Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003)
★★ / ★★★★
It is obvious that writer-director Victor Salva wishes to create a sequel that is bigger and badder than the original. There is more violence, a higher body count, and stunts are so ludicrous at times that laws of physics are ignored altogether. But these are not what makes this outing a disappointment. On the writing level, it introduces some curious ideas, like racism and homophobia meshed into this terrifying encounter against an ancient but equal opportunity creature, but these are never explored in meaningful or fun ways. Perhaps more importantly, the middle section drags—a head-scratcher because the first and final ten minutes are strong.
“Jeepers Creepers 2” takes place four days after siblings Darry and Trish face-off against The Creeper (Jonathan Breck) a humanoid creature that wakes from its slumber after twenty-three years and hunts for twenty-three days. This time, we follow a group of high school students while on their way home from winning a basketball championship game. Soon enough the bus goes careening to the side of the lonely road due to a blowout, setting up an all-you-can-eat buffet for the hungry Creeper. He has only one night left to hunt before hibernation. The setup promises a good time, but the delivery is lacking.
The problem is that not one of the high schoolers stands out as a well-rounded hero or heroine we can root for. There are a few candidates. There is Minxie (Nicki Aycox) who experiences spells and within them she is able to see visions of the past and gather information about what is hunting them and why. You’d think that since she possesses such knowledge, she would be written as a character who can be one step ahead of the Creeper. Instead, she disappears into the background. There are far too many students on that bus. Another is Izzy (Travis Schiffner) whose nickname is “Or Isn’t He?” because word has it that he’s gay and has recently gotten into a bar fight. (He has a scar on his temple.) This is another outcast who is shoved into the background. It’s a shame because Aycox and Schiffner have some presence—not strong but the potential is clear.
Instead, we endure Scotty moping around because he only got to play basketball for twelve minutes. (His girlfriend tries to comfort him but no luck there.) Once in a while he glares at Double D (Garikayi Mutambirwa), upset at the fact that a black guy was chosen to be the star of the championship game. Scotty thinks the team owed him to play longer because he got the team to the championship match. What a drama queen. In the middle of this conflict between the two boys, we cannot help but think, “Who the hell cares?” There’s a flying creature out there that wants to sniff you, kidnap you, and eat your organs. Talk about priorities.
The events inside the bus get a bit more interesting when the Creeper makes an appearance. It, too, is a drama queen in how it so very much enjoys sniffing the fear emanating from its prey. There is a hilarious moment or two involving the creature picking out its targets—one of which involves tongue action on a grimy bus window. You laugh at how over-the-top it is. Yet these comic moments are preferred over showing yet another muscle flexing between Scotty and Double D. Can’t they have been picked off first and second so we can get more of Minxie and Izzy? Why aren’t the more thoughtful characters placed front and center?
There is a story of revenge here. A father (Ray Wise) and his elder son (Luke Edwards) go on the hunt to avenge the kidnapping and murder of young Billy (Shaun Fleming) in the hands of the Creeper just the day before. Wise provides the best performance out of the lot because unquenchable anger is ever present in those eyes. Salva is correct to go for those close-ups and capture Jack’s rage. At times I wished the film had focused on this hunter-prey relationship—Jack the hunter, Creeper the prey. This could have been a fresh spin on the initial “Jeepers” premise.