If one thing about horror is predictable, its that sequels are inevitable and usually end up just being bad remakes of the first film. That said credit is due to Victor Salva with JC2 who manages to deliver a film which although has some links to the first (the 23 days routine, the creature itself), is a separate and remarkably different entry into what’s been one of the better post-Scream horror franchises around.
The first “Jeepers Creepers” was a surprise modest success – it was a relatively small film but had some great fun moments, and effectively built tension especially in its still superb first half. The second half did devolve a bit into a more conventional action monster movie but was still quite enjoyable.
With more characters and money behind it, JC2 starts out and ends with a focus on action lightly infused with a nice creepiness. Victor has proven quite skilled at creating atmosphere and it works at times, sadly though there’s nowhere near as many scares this time around – but visually its more interesting and there’s definitely a much better pace. Remember those scenes in “Lost Boys” with flying things attacking people – think a movie along those lines but with post-modern talking teens and visual FX which allow us to see the creature in action (its almost a “The Birds” remake at one or two points).
Acting-wise its always great to see ol’ Leland Palmer himself Mr. Ray Wise on the big screen. Here he’s a somewhat over the top tortured farmer whose son gets whisked away in the effective opening prologue. The school kids, this being the first film for many of these actors, do surprisingly ‘better than standard’ performances for the genre. There’s one or two faces (and chests) you might recognise such as Al Santos from “Grosse Point”, however they all sort of blend into each other. Justin Long makes a brief return in some visions but he’s of no use this time around and there’s little point to him being in this.
Funnily enough the three standouts of the young cast separate into their own group at one point – Garikayi Mutambirwa (the harassed black student), Marieh Delfino (the sassy brunette girl) and Travis Schiffner (the possibly gay reporter). Delfino has a nice assertiveness without being bitchy which is refreshing in a teen movie, better yet Schiffner in his debut role is an impressive young actor who nicely underplays his character which is admittedly the most interesting of the rather undeveloped rabble of students. One of the few disappointments of the film is that by the end many of the characters are just left hanging – there’s no conclusion to their subplots so one must assume those who haven’t been eaten are still wandering the countryside.
With a larger but still relatively limited budget, much of the action is spent trapped in a confined bus and so a lot of the film’s enjoyment will depend upon how much you like/dislike the cast which is mostly there for cannon fodder after all. Some sequences are memorable whether it be the creatures first facial appearance as it stares in the back window at the kids, the decapitation of one student hinted at in the poster, and a fun ‘run through the fields’ style segment. In a genre where sexism is part and parcel of the material (ie. usually scanity clad girls running around), its kind of fun to see the reverse as such with the three girls in the movie keeping their clothes on the entire time whilst many of the guys go shirtless in the early scenes of the film.
The creature itself is also nicely expanded on with all sorts of new and rather creepy abilities which he didn’t display the first time around. As a horror film this isn’t a success story as its nowhere near scary enough, but as fun light-hearted piece of entertainment it works. Indeed, you’ll have a much better time with this than the likes of many of the other so-called horror movies of this year including the recently opened “Freddy vs. Jason” and indie schlock ala “Undead”. Salva is an interesting director to watch, and another entry in this franchise would be fun to see.