Jeepers Creepers Ii

on August 29, 2003 by Michael Tunison
The bat-winged Creeper is back for more tasty human treats in "Jeepers Creepers II," writer-director Victor Salva's follow-up to his modest 2001 hit. Alas, the pickin's are somewhat leaner in this second installment of the horror series, a more generic fright-fest that ups the number of young people getting munched without recapturing the level of suspenseful tension that made the original stand out in the crowded field of similarly themed flicks.

For some reason only allowed to hunt during a 23-day period every 23 years, the western duds-sporting demon Creeper (Jonathan Breck) intends to feast as much as he can before his allotted time runs out. On the last night of the cycle, he focuses his energies on a bus full of juicy high school basketball players and cheerleaders he's managed to strand out on a lonely rural highway. Among the more notable humans trying to fight back is a farmer (Ray Wise from TV's "Twin Peaks") with an Ahab-like revenge obsession, and a pom-pom girl ("Crime & Punishment in Suburbia's" Nicki Aycox) with the psychic ability to pick up bits of backstory information from the previous film.

On the upside, the unusual amount of creative control Salva maintains over the frugally budgeted series (his mentor, Francis Ford Coppola, executive produces) again results in a more personal-feeling, idiosyncratic piece of horror filmmaking than is typically spit out of the Hollywood pipeline. Unfortunately, while the school bus setting where much of the action is contained makes for some punchy action moments, the bickering high school characters of conventional types (fascistic jock, bespectacled geek) aren't nearly as compelling as the more developed sister and brother heroes of the first film. A brief cameo by original "Jeepers" star Justin Long merely serves to remind us how much more dramatic meat that picture had on its bones. Starring Ray Wise, Jonathan Breck, Eric Nenninger, Garikayi Mutambirwa, Nicki Aycox, Travis Schiffner and Justin Long. Directed and written by Victor Salva. Produced by Tom Luse. A United Artists release. Horror. Rated R for horror violence and language. Running time: 103 min.

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