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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Jeepers Creepers 2 (review)

Just Plain Creepy

It’s so ho-hum, so umpteenth minor variation on something we’ve seen too many times that only a hermit living in a remote cave in the Himalayas who’d never been exposed to this movie concept — supernatural pseudo-human creature stalks stupid teens and horribly mutilates them — could find anything surprising or frightening about it. This time it’s a bunch of high schoolers stuck on a broken-down bus in the middle of nowhere under attack from, apparently, a half-man/half-locust thing that comes out of the ground once every 23 years and feeds — on us, natch — for 23 days. The 23 days began back in Jeepers Creepers the First, and now with the end of his feast upon him, the creature is filling up for his long sleep.

Writer/director Victor Salva thinks he’s being clever and Hitchcockian with his variations — he “drew inspiration” from The Birds and Lifeboat, according to the press notes, with the thing flying in from above and the kids adrift on the bus. He’s also quite proud, I bet, of one particular twist: The Creeper (Jonathan Breck), unlike Freddy or Jason, isn’t murdering at random: he picks out the teens he finds especially tasty and targets them exclusively.

You’d like to be able to laugh at that twist at the psychosexual subtext of these horror flicks — the Creeper suggestively licks, with a long, slithery, reptilian tongue, the window of the bus while he eyes one hunky football player inside; instead of punishing horny teens for fornicating, like his brothers in predation, the Creeper’s gonna get him some. You’d like to be able to laugh except that, in the most noteworthy twist, Victor Salva is a convicted child molester, and so the whole psychosexual subtext is far more jeepery creepy than it should be.

Salva likes little boys. That’s not the kind of thing that a stretch in prison changes — Salva served 15 months on a 3-year sentence — and for all that some people will talk about paid dues, JC2 is all about looking at underage boys lasciviously, about preying on them, about attacking them from a quarter they weren’t expecting and have no defense against.

Salva’s school bus is full of buff teenage football players and a couple of female cheerleaders (the several adult chaperones and the bus driver are mere afterthoughts). Even before the Creeper decides which of the boys he’s after — he has no interest whatsoever in the girls — Salva takes a lewd, crude delight in the licking the boys with his camera. They sing their fight song — the lyrics include the word “cock”; they sunbathe shirtless atop the broken-down bus; they take group excursions for a piss off the side of the road, and no one bats an eye when one remarkably pumped and toned dude completely drops trou — his nudity is only suggested to those of us in front of the screen, but you can’t help but note that it wouldn’t have been only a suggestion to the director (and everyone else) on the set.

The actors are probably all well into their twenties — as Salva and his defenders would surely point out — but we’re meant to see them as high schoolers — 15, 16, 17 years old. The couple of lines of “banter” about presumptions of gayness among the boys is certainly another way to forestall complaints aimed at Salva; accusers can be dismissed as mere homophobes. But that’s not the problem, of course — if women’s bodies must be fetishized by film directors, then it’s high time men’s bodies got the same treatment. But these characters aren’t men, no matter how old the actors are — they’re boys. That overage women actors have been portraying underage girls in similar situations forever is no excuse, either — not when the Creeper is singling out particular boys and terrorizing them in a particularly sexual way, one of those innovations of which Salva is so pleased. Not when Salva went to jail for having oral sex with a sixth-grader, a kid who was appearing Salva’s film about boys being terrorized (in that film, by circus clowns). Not when Salva videotaped his crimes. Not when the most disturbing moment, in light of all that information, in JC2 comes when the Creeper decapitates one of the hunky boys he’s been hot for, and keeps the cranium, all you can think is: That kid, he gave head.

In a better world, Jeepers Creepers 2 would be instantly dismissable as one of those horror movies that come six to a shrink-wrapped snack-pak of bad flicks, the kind that show up on Sci Fi Channel on Saturday nights that no one watches. But in this world, the writer and director is a convicted child molester, and it’s impossible to dismiss as mere badness what is downright creepy and disturbing… and not in the way a horror movie should be creepy and disturbing.


MPAA: rated R for horror violence and language

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

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