Dir. by Victor Salva, 2003
Perhaps the real-life story behind this film's director is creepier than the movie itself -- the fact that the movie is about a monster that preys on kids only makes it even creepier. The director/writer, Victor Salva, was convicted of child molestation in the '80s. If you remember, the discovery of this put Disney and Salva's supposed masterpiece, Powder
, into a tailspin from which it never recovered. I'm not one of those folks that says you should boycott an artist because they are criminals (or ex-convicts) but it might temper how I view their work. I mean, Michael Jackson would suck whether or not he was a creepy predator but he could just as well be the best song-writer in the world.
Salva did the time for his crime and has shown remorse even if he hasn't been banned from his profession (like one would in many other professions that require a degree of trust). In fact, he's still allowed to work with kids, though I imagine Coppola (the producer) and his lawyers kept a close watch on things. That said, it's a bit strange that they would put him and all the people who played the teenagers in a room to do the director's comment track on the DVD (to be fair, almost all of the actors save one are in their 20s). From all accounts, he's since led a quiet life and I hope has kept his own demons at bay. America is the land of second chances even for assholes - that said, a coterie of Internet-based people still hound Salva (and Disney) for Powder
and the fact that he still has a job in the industry.
And even if he still works, he had been relegated since Powder
to making mostly B-movie horror road flicks -- one of which, Jeepers Creepers
, was a minor hit. That movie, a sort of teenage horror version of Steven Spielberg's Duel
(the great Dennis Weaver TV-movie from the '70s) posited a movie monster known as the Creeper, who basically pops up out of the shadows to scare two squabbling siblings and drives around the boondocks collecting bodies, some of which are still alive, to adorn his lair. Whenever the song "Jeepers Creepers" played in that movie, you could be sure something bad was going to happen and the movie, if memory serves, actually tied the song to his origins somehow.
Jeepers Creepers II re-imagines that film with a bigger budget (the Creeper now can fly - although I remember they did show he had wings in the first movie), some CGI and more teenagers to menace. The monster has a revamped mythology as well - no more "Jeepers Creepers" playing whenever he shows up. The great character actor Ray Wise (Twin Peaks
) also stars as a grizzled farmer whose son is snatched by the Creeper in the opening scenes of the movie. Wise, who is most famous for playing the anguished father of Laara Palmer in Twin Peaks
(and her murderer), owns every scene he is in portraying a man who has channeled his desire for revenge into an Ahab-like contraption for capturing the creature. His role in this film references not just Moby Dick
but Robert Shaw in Spielberg's other big '70s movie: Jaws
That said, the main portion of this movie is spent with a busload of terrified teenagers, who are being menaced by this mysterious creature. The creature has a few new tricks up his sleeve to surprise people who saw the first film. Besides flying, he now has a cache of odd weaponry made from the body parts of his victims and we also see him gruesomely regenerating himself with those body parts. The creature also plays into some disturbingly humorous scenes, hanging upside down over the bus leering at the teenage boys and supposedly picking out his favored victims. One can help but think that Salva is doing some (hopefully remorseful) self-referencing here.
The teenagers have their own issues - Scotty, the brooding leader of the pack, seems to have the most issues. Raging at the blacks on the team for supposedly getting favored treatment by the coach, picking on the apparent gay member of the team and generally treating his cheerleader girlfriend like dirt. There's also several other stereotypes - the hotshot braggart, the nerdy towel boy, the Buffy-like cheerleader who fights the demon and the aforementioned "suspected" gay. As is usual in these films, the divisions among the teenagers threaten to tear them apart at the time when they need each other most.
The music in this movie is by Bennett Salvay, who heretofore wrote TV series themes to some of the most awful shows in recent memory ("Family Matters", "Full House", "Perfect Strangers"). His score here, though, like John Williams in Jaws
, is quite good and well orchestrated to the action on the film. While he never produces a memorable theme and only references "Jeepers Creepers" (the song) in the very final scene, Salvay's work here is comparable to Bernard Hermann. Fortunately, the DVD includes a film short that shows Salvay, the orchestrator and the orchestra in concert with scenes from the movie.
Clip 1: Scotty's Abduction
Scotty is first introduced as a brooding teenager sitting in the back of the bus. You might originally think he's going to be "good guy" as all too often the loner is the guy who becomes the hero. But instead, he's the most rotten kid on the bus, brooding because he feels he has been passed over during the game because of his race. He also is a virulent homophobe singling out Izzy, the gay character, for particular abuse. When push comes to shove, he's also a bit of a coward advancing the idea that the kids should push several of the others on the bus outside as sacrificial lambs for the beast. In short, like most horror films usually ask - is there more than one monster in this film? So when he himself is nailed to a tree by the Creeper, you have to cheer that the others come to help him. But it's all in vain, as you can see. Salvay's orchestration here accentuates the terror that Scotty and his friends are going through as they desperately try to free him. It's probably the most gripping "edge of your seat" moment in the film. Listen to weird instrument screeching in the moments right after Scotty's snatch. And how the music seemingly falls to the ground post-explosion as the camera cranes away from his classmates left alone on the night ground.
Clip 2: DVD Extra
This is a scene from the Extra on the DVD that shows the orchestration of the movie. Such "insider" extras are always enjoyable, at least to me although most seem to focus on the special effects rather than the music. This is from an early scene where the clairvoyant teenager (another teen movie stereotype) gets the scoop about the monster from some of his dead victims.
Fine print: Movies are in MPEG1 format and should be readable by Quicktime or RealPlayer. If you have problems let me know by leaving a comment. These links are valid for seven days from now (that is they will no longer work after 28 December). These clips and this posting is covered under Fair Use law.
for Jeepers Creepers II
Soundtrack Express review
of the film's score