JEEPERS CREEPERS ($27) comes as something completely unexpected, a horror movie that breaks the current cycle and tries to be something different. Before I popped the DVD in my player, I though that JEEPERS CREEPERS was either going to be another slasher movie or a rehash of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. In fact, writer/director Victor Salva begins JEEPERS CREEPERS by taking the viewer down a road that feeds into those kinds of expectations, but then, the film veers off on an unexpected detour. For that reason, JEEPERS CREEPERS proves to be a very unique offering for this time in the horror genre, one that many buffs will find refreshingly different from the rest of the crop. While it is different, JEEPERS CREEPERS remains a dark and disturbing horror movie that builds an uneasy sense of tension and pays off in some grisly shocks.
The plot of JEEPERS CREEPERS concerns Darry (Justin Long) and Trish (Gina Philips), a brother and sister, who are driving home from college for spring break. Taking the scenic route home, they are in the middle of nowhere when they are practically run off the road by a rusting old hulk of a truck. A short time later, and further down the desolate road, they encounter the truck again. Only this time, Darry and Trish witness the driver unloading something wrapped in a sheet and then dropping it down a drainage pipe. After another high-speed encounter with the deranged driver, Darry and Trish circle back to see if that something "wrapped in a sheet" was a person and if they are still alive. Venturing down the drainage pipe, Darry discovers a horror beyond imagining, and soon he and Trish are running for their lives. JEEPERS CREEPERS is the kind of film that plays best, if the viewer knows next to nothing about the plot, therefore this review will give nothing else away. However, for a horror movie of this ilk, JEEPERS CREEPERS is surprisingly well acted, with its young stars creating a realistic brother and sister dynamic to which viewers can relate (no pun intended) and sympathize. Veteran actress Eileen Brennan lends support in a small, but memorable role, as do Jonathan Breck, Patricia Belcher, Brandon Smith, Jon Beshara and Avis-Marie Barnes.
MGM Home Entertainment has made JEEPERS CREEPERS available on DVD in a 1.85:1 wide screen presentation that is also enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Please note that a cropped presentation is available on a separate layer of the DVD, although this review will not be concerned with it. The wide screen transfer is a very good rendering of a modestly budgeted horror film. For the most part, the image is crisp and nicely detailed, although much of the film is intentionally dark, which creates a murky "what’s hiding in the shadows" atmosphere. Colors are pretty vibrant and flesh tones are appealing. All of the hues are completely stable, with no signs of noise or smearing. Blacks are accurate and contrast is pretty smooth. The film element used for the transfer pretty clean, but I did notice a lengthy scratch during the opening moments of the film. Film grain is appreciable at various points throughout the movie, but then again, this is a result of the movie’s numerous low light situations. Digital compression artifacts maintain a low profile and are hardly bothersome.
For a relatively low budget film, JEEPERS CREEPERS boasts a solid, well-mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. The track is fairly aggressive in deploying sound effects during key moments, with sounds jumping out from all of the discrete channels. At other times the track is subdued, but then again, much of JEEPERS CREEPERS places its protagonists in a car, while driving on desolate stretches of road. Dialogue reproduction is clean, natural and always intelligible. Music is full bodied and well integrated into the mix. Bennett Salvay’s eerie orchestral score sounds especially good on the track and makes me wish for an isolated version of the music on this DVD. The bass channel is solid enough for the material, which doesn’t offer many opportunities for sonic pyrotechnics. French and Spanish Dolby Surround tracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are French and Spanish subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD’s interactive menus. For those that have never seen the film, I recommend starting the movie as soon as the menus come up, since they contain spoilers if they are allowed to play out. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a number of supplements. Side one of the DVD offers an audio commentary with director Victor Salva. Salva is an enthusiastic speaker and his talk offers much production detail, making this a worthwhile listening experience for the film’s fans.
Moving over to side two, one finds Behind the Peepers, which can either be viewed as a whole as an hour long making of documentary or six as six shorter featurettes. Behind the Peepers is far more interesting than the typical fluff pieces that accompany most DVDs because it offers a genuine look at the production of the film, as well as insightful interviews. Ten deleted and extended scenes are offered on the DVD, and while most are interesting, it is obvious they were trimmed to tighten the film’s pacing. Amongst the ten are alternate versions of the film’s opening and ending sequences- the different ending proves to be the most intriguing snippet offered amongst these materials. A nine minute animated still gallery is provided on the DVD and it is underscored by Bennett Salvay’s music. A theatrical trailer, bonus DVD trailers and filmographies close out the DVD’s supplemental section.
JEEPERS CREEPERS is an enjoyable horror offering that dares to differentiate itself from the rest of the films in the current horror cycle. While it may not be to everyone’s taste, genre fans should definitely check out MGM’s nicely produced DVD edition of JEEPERS CREEPERS.
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