Jeepers Creepers

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It is questionable whether a movie with a title like “Jeepers Creepers” can be the fright-filled scare-fest it wants to be, but this particular “Jeepers Creepers” pulls it off fairly well. Up until the end, that is, when it falls to pieces.

Written and directed by Victor Salva (the convicted child molester behind 1995’s “Powder”), this mildly atmospheric, somewhat creepy film begins with a brother and sister driving home from college for Spring Break. Darry (Justin Long) and Trish (Gina Philips) are painted as standard movie siblings: They have a lot of arguments, most of them good-natured, and they’re competitive about everything. Aside from that, they are without noticeable character traits. Neither one is especially brave or dumb or sarcastic or sweet or anything.

While on a lonely country road, they see an ominous figure dumping bodies down a sewer pipe next to an abandoned church. Worried the victims may still be alive, Darry and Trish head back to investigate.

Darry winds up underground, where he finds hundreds of bodies lining the walls “like some kind of sick Sistine Chapel.” He and Trish enlist the aid of the police who, going against horror movie protocol, actually believe them, or at least show a willingness to check into it.

They are also contacted by a spooky psychic (Patricia Belcher), who gives them the lowdown on what kind of monster the killer is and why he kills and stuff like that.

The dialogue in the first several minutes is weak and forced, almost embarrassing at times. Salva is trying to show how real siblings talk, but it’s not convincing.

When the scares begin, though, they are good. The sequence with Darry down inside the pipe is deliriously tense, and there are other nail-biters along the way.

The quality doesn’t last long, however. The moment at which the Jezelle the psychic calls Darry is the exact moment at which the film goes over the top and stays there. Resorting to an all-knowing psychic to explain what your movie’s about is a cheap cop-out, and this particular psychic is too silly to be scary.

There’s also the well-documented fact that if you see too much of the killer or monster, it dulls the edge. The more we learn about this one, the less he scares us. The unknown is scary; simple old monsters, we can handle.

Oh, and the “ironic” conclusion is obvious a good hour beforehand. The 1930s song “Jeepers Creepers” figures prominently; if you’ve heard the lyrics before (or listen to them in the film), you know what’s going on. I like the ending (though I realize many people will not); I just wish it weren’t so predictable.

Salva gets credit for making a brother/sister duo his protagonists, instead of the random bunch of lusty teens or boyfriend/girlfriend team who usually head these movies. Altogether, it’s not a very respectable horror film, but it does deliver the goods more often than not.

B- (; R, frequent harsh profanity, a lot of blood and gore.)

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