(2001) dir. Victor Salva
Here is a case of something that I have been experiencing a lot lately. A film that starts very well, shows a great deal of promise, setting mood, affecting a narrative that feels more unusual, but then fails to deliver on the early minutes’ promise.
In this case, however, the ultimate package wasn’t too bad for what it was worth, though the promise still lingers as unfullfilled, the potential for a much better film squandered to a different set of cliches.
Jeepers Creepers opens with a brother and sister on a cross-country drive back from college in an old car. After a quick, yet effective few minutes of character development, the conflict begins, as they are harrassed and driven off the road by malicious driver in an old van. They are frustrated and angry, and when they pass a house on their route where they spot the vehicle that ran them off the road, they see a figure that is acting suspiciously, dumping something down an old drainage pipe. They decide to intervene, motivated by revenge and curiosity.
Up to this point, and maybe by the next scene in which the brother is dropped down the pipe through clumsiness, the story has an almost classic B-movie scenario that is based enough on common experiences to be pretty compelling. The acting is less typical contemporary Hollywood than your usual teen horror flick, less produced, more low-budget. And it works.
But then the story becomes fantastical with a non-human villain (“The Creeper”) that after eventually being revealed, turns out to be some “demon” or soemthing, doing evil for the typical “unknown” reasons that cartoonified “evil” always seems to do it. I mean, who knows?
To the film’s credit, this turn could have switched over into the cliches associated with that type of horror flick, like Puppet Master or Lepprechaun or what have you. Nonsense that no longer has any connection to reality, but is merely a fantasy of creative violence (i.e. new ways to chop up teenagers).
The film continued to remain interesting, featuring a couple more scenes in which the direction elevated the material. And ultimately with its sort of ambiguous ending, actually achieve some sense of existential pleasure that the initial sequences had suggested.
So, I had mixed feeling about this film, but found it intriguing. Definitely a cut above the typical horror film genre. But it clearly had the potential for more. It would have been a totally different kind of movie.
— on a separate note, after seeing the film I was curious about the director, whose work seemed far more polished and interesting than the typical hack. I had seen his Italian family name and wondered if he was an import. To my surprise, he was Victor Salva, the director of the movie Powder, which I hadn’t really cared for, but again recalled that my friend was telling me that he was a pedophile.
Further research, by which I mean, a handful of minutes on the internet, brought up some news articles about said controversy and that the fact of the matter was that he was a convicted child molester that had “served his time”. A lot of controversy had arisen when he had directed Powder back in 1996 for Disney, especially since Disney was the production company and the subject matter was teenagers. And there had been some public outcry when this film, Jeepers Creepers had been shot.
One of the sites that I got my information from, was Andrew Vacchs’. He, if you don’t know, is an attorney turned crime novelist, who also commits a huge portion of his life defending children from child abuse. His site has a plethora of information on it, and is kind of interesting. I don’t really know what to make of him, personally. Having only read one of his novels, Blue Belle which wasn’t very good. He seems quite vindictive. He also had information about Roman Polanski, who is also wanted for molesting a child. And interesting subgenre of directors starts to emerge…