*Before I start, I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up writer/director Victor Salva’s past sexual misconduct conviction. I wrote this review originally in 2016 unaware, and between revising it in 2019 I became aware. *
Darry (Justin Long) and his sister Trish (Gina Philips) are driving home from college when they’re menaced by a guy driving a big truck. They later see the same guy dump what looks to be a body in a drainpipe. Darry has the brilliant idea of looking to see what’s down there. He finds a “House of Pain”: a bunch of sewn-together corpses and torture equipment. In their endeavor to inform the local police they meet psychic Jezelle (Patricia Belcher), who lets them in on a little secret: the guy is actually The Creeper, a creature that’s on a 23-day people-eating spree—and they have something he likes.
The film is somehow creepy and ridiculous at the same time. Disturbing when Jezelle tells of her vision of one of them screaming in the dark while the song “Jeepers Creepers” plays. But kind of asinine when The Creeper goes to amazing lengths to scare up some food, including driving a truck (with personalized plates, no less—he must have gotten some stares at the DMV while he was filling out the paperwork). The Creeper isn’t even scary-looking; he’s over-CGI’d and sprouts fins when he’s excited, which just makes him look silly.
On the plus side, Justin Long and Gina Philips make an adorable team, and the characters feel genuine to me (she calls him “brat,” like my older brother does to my sisters and me). It’s not super original, but it’s still interesting and doesn’t have the familiar feel of a clichéd horror movie. However, it does reference those conventions, for example when Trish runs The Creeper over. “You think he’s dead?” Darry asks. “They never are,” she replies, preparing to crush him some more.
In an interesting change of gender roles, Trish as the older sister is the more dominant person. She’s often driving the car, which she insisted on driving home in. She generally makes better and more logical decisions than Darry. She’s the one holding it all together while he freaks out. As she tells The Creeper when he tries to take Darry, “I’m stronger—you want me!”
It’s well-written (in that there’s no dialogue that makes me want to rip my hair out) and the likable characters make it fun—check it out if you like a good truck-drivin’ monster movie.