JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 is a confident, well-constructed movie about a weird monster dude flying around eating a whole bunch of people. It starts out with the admirably to-the-point text:
“Every 23rd Spring
for 23 days
it gets to eat”
This is day 22, shortly after the events of part 1. We hear in a TEXAS CHAIN SAW-esque radio broadcast that the authorities are still dealing with the “The Horror in Poho County,” the “well past 300” dead bodies with missing organs that they discovered under a burned down church.
This is the handiwork of “the Creeper” (Jonathan Breck, SPY KIDS: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD IN 4D), who seemed at first like a spooky serial killer in a big farmer hat and long coat driving around in a creepy truck, but turned out to be a demon with big ol’ wings tucked under there. Well, it’s no secret anymore so this time he uses the wings for most of the movie, which leads to some cool action ideas, but also some special effects-related weaknesses. There are some shots of him flying that take you out of the movie with fakiness. But there are some good ones too. This scene where he chases after a car at night looks pretty convincing:
In the opening scene he attacks Jack Taggart (Ray Wise) and his boys while they’re putting up scarecrows. Their planting of the scarecrows is clever set-up for how Taggart will try to hunt the demon, firing its own weird indestructible spear at it using an industrial post-puncher.
The vengeful corn farmer is out there searching Ahab-style for this Creeper gentleman, but the movie’s main focus is a school bus full of football players (and a couple cheerleaders) on the way home from their championship game when they get a flat tire from a weird Creeper ninja star made out of sharpened bones and teeth. It turns into a siege movie with them hiding inside the bus, trying to get help, attempting various escapes, etc. They try different ways to injure or kill the Creeper. Not much seems to work.
There are many good gimmicks. One of the first kills happens out of focus in the background of a shot of people talking. The coach is putting a flare in the street and a blurry winged-creature swoops down and snatches him up, leaving a trail of smoke. Nobody even sees it happen.
I would not say this is a movie with particularly good characters, and some of them are aggressively unlikable. At first it seems like this guy Scotty (Eric Nenninger) is gonna be the hero, because the camera finds him looking out the window solemnly while everybody else screws around like yahoos, and he has some inner turmoil he won’t let his girlfriend help him with. But then we find out what he’s upset about is he thinks he didn’t get to play enough in the game because he’s white. Other people pick on a guy for allegedly being gay and on the team manager for being a nerd. There are other characters who aren’t assholes, but they’re not very memorable and pretty interchangeable. And they all spend alot of time arguing and almost getting in fights.
But believe it or not that’s not a dealbreaker. It’s fun to watch them get terrorized by this taloned freak, and there are some really good monster effects (designer and supervisor: Brian Penikas). In the beginning we get the shadowy, scarecrow looking guy from the first movie, but mostly we see him in all his demonic glory, big madman eyes, in one scene a pulsating nostril on the bridge of his nose. One notable scene has him outside of the bus looking in, making faces at them, licking the window at one point. It dispels that notion that not seeing something is always better. This is the thing nobody ever wants to see outside of the window at night. And it’s standing there making hard eye contact with every one of them. Creepy as hell.
And he goes through some gooey transformations, all done with very good rubber and motors and shit, no cheesy morphing. To replace a heavily damaged head, he tears off somebody else’s head, consumes it, pushes it up through his open neck stump and sort of grows it into a new head.
Also at one point he really freaks out and gets a big wiggly gila lizard type of mane behind his head, fanning out while he makes his weird clicking and slurping noises. That’s some freaky shit.
Hey, in the first one, was there something about Justin Long’s character having a rose tattoo by his bellybutton? I don’t think so, and I hope not because it makes this weird little bit funnier. Long has a cameo in a dream, he’s standing bloody on the edge of a cornfield trying to warn the living to stay away. And the camera lingers on a tear in the front of his shirt that exposes his belly button and the tattoo. Later the bus driver takes a look at a weird weapon that pierced their tire, and she points out that the skin stretched across the middle is from a bellybutton. And of course it has that tattoo on it.
I’m pretty sure that was made up for this movie, and it makes you wonder: the first time around did Justin Long knowingly play his character as a guy who has a rose tattooed around his bellybutton, or is it just a coincidence that he played it that way? I bet he knew. I bet they went over this.
Like the first one this is a solidly constructed movie, a very straight forward monster idea with little pretension, lots of tension, good atmosphere, clever, well-staged setpieces, good mythology, if bad characters. And it does a good job of capturing the fun and creepiness of the first one without rehashing it at all. We’ve already gone through the mystery of what this guy is, we don’t start over from square one, we cut to the chase and escalate from what we saw before. And there are some really cool action ideas, like when Taggart shoots a spear with a cable into the Creeper from the back of his truck, but the Creeper flies and yanks the truck around and it’s bouncing around like it’s on hydraulics.
But also like the first one, and moreso I think, the knowledge that writer-director Victor Salva is a convicted child molester causes a distraction. Once again he has teenage boys going shirtless constantly. He has them peeing together. Since their football team is the Bannon Bantams he’s able to have them singing “Better not mess with the fighting cock!” a bunch of times.
And yes, the actors all look like grown men, so that’s not as bad, but in the opening scene the Creeper kills a little boy. In the first one I was skeezed out by the Creeper sniffing Justin Long’s dirty laundry. Here, the little kid’s older brother calls him “butt sniff,” not an insult I have heard before. On the bus, a bullied kid is accused of sniffing jock straps. And the Creeper is supposed to be a sniffer too. “Whatever it is, it’s a smell freak, man,” says one guy, for some reason, when they first see him. It’s entirely too many sniff references for me.
So that’s a problem. If not for that, I would definitely recommend this picture.
Last week they announced they’re officially doing a part 3. I’m sure it will be pretty good too. Watching this now it reminds me of something missing from today’s horror: good monsters. I know we’re past the Freddy Age, but maybe it’s time for memorable horror villains to have a comeback. If you look at what’s popular you got invisible ghosts that move furniture around, you got the terror of your fellow man, you don’t really got a specific guy with a name who looks a certain way and has a personality or a goal. The movies that do try to create an iconic monster villain end up with a corny looking dork like the Slipknot cover band bass player in SINISTER or the Tim Burton cosplayer in THE BABADOOK. Where are our Jasons, our Michaels, our Candymen?
Come on horror directors, get it together. Your sauce is so weak they’re calling in a former child rapist to do your job for you. I’m not comfortable with this.