In 1988, Victor Salva pleaded guilty and was convicted on five felony counts related to his videotaped sexual molestation of then-12-year-old Nathan Winters on the set of Clownhouse. Salva served 15 months of a three year sentence in California state prison and completed parole in 1992. In a recent interview, the Jeepers Creepers (2001, 90 minutes) writer/director said, "I've never made any effort to hide what happened. I served my time, I've tried to learn and move on. ... This has followed me around ever since it all happened, but once people meet me the phantoms kind of go away and they realize I just made a stupid mistake, years ago." These aren't secrets, but they're things of which the uninformed should be made aware. Viewers must decide for themselves whether to support this picture. Personally, it was a tough choice made easier upon considering Salva's repentance, punishment and by the realization that hundreds of others had searched within to answer the same question -- and agreed to make a Victor Salva picture.
The movie: Ignoring the fates of countless other horror victims before them, Darry and Patricia Jenner decide to take the long way home via lonely country back roads. Their trip is uneventful as they pass the time with traditional sibling bickering and road games until they're nearly run off the road by a maniac behind the wheel of a sinister-looking truck. Darry (Justin Long) is just catching his breath after this encounter when he and his sis (Gina Philips) notice the truck parked outside a long-abandon church and see a cloaked figure tossing something into a drainage pipe. Was it a body? Were those blood stained sheets wrapped by ropes? And as though they actually realize this is a movie, they gingerly investigate, and discover a sanctuary of unfathomable torment. Jonathan Breck skulks around this backwater county as The Creeper, and what IT is no one knows. It looks like a man, or does it? One things for certain: It's hungry and it digs exceedingly cheesy novelty songs. CineSchlockers will remember feline-friendly Eileen Brennan from her countless screen roles including that of Mrs. Peacock in Clue. And it's a lead-pipe synch, given Jeepers' record-setting Labor Day weekend, that we haven't seen the last of The Creeper.
Notables: No breasts. More than 44 corpses. Gratuitous urination. Extreme tailgating. Tongue munching. Human puppet show. Face licking. Ominous crows. Heart ripping. Kitty colony. Gratuitous urban legend. Head tumbles. Rat attack.
Quotables: Squawky Darry doesn't approve of Creeper's wheels, "Get a load of that nasty thing! Is that the vehicle of choice for a@#holes and serial killers?!" Tricia indulges in the film's only self-referential moment, "You know the part in scary movies when somebody does something really stupid and everybody hates them for it?! This is it!" Creeper is actually quite partial to B.O., "He'd have to be superhuman, otherwise the smell would have killed him." Police officer reacts to a strange thud atop the patrol car, "Hold on central, the sky is falling."
Time codes: Creeper lays on that wicked horn of his (4:55). The kiddos see something they shouldn't (9:55). Darry's psychic friend (Patricia Belcher) gives him a call (35:55). Guess who's all smiles (56:30). A bit of back story on the big guy (1:04:38). The Creeper emotes (1:18:30). Hang in past the credits for further sequel bait (1:29:58).
Audio/Video: The widescreen (1.85:1) transfer maintains the muted look of the theatrical release and avoids digital pitfalls common to dark source prints. A fullframe version is also provided for the narrow minded. The excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 track is especially intense during the chase sequences, the fluttering crows sound like they're right in the room and Bennett Salvay's score is also well showcased.
Extras: Yikes! Play this sucker quick if you don't want to see major spoilers revealed by the motion-video menus. On the movie side of the disc, there's an audio commentary by Salva who matches the flick's pace with waves of production nuggets -- like the legal entanglements of using live birds -- and praises for his cast and crew. While on the flip side, is a whole slew of other goodies. First up is an hour-long "Behind the Peepers" documentary, which can also be watched in six segments covering casting, creature FX, score and more. Don't miss Breck's creepy Creeper audition! About 15 minutes of deleted or extended scenes including a different version of the ending that's MUCH too subtle. Further instability ensues in an extended scene that actually has the beastie TALK! But what's missing is the rumored "Dallas"-style epilogue that revealed the movie to have been a campfire story told by Darry to his GIRLFRIEND Tricia, followed by one more, but predictable twist. Eight-minute photo montage with music. Theatrical trailers for this film, Hannibal and promo reels for the Silence of the Lambs, Terminator and Carrie DVDs.
Final thought: A fantastic melding of Duel's blacktop fury, the decaying rural depravity of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and any good ol' monster movie. Salva's tall terror tale expertly unfolds, twists and often shocks. Highly Recommended.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.