- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 28, 2003

“Jeepers Creepers 2” pokes so much fun at itself, takes itself so completely unseriously, that it almost works as a piece of light humor.

It is horror with tongue planted firmly in cheek — gore meant for a laugh, a litany of gentle frights that give little jolts rather than big, genuine terrors.

Nope, unlike the first “Jeepers,” the second isn’t scary for a minute, and it won’t give you nightmares. In fact, it’s so insubstantial, it won’t give you much of anything — except maybe an occasional moment of utter puzzlement.

Do I dredge up old demons by pointing out that writer-director Victor Salva, the convicted child molester who helmed Disney’s “Powder,” seems to have an oddly homoerotic interest in his cast of adolescent boys?

Young, mesomorphic dudes are shirtless in this movie for reasons unrelated to the plot. They take urination breaks together and obsess over rumors of untoward sexual orientation: One character’s name is Izzy — or isn’t he? Get it?

Letting sleeping dogs lie, let’s get back to the task at hand.

For those who partook of Mr. Salva’s first “Jeepers” two years ago, this sequel, executive-produced by no less a personage than Francis Ford Coppola, catches up with the Creeper (Jonathan Breck) at the tail end of his 23-day feeding frenzy.

For the uninitiated, here’s this franchise’s crackpot myth: Every 23 years, for 23 days, an ancient demon with a hound dog’s sense of smell chows down on human beings to regenerate himself.

He’s a black mass of crackling moisture — the sound effects that accompany his movement are delightfully icky — with a little shock of gray hair and fleshy wings.

For something that’s been alive for millenniums, the Creeper also has a sense of humor: He smiles, he winks, he gives little hand signals that say, “You’re next, partner.”

Mr. Salva permits us to look into this thing’s maw for long swatches of time — you’ll either break out laughing or delve back into your popcorn out of boredom.

I have no idea, by the way, if there’s something in the Bible or a William Blake poem that inspired this marginally creepy creation, so don’t ask.

Say this for the Creeper: At least he’s smart enough to go about his business in the middle of nowhere — in the remote cornfields of the Midwest, it looks like.

After posing as a scarecrow, the Creeper nabs his first victim, the young son of a flinty farmer (Ray Wise), who will prove to be an indomitable foe of the evil creature.

Then he happens on the mother lode: a bus full of high school basketball players, a few token cheerleaders (one of whom, played by Nickie Lynn Aycox, nonsensically receives a dream revelation of the Creeper’s designs) and — a horror-movie must — adult chaperones who die early.

A partial roll call: Minxie, Bucky, Jonny, Scottie and Double D. Get the picture?

Assailed by the flying and swooping Creeper and trapped on the big yellow bus, the interracial high schoolers accuse each other of bigotry, homosexuality and poltroonery.

It’s soapy teenage stuff, all right, but Mr. Salva doesn’t take it seriously, so neither should the audience, if for no other reason than that the young cast is horrendously inept at the acting craft.

When he’s not hung up on shots of adolescent skin that will remind you of semipornographic Abercrombie & Fitch catalog ads, Mr. Salva likes to linger on terror-fraught faces.

These are the stupidest scared faces you’ll ever behold, and I can’t decide whether to be charmed or insulted by how Mr. Salva revels in the effortless slapstickery of this movie.

When all the mayhem and bloodshed are done with, “Jeepers Creepers 2” ends up in a barn 23 years from now. Lo and behold, there’s another hunk, inexplicably without a shirt.

If there’s going to be another one of these movies, and it looks as if there will be, would somebody please spring for some clothing?

*1/2

TITLE: “Jeepers Creepers 2”

RATING: R (Violence and profanity)

CREDITS: Written and directed by Victor Salva. Produced by Tom Luse.

RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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