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4.0 out of 5 stars
We've moved a notch down the food chain, 4 Dec 2004
It's four days on from the events of Jeepers Creepers, a sleeper hit in 2,001, which saw Justin Long and Gina Philips's bickering brother and sister terrorised by an indestructible winged demon; Victor Salva's anthropophagic monster is coming to the end of its 23-day killing spree (why 23? Well, I suppose because it's a prime number, therefore off-kilter, like everything else about the creature).
The demon, being an aerial predator, appears to have an affinity with birds: the raggedy-winged corvids clustering about it in the unsettling opening sequence being the first indication that the hatchet-faced scarecrow is not what it seems: "A lot of good they're doing", grumbles young Billy of the scarecrows, after being bawled out by his Dad (Ray Wise) for not attaching them properly to their posts.
The Creeper whisks Billy away, setting in motion a chain of events which leads to the film's gripping climax: Ray Wise's obsessive quest to avenge his son bearing an obvious resemblance to Ahab's vindictive desire to destroy the White Whale; he even uses a harpoon. This demon's no mere insensate force of nature, however; being a tool-user, it's obviously endowed with intelligence and even a macabre aesthetic sensibility - evidenced by the crude artwork, of humans fleeing unavailingly, mouths open in mute terror - carved into the handles of its knives.
The chief weakness of JC1 was the fact that it was a movie of two distinct halves: the first - by far the scarier - in which Darry and Trish were driven off road by a terrifying black truck; Darry later discovering the as-yet-unseen Creeper's hellish subterranean 'House of Pain', in which cadavers cover the walls and roof, stitched together in a warped take on the Sistine Chapel; the second when you learn, inevitably disappointingly, that the killer is just a guy (stuntman Jonathan Breck) in a latex mask (nevertheless, Breck's lean, sinewy physique and abrupt movements create a genuinely creepy sense of watching something inhuman). Viewers will be disappointed, as I was, that this sequel sheds no light on the creature's provenance; intriguingly, a third nostril that opens and closes in the bridge of its nose as it inhales its victims' aroma and a wonderful crest of spines at the back of its head that it erects whenever it's really hungry or angry suggest an extraterrestrial origin.
With the element of surprise gone, Salva sensibly opts to give the monster greater prominence; it's literally in-your-face, leering at the coachload of kids whom it targets next (having disabled their bus with a shuriken star gruesomely fashioned from human bone and skin).
The kids' acting is competent enough, though a let-down when contrasted with Justin Long's and Gina Philips' in JC1: it was because we'd grown to know and care for that couple that the original's ending, uncharacteristically downbeat for a horror flick, was genuinely shocking. (Darry re-appears, hauntingly, in spirit form, warning the blonde cheerleader with psychic powers of the imminent danger posed by the Creeper). Will there be a JC3? Of course: how could there not, when you're dealing with a creature with powers of near-instantaneous self-regeneration?