Hollywood seems to love road trips, and fear takes a pretty twisted one in the surprisingly effective monster movie Jeepers Creepers. It stars the young, fresh, lively faces of Justin Long (Galaxy Quest) and Gina Philips (Living Out Loud) as Darryl and Trish, a college-aged brother and sister who are driving home from spring break, passing the hours by bickering and insulting each other. The film engages us early with charisma generated in the early scenes of their playfulness. Soon enough we learn of an old tale that involves a college student who has mysteriously disappeared on the same road the two siblings travel, and then the siblings encounter a puke-colored truck that almost tramples their aging car in its path.
Later, on the same road, they spot the truck parked in the lot of an abandoned church. From a distance, they watch the bizarre-looking driver toss big, body-shaped bundles in a nearby sewer pipe. He spots their spying and soon runs them off the road. Darryl and Trish decide they should return to the pipe to scope it out. But Darryl falls down the pipe, and what he finds will leave both of them in a fast-paced, terrifying fight for their lives. This figure wants something from one of them. Who? What? You’ll have to ride this coaster for yourself to find out.
Jeepers Creepers isn’t the kind of monster movie that relies on special effects and gory images to terrify the audience. In the film’s press notes, director Victor Salva quotes his conscious decision not to “predicate on gore, but rather suspense and images that would be hard to forget — not because they’re graphic, but because they’re unnerving and indelible.” And he’s right.
The frightening stuff works because the film contains believable, strong central characters and lots of unexpected shocks, and it gives us time to catch our breath and react to the events. Jeepers Creepers (never mind the silly title) doesn’t try to keep the same heart-racing pace throughout. Instead, it creates new terrifying circumstances for the characters. Jeepers Creepers is the kind of movie that will definitely make you grab the arm of your date. If you happen to be a guy, well, we’re sorry if you look like a sissy.