It all started so well... The first half-hour of Jeepers Creepers does everything a horror movie should. Two peppy, preppy leads opening doors they shouldn't, tangled cadavers, a cryptic cut-throat and a random volt of cheap jumps (believe us, they are cheap). Still, there's a genuine sense of jeopardy, a twitching tension, a droning dread of what's to come. For that, director Salva should be applauded - and therefore deserves a repeated beating with a rubber hammer for what follows.
Because what starts out enigmatic, intriguing and (all right then) genuinely scary, suddenly swerves into the kind of carnivalesque fun-frights more suited to a ghost-train ride - and the switch really is that sudden and that stupid. Sudden and stupid enough, in fact, to make From Dusk Till Dawn's ludicrous mid-act swing into vampire histrionics the pinnacle of narrative sanity.
From there on, the impression is one of a quality movie struggling to escape from a fudge of phoney effects and Terminator cop-shop bloodbaths. It'd be churlish to give the game away, but the dread word Wishmaster should point to Jeepers Creepers' frittered ambitions. Indeed, the killer's metamorphosis from Undead Johnny Cash Scarecrow to Growling Latex Flap-Thing exposes what director Salva really wants from his movie. He wants another Freddie. He wants a franchise. He wants Jeepers Creepers 2 - and come 2003, so too will every confused 13 year old with 10 seconds to make his choice in his local video shop.
As for the title, it alludes to a song scratched out on a gramophone that comes with neither the nursery-rhyme spook-baggage to unsettle the nerves nor the lunging lyrical insight that could shed any light on the proceedings. Much like the movie itself, it promises a lot, but flat-out refuses to make sense of itself.
Identikit horror kablooey. Fusing slabs of Texas Chainsaw, Duel and The Terminator, Jeepers Creepers has its moments - - the entire first half-hour - - only to then dissolve into a perverse splat of funhouse schlock. Best viewed drunk, then.