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JEEPERS CREEPERS 2

SYNOPSIS:
A mysterious, bat-like, humanoid monster of supernatural strength and cunning, The Creeper (Jonathan Breck) hibernates for most of the time but wakes every 23 years to feast on human prey. On the 22nd day of its latest rampage, The Creeper sets its sights on a busload of high school students stranded on a lonely road in the corn fields of Poho County. Out of radio and mobile 'phone contact, the group must put aside its many conflicts to stand any chance of survival. As The Creeper picks off its victims, a ray of hope is offered by the arrival of farmer Taggart (Ray Wise), whose son Billy (Shaun Fleming) was snatched by the voracious flying fiend.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
You know you're in trouble when you start rooting for the monster. This sequel to Victor Salva's 2001 horror hit inspires that very hope as a busload of vapid adolescents is offered up as ritual sacrifice to the box-office god of slaughtered teens. The only genre rule not obeyed in this hackneyed film is "have sex and die," though the filmmakers might be saving that one for the DVD special edition.

Salva knows how to create atmosphere and he delivers a few good scares in the early sections but his cast of characters is so feeble and unsympathetic it's too easy for us to simply sigh and wish the monster bon appetite as he picks his victims out of their bus with the ease of an ibis attacking a plastic garbage bag.

The Creeper itself is quite a scary being and his initial appearance as a scarecrow that comes alive and plucks young Billy Taggart out of the cornfield is a promising one. The optimism doesn't last long as we meet a team of high school basketball players and their cheerleaders returning from an out-of-town game. It's the usual stuff: the boys boisterously singing the team song and accusing one another of "being a homo" and the girls rolling their eyes at these hunks who have muscles everywhere except between the ears.

The boys are an appalling lot, with homophobic Scott Braddock (Eric Nenninger) a shoe-in as everybody's favourite to die the grisliest death. The girls are fairly colourless, with the exception of Minxie Hayes (Nicki Aycox) who, for reasons never explained, is suddenly given paranormal powers and becomes an instant expert on all Creeper-related matters. When Salva's dreadful screenplay needs some narrative spark, Minxie can be relied on to fall into an "I see dead people" trance and emerge with inspiring calls for group solidarity like "you guys just worked together to win a ballgame".

It's a pity we have to spend most of the film with kids who are either dull or obnoxious, though Victor Salva hardly thinks so. He lingers so long on barechested boys sunbaking and performing group urination you could easily mistake this for a Larry Clark film. The sole forensic speck of redemption is offered by veteran Ray Wise, who carries a little of Leland Palmer with him wherever he goes and takes on the killer with a harpoon gun mounted on the back of his pick-up truck. In one scene the beast rips the gun clean out of the truck, yet the weapon shows up intact a minute later.

This monster has also been terrorising the same district every 23 years, yet none of these yokels seems to have cottoned on. It's that kind of movie. It's also the worst film Francis Ford Coppola has ever been associated with. A ridiculous ending set 23 years from now makes Jeepers Creepers 3 look like a distinct possibility, though one wishes Salva and company were forced to obey their own rules and wait 23 years before inflicting it upon us. In the 1940's Val Lewton and one of his RKO directors would have made a chilling 75 minute film in which an unseen presence created fear among a group of interesting characters. Here, Salva wastes a good monster on pathetic material and spends 103 very long minutes doing it.

Review by Jake Wilson:
Nothing in this sequel is quite as scary as the opening twenty minutes of the original Jeepers Creepers; the unknown teenage actors make little impression, and the script is mainly a reworking of the usual stalk-and-slash formula. Yet unlike many of the toothless horror films that have recently screened in multiplexes (from Freddy vs Jason to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake to the local Undead) this one touches a nerve; writer-director Victor Salva has felt the allure of evil, and he persuades us to feel it too.

Using basketball-playing jocks rather than nubile girls as his main victims, he makes a point of their homophobic banter and shirtless posturing before unveiling a monster who realises their worst fears of deviancy: a preternaturally strong "bat out of hell" who sniffs out its victims and leers at them flirtatiously before ingesting their body parts.

It's anyone's guess what we're supposed to make of this - Salva seems genuinely enthralled by his creation rather than smirkingly self-conscious - but the effect is individual, lingering, and decidedly unpleasant. I'm bound to say, at the least, that the film is technically well-made: lacking in gratuitous camera tricks, and quite inventive in its working-through of the possibilities of a single physical situation as it alternates between the limited perspective of the kids trapped in the bus and wider aerial shots that identify us with the Creeper.

In contrast to the grotesque ugliness of the close-up attacks, these latter images often bear an ironic resemblance to romantic children's book illustrations - transforming this perverted demon into a creature out of Grimms' fairy-tales as he swoops above the wheat-fields, wings spread wide against the sky.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

TRAILER

JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 (M)
(US)

CAST: Ray Wise, Jonathan Breck, Garikayi Mutambirwa, Eric Nenninger, Nicki Lynn Aycox, Marieh Delfino, Diane Delano

PRODUCER: Tom Luse

DIRECTOR: Victor Salva

SCRIPT: Victor Salva

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Don E. FauntLeRoy

EDITOR: Ed Marx

MUSIC: Bennett Salvay

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Peter Jamison

RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 5, 2004







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