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Unnecessary sequel creeps in once again

August 29, 2003|Gene Seymour | Newsday

For those with slightly loftier expectations for teen-horror movies, 2001's "Jeepers Creepers" offered glimmers of possibility, especially in its visual pacing and narrative setup. Director-writer Victor Salva blended a connoisseur's clammy grasp of genre with a precise feel for prairie gothic. Unlike other slasher flicks, "Creepers" gave you the bogeyman chills without shoving your senses into a juice machine.

Still, somehow you knew by the end that if this thing made any kind of noise at the multiplexes, there would be a sequel to spoil the mood. It did, there is and it does.

Where the first "Jeepers Creepers" came across like a dark, wacky dream, the inevitable "Jeepers Creepers 2" seems more like a franchise under construction -- though it's hard to tell how they're going to keep bringing back a slimy, carnivorous man-bat that only comes out to play every 23 years for 23 days. (And no, I don't know why it's 23. For that you'll have to consult a numerologist.)

Anyway, "Creepers" deux picks up where the last one left off -- with the aforementioned saw-toothed critter (Jonathan Breck) nearing the home stretch of its 23-day reign of terror throughout the American heartland. Word of this ongoing spring nightmare apparently hasn't reached a happy high school basketball team celebrating its state championship.

The only one not whooping it up is Scott (Eric Nenninger), who's moping because he didn't get enough playing time in the big game. He mutters to his cheerleader girlfriend (Marieh Delfino) about preferential treatment by the team's black coach for the black players.

This ugliness is interrupted when the bus gets a flat tire from some pseudo-ninja claw with a human tooth embedded in the middle. A call for assistance goes unanswered. The bus limps home anyway until, long after sunset, another claw blows another tire. This time, there's a ... a ... human navel stuck in the middle. The grown-ups tell the kids to get back on the bus. Then, one by one, the coach, the driver and all other adult supervision seem to spring airborne into the darkness, screaming all the way.

Not long afterward, the thing with wings clamps down on the bus, staring into the eyes of each potential victim, sizing it up for edible parts.

It turns out, kids, that the "creeper" can replace a missing body piece by consuming someone else's. (Which becomes horrifically clear in one of the movie's biggest gross-outs.)

After a while, the kids get on your nerves so much that you're grateful to see someone else riding into the story: a determined farmer named Taggart, who's out to keelhaul the varmint that carried off his youngest son.

The wonderful character actor Ray Wise -- who, as you "Twin Peaks" devotees will recall, was Laura Palmer's psycho-killer dad -- plays Taggart with grizzled vigor. His last words are graceful enough to reinforce hope that this will be all there is to say about this slimy critter. One, alas, knows better.


'Jeepers Creepers 2'

MPAA rating: R for horror violence and language.

Ray Wise...Jack Taggart

Jonathan Breck...The Creeper

Gariyaki Mutambirwa...Deaundre "Double D" Davis

Eric Nenninger...Scott Braddock

Nicki Aycox...Minxie Hayes

United Artists presents, in association with Myriad Pictures, an American Zoetrope production, released by MGM. Writer-director Victor Salva. Producer Tom Luse. Executive producers Francis Ford Coppola, Bobby Rock, Kirk D'Amico, Lucas Foster. Cinematographer Don E. FauntLeRoy. Editor Ed Marx. Costume designer Jana Stern. Music Bennet Salvay. Production designer Peter Jamison. Visual effects supervisor Jonathan Rothbart. Special effects makeup Brian Penikas. Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes.

In general release.

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