Jeepers Creepers 2
A generally accepted maxim of horror is that the less the audience sees of a monster, the more frightening it will be. The idea is that lingering too long on the monster makes the audience accustomed to it, hence less frightened of it, and gives people time to see imperfections that might mar the illusion that the monster is real. As a general rule, I think keeping your movie monster in shadows is a good thing. Take The Thing for example. Although there are long shots focusing on the Thing in its various squishy incarnations, which serve to heighten the horror by focusing on how grotesque and alien the Thing is, the creature spends most of its time in human form; what’s terrifying about the Thing is that it can hide in plain sight. Jeepers Creepers 2 flouts that maxim in favor of showing the creature frequently to good and bad effect. When we get a good look at the creeper staring at the kids, inhaling deeply to smell their fear, it’s pretty spooky. When the creeper flies through the air, it’s doesn’t seem so scary.
Jeepers Creepers 2 takes place not long after the first film. The creeper poses as a scarecrow in a cornfield and abducts a child. The child’s father, Jack, and brother, Jack Jr., plan to kill the creature; Jack forges his own harpoons and harpoon launcher using a post hole digger, specifically the digger’s pneumatic piston. Meanwhile, a football team is riding back home in a bus from the state championship. They’re stopped twice: once when a shuriken made of four sharpened bits of bone soldered together with metal busts the tire and a final time when the other wheel is taken out by a similar shuriken held together with a stitched flap of skin; the flap of skin has Darry’s belly-button and tattoo, the man who was abducted and carved up at the end of the first film. The creeper begins picking off the football team one by one, starting with the coaches and bus driver before it moves on to killing the teens. They radio for help, enlisting the aid of Jack and Jack Jr., but most of the teens abandon the bus after the creeper destroys all the windows and punches several holes in the roof; it kills several of the kids as they run away. The two Jacks show up and fight the creeper with the jerry-rigged harpoon gun, which sits in the back of their truck. The creeper manages to flip the truck with the line that connects the harpoon to the gun, but is soon felled when it crashes into the teen’s stolen truck; they stole the truck from the side of the road in an effort to escape the creeper. The creeper crawls out of the wreckage with only an arm and a leg left, but all the awkward hopping in the world can’t save it when Jack harpoons it in the head and stabs it repeatedly in the heart. It goes dormant, waiting to revive in 23 years and feast. Jack erects the creature in his barn, advertising it as a freakshow attraction, “Bat Out of Hell,” really is just waiting for the day it revives so he can kill it once and for all.
Like its predecessor, Jeepers Creepers 2 has two real interesting characters and the rest are pretty bland. Unlike its predecessor, the two interesting characters are Jack and the creeper, a markedly different dynamic than the brother-sister relationship I referred to in my last review. Jack made me think of Captain Ahab, which makes sense since he’s on a quest for revenge and intends to earn it with the keen of a harpoon, but he’s not quite so monomaniacally crazy. Still, Jack’s intense and the bewildered, lost look in his eye when he sees his son taken by a flying demon is replaced by steely determination. He’s tight-lipped, but his weapon-forging, jerry-rigged harpoon gun, and patient waiting to end the creeper do all the speaking for him; he’s a badass.
The creeper is a worthy adversary to said badass. When it kidnaps people, it takes them in its arms and rapidly takes to the air with its membranous, venous batwings; although the CGI is conspicuous enough when it’s in flight, this is somewhat made up for by the realization that it’s taking its victims alive, presumably to dump them in its secluded bower for later torture and consumption. We also see how the creeper regenerates itself with living flesh, which was alluded to but not explained in the first movie. When the creeper takes a spike to the eye and loses a portion of its face, it replaces it by decapitating one of the teens and replacing its wounded head with the teens head; the teen’s face then morphs into the monster’s face because it would have looked stupid otherwise. The best scene with the creeper however is when he stares through the bus window and gives the teens a sharp-toothed grin, inhaling deeply smell the teens and licking the glass. It’s a disturbing combination of human and animal gestures that suggests the creeper is equally intelligent and bestial. Worse yet, the creeper is being playful, enjoying the teens’ fear before it eats them. I wasn’t sure I liked the creeper when watching the original film, but I know I like the creeper in this one. It’s a monster with a bit of personality, too rare in horror films, and is better developed in this film because it flouts the ‘don’t show the monster too much’ convention.
The other characters are of little note. The only ones that stood out were Scott, requisite asshole who gives the survival of the fittest speech, Bucky, a sniveling nerd so pathetic and unlikable even I wanted to give him a wedgie, and Minxie, resident psychic, one-time source of exposition, and nebulous heroine. Scott gets his just desserts. Bucky offends my sensibilities by being a nerd stereotype culled from the 1950s and so whiny that I couldn’t pretend to be glad when he ended up surviving the whole ordeal. Minxie is worth discussing however and not just because her name is objectively terrible. Minxie fulfills the same role as Jezelle in the original film and a stock role in horror in general. One of the strange things about horror is that protagonists have a strong tendency towards magical thinking; the paranoid and superstitious are almost always proven correct and are often rewarded with survival for their way of thinking. If I were inclined to think that the moral of horror stories was to be less skeptical of the supernatural, I wouldn’t be much of a horror fan; for all my indulgence in fantastic movies and fiction and the quasi-spiritual illumination of art and poetry, I’m still a skeptic and materialist at heart. Instead, I would posit that the world of horror operates under different rules than reality. That is to say, horror-world is a mirror of our own except there’s an occulted evil always lurking beneath the surface. Horror-world is a blackly pessimistic take on reality, wherein a schizophrenic’s terrifying delusions are truth and most are blind to that truth. The reason Minxie appears to be a heroine, even though her character is flat and her presence nebulous, is because the heroes in horror-world are the ones that acknowledge and come to terms with the evil’s presence; only by accepting and identifying the monster can the try to kill it.
Moving on from horror philosophizing, I would say that Jeepers Creepers 2 is a pretty good sequel. In places it’s as creepy as the prequel and it thankfully makes a reprise of the image of Darry with his eyes cut out. However, there’s also a lot more flying around with acceptable but not great CGI; to be fair though, CGI is hard to do well and age is never kind to computer generated effects. Of course, there’s also this scene, but no one needs to explain why that’s funny instead of scary.