JUNE 14, 2016
Usually, when I review a Victor Salva movie, I make a note that I know what he did and that I'm just here to review the movie he made, but he makes that separation pretty difficult with Jeepers Creepers 2, which might take Freddy's Revenge's record for most homoerotic horror sequel in history. Granted, the characters in the film are older than the boy he assaulted (and, as I feel in fairness I must remind people, plead guilty when charged and served time), but they're still kids, and he finds more than one way to get them shirtless (lingering on their bare chests whenever possible). Plus there's a sequence where the Creeper discovers he can easily get to all that young flesh via the backdoor exit of their presumed safety, which is all kinds of icky.
Of course, it's easier to make these connections and shake your head when the movie isn't up to snuff, and that's the issue here. I've seen worse (including from Salva himself), but it's nowhere near as effective as the original film (which itself had some problems), and Salva makes the fatal mistake of over-populating his film, with so many jocks on the bus (plus some cheerleaders, a couple coaches, and the driver) that he doesn't even have time to identify them all. Sure, it gives the film a different flavor than the original, which focused on just two heroes for the most part, and it also helps make it harder to guess who our survivors will be, but it's equally hard to care much, either. By the end, I feel I still barely know anything about the people who survived, let alone the ones that died along the way - an issue that could have been prevented with a few lines of dialogue explaining why there were only, say, ten people tops on the bus (just say they had two buses because of all of the equipment or something - done). It'd still be "bigger" than the original, but not so overstuffed that it starts to resemble a lesser slasher flick more than a cool monster movie.
Because independent of the bus folk, and off-screen for far too long, is a much more interesting character played by Ray Wise, and I don't need to tell you or anyone else that keeping Ray Wise in your movie as MUCH as possible is the correct way to go. Alas, after the opening sequence (which is also one of the best parts of the movie - love the Creeper posing as a scarecrow), Wise pretty much checks out for about an hour or so, only rejoining the action for the 3rd act when the kids, calling for help from the bus, reach him via CB radio. Once he shows up with his homemade harpoon gun things pick up a bit, but by then it's too late for this to be anything but a relatively lackluster followup. Too many interchangeable kids with too much generic drama (including some half-assed attempts at racial tension and even a go-nowhere subplot about one of the players being in the closet) is bad enough, but when we're focused on them instead of Ray Wise (who has a personal vendetta against the Creeper) it's just twisting the knife. To be fair, the kids are involved in some of the best moments - I love the injured Creeper kind of leap frogging his way to a victim (also injured), and the bit where he tries to remove a javelin from his head by sliding it back and forth, finally giving up and just pulling it sideways out of his own head - but OVERALL the movie is more effective when Wise is doing his Ahab/Loomis thing, and much less so when it's just a bunch of kids yelling at each other.
But again, fewer kids might have solved the problem. The concept itself is actually a pretty good one, as it's essentially a "hole up and keep the bad guy out" story in your Precinct 13 or NOTLD vein, albeit on a broken down bus in the middle of nowhere. Salva milks his location dry - you'll know every inch of this bus before the end of the film - but I just never found myself particularly engaged by their dilemma, so whether the Creeper got them one by one or in one fell swoop made little difference to me. Apparently there was a scene of them playing their game before getting on the bus, and I can't help but wonder if that's a big part of the reason I felt so disconnected - it likely would have given them some much needed context that would have improved things greatly. Instead, I actually couldn't tell if they were on their way to a game or coming home from one for a bit after what is now their introductory scene, which means we're starting off on the wrong foot.
Salva also hamstrings himself with a truly terrible "psychic dream" subplot, where one of the cheerleaders inexplicably dreams of Justin Long's character from the first film, who also helpfully explains the "Every 23 years for 23 days..." concept to her so that she can pass this information on to the others. I'm not sure why it's necessary for them to know all of that; a number of the Friday the 13th movies let most of their characters be ignorant of Jason (in Part 3 they never say his name at all), and this "rule" is so goofy that it's probably best not to bring it up any more than absolutely necessary. Wise could have told them about it when he showed up (as a grieving father hunting it down, it'd make sense for him to have picked up this information somewhere) if it was vital for the kids to know what they were dealing with, sparing us the out of nowhere supernatural element. Jesus, why didn't Salva have me rewrite this damn thing before he shot it?
He also could have used my assistance before sitting down for his new interview for the obligatory retrospective piece on the film, because he starts off by blaming 9/11 for the first film's quick death at the box office after a solid (then record-breaking for Labor Day) opening weekend. There's just one problem with that - 9/11 occurred the Tuesday after the film's SECOND weekend, so unless you want to get heavily into conspiracy theories we can be pretty sure that the 2nd weekend drop had nothing to do with what was going to happen a couple days later (and, to further debunk his "theory" - it dropped LESS on the weekend after 9/11 than it did the weekend before it). I mean, Christ, guy - you're already on thin ice with pretty much everyone who watches anything you do, and now you're gonna toss 9/11 into the mix for no reason?
That unfortunate part aside, it's a pretty good recollection, though I'm not sure if it really required it since the existing special edition was already packed and everything has been carried over. The featurettes, the two commentaries, etc - all here, most of them on a second disc (rare for Scream Factory) to save room for the transfer on the main disc. I never saw it on DVD so I can't speak to its improved picture, though I CAN say it looked fine to my eyes and should make fans happy, though as always some shoddy CGI work (the Creeper flying, mainly) is prone to look worse than you remember now that it's been cleaned up for high def. The other new features are an interview with Wise (at 20 minutes, it's possibly longer than his actual amount of screentime) and the three adults on the bus, including the lady bus driver whose role was originally meant for Meat Loaf (dammit!). As for the commentaries, feel free to skip the one with Jonathan Breck and the people who worked on his makeup/design unless he's actually on-screen, and also keep in mind there's a featurette focusing on the character where they highlight all the important info anyway (though Breck tells a pretty horrifying/funny story about mosquitoes biting the inside of his eyelids on the first movie). Salva's is of course more interesting, and he's joined by a large chunk of the cast, but he drops some of that same unearned pretension from time to time that can't possibly help your probably already low opinion of the guy.
There is also a collection of deleted scenes, and if you think the movie laid on the homoeroticism a bit too thick, you might be stunned to learn how much thicker it was - nearly every deleted bit has eyebrow-raising material, including lengthier peeing scenes (one of which includes a guy rubbing one out in front of his friends?), more shirtless closeups, and the oddly written line "You use that mouth on your brother?" (spoken to a young boy, for the record). Again, I try to just ignore Salva's past when I watch his films, but he sure as hell doesn't make it easy, so I guess I can take solace knowing that it could have been even worse if someone didn't think better (the footage is presented sans commentary or introduction, so we have no idea why any of it was cut). But I know some folks feel differently, and they have every right to - and have probably already made up their mind about whether or not they will be supporting this release. However, I ALSO know those folks probably aren't reading this review, and only the film's fans are - to them I say it's probably worth the upgrade for the Wise interview alone, and also to have the film on a stand-alone Blu (it was previously only available on a double feature with the first film, which Scream has also re-released with new features, including a new commentary with the two leads). Just don't wade into any Facebook threads about it.
What say you?