Exactly two years after the grotesque teen horror film “Jeepers Creepers” flooded America’s multiplexes and grossed $38 million, original writer/director Victor Salva returns with a sequel, unsurprisingly entitled “Jeepers Creepers 2.” Few things are scarier thana sequel to a bad movie, but, in fact, “Jeepers Creepers 2” is substantially better than its predecessor, even while staying strictly within the genre’s well-defined boundaries. There’s nothing new here, but B.O. will be boosted if word of mouth brings in some of those who disliked the first film, in addition to the presold audience of those who loved it.
Opening shots of a farm are superimposed adorned with the information, “Every 23rd spring … for 23 days … it gets to eat” — a crucial line from the first film. And then a nice addendum: “Day 22.”
Towheaded teen Billy Taggart (Shaun Fleming) is working in the fields, when the Creeper (Jonathan Breck) — the winged, demon-faced monster from the first film — swoops down and carries him off.
Understandably, Billy’s dad, Jack Taggart (Ray Wise), is upset to see his son abducted by a flying monster. Slumping into a catatonic stupor, he apparently never gets around to calling the cops. Soon, however, his other son, Jack Jr. (Luke Edwards) rouses him to action. Since it appears that the senior Taggart is fortuitously a welder and a smithy in addition to being a farmer, he heads out to the barn to build anti-Creeper weapons.
Meanwhile, a school bus carrying a basketball team, coaches, and three cheerleaders (for gender diversity) develops two flat tires — courtesy of high-speed, four-pointed darts, fashioned out of bone by you-know-who — and can’t seem to raise any help on the radio or with cell phones. A bunch of guys take off their shirts and lie on top of the bus, a veritable buffet that the Creeper inexplicably chooses to ignore…for now.
Pretty soon, night falls, and the bus driver and the coaches are (literally) dead meat. The kids have to figure out whether to stay in the bus or run for it, as the Creeper starts picking them off one at a time.
While the first film started with a long tease — basically a retread of Steven Spielberg’s “Duel” — before showing the Creeper and segueing into a villagers-versus-monster pic, there’s no point in delaying the entrance of the villain this time around: Viewers already know what he looks like.
So Salva centers the film around a single classic narrative thread — a group of people isolated and under attack by an apparently unbeatable foe — much in the manner of “Night of the Living Dead” and “The Birds” (the latter is explicitly referred to). The only real questions are: When will the minor plot thread about Taggart merge with the central action on the bus? Which of the largely interchangeable teenagers will survive?
Salva relies heavily on standard devices — shock cuts, false buildups of suspense, and, most effectively, showing the Creeper in the background about to attack, while the characters in the foreground have no clue. There is a certain amount of gross-out gore — the film’s R rating is well deserved — but less than in number one.
There are also a few glaring plot implausibilities, but more irritating is the business about the Creeper coming back every 23 years: If that’s the case, why do this film and its 23-years-on epilogue seem to be taking place in exactly the same time as the first film, with people driving late-’90s cars 46 years from now? Tech work is excellent all-around, with special kudos to cinematographer Don E. FauntLeRoy’s crisp night scenes. Bennett Salvay’s score may be hugely derivative — bits of Stravinsky, Bartok, and Marius Constant’s “Twilight Zone” theme drift through — but it’s very effective.