JEEPERS CREEPERS is not the greatest horror films in years. It's certainly the worst, either, and a good portion of the film does contain some great stuff, but it should be said right away that despite the huge buzz among the horror community (and almost universally good reviews from horror fans), overall the film is not anything particularly special or original.
However, now that we've got that precedent out of the way, we're free to talk about what IS good about the movie. First and foremost, JEEPERS CREEPERS is the first horror film in a while that has guts; I'm not talking about the gory intestinal kind (although there is plenty of gruesome material in the flick), but rather the nerve with which writer/director Victor Salva presents his latest offering. JEEPERS CREEPERS is a (very welcome) throwback to the brutal and gritty American horror films of the 70s (and early 80s, to some extent). The cast is populated by unknowns, the effects are almost exclusively make-up or prosthetic, and the tone is wicked and unrepentant. This movie doesn't dance around the term 'horror' movie by calling itself a 'thriller' or 'dark comedy.' JEEPERS comes right out and tells you that it's a horror movie, and then tries it's damnedest to scare you as much as possible.
Unfortunately, many of its attempts fail. The first half (though possessed of its own minor problems) is fairly solid, presents a decent set-up, and promises many great things to come. It's the second half, however, that completely abandons those promises and degenerates into mediocrity. If the first half plays like a grim 70s grindhouse horror flick, the second half is that films' 90s direct-to-video bastard cousin. Goofiness starts to creep in (no pun intended) around the start of the second act, and the film goes completely downhill from there. By the time the conclusion comes up, you've lost interest in the story because it's just become so silly.
What is refreshing about JEEPERS CREEPERS is that it does try to create a very original movie, even within the confines of story elements that have been used and abused over the years. We've all seen movies about people driving desolate roads and encountering strange and deadly things, both good and bad. In that sense, a lot of what JEEPERS CREEPERS has to offer is just a filtered version of what many of us have already seen, but what modern pop audiences might not be so familiar with. Given that notion, the film does a great job of throwing a curve ball at the general movie-going public of recent times, which has become accustomed to glossy, tame horror movies that any true fan would like to forget existed. The major problem with JEEPERS CREEPERS isn't so much a lack of good elements or creativity, but rather how poorly they are ultimately used. There's great potential here, but it's entirely misused. Subplots are hinted but never developed; new angles spring up, and are then ignore. None of this would have mattered if the film's route had been enjoyable regardless, but by taking the potential for greatness and giving it away in favor of cheesy cliches, JEEPERS CREEPERS in a way turns its back on viewers. There's so many places where the film could be really scary, really cool, but it seldom capitalizes on them.
Which is unfortunate, because fans deserve a truly great horror movie right now, and JEEPERS CREEPERS deserved to be that movie. Instead, it's yet another in a long line of valiant but ultimately failed attempts. It should have been great, but alas can only be called good.
While there is much to like about JEEPERS CREEPERS, there is also a great deal of unused potential. The greatness that the film generates and promises with its opening act, it then subsequently dumps in favor of a goofy and unsatisfying conclusion. The film can be enjoyable, but not in the way it should have been.