Face-Off: Jeepers Creepers vs. Jeepers Creepers 2

Somehow, this year already marks the fifteenth anniversary of JEEPERS CREEPERS, and to commemorate this event Scream Factory has released special edition Blu-rays of both the first film (purchase it on Amazon at this link) and its 2003 sequel, fittingly titled JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 (buy the Blu at this link). Myself, I'm going to mark the occasion by having the two movies slug it out for this week's Face-Off.
During the long drive home from the college they attend, a pair of siblings see the driver of a truck that had previously tried to run them off the road disposing of what appears to be body. Attempting to be Good Samaritans, they instead find themselves the new targets of a seemingly unstoppable evil force.
A bus carrying a high school basketball team home from a state championship victory suffers a tire blowout orchestrated by the Creeper. As the bus's occupants are knocked off one-by-one, a farmer who lost a son to the creature is plotting his own brand of down-home country vengeance.
There are two characters at the center of this film, siblings Trish and Darry. They'll encounter others over the course of the story - police officers, a cat lady, a psychic who has had visions of the terrible things that are going to happen - but the movie is really carried by Justin Long and Gina Philips as the brother and sister. Their interactions start out playfully antagonistic, but Trish emerges as a tough heroine who is a protective sister while a then-mostly-unknown Long displays the charm and humor you can usually rely on him for to make Darry, soon scared out of his mind, a likeable guy.
There are a whole lot more characters in JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 than there was in part 1. You have the basketball players on the Bannon Bantam team, a writer for the school paper, the team manager, coaches, the driver, a few cheerleaders (one of whom is having visions), and yet not one person among this group of kids is as remotely interesting or memorable as either Trish or Darry were. This film's standout character is farmer Jack Taggart, the man out to avenge his son, and the main thing that makes Taggart stick in your mind is the fact that he's played by the great Ray Wise.
At first, The Creeper seems to be a serial killer who drives a rusty old truck and has hundreds of corpses, victims going back decades, preserved in a subterranean lair called the House of Pain. It has a very unsettling presence as it stalks our protagonists and kills supporting characters. Eventually we realize that the Creeper is actually a supernatural creature, an immortal that consumes body parts to replace those parts on its own body. This is when the movie loses some viewers, but for me the moment when the Creeper is revealed to be a winged monster is when it truly becomes interesting - that sets it apart, makes it unique, and gives it a shot at becoming an iconic horror villain. The way it's portrayed in this film, it deserves to be.
There's no hiding what the Creeper is this time, the creature is snatching victims and flying off through the air as soon as the opening scene. Now that its secrets are out in the open, its abilities can be displayed in further detail; in so much detail that there's even a scene that shows the creature replacing its head with the head of one of its victims. Jonathan Breck reprises the role of the Creeper and continues to deliver a performance that makes the monster seem worthy of being ranked alongside genre greats. It toys with the characters in the bus, taunting them, staring and sniffing as it picks the parts it needs from specific people. In comparison to the previous movie, the Creeper is only lacking one thing here: its awesome truck.
The kills tend to be presented in a rather subtle, bloodless way. They're often done off screen, bodies are simply tossed aside, we don't see damage being inflicted. Still, there are some great deaths. My favorite is when the Creeper stands on top of a car driving down the road, pulls the driver's head up through a hole in the roof, and decapitates them with a battle axe. Another great one is when the Creeper tears someone's heart out, leaving a gaping hole in their body that flashlight beams shine through before the person collapses.
As mentioned, the sequel begins with the Creeper grabbing a victim and flying off into the sky with them, and this is something that gets repeated a couple more times in the film - too many times for my liking. We do get to see it put some throwing weapons to use, tossing daggers and handmade shurikens, but again the film tends to shy away from flesh impacts and blood sprays. The greatest act of violence is perpetrated on the Creeper itself when a javelin is shoved through its head, making that head swap necessary. The first movie has the better kills.
The majority of the movie takes place on the road with just Trish and Darry, but the scope widens for the climactic sequence, which finds the Creeper raiding a police department full of officers in its quest to capture one of the siblings. It's not the bloodbath you might be hoping for, but the body count does increase as the Creeper takes out cops with no problem at all. The more it seems that it's impossible to stop this thing, the more we have to prepare to see a downer ending.
This franchise is really written into a corner by the fact that the Creeper only comes out for 23 days every 23 years. A monster at the head of a series needs to show up more frequently than that. 2 is set on a 23rd day, so the Creeper would be done no matter what, but Taggart complicates its last night by showing up with a homemade harpoon launcher. I'm left feeling like he doesn't accomplish much. The Creeper will be back anyway. If they ever make a part 3.
JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 is a fine sequel, but I don't find it to be one of those sequels that manages to surpass its predecessor. The first movie works better for me in nearly every way. I do think that both of these movies are well worth seeing, and I wish there were more of them. When the Creeper first arrived on the scene I thought he was going to be a new star of the genre that would be mentioned among the likes of Jason, Freddy, etc. It has taken so long for a third film to get off the ground that it seems the Creeper's ranking has slipped a bit, he may have missed his shot, which is a shame.

Did this Face-Off turn out the way you were hoping, or do you prefer the sequel? Should the Creeper have become a new icon? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below. If there are certain movies you'd like to see face off with each other, I'd be happy to receive suggestions. You can send them to me at [email protected].



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