JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 (2003) Blu-ray
Director: Victor Salva
Scream Factory/Shout! Factory

Bigger and badder...but not in a good way. Shout!'s Scream Factory label, along with MGM, has released on Blu-ray JEEPERS CREEPERS 2, a 2-disc, extras front-loaded collector's edition for the 2003 horror box office hit, written and directed (again) by convicted child molester Victor Salva, executive produced by Francis Ford Coppola, and starring Ray Wise, Jonathan Breck, Nicki Aycox, Eric Nenninger, Garikayi Mutambirwa, Luke Edwards, Marieh Delfino, Diane Delano, Travis Schiffner, Shaun Fleming, Tom Tarantini, Thom Gossom, Jr., Josh Hammond, Al Santos, and Justin Long. With JEEPERS CREEPERS having been an unexpected hit for MGM/UA in 2001, it wasn’t surprising that a sequel to the highly profitable little horror outing would quickly follow. With double the original budget, director Salva gets to buy more extensive digital effects for his Creeper character...but a derivative storyline that’s long on yakking (and what timeless yakking it is!) coupled with paper-thin characters and their cliché-driven motivations—and most alarmingly, a paucity of real scares—this tedious horror sequel rather quickly goes to ground. Extras for this extremely sharp 1080p HD anamorphic widescreen Blu-ray transfer include some of the bonus material that was found on the previous standard DVD release of JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 (but for some reason left off the first Blu-ray release), including two commentary tracks with the director, cast and crew, as well as vintage behind-the-scenes footage of the production. New extras include a new documentary and interviews with the cast and crew.

On the Taggart farm, young Billy Taggart (Shaun Fleming) is helping his hard-driving father, Jack, Sr. (Ray Wise) set up scarecrows in the corn rows. Unfortunately, one of the scarecrows turns out to be the Creeper (Jonathan Breck), a winged supernatural monster that returns every 23rd spring to feast for 23 days...on human flesh, replacing body parts it needs by smelling out new likely victims. When a screaming Billy is swept up into the sky by the Creeper, his father and older brother, Jack, Junior (Luke Edwards) vow revenge. Later, a bus carrying high school basketball players and coaches, returning successfully from the State championships, has a mysterious blow-out on deserted Route 9—mysterious because a barbaric, razor-sharp throwing star made of bone and flesh, is found in the shredded tire. Limping along the road, the bus has another blow-out, again caused by another throwing star, only this time the Creeper spirits off the three adult chaperones: Coach Hanna (Thom Gossom, Jr.), assistant coach Dwayne Barnes (Tom Tarantini), and bus driver Betty Borman (Diane Delano). Panic grips the terrified teenagers, exacerbating existing tensions, such as (...actually: only with) hothead white racist homophobe Scott Braddock’s (Eric Nenninger) difficulties with his girlfriend, Rhonda (Marieh Delfino) and black teammate Double D Davis (Garikayi Mutambirwa). Meanwhile, cheerleader Minxie Hayes (Nicki Aycox) starts getting the vapors, where she’s clued into the Creeper’s deal by none other than previous Creeper victim, Darry Jenner (Justin Long). Who will live, and who will die...and where can I get off this bus?

As I wrote in my previous review of JEEPERS CREEPERS, that movie’s pared-down simplicity of nightmarish vision, coupled with some unexpected lush production values (for such a relatively chintzy B outing), made for a surprisingly effective horror movie...or at least its first act did, before script problems and tone-deaf pacing eventually deflated the whole enterprise. With more money thrown at its sequel, thanks to the first entry’s socko returns-to-cost ratio, JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 looks far more elaborate, and’s nowhere near as frightening as the first half hour or so of the original, nor is it any more coherent or meaningful than the original's last half hour. Gloss has overtaken terror here, as director Salva indulges in longer and longer takes of wide, wide shots that certainly look pretty (thanks again to THE GOONIES and TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY cinematographer Donald E. FauntLeRoy), but which are inevitably drained of any substantial tension or suspense. The opening portentous sequence is a good example. Salva soaks his obviously phony California corn farm and its inhabitants in an impossible yellow light (is this Earth or Mars?) as we try and figure out why dried-up, brittle stalks of corn are growing in the Florida spring. Aping Hitchcock without that master’s economy or meaning, we’re subjected to endless, empty action/reaction shots that go on far too long, before the predictable/inexplicable Creeper action sequence suddenly explodes (why does the Creeper run a marathon before flying away with the boy? Why not just zoom straight up like he always does?), before we’re left with a laughable Leone-esque dolly in that explores, for many long seconds, the facial pores of a blankly-staring Ray Wise (a great, funny actor, is so obviously bored here he can’t even summon up some sly, underhanded “winks” for the audience to leaven his dour turn). It’s really tough to make a scary sequence in broad, broad daylight; Salva was able to do it in the first JEEPERS CREEPERS, but here, technology trumps mood.

But that doesn’t stop him from trying to light up the nighttime, too. Shot on a private road on a ranch in California, the switch in locale from the first movie is a noticeable negative here. Whereas the first JEEPERS CREEPERS’s unfamiliar, humid, vaguely threatening Florida exteriors only added to the movie’s dreamy feel, JEEPERS CREEPERS 2’s hot, arid, all-too-familiar California mountain range and scrub design, made even more “Hollywood” with the cinematographer’s overly-saturated, eye-popping color, looks as generic as all get out (at one point I almost expected the Duke boys to come barreling down a dusty side road to rescue the kids). Worse, once night falls for the remainder of the movie, Salva’s frames become either pedestrian and boring (why in the world would he—or anyone—think the inside of a school bus would be visually arresting to shoot?), or plain ludicrous in their jiggered, incongruous engineering, with huge, vast swaths of farmland and road lit up bright like a night game at Wrigley Field (this is supposedly out in the middle of nowhere?). Why didn’t he keep the whole thing dark? Why wasn’t the outside made to look forbidding and shadowy? Instead, Salva managed to take a real location, and make it look like a studio mock-up. One might stretch and claim he’s going for a comic book falseness like Hitch pulled with some of his later color efforts (MARNIE’s obviously phony matte painting locales), but if he was, Salva did nothing with them.

JEEPERS CREEPERS 2’s dramatics, unfortunately, are as cramped and uninteresting as that ungainly bus interior we’re forced to stay in (for what seems like hours). Because there’s really nothing at the core of JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 except the attack scenes and who’s going to get picked off and when, Salva has to fill in the vacuum with faux-dramatic scenes that wouldn’t pass muster in a high school play. When Salva isn’t indulging himself in preposterous homoerotic imagery with the high school boys (nauseating, knowing molester Salva’s past history), such as the team riding the bus shirtless, or sunning themselves on top of the scorching hot 10-foot-tall bus (because that’s the first thing you’d think of doing when you’re stranded somewhere), or lining up, shoulders touching shoulders, to take a whiz (because guys always try and get as close as possible to each other when taking a group leak), he unsuccessfully tries to cross 12 ANGRY MEN with LIFEBOAT, to desultory, often ridiculous results. In several of the extras on this disc, Salva makes the dubious, pathetic claim that JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 is his answer to the 9/11 attacks (which he also claims sabotaged the first movie’s box office—more about that below). He states that instead of dividing people based on fear and hate, we as Americans need to stand together against the real threat to our country. So of course for liberal Salva in 2002, the villain doing that in JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 isn’t going to be a Muslim terrorist (just ask the people of San Diego, Fort Hood, and Paris while we’re at it, if I got that right), but rather a straight, white, crew-cut alpha male basketball hero right out of HOOSIERS, a racist, misogynist homophobe who threatens the entire fabric of the bus “community.” Right—that’s the threat to America when the towers came down. Gosh, I’ve never seen that stereotypical cardboard character before...and what a difficult and elusive target it is to hit, too (Salva doesn’t have the artistic adventuresomeness—or just plain guts—to vary his villain’s ethnicity, religion, or gender). This isn’t valid storytelling; it’s stealth, arbitrary agenda-making...and pretty facile, nattering-on social observation, at that.

As for what should be foolproof in JEEPERS CREEPERS 2—the action and horror—it’s occasionally competently done, but it’s also far too familiar and repetitive to have any kind of impact. According to him, Salva’s budget was doubled for this sequel, so he has plenty of green screen shots of the redesigned Creeper in flight (Salva states he’s “blacker and wetter,” but to me he now looks like a cross between the Creature from the Black Lagoon and a possessed Karen Black in TRILOGY OF TERROR). However, the added special effects don’t double the terror. As a character in a movie, the Creeper is remarkably generic-feeling; somehow he just doesn’t have the quirks or the personality or the plain panache of the modern biggies of horror, like Jason or Michael or Freddy. Only one scene here, where the Creeper hangs upside down at the bus window, making smart-assed faces at the teens as he picks out his favorites, gives us a character that we wouldn’t mind hanging a franchise on (his devilish, impish grin at Minxie was hilarious). For the rest of the movie, however, he’s just a big flying bat, not particularly terrifying or even visually interesting, and certainly not a monster that grabs at our imagination (Salva doesn’t need to jealously keep the Creeper’s background a total mystery: we don’t care). Other effects don’t come off at all. Steve Martin’s arrow-in-the-head bit looked more convincing than that sliding javelin in the Creeper’s skull, while the poorly green screened punching, fighting—and hilariously bloodless—denogginized torso would have looked at home in ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET THE INVISIBLE MAN (didn’t anyone mention that there probably should be a couple of pints of blood pumping outta that neck?). JEEPERS CREEPERS 2’s finale, with Wise manning a jerry-rigged post puncher/harpoon weapon against the Creeper, isn’t Moby Dick as Salva claims, but a lazy, direct lift from the director’s favorite movie, JAWS (which ripped off Melville’s classic much better), with the high-flying Creeper’s harpoon anchored to a truck, rather than Bruce the shark being buoyed by those metal barrels. Large-scaled but uninteresting, as well as completely unoriginal, this final set piece is unfortunately entirely representative of this misguided sequel.

The 1080p HD anamorphic widescreen 2.37:1 Blu-ray transfer for JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 looks spectacular. Fine image detail is minute and flawless, with absolute blacks and a super-tight grain structure. Colors pop, contrast is correctly measured, and no artifacting or boosting is noticeable. Superior image. The lossless DTS-HD Master audio 5.1 soundtrack is expansive as hell, with impressive surround/separation effects and a booming, deep bass grounding. The re-recording level will blow out your speakers (purists may want to listen to the 2.0 track that’s also available). English subtitles are available.

Extras on disc one (which includes the main feature) are the two commentary tracks. In my previous review of JEEPERS CREEPERS, I made it plain how I feel about Salva; it’s up to you if your interest in his movies is enough to stomach his presence on these extras. First up is a commentary track (from 2003, I would assume) featuring the director and cast members Eric Nenninger, Josh Hammond, Nicki Lynn Aycox, Marieh Delfino, Garikayi Mutambirwa, and Shaun Fleming. Salva seems noticeably subdued for this round, throwing in an occasional generalized comment about the filming, while mostly letting his young actors goof on the movie. It’s a useless track, and quite annoying after about a half hour of the cast’s constant, inane cackling. The second commentary track (also from 2003) is much better, featuring Creeper actor Jonathan Breck, production illustrator Brad Parker, and Special Effects Makeup supervisor Brian Penikas. They’re all low-key, well-spoken, and quite informative about JEEPERS CREEPERS 2’s production—good info. New stuff can be found on disc 2. First up is "Jeepers Creepers 2: Then and Now" (22:34), featuring new interviews with Salva, DP Don FauntLeRoy, Editor Ed Marx, and actor Tom Tarantini. Here, Salva makes his truly loathsome claim that the 9/11 attacks somehow knocked the original JEEPERS CREEPERS out of the box office top ten (he gives no explanation how, exactly, that happened), and that the sequel was his personal (and one would assume, political) response to those crimes. Well, I went back and looked at the box office charts for those weekends in 2001...and no such thing happened to JEEPERS CREEPERS. After debuting at number 1 during the 4-day Labor Day weekend, it had already dropped to 3rd the following weekend before 9/11, and though it fell steadily in the charts (as most front-loaded horror and sequel movies do), it continued to stay in the top ten for another 2 weekends after the attacks. Contrary to Salva’s insinuation, moviegoers didn’t seem to lose their taste for supernaturally-tinged fare; THE OTHERS stayed rock-steady in the top five during JC’s fall. In other words: nice try, pal, trying to take a tragedy that affected hundreds of millions of people, and somehow making it about your crappy little horror movie. Salva finishes up the new interview qualifying how happy he is today by stating he’s had “terrible luck” in the past, one would assume his oblique way of referring to his notorious sex crimes. “Terrible luck”? “Terrible luck” is drawing a busted flush with $1200 bucks on the table—raping a child is a conscious, deliberate, despicable act.

Ray Wise gives a new interview in "A Father’s Revenge" (15:20), where he lauds Salva, stating Salva only has to pick up the phone to get his participation in the director's next movie (gotta love actors...). Speaking of, Tom Tarantini, Thom Gossom, Jr., and Diane Delano all applaud Salva, as well, in new interviews for "Don’t Get Off the Bus" (20:52). "A Day in Hell: A Look at the Filming of Jeepers Creepers 2" (26:42), from 2004, is the most interesting extra here, showing some fascinating behind-the-scenes footage of shooting on the bus...although no one who really works for a living is going to buy Salva's whining about how truly hard moviemaking is. "Lights, Camera, Creeper: The Making of Jeepers Creepers 2" (14:23), also from 2004, is just more of the same stuff with Salva, although we see the tricky process used to simulate the Creeper getting harpooned. 2004's "Creeper Creation" (11:29) features Brad Parker showing off some incredible storyboards used in pre-production. Various stages of digital wizardry are on display in "The Orphanage Visual Effects Reel" (5:23). "Creeper Composer" (9:26) has footage of Bennett Salvay conducting his full-throated score. "Storyboard Renditions of Scenes Not Filmed" (10:00) are pretty interesting, considering you rarely see this kind of material. "Deleted Scenes" (15:50) play almost like a gag reel (lots of screwing around), while a photo gallery and original trailer (2:13) round out this exhaustive set of extras. (Paul Mavis)