Jeepers Creepers (2001) Revisited – Horror Movie Review

This episode of Revisited was Written by Jaime Vasquez, Narrated by Jason Hewlett, Edited by Brandon Nally, Produced by Tyler Nichols and John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.

Before we get into it, let’s address the elephant in the room. This video is not condoning or supporting the behavior of the writer/director of Jeepers Creepers. And so the focus will not be on them and they will not be named. It is solely to focus on a film, not the actions of the filmmaker. It’s a hard line to walk with art and the artist when it comes to this film and wherever you land on how you view this is fair. But as a monster movie, we will review as just that… a movie.

In late summer of 2001, a modest budget horror film crept its way into 3,000 theaters across the country. That weekend, it earned a respectable 13.1 million dollars and topped that the following weekend with 15.8 million, ultimately grossing a worldwide total of 59.2 million against its 10 million dollar budget. Jeepers Creepers was a surprise hit; one that launched a viable franchise and created a horror movie icon in its terrifying villain known as The Creeper. Every twenty-third Spring, for twenty-three days, it gets to eat.

The story is simple. Brother and sister Darry and Trish Jenner take a road trip out on the countryside and come face to face with their worst nightmare.

The first part of the story was said to be inspired by true events. Ray and Marie Thornton drove along Snow Perry Road in Cold Water, Michigan. They played a game of making up words and phrases based on license plate numbers they’d see on the road. After being cut off by a green truck with the letters “GZ” in its license plate number, Marie exclaimed “Geez, he must be in a hurry!” winning that round of the competition. But her victory was short-lived. Passing a schoolhouse, the couple saw the same green truck that cut them off. They noticed a man disposing of a white sheet that appeared to be covered in blood. The man with the sheet spotted the onlooking duo, and drove after them for several miles, attempting to run them off the road. He failed and eventually gave up.

Ray and Marie later drove back to the schoolhouse, to ensure they’d have the truck’s full license plate number when contacting the police. They discovered the sheet they’d seen earlier had been shoved into a hole in the ground. This led police to the body of Marilynn DePue, who had been murdered by her husband Dennis DePue. Soon the story became national news, and was featured on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries.

The first act of Jeepers Creepers plays out almost identically to Ray and Marie Thornton’s story, with only a few different details. As mentioned, Darry and Trish are brother and sister, not a couple. Also, instead of returning to a schoolhouse to get a license plate number, our two leads return to an abandoned church, believing what they saw wrapped in a sheet may just be someone in need of help.

Darry ends up falling down the pipe where the unseen person or thing had been dumped. He discovers his instincts were right; wrapped in the sheet is a mutilated body. In fact, he realizes he’s now in the center of a horrifying kind of holding cell, surrounded by bodies and body parts, which we later learn is referred to as The Creeper’s “House of Pain.”

Trish believes The Creeper’s truck is headed back in her direction. But it ends up being a false alarm. Darry then pops up out of nowhere. Both terrified, the siblings are quickly back on the road. In a state of shock, Darry can barely get a word out. The two reach a diner, rushing inside to call the police. Darry recovers enough to reveal what he saw to the responding state troopers. The officers are so put off by what he’s saying, that they react by failing to react. In fact, failing to react seems to be a lot of the character’s go-to move here. But to be fair, they don’t know they’re in a horror movie.

The one character who does seem to have this self-awareness is Trish, spouting out lines that seem to come straight from the mind of Kevin Williamson. When the two are followed back to the church by the state troopers, the troopers get word that the church is on fire.

The Creeper is hot on their trail, literally standing on top of the troopers’ car. He dispatches both of them, but not without taking a souvenir. Soon we learn the truth from Jezelle, who is known as the resident psychic. And to some, the resident psycho. Jezelle reveals that The Creeper strips his victims for parts, taking their lungs, their heart, etc. And uses them as his own, which explains his immortality after sustaining various injuries.

The Creeper seeks out body parts by smell, able to sense the fear of his victims through their specific scent. Jezelle warns the Jenner siblings that she’s had hazy yet prophetic dreams that the demon is after one of them and he’ll continue his pursuit until he gets what he’s after.

As predicted, the antagonist follows Darry and Trish to the police station. The electricity is shut off. Even with the backup lights on, the station is dark enough to warrant an inmate headcount. Counting the jailed men, an officer comes across the creature hunched over inside a jail cell. The Creeper appears to be eating the flesh of the inmates.

Cut to Sergeant Davis Tubbs, who receives alarming updates on his radio about an unknown prowler who’s biting police officers and climbing up walls. Seeking refuge for Darry and Trish, Jezelle gets credit for at least trying to prevent her horrific visions from coming true. The Creeper even comes face to face — well, neck to face with her, sniffing her and determining whether or not he wants to feed on her, ultimately letting her go.

After getting past several officers, The Creeper takes hold of his target: Darry. Trish volunteers to switch places with her brother, demanding the monster take her instead. But this only puts him off. He doesn’t want someone who’s willing to go with him. He prefers someone who’s more afraid. Like Pennywise or Freddy Krueger, the Creeper feeds off of fear.

The flying monster escapes into the night with Darry in his grasp. Jezelle later tries to comfort Trish by calling herself a crazy old lady who shouldn’t be taken seriously. But after all her arguing, Trish finally accepts that Jezelle was telling the truth.

The truth plays out like one big nightmare. In what appears to be an abandoned factory, a phonograph plays the haunting tune of “Jeepers Creepers.” Darry’s body is revealed with his eyes missing and both the front and back of his head hollowed out. In one spooky send-off, we see Darry’s eye, now part of the Creeper, looking straight into the camera through Darry’s hollowed out head.

Jeepers Creepers Revisited

Bringing to life the terrifying look of the Creeper is Makeup FX Artist Brian Penikas, who worked on several productions prior, including Face/Off and Batman & Robin. He would later work on Jeepers Creepers 2, and a couple larger scale productions such as Guardians of the Galaxy and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1. His work on Jeepers Creepers was recognized by Fangoria’s Chainsaw Awards, earning him a nomination for Best Makeup/Creature FX, losing out to 13 Ghosts.

Underneath The Creeper makeup is actor Jonathan Breck. Breck got the part after impressing the director with his terrifying audition. To audition, actors came in and did the Creeper’s infamous sniff test. Breck nailed his audition by never breaking character. That same dedication shows on-screen, with Breck bringing an unsettling intensity to every scene. He continued to play the role in the 2003 sequel Jeepers Creepers 2, and in the 2017 sequel, Jeepers Creepers 3.

Also giving an intense performance is Patricia Belcher, who plays Jezelle. She had been in several movie and TV roles before she was cast as the well-meaning but ominous-sounding psychic. The role of Jezelle is campy, but Belcher plays her with such conviction. Once she gets going, you can’t believe what she predicts is anything but the truth.

Trish Jenner is played by Gina Phillips, who stated that she was drawn to the script because of the strong connection between Darry and Trish. According to Philips, she prepared for the role by writing diary entries from Trish’s point of view, thus learning how she would respond in any situation. This came in handy when the script’s original ending was discarded due to budgetary constraints, and Philips and Long were able to improvise their lines.

Justin Long’s audition won over other actors who came across as tough and bold, which wasn’t right for the character. Long was able to appear more vulnerable, and could convey the fear necessary for the role, thus landing him the part of Darry. The brother and sister dynamic works well, with Darry acting out the audience’s fear and Trish being the more practical, proactive one.

Reviews for the film were decent but not great, at a 46% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 49% audience score. The film has aged well and has had a strong fan base throughout the years, and had it been released today, it most likely would’ve scored much higher.

Jeepers Creepers Revisited

The franchise has spawned three sequels. Part 2 is popular with fans, and was on par with the original’s Box Office revenue, but scored a 24% approval rating from critics, according to Rotten Tomatoes. Jeepers Creepers 3 and Jeepers Creepers: Reborn both performed poorly with critics and audiences, both bringing in disastrous box office results.

Two versions of the DVD were released in 2002. One was the standard release, while the other included ten deleted scenes, director’s commentary, and a six-part behind the scenes featurette. Ten years later, the film and the expanded DVD features became available on Blu-ray.

In 2016, the movie got a Blu-ray re-release, offering fans brand-new interviews and scene by scene commentary by the director and actors Justin Long and Gina Phillips.

When the script was written, the genre was transitioning. After the overnight success of Scream in 1996, the market was flooded with self-aware teenage slasher flicks. While it was a fine subgenre, it was getting stale after numerous copycats. In 1999, the horror landscape shifted. The Sixth Sense and The Blair Witch Project, both supernatural horror films, were suddenly all the rage. In fact, the director admitted to being inspired by both films. The influence from both the mid and late ’90s is evident in the final product.

On the supernatural end, The Creeper is an ancient demon from unknown origins who resurrects to feed every 23 years. Darry and Trish’s dialogue reflects the teen protagonists of the time, without overdoing it. For the most part, they talk like real siblings. They argue over petty things. They bust each other’s balls. But you can see, especially when the horror elevates, that they really care about each other. And when the movie has a heart (especially one that might be eaten), it always makes the horror a little scarier. 9 out of 10.

Two previous episodes of Revisited can be seen below. To see more of our shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals channel – and subscribe while you’re at it!

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