Released in 2001 after a flock of brain-dead, self-referential slasher movies had reduced Scream's clever postmodernism to the sort of tired cliché it wittily dissected, Jeepers Creepers marked a mostly welcome return to horror-movie basics. The film fell apart in its second half, but first it established writer-director Vincent Salva as a budding master of the genre. Salva returns for more minimalist horror and B-movie craftsmanship with Jeepers Creepers 2, the rare sequel that's not only bigger than its predecessor, but also better. Taking place roughly around the time of the first film, Jeepers Creepers begins with a sequence in which winged beastie The Creeper impersonates a scarecrow and makes off with the progeny of farmer Ray Wise. The film's focus then shifts to a school bus that breaks down on a remote road, stranding a brawny, oft-shirtless championship high-school basketball team. The Creeper soon begins picking off coaches and players alike, and though a dead Jeepers Creepers veteran helpfully informs one of the team's cheerleaders in a dream that The Creeper will retreat come morning, a night feels like an eternity when death appears imminent. Like most horror movies, Jeepers Creepers was better served by inference than explicitness, and was at its weakest when its monster appeared onscreen. But its sequel transforms the regenerative, reptilian, Cronenbergian Creeper from a liability into one of the film's greatest strengths. Like the super-kinetic zombies of 28 Days Later, the lightning-fast Creeper represents the next evolutionary step for flesh-devouring beasties. In the film's craftiest sequences, The Creeper lurks in the very back of the frame, where it stealthily swoops down and seizes its prey before the hapless folks in the foreground have time to react. Jeepers Creepers aimed for the archetypal primal spookiness of a scary campfire tale, and halfway succeeded. Here, Salva makes it work virtually every step of the way.

Advertisement