Director: Victor Salva
Scream Factory/Shout! Factory

Initially faultless...then merely competent horror road flick. Shout!'s Scream Factory label, along with MGM, has released on Blu-ray JEEPERS CREEPERS, a 2-disc, extras front-loaded collector's edition for the 2001 horror hit, written and directed by convicted child rapist Victor Salva, executive produced by his close friend Francis Ford Coppola, and starring Gina Philips, Justin Long, Patricia Belcher, Jonathan Breck, and Eileen Brennan. While it's disquieting, to say the least, to see hours and hours of audio and screen time given to someone like Salva, die-hard fans of JEEPERS CREEPERS who aren't aware of Salva's crimes will enjoy the overload of extras devoted to this well-remembered horror outing, including two commentary tracks with the director and lead actors, new interviews with the crew, lots of vintage behind-the-scenes documentary footage, deleted scenes including an alternate opening and ending sequences, a photo gallery, an original trailer, and a radio spot.

On a long, deserted, back country two-lane blacktop, college students Darry Jenner (Justin Long, DRAG ME TO HELL, DODGEBALL) and his older sister, Trish (Gina Philips, CHAINED, DEAD AND BREAKFAST) barrel down the road in her 1960 Chevy Impala, heading home for spring break. Out of the blue, an old, rusted-out truck comes up behind them and continually smashes into them, before it speeds off. Further down the road, by chance, they spot the truck at a decrepit, abandoned church, and in the few seconds it takes to drive by, they see a menacing figure in a large hat and duster—The Creeper (Jonathan Breck, SPIDERS, THE CARETAKER)—throw two blood-soaked body-shaped bundles down an irrigation pipe that sticks out of the ground. The figure sees the staring teens, too, and gives chase, eventually running them off the road before motoring away. Darry convinces Gina it's the right thing to do, going back to investigate, which they do...until Darry falls down the long, deep pipe. What he finds down below shocks him: a dying boy with a horrible surgical scar on his chest, laying in a huge underground cavern with the dirt ceiling and walls covered in preserved human bodies, reassembled and stitched together in a grotesque, perverted human mosaic. Darry eventually climbs out, and the two terrified kids drive to a diner, where they call the police for help...and where they receive an unexpected phone call from Jez (Patricia Belcher, THE NUMBER 23), a local psychic who incoherently tries to warn Darry and Trish that now that they've found "The Creeper"'s "House of Pain," he'll be after them, because he needs to eat. But the cops will prove no match for "The Creeper," with Darry and Trish fated to a final confrontation.

With its lush, classically designed cinematography, courtesy of Donald E. FauntLeRoy (THE GOONIES, TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY), and its soaring, full-throated orchestral score by Bennett Salvay (ALOHA SUMMER, THE NATURE OF THE BEAST), JEEPERS CREEPERS looks and sounds far more polished than its relatively small budget and conventional horror orientation would seem to promise. Couple those silky smooth production values with writer/director Salva's stripped-down, lean set up—a couple of kids, on the road, witness something they shouldn't have, and they're subsequently relentlessly pursued by a terrifying supernatural creature—and JEEPERS CREEPERS's first act plays like the best kind of workmanlike genre moviemaking. Pared to dream-like simplicity, JEEPERS CREEPERS begins right on the road, with the barest of introduction to the characters, giving us vague indications of unhappiness on their part amid the seemingly good-natured but subtextually mean-spirited, vulgar sibling bickering (Trish is having trouble with her boyfriend; their mother back home is troubled for some unknown reason). Salva continues to complain about acquiescing to studio focus groups that indicated taking out extended scenes of background info and bantering between Trish and Darry, but what remains now, this mere suggestion, works better in the movie's dreamy "jump right in the middle of this nightmare" structure. I don't need a detailed emotional connection to these characters to experience their incomprehensible, horrific journey. And that "dropped into the middle of this inexplicable terror" feeling is cemented by the first unprovoked attack of the Creeper truck, suddenly coming out of nowhere, with that blasting, genuinely frightening train air horn sound effect that makes you jump (anyone into movies knows that Salva is flat-out lying when he states he didn't realize until the first day of shooting that he was ripping off one of his favorite movies, Spielberg's iconic TV movie, DUEL, with that copy-cat chase scene). We the audience don't know what's going on, or who these people are, or who their attacker is...but everything is soaked in a vague, fuzzy dread (nicely contrasted by the bright, humid settings) that seems to be played for keeps.

And once Salva shows us JEEPERS CREEPERS's best shot—the drive-by reveal of the Creeper throwing the bodies down the irrigation pipe, before watching the kids pass by and subsequently giving chase—we start to think this surprisingly well-designed little horror effort might be a minor classic. Playing on a situation that so many of us have had before during long car drives, where we've spotted some old, scary-looking property and wondered, as it flashed by, what happened there...and what might still happen there, Salva, without being obvious, perfectly illustrates the classic cinema horror convention of city folk's terror when they're lost in the wild, violent, deserted countryside, all in one beautifully composed, frightening shot.

Unfortunately, that shot is JEEPERS CREEPERS' high point, with the remainder of the movie eventually retreating back to by-the-numbers exploitation horror. The cracks show immediately. When the Creeper pursues the teens on the road again, it's cool at first because it's playing like a nightmare loop; we've been here before, like in a dream, and we can't explain why. But once the Creeper runs them off the road...he just keeps on going, driving off into the distance instead of taking the kids in the field. Why? He thought it important enough to chase them twice—why does he quit when they're the most vulnerable? It's a seemingly minor plot hole, but it nags at you because it's so inherently stupid, becoming more amplified when we're later constantly reminded how relentless the Creeper is in his pursuits. Compounding the illogic, we're asked to believe Darry could shame the sensible Trish into going back to the church to see if they can help those body-like bundles. Obviously, for the plot to proceed, you have to get the kids back to the church to discover the cavern and the stitched-together bodies, but Salva excusing this lazy screenwriting crutch as just another element of a "fable" that isn't meant to make any sense, doesn't cut it. And while the "big reveal" in the cavern is impressive—a Hieronymus Bosch-like tapestry of hell made with real bodies—it's negated because we never return to the "House of Pain," nor are we given any info on why the Creeper does this "art" (and again, Salva can't excuse this by saying he wanted the Creeper to be mysterious, when later a half-hearted stab at explaining the Creeper's habits—the "he has to eat every 23 years for 23 days" nonsense—is thrown out there to no effect). Once the kids go to the diner, the action grinds to a complete halt, while Salva's previously impressive visual design goes curiously flat. Individual scenes may have some punch (Eileen Brennan, in a totally inexplicable scene, is shot in a genuinely creepy manner; the Creeper's attack on the cops on the road has a giddy, comic book feel), but by the time we have the bargain-basement Carpenter rip-off siege at the police station, JEEPERS CREEPERS has fallen completely apart, as Salva's small, inconsequential, "emotional" ending (versus the big action set piece finale he originally planned, jettisoned for budgetary reasons), fails to deliver that shocking "waking up from a nightmare" jolt that the well-wrought opening deserved.

The 1080p HD anamorphically enhanced widescreen 1.85:1 Blu-ray transfer for JEEPERS CREEPERS looks quite strong. Salva states in his own commentary track that the colors are boosted somewhat here on the disc from the original release prints (he doesn't say whether this is a negative or plus). That being said, the colors do pop, in a mostly grainless, tight image (fine detail is particularly strong), with strong colors and excellent contrast (blacks are deep and true). Depth of image is, at times, impressive. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master stereo audio track is equally fine and clean, with a quite varied, expansive sound field, with frequent separation effects and heavy-duty bass grounding (there's also an original 2.0 DTS-HD master audio track, for purists—it's super-clean, as well). English subtitles are available.

As for the extras, Scream Factory has gone the true collectors route in bringing to this release a wealth of bonus features. While personally for this reviewer, a father of six, it sickens me to see an animated, enthusiastic Salva expound for hours and hours on JEEPERS CREEPERS over two commentary tracks, a new documentary, and new and old interviews, it will be up to the individual viewer/buyer to see if they want to support such a creature. First up is a commentary track featuring actors Gina Philips and Justin Long laughing and joking around with registered sex offender Salwa. There's lots of info on the shoot in Florida bandied about (hot, humid, and nothing to do off the set), with some interesting stories about Eileen Brennan (a hellcat) and the infamous stunt gone wrong, when as the Creeper, a stuntman was nailed by the Chevy Imperial (the remarkable shot is left in the movie—how high did that dude fly up in the air?—but the commentary track mysteriously drops out for a couple of minutes just prior to this discussion. Legal reasons, perhaps?). Good info also on how the studio interfered in the project, and their disinterest in the movie, dumping it on the Labor Day weekend...only to see it break box office records. Of note, too, for Salva's complete obliviousness to the irony of his story about the mother of a local Florida actor watching her son very closely around all those "evil Hollywood" people. Salva gets his own commentary track in the next bonus, with far more detail of the actual production being put out there.

On disc 2, more special features. First up is "Jeepers Creepers: Now and Then" (36:42), a new documentary where the director, editor Ed Marx, cinematographer Donald E. FauntLeRoy, and producer Barry Opper give some detailed insight into the production (of note for Salva admitting the movie falters after the first half). Next, "From Critters to Creepers" (19:38) features Barry Opper spending the first 17 interesting minutes discussing his career up to JEEPERS CREEPERS, including some hilarious observations of Klaus Kinski ("disdain for every other human being") and Roger Corman on the ANDROID shoot. "The Town Psychic" (16:34) features actress Patricia Belcher discussing her thoughts on her character, and her experiences down in Florida. "Behind the Peepers: The Making of Jeepers Creepers", the 2001 direct-to-video documentary on the making of the movie featuring vintage interviews with the cast and crew, is chopped up here into six segments. "Finding Trish and Darry" (11:11) features clips of Long's and Philips' audition tapes. "Designing the Creeper" (6:52) has illustrator and designer Brad Parker discussing his role in the Creeper's look (the Creeper looks like a cross between the Creature from the Black Lagoon and Dustin Hoffman's old age makeup in LITTLE BIG MAN). "Cars and Trucks" (11:41) has Parker again discussing the look of the Creeper truck, as well as some discussion about the difficult car gags. "The Creeper Comes to Florida" (7:31) has Jonathan Breck talking about his role as the Creeper. "Night Shoots" (10:08) looks at the movie's shooting schedule, before branching off and discussing the CGI effects for the Creeper's wings. And "Making the Score" (12:57) features Bennett Salvay discussing the movie's single best element—that remarkable score—along with showing footage of Salvay conducting. Next up, some "Deleted Scenes" (17:13) should be of interest to hard-core JEEPERS CREEPERS fans. Some cool highlights include extended opening and closing scenes, a shot of Long spying, "Where There's a Hell, There's a Way" written in bones on the cavern wall, an extended tonguing from the Creeper, and more banter between Trish and Darry. A photo gallery (7:53), an original trailer (1:52), a radio spot (1:00), and new reversible cover art for the disc holder close out the extras. (Paul Mavis)