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Director: Victor Salva
Cast: Justin Long, Gina Philips, Jonathan Breck, Eileen Brennan, Patricia Belcher
Screenplay: Victor Salva

Tagline: WhAT's EATing you?
Box Office: Budget $10 million. Opening weekend $15.831 million on 2944 screens. Domestic gross $37.47 million.
MPAA: Rated R for terror violence/gore, language and brief nudity.

Presentation: Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9; Standard 1.33:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish & French Dolby Surround
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French; closed-captioned

Runtime: 90 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 1/8/2002.

• Audio Commentary with Director Victor Salva
• “Behind the Peepers” - A Collection of Six Mini-Featurettes
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Photo Gallery
• Trailers

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Jeepers Creepers (2001)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Most horror flicks tend to go with lowest common denominator scares. You know the type - they milk jumps out of the most tired and predictable material. Far be it from 2001’s Jeepers Creepers to break that mold. However, while much of the film seemed fairly derivative, it still possessed a decent little punch at times.

At the start of Jeepers, we meet college student siblings Trish (Gina Philips) and Darry (Justin Long). They’re headed home for spring break when they encounter an extremely aggressive driver. He nearly runs them off the road, but they come through the experience fine. However, eventually they pass him; he’s pulled off into church lot, and they see him dump what looks like a sheet-wrapped body into a pipe.

The mystery man discerns that they’ve witnessed the act, so he again engages in a little vehicular intimidation. Before long, he flies past them and disappears. Darry decides that they should investigate because there might still be someone alive, and reluctantly, Trish agrees.

Once they go to the church, Darry finds all sorts of traumatic sights, and the two head off for help. Unfortunately, this will be tough to get out in the middle of nowhere, and it happens that the Creeper - what the filmmakers call the flick’s villain - is a tough customer to handle.

In some other reviews, I’ve heard folks describe the first 30 minutes or so of Creepers as offering some of the most harrowing and nerve-wracking horror filmmaking in years. I’d amend that to a degree. I thought the first 15 minutes were quite good, but once the kids decide to check out the church, it started to go downhill for me. They tried really hard to justify this seemingly insane decision, but I never bought it. This made it that much more difficult for me to remain interested in the rest of the film. I still thought Creepers offered a fairly solid horror experience, but the illogical reason for the kids’ actions caused some concerns.

To be certain, Creepers doesn’t reinvent the terror wheel, but it’s a well-executed piece as a whole. Director Victor Salva creates a nice aura of doom and foreboding, and he keeps the film moving at a reasonable pace. Most impressive is the way he keeps us guessing about the Creeper. We don’t get a bead on this person until very late in the flick, and the shifts occur naturally; we learn more about the character as the movie moves and aren’t tricked along the way. Some of the inspirations seem obvious; at times he comes across as either a boogeyman Darth Maul or a new version of Phantasm’s Tall Man. Still, I like the way our impression evolves and grows.

I also think Philips and Long are better than average in the leads. They both show very nice chemistry and display a solid sibling vibe that makes them work well together. My only real complain stems from Long’s “terrified” face; he emotes just a little too much for those scenes. I also can’t stop thinking about how perfect he’d be to play the lead in The David Schwimmer Story; it’s his destiny! Anyway, the lead actors are quite good, and they help make Creepers work.

At times, Creepers relies too much on standard tension tactics. Trish’s car stalls about 20 times too many, and the film uses some of the usual cheap methods to generate jumps. Despite some negatives, however, I think Jeepers Creepers generally is a pretty solid little horror flick. It won’t reinvent the genre ala Scream, but since most recent fare like Valentine offers little of interest, Creepers may give the field a shot in the arm.

Note: I’m not sure this is necessary for my review, but I figured I should mention it anyway. Director Victor Salva has become better known than his films because of his past. In 1988, he was convicted due to sexual abuse of a 12-year-old boy. While Salva did his time in jail, clearly this crime leaves a very negative impression. I mention it because this fact has made his work very unpalatable to some folks, and I must admit it can negatively impact my feelings about his films; I’d not made the connection until after I watched Creepers, and I might have felt less positively about it had I been aware of the director.

Some will argue that he served his time and should be allowed to move on, and they’re probably correct. However, some actions can be exceedingly tough to forgive. Anyway, I present this just to keep prospective viewers informed, for Salva’s past has clearly rendered him persona non grata to many.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+ / Audio B+ / Bonus B+

Jeepers Creepers appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this DVD-14; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. While consistently watchable, Creepers showed many more problems than I expected for such a recent film.

Sharpness usually seemed solid. A few wider shots demonstrated a smidgen of softness, but these concerns remained minor. As a whole, the movie looked nicely crisp and well defined most of the time. I saw no problems related to edge enhancement or jagged edges, but some moiré effects did crop up at times. In particular, the car’s upholstery and its grille demonstrated mild shimmering.

Print flaws were a more substantial than normal concern. The picture often seemed overly grainy, and I also saw a fair amount of speckles, grit, and general debris like small hairs and whatnot. These didn’t become overwhelming, but they were too heavy for a 2001 film. During his commentary, director Salva indicated that some of the grain was intentional. Even so, the usage was oddly inconsistent and more distracting than anything else.

Colors looked decent much of the time, but they often came across as somewhat heavy and oversaturated. Daylight scenes caused the main problems, as they appeared too strong for the screen. The nighttime shots were less problematic, but they also used cooler tones and didn’t have the same potential for overload. Black levels seemed reasonably deep and rich, but shadow detail occasionally was a bit too thick. Some low-light scenes appeared excessively dim and difficult to discern. To be sure, much of Jeepers Creepers actually looked quite good, but the movie demonstrated enough concerns to lower my grade to a “C+”.

Much stronger was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Jeepers Creepers, though it wasn’t anything absolutely terrific. The soundfield seemed a little restrained at times, but it generally offered a good experience. The track stayed largely in the forward spectrum, and in that realm, it generated a nice sense of atmosphere. Music showed positive stereo imaging, while effects were appropriately placed and moved well between channels. Occasionally the mix seemed a bit speaker specific, as it didn’t blend together exceptionally well, but it usually came across as reasonably well integrated.

Surround usage was a little lackluster, but it seemed acceptable. The rears kicked in nice reinforcement of the music, and they also offered reasonable effects at times. Generally the surrounds concerned themselves with the larger scare pieces like the “road rage” bits, and they showed positive elements on those occasions. It wasn’t a tremendously involving piece, but it worked pretty well.

Audio quality was generally very good. Early in the film, speech showed a little edginess, but this didn’t become a consistent issue. As a whole, dialogue sounded natural and distinct, and I heard no problems related to intelligibility. Effects seemed clean and accurate, and they also showed good range. The roar of engines and the thump of the Creeper and his actions boasted a nice impact. Even better was the fidelity of the score, which sounded absolutely terrific. The music offered excellent clarity and deep bass, which gave it a very nice punch throughout the film. Overall, the spread of the soundfield was too limited to merit an “A” grade for Jeepers Creepers, but its soundtrack deserved a solid “B+”.

Of all the various studios, none have embraced the DVD-14 as strongly as MGM. As also seen on their release of The Terminator, this offers one dual-layered side and another single-layered side. The two versions of the movie appear on the dial-layered portion, while most of the extras show up on the single-layered reverse.

Most, but not all. Side one includes two features. We get Cast and Crew Filmographies that provide listings for director Victor Salva, director of photography Don E. FauntLeRoy, composer Bennett Salvay, and actors Gina Philips, Justin Long, Jonathan Breck, Patricia Belcher, Brandon Smith, and Eileen Brennan.

More significant is side one’s other supplement, an audio commentary from director Salva. He offers a running, screen specific piece that gives us a very good look at the film. Salva covers a nice variety of subjects. We learn about alterations to the script that occurred during production, pressures put on him to change some parts of the film, working with the cast and crew, budget issues, interesting trivia, and many other useful tidbits. Salva starts to fade during the movie’s third act, and the commentary drags a little at times, but overall, this is a very solid track.

As we move to side two, we find a number of video supplements. First up is Behind the Peepers: The Making of Jeepers Creepers. Created expressly for the DVD, this 59-minute and 15-second documentary actually splits into six “mini-featurettes”: “Finding Trish and Darry”, “Designing the Creeper”, “Cars and Trucks”, “The Creeper Comes to Florida”, “Night Shoots” and “Composed By Bennett Salvay”. Each of these uses the same format. We see short clips from the film along with shots from the set and production materials plus a mix of interviews. In the latter realm, we hear from director Salva, producers Tom Luse and Barry Opper, actors Gina Philips, Justin Long, Jonathan Breck, and Eileen Brennan, creature and makeup effects Brian Penikas, stunt coordinator James M. Churchman, and composer Bennett Salvay.

“Peepers” provides a pretty solid look at the production. We learn about the story and the evolution of many components. We see audition footage for Long, Philips, and Breck and witness a fair amount of material from the set, though this area could be a little deeper. I do like the “cat outtakes” from Brennan’s scenes, though, and the interviews add a reasonable level of depth. The program also offers the best description of how they shoot driving scenes that I’ve ever witnessed. As a whole, “Peepers” gives us a good documentary; it’s not one of the best I’ve seen, but it definitely is better than most.

One peeve about the documentary: during Salvay’s portion, we’re told about how “creative” the musicians were. Buh? The portions of the music to which they refer sound like they were lifted verbatim from Aliens! I had some serious déjà vu while I watched the movie, and I almost gagged when I heard those elements called fresh. They work for the movie, but new they ain’t.

Next we find a collection of Deleted and Extended Scenes. Actually, virtually all of them fell into the latter category; there wasn’t anything here that didn’t simply expand already existing segments. As such, I thought the materials weren’t terribly interesting. The extra pieces expand the characters slightly, but there was nothing here that was a tragic loss.

Called “Last Looks”, a Photo Gallery offers a running view of some production stills. A few publicity shots creep in as well, but mainly this seven-minute and 50-second presentation sticks with images from the set. Backed by Salvay’s score, this was a pretty bland set of pictures; I saw little that provoked my interest.

Lastly, Creepers includes a bunch of trailers. We discover the theatrical clip for Creepers itself - which reveals way too much information - as well as DVD promotional pieces for Hannibal, The Silence of the Lambs, Carrie, and The Terminator. One nice touch: all of the extras except for the trailers are enhanced for 16X9 screens.

As a whole, I thought Jeepers Creepers was a minor pleasure. It didn’t create an amazingly new horror experience, but it provided a periodically scary and intense piece that worked well overall. The DVD featured surprisingly problematic visuals along with very good sound and a solid collection of extras. Horror fans will definitely want to give Jeepers Creepers a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.271 Stars Number of Votes: 166
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