*½/**** Image A- Sound A- Extras B+
starring Ray Wise, Jonathan Breck, Travis Schiffner, Nicki Lynn Aycox
written and directed by Victor Salva
by Walter Chaw Beyond the pretty fair rhetorical question of what convicted child molester Victor Salva is doing making another film about children in peril, in showers, and pissing en masse in a field, Jeepers Creepers II is a surprisingly run-of-the-mill action/adventure film with horror elements that reminds mostly that Jaws is still the high-water mark for stuff like this. Promising to be a Spam-in-a-bus sort of picture, it washes out eventually as a rip-off that's only missing someone deadpanning "We're gonna need a bigger bus" when the creature from the deep starts pounding on their stranded conveyance. Credit is due Salva, however, for employing some sharp non-CGI creature effects, even if the premise this time around (and its showcase special effects set-piece) is starting to more resemble John McNaughton's The Borrower and less an original concept of a demon that, for twenty-three days every twenty-three years (not insignificantly, the description of high holy Jewish feasts is set out in Leviticus: 23), gets to feed.
Seems sort of the boring existence, truth be told, in expanding the beast's mythos and ladling on a catechism-heavy load of religiosity (Jeepers Creepers, yes?); the picture also falls into a few logical holes--chief among them the thing's rationale for consumption, which seems entirely built on a presumption of conflict. If the creature eats to regenerate parts of itself, after a time, the only reason it would eat is because parts of it are being destroyed in conflict with its prey. The film's premise, then, that this gargoyle would cripple a bus full of nubile high school athletes and cheerleaders on a limitless highway, seems mainly to be self-defeating. That aside, once stranded, and with authority figures, like in the first film, dispatched handily (again suggesting that the bit about refreshing itself with hand-picked victims is a bait-and-switch for an adolescent bully comeuppance opera), veteran character actor Ray Wise materializes as a monster hunter in the Robert Shaw Quint mold, his Orca a prehistoric truck jury-rigged with a harpoon/rope system. The Richard Dreyfuss Matt Hooper character, by the by, is swapped for a clairvoyant nugget named Minxie (Nicki Lynn Aycox).
With character development the main ingredient lacking between this and the film's predecessor, what's intriguing about the picture are a few fairly meaty subplots about sexual identity, race, and bullying--all of which are jettisoned, sadly, as soon as the Quint archetype shows up to introduce the beginning of a series of bad CGI action scenes. Until then, though the idea that the teens are stuck on a bus full of windows is at once sort of insulting and sort of reminiscent of an episode of "South Park", while a couple of stalking sequences come off with a sarcastic sense of gallows humour that suggests that Jeepers Creepers II is governed by something more than just a perfunctory expedience. The sheer number of crucifixion images and heated race-baitings, however, doesn't balance out its squeamishness (it appears for all the world that the picture's going for a PG-13, tragically squandering the R rating it got), and the lack of genuine chills of which the first hour of the first film possessed in spades. Not awful, Jeepers Creepers II is just sort of a waste of time: not consistent enough in its lore to merit much conversation, not gory enough to appall, not titillating, not scary, not exciting, a little too long, and topped off with a stupid sequel-sniffing epilogue. A minor disappointment, in other words, after the promise of the first picture; a potentially interesting franchise wilting on the vine. Originally published: August 29, 2003.
by Bill Chambers MGM presents the bigger but not better Jeepers Creepers II on DVD in a Special Edition with even more supplements than the first film's SE, and despite the fact that the sequel is in a wider aspect ratio than its predecessor, no full-frame version has been provided this time around. The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer borders on excellent, the picture's stark, baked palette replicated with an intense crispness. The image is just a little compromised by edge-enhancement, but I found myself distracted by the marvellous telecine effort while watching Jeepers Creepers II without dialogue, i.e., during the entertaining commentary tracks. Though the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix boasts a stout low-end, it doesn't deploy the rear channels for much beyond the relentless chirping of crickets until the climactic set-piece, save select moments where the Creeper is on top of the bus but out-of-frame.
As with Jeepers Creepers, director Victor Salva pitches in a feature-length commentary, this time piggybacked by cast members Shaun Flemming, Josh Hammond, Billy Aaron Brown, Travis Schiffner, Marieh Delfino, and Nicki Lynn Aycox; on a separate track, actor Jonathan Breck (the Creeper himself), conceptual artist Brad Parker, and make-up F/X man Brian Penikas provide their own group yakker. Either Salva has loosened up since he last got behind the mike or the kids humble him, but he's not as reverential as he was of Jeepers Creepers. Meanwhile, Breck and co. steer clearer of irony, if that's what you're looking for. Interestingly, Salva wishes "moviegoers were more literary" in lamenting the loss of Ray Wise's taunt to the Creeper, "From Hell's heart I stab thee," to chortling preview audiences, but my guess is they were laughing at Salva for co-opting a line from Moby Dick that Star Trek II had already definitively co-opted.
The cryptically-labelled menu options translate as follows: "Beatingu" = play; "Body Parts" = scene selection; "Appetizers" = bonus material; "Scream!" = languages; and any time you see "Desserts" or "Leftovers," they mean "more" or "back," respectively. Five Greg Carson featurettes fall under "Appetizers," four of which--"Lights, Camera, Creeper", "Creeper Creation", "Creeper Composer", and "Digital Effects"--can be compiled into a 44-minute documentary by making use of the "play all" function. (Each segment unfortunately retains its closing credits this way.) Salva reiterates many of his commentaryisms in these, such as how Francis Ford Coppola outfoxed his sequel-proofing of the original, plus his abandoned concept for Jeepers Creepers II, which, I don't care what he says, sounds like a better movie. (It involved the Gina Philips character's search for her brother, with the schoolbus buffet a sidebar.) "Digital Effects" is simply a montage of greenscreen and CGI elements and their eventual composites.
Better than any of the above is "A Day in Hell" (27 mins.), in which a camera crew trails Salva for a day as he directs the decapitation sequence, revelatory of such details as the bus being surrounded with a forced-perspective backdrop, thus negating, for the most part, the need for location shooting. Here Salva indicts himself a little for complaining that a headless torso is wearing a shirt, and it's funny to hear him call the fully-primped Creeper "Breckster." Assembling enough scraps of elided footage to arrive at a semi-coherent narrative, "Deleted Scenes and Moments" (16 mins.) suggests a combination of some Bizarro World retelling of the film and a sketch-comedy parody of the same (especially with its emphasis on teenaged sunbathers and urination), while "The Creeper's Lair" (4 mins.) and "Ventriloquist Creeper" (1 mins.) showcase pre-deleted scenes--passages that were storyboarded yet omitted prior to the start of principal photography. (In the case of the sadistic "Ventriloquist...", because Salva felt the Creeper should remain mute for now.) A 7-minute animated photo gallery, a "behind the menus" photo gallery (Breck appears in fairly disturbing video shot exclusively for the DVD's interface), trailers for Jeepers Creepers, Jeepers Creepers II, Shredder, Bulletproof Monk, and the MGM reel round out the commendable platter. Originally published: December 22, 2003.