Jeepers Creepers (2001)
After making a disturbing discovery during their long drive home, Darry and his sister Trish are pursued by a violent, demonic being, who seems particularly keen to capture one of them.
The most striking thing about Jeepers Creepers is the photography, especially the way light and shadow are used. In some scenes, the real horror is revealed slowly and skilfully using limited light, which really heightens the tension. There is also a clever use of backlighting, providing enough outline of a character to frighten the audience, while unsettling them by leaving the face completely to the imagination. CGI is kept to a minimum, which is to be commended, and apart from some obvious wire work, the film mostly relies on old fashioned practical effects.
The performances by the lead actors are decent, though the focus is very much on Darry throughout, and as a result Trish becomes far less interesting as a character. I like the leads being brother and sister, rather than a romantic coupling. It gave a potentially more interesting dynamic, though I could have done with less of the constant bickering in the early scenes.
The biggest problem is how the movie seems to switch into a completely different film half way through. The first act is tense, thrilling and atmospheric. The rusty old truck becomes a terrifying character in its own right when pursuing the siblings' car, in a dramatic sequence reminiscent of Duel (1971). And the scenes at the abandoned church - with the mysterious, dark figure dropping bodies down a chute, and Darry discovering the gruesome basement - are done with superb photography, lighting and production design. It's all about the mystery - the fear of the unknown - and it's truly disturbing.
But in the second act, the enemy is fully revealed, and suddenly it becomes a film about a flying monster who feeds for 23 days every 23 years. There's less of a sense of dread, but there is a seemingly pointless psychic thrown into the mix, who seems out of place and just weakens the story's credibility.
Up until the half way point, the movie had me. I was completely drawn in. If it had continued in that style, I would have been giving it 4.5 or even 5 out of 5. But while the second half is not exactly terrible, it's nothing special either. A middling 3 out of 5 at the very most. Yes, there is a 'surprise' ending, but it just seems to happen, and is let down by one of the least convincing special effects of the film. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike Jeepers Creepers. As a popcorn horror movie I still enjoyed watching it. But the odd shift down in gears drops my score down slightly.