Top critical review
He can taste your fear, among other things...
on June 7, 2004
The Creeper is back, and I am not talking about that feeling I get when my underpants ride up too high...ugh...Victor Salva, who wrote and directed the very popular Jeepers Creepers (2001), takes us back to the horror buffet for a second helping in Jeepers Creepers II, which picks up the very next day to the events in the first movie. A little background...the Creeper is a creature that hibernates in the Earth, and every 23 years it awakens for 23 days to feed on victims, gaining strength to go back into the ground until the next cycle. What exactly is the Creeper? I would speculate it's some kind of demon, given its' supernatural abilities and leathery wings, but it's never really determined within the films, at least to my knowledge.
The film starts off on a farm, with a boy working to secure scarecrows within a cornfield. Upon noticing one of the scarecrows is different than the others, namely that it's moving (yes, Dorothy, he's looking for a heart, among other body parts), the boy soon learns that the scarecrow is none other than the Creeper, and both the Creeper and the boy quickly vanish, much to the father and the boy's older brother's dismay. Cut to a bus full of high school football players, a few cheerleaders, some football staff, and a couple of coaches traveling on a fairly desolate stretch of road (is there any other kind in movies like this?) After the bus suffers a flat tire from rather peculiar means, the occupants soon find themselves under attack from the devious fiend. They try to fend off their attacker, but as we know because we've already seen the first movie, it will not be deterred. It's your flesh it wants, and once it picks you, that's it, buddy boy. Can nothing stop this vile beast, or are all chosen (it chooses its' victims by smell i.e. if you have the right scent for the particular body part its' looking for, you're in trouble) destined to be blue-plate specials?
The film plays up nicely to the first, and the setting of the bus added a real sense of claustrophobia. This follow up to the first does offer a bit more information about the creature, but less than most probably would have preferred, leaving a sense of wanting. The scares, for the most part, were pretty genuine, but I did find the 'jump out and scare you' technique a little overused. We do get to see a lot more of the Creeper in this film than the last, but that doesn't necessarily mean it was for the better. The effects for the Creeper are really sharp, but I felt as far as his abilities went, there seemed discrepancies. Given what it seemed to be able to do, like ripping the roof off an automobile, he seemed to have a decent amount of difficulty getting into the bus. The factor that it used fear to sniff out potential victims was bandied about, so I figure maybe it was just trying to work the kids up. But still, at some points the creeper seemed vulnerable compared to other points when it seemed unstoppable. And something else that kind of bothered me...there seemed to be a number of scenes with bare-chested young men and given the director's past (I am not going to go into it here, look it up), I felt a little creeped out. It seemed like a side of the director was coming out that I really wasn't interested in seeing. And all the silly tension created within the group based on first racial and sexual stereotypes, and then the mirroring of these stereotypes to those 'chosen' and 'not chosen' by the Creeper seemed so very obvious. Where's the subtlety? And I'm no prude, but the excessive use of profanity seemed to get a little out of hand. Sometimes less is more, and in this case, that would have held true. The main thing missing from this film compared to the first was a real likeability of the characters. In the first, we were able to learn about the characters in fairly good detail, spending time with them. Here, most of the characters are presented in an unfavorable light, with little focus on if and why we should like them, giving us little reason to see them make it to the end of the movie. Given the copious number of characters in this film, that kind of intimacy would have been difficult, but not impossible.
As far as stars, I really only recognized character actor Ray Wise, who played a farmer and the father of the first boy abducted in the film. His scenes were great, especially as he tries to avenge his son by use of a pneumatic fence post driver mounted on the back of a pick-up truck. Ahhh, revenge is a plate best served cold, or a six-foot wooden post skewering your enemy's sternum...also, returning from the first film is Justin Long, reprising his role as Darry. Gina Philips, who starred as his sister Trish, declined to come back.
The picture looks really good, in wide screen anamorphic format, and there's quite a bit of special features including commentaries by the director, another by the actor who plays the Creeper along with a makeup effects person and a production illustrator, featurettes on the making of the film, special effects, music, photo galleries, theatrical trailers, deleted scenes and more (whew, dat's a lot of schtuff)...despite the films shortcomings (I noticed a definite lack of atmosphere), fans of the first shouldn't be disappointed, as this film doesn't suffer too much from the dreaded 'sequelitis' (no budget, no story, and a persistent feeling that the only reason the film was made was to cash in on the first) that many do...yeah, I'm talking to you, Starship Troopers 2...