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Jeepers Creepers 2

What sets Jeepers Creepers 2 apart from most other standard horror sequels is its complete lack of mythology. Normally part two is a time to backtrack and redefine the creature with rules that will facilitate a franchise, but with Jeepers Creepers 2, we just get a killfest and more creepiness than Creeper. Maybe it's that anything looks good after a wretched summer, but this picture provides a good time for the passing horror fan.

Up front the rules are laid out, "Every 23 years, for 23 days, it gets to eat." That's pretty much it. The Creeper, who comes off in this one as the love child of Predator and Freddy Krueger with Gillman's pretty mouth, seems fairly unkillable with healing abilities that make Wolverine's look only slightly better than an infant with an immune deficiency.

The victims are only slightly more fleshed out.. After a fairly tight opening killing sequence that was unfortunately burned in the trailer, we check in with a school bus full of basketball players back from winning the state championships. There's three grown-ups, some cheerleaders, an angry white boy, a possibly gay player, a team manager, and bunch of others. There was only one name to really catch, Izzy the possibly gay player, blatantly named just to do some "Izzy or Izn't he jokes."

Predictably, the team is stranded and the grown-ups are whisked away by The Creeper. Director Victor Salva sets things up right and although he makes more than a few mistakes, he keeps things moving well enough for a good time that may actually justify Disney's obsession with self-destructing DVDs. Once the picture is over, there's no real need for another viewing.

Salva is of course more infamous as a convicted child molester than a director, and like the first picture, the predatory Creeper seems to have shades of Salva's dark past. This time, though, the Creeper has lost his lair. He's exposed and grabbing whatever he can before his 23rd day is over. Compounding the creepiness, if not actually overshadowing the obvious goings-on, the camera stalks the victims even when the creature isn't around.

Usually, a meandering shot of shirtless teen boys sunbathing atop a school bus in a horror film can be written off as harmless beefcake, a bone thrown to the high school girls who didn't want to see the picture, but here the shot is just as leering as the new, slightly cockier Creeper.

It's not just Salva's past signaling this boy-crazy read of the picture. The character of Izzy may have gotten his facial scars in a bar fight after sneaking into a gay bar. It's one of those back-story mysteries that usually garner big revelations in clutch situations, but not in Jeepers Creepers 2. There's no time for real characters and swooping mayhem and gore too. Although, unless my notes are too confused, The Creeper only goes after one female and that seems to be more of a strategy move than anything else.

The team's general homophobia towards Izzy is only one of a few interwoven plot threads of prejudice lying just under the surface in most of these characters. While Salva is probably patting himself on the back for tackling issues of high school intolerance, what it really does is serve to make the Creeper more sympathetic. He's just another persecuted minority, he's misunderstood, he's just following the family traditions.

Salva's only real crime in all of this is falling back on the old saw of a seer amongst them. True, the first picture had your standard black psychic - usually played by CCH Pounder or Tony Todd - to run down the rules of the game, an update from the ancient gypsy cliché, but somehow in this material, that's sort of expected. That's why they call it a convention.

This time around, we get a cheerleader who sees things in her dreams. It's unclear if this is a newly discovered skill, but it doesn't really matter, it's just a very, very clumsy way to do the exposition. Once she finishes with her "the boy in the dream told me" speech, her skills are no longer needed outside the running and screaming department. At least the Friday the 13th series didn't stoop to the Psychic girl until Part VII.

Even with all of these problems, the picture still floats fairly well. The stings work in that cheap carnival way they're supposed to, and the effects - except for one through the eye gag - are cleanly done. The best part in all of this is not The Creeper, but the father of the boy taken in the opening, played by the awesome Ray Wise.

Wise made his biggest impression playing another grieving parent in Twin Peaks, but this time he truly takes action. Salva is obviously going for an Ahab quality in this father hunting down the creature that took his youngest, and would have done well to have given over to it even more. Had this picture been about an avenging angel after a bat out of hell with a 23-year break between rounds, Salva might have had a true classic on his hands.

As it is, the picture does what it needs to and not much more. For the Fango fans and the rest of you horror junkies, this is just a little mint after the feast that was Freddy Vs Jason. It's cute and harmless. For the passing horror fan, this'll do the trick until some of the real stuff shows up.


Jordan Rosa

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