Jeepers Creepers 2 is a horror movie how-not-to, stumbling through dopey supernaturalism, Shirley Jackson-style morality plays and poor excuses for action.
At least the Creeper has an excuse for all the evisceration he takes part in, replacing his injured body parts with those from healthy humans. But writer-director Victor Salva shows no good reason for chopping up the campfire-tale spookiness that worked part of the time in the first go-round.
That on-the-cheap film’s combination of grim atmosphere, scarily sun-drenched rural roads and some stunning sound design nods to Hitchcock at least made for a better first act than most slash-and-hack jobs.
Given a three-times-bigger budget and about 20 extra minutes of running time, all Salva can show us here is a stereotypical high-school group of basketball players and cheerleaders whose broken-down bus turns them into a human-sized Old Country Buffet for the Creeper.
But as Dave Mason would sing, there ain’t no good guys and there ain’t no bad guys. Isn’t the first rule in movies like this that there should be at least one person who we want to see eaten? After the Creeper eats the adult coaches and bus driver, there are only the players and the cheerleaders and they just disagree about all the racism and homophobia going on (none of which has a payoff, mind you).
There is a doe-eyed cheerleader who, for absolutely no reason, gets clairvoyant and, thus, wise to the Creeper’s intentions. It was laid out in the first film that he appears in the spring every 23 years for 23 days to eat. But now, he can divine those with the greatest fear of them and choose them as his prey, signified by his hissing and snorting like the creature in Alien.
There are suggestions, then, to divvy the bus up into the chosen and the forsaken, the former to be offered as a sacrifice of sorts. Here’s where Salva unwisely loads even more racial baggage into the story, beating us into remembering when we read “The Lottery” in high school. Maybe for suspense purposes, we don’t ever truly know whom the Creeper has chosen, or for what body part. But because everyone on the bus is a dolt, we don’t care.
A side plot that’s OK comes courtesy of a Captain Ahab figure played by Ray Wise, whose youngest son is snatched up by the Creeper in the film’s opening scene. Wise’s reconnection with the creepy, manic-eyed stare he brought to the TV show Twin Peaks is one of the few things JC2 has going for it. But once he tries to reel in the Creeper with a pneumatic harpoon gun, forget it.
Outside of his very scary human eyes (courtesy of actor Jonathan Breck), the Creeper feels like a been there, done that demon. Not intentionally, he’s almost a protagonist — a mythical beast you feel kind of bad for, given he’s picked a busload of lunkheads to eat. Plus, his klaxon-horned, old-time truck is nowhere to be found, his weapon of choice now ninja stars made of human parts. Even the Creeper has to go portable.
The bad-guy-wins ending of Jeepers Creepers was a chiller, but its sequel’s conclusion is downright bogus. Born solely from the original’s success and not creativity, it’s an awful middle chapter to what will probably be a trilogy that likely will be concluded in space. How novel.