preceded it. There's something more unnerving and spine-chilling in thinking the killer was human. Not so much as an immortal being that can't be killed, an abrupt and rough downshift from scary urban legend to fantasy silliness.
By the time we finally arrive at the third act inside a police station, we're left wondering where the disturbing atmosphere disappeared to, not whether the siblings will survive their pursuer. Or that we even care if either of them does. And Patricia Belcher also shows up out of nowhere as the hysterical psychic Jezelle, reiterating everything we already knew about the creature when piecing the first half with everything that followed. Admittedly, Salva does set up Belcher's character somewhat via a phone call, but her presence nonetheless feels sloppy and rather superfluous. In fact, other than providing some minor exposition on The Creeper's eating habits, Jezelle is ultimately pointless, adding nothing of great value to the predictable finish.
It may seem as though I despise 'Jeepers Creepers' when pointing out its flaws, but I actually rather enjoy it as a mildly amusing horror movie with a bizarre sense of humor about itself, especially because of the exceptionally well-done first half. It wouldn't feel so awkward if only the transition from road thriller to supernatural slasher were somehow smoother. But as it stands, it's an entertaining flick with some severe engine problems that can't be avoided until it's too late and it suddenly breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Salva could have saved himself the trouble by having an experienced mechanic look under the hood rather than trying to do the work himself.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox and MGM Home Entertainment bring 'Jeepers Creepers' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD50 disc that goes straight to the movie. Special features can only accessed through a pop-up main menu. The disc is housed inside a blue eco-cutout keepcase with a rather ugly cover art.
'Jeepers Creepers' makes its way onto Blu-ray with a good but not very satisfying 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. It's an improvement over its standard def counterpart to be sure, but it generally appears soft and flat with several poorly-resolved sequences. There's also a bit of crush, here and there, though nothing to the extent of being a distraction.
At its best, the 1.85:1 image displays excellent definition and sharp lines around The Creeper's truck, on nearby trees, or the surrounding tall grass. Facial complexions show great, fine texture that reveals every pore and blemish. Sadly, it's not very consistent, even in the same scenes. The picture comes with a nice, thin grain structure, giving the high-def transfer an attractive film-like appearance, but it can also become quite prominent, almost noisy, in a couple moments.
Colors are predominantly good, with natural, accurate saturation levels, yet they tend to lose their luster and appeal for a good chunk of the runtime. Contrast and brightness are decently well-balanced, with strong, deep blacks, but for the most part, the video seems pretty dull and somewhat drained with some posterization in the highlights. Overall, it's an upgrade but not a significant one.
On the audio front, the improvements are much clearer in this enjoyable DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack.
The front soundstage is wide and expansive with plenty of great off-screen effects that are convincing and crystal clear. Dialogue is fluid and intelligible with excellent channel separation that never overwhelms the conversations or the screams of terror. The mid-range is surprisingly extensive and detailed, never faltering during the several high-pitched squeals of The Creeper, the few frighteningly bombastic horn sounds of the truck or the many loud jump scares. Bass comes with a nice, deep response, providing a satisfying punch to the action sequences, though it doesn't dig very low or rattle any walls.
Rear activity is not all that impressive, but discrete effects are employed on occasion to broaden the soundfield and participate in the scares. The musical score does a better job at sustaining a consistent presence, spreading into the back and filling the room with an air of dread and apprehension. Fans are sure to really get a kick out of this lossless mix.
Bonus materials are ported over from the DVD release.
From producer Francis Ford Coppola, 'Jeepers Creepers' starts off with a suspenseful and terrifying blend of classic horror tropes with two siblings driving alone on a country road. Writer and director Victor Salva demonstrates a great deal of potential and talent, with a good sense of dark humor, but sadly fails to live up to promise of the film's opening with a dissatisfying second half and a horribly weak third act. The Blu-ray's video is an improvement over the previous DVD but not by much, while the audio presentation offers a spooky and fun atmosphere. Supplements are the same set from its standard-def counterpart. Devoted fans will want to pick this one up as it offers a mild upgrade.