Sunday, July 19, 2009

Why I Hate Jeepers Creepers, or: Why is your NUT SACK IN MY FACE?!

Just my disgust, movie. And anger. And RAGE! But mostly disgust. And possibly your mom.

I should be packing. I'm leaving tomorrow to fly to see Cins, and I haven't even dragged my suitcase out of the garage. I've got clothes and DVDs thrown everywhere, but nothing to put them in. It's also noon, and I haven't eaten anything yet, put on a bra, or brushed my teeth. Apparently ranting about this movie takes precedence to things that actually impact me physically; but that makes sense since I haaaaate this movie with the fiery passion of a collapsing super nova.

Why do I hate it so, you ask? A simple answer: betrayal. This movie betrayed me.

I saw it on cable, thank God, because if I had seen it in a theater I probably would have ripped all my clothes off, burned said theater to the ground, and streaked my body with the ash as I gibbered and wailed, incoherent with my rage and loathing. The premise was intriguing, and the first half of this movie was so good; it easily would have ended up in my top five favorite films if it had maintained that level to the end. But it didn't, and my adoration turned to hatred. I hate this film so much that I want to bite out its neck and drink its poisoned blood to make sure it NEVER RISES AGAIN.

She has that look on her face because after she kicks the shit out of the Creeper she's going for the director.

The initial set up is simple, and a lot of people seem to forget how effective simple is in terms of horror; you don't need fountaining, CGI blood or exploding nipples or whatever, you just need a basic, scary thing, and you need to present that in a way that will effect the viewer as best it can. This movie started out so in tune with that need that it was nerve-destroying; it's claustrophobic and insular at 55 mph. I ended up staying up until around 3 am to see the whole thing, and I had to work at 10 am the next day; I was usually in bed by 1 am at the latest so I could get my full eight hours. This movie's start was compelling enough to make me forgo sleep, something that I NEVER do. There is little I enjoy as much as sleep, so this movie was good enough to lure me from it.

A brother and a sister, close in age, are driving home from college on break. The siblings are Darry, played by Justin Long, who has been adorable in everything he's ever done in part because he looks perpetually fourteen, and his sister is Trish, played by Gina Phillips. She has got to be one of the most ass-kickingly awesome females in a movie ever, which makes it doubly infuriating that she was wasted in the sewer pipe this film degenerated into. They're squabbling, as siblings do, and it's great because it has this lazy, half-assed feel to it, like real siblings have when they're bored and there's nothing else to do besides push each other's irritation buttons. It's obviously hot and dusty in Trish's car, and the atmosphere is very conducive to making you remember the feel of those hot days at the peak of summer when everything turns gold and brown in the daylight because it's so hot. The sight of a green lawn in jarring because it's so out of place in the heat and drowsy countryside.

Then the truck comes up on their bumper. It's coming fast and laying on the horn, a rusty behemoth of a vehicle that screams "tetanus shot" at best, and "mobile rape and dismemberment unit" at most likely.

This is why some people drive armed. I'm just sayin'.

Unseen in the photo I used it a shot of the license plate, which Darry thinks says "BEATING U". They find out shortly that it's something much worse. Eventually the diesel dinosaur roars past them, and both breath a sigh of relief, glad he's gone. The driver is only vaguely seen in silhouette, wearing a wide brimmed hat.

During their drive the pair had discussed an urban legend about that particular stretch of highway; back in the '60's or '70's a couple had been running off together, and simply disappeared. There turns out to be some truth to that story as the brother and sister pass a church, and see the same ominous figure with the truck o' terror parked near a large culvert pipe. The figure, still primarily in silhouette, is dumping something large down the corrugated drain. They drive past, but eventually turn around, because they think they saw something moving in that package. This scene was GREAT. The siblings go back and forth a bit about keeping going and finding police versus going and seeing if someone needs help. The one cell phone they possess is out of juice, and it turns out the car's lighter is broken, so they can't charge it. It comes across as a very believable set of circumstances, all around, and so far no one is behaving in any fashion other than how you yourself might behave in a similar frightening situation.

They eventually decide to go back, seeing the truck pull away, and peek down the pipe.

That is all kinds of nasty looking. Feel free to insert whatever sex joke you've got on hand in here.

Darry accidentally falls down the shaft, and ends up seeing one of the Creeper's victims as he dies. The pipe turns out to lead to the Creeper's lair, and it is pasted all over with the remains of past victims, posed and sewn and shellacked into some seriously twisted "art". Darry and Trish decide to get the fuck out of there, and look for cops.

This is basically where the movie then drops trou and takes a huge, rank shit all over its viewing audience. From here it descends into psychics, crazy cat ladies, and supernatural panty sniffers. The Creeper takes a lot of damage from Trish, they figure out that the license plate spells "B EATING U" (I'd like to know where the fuck the Creeper got a vanity plate, since I'm pretty sure the DMV frowns on patrons attacking the employees), then takes off with Darry, and kills him. The end.

The decision to keep the Creeper shadowed was a good one, because that suit was fucking TERRIBLE. At one juncture, the monster is killing and eating part of a jailed prisoner. You can see the latex bend and buckle as the actor in the suit twists and turns. Had they just kept that damn suit shadowed, I don't think I would have reviled the ending as much as I did; that and had it kept along the lines of fantastical but still believable. But we left that behind when the psychic lady calls the kids at the diner. Really, just stop the movie here and you'll have a much better viewing experience than I did.

There is also a disturbing layer of sexual possession in this movie, made all the more upsetting by the director's back story. The Creeper's interest in Darry comes across to me a lot like someone being stalked by a rapist. There is repeated references made to the blue rose that Darry has tattooed around his navel, and the camera frequently lingers almost lovingly on him in a lot of shots. The placement of the tattoo is also upsetting as it loops around his bellybutton; the stomach is a very vulnerable place on human anatomy. It's also lower on the torso, just a few inches above the root to his penis. To me, the movie has a weird fixation on Darry's genitalia, which I don't believe is simply all in my head. Victor Salva, the man who wrote and directed this, is a convicted pedophile.

He was convicted in 1988 for assaulting a twelve year old who had been in one of his movies, and was also stupid enough to film it. Sheer genius here, folks. Now, I'm not calling for the man to be burned at the stake; he was convicted, did his time, and to the best of my knowledge has behaved himself ever since. But that is an ugly blot on a psyche, things like that tend to bleed through in creative endeavors, and it really shows in both of the Jeepers Creepers movies. Loving, lingering shots of very young, virile boys are in both movies, (like the boys sunning themselves on the top of the bus in the sequel, as well as the more insecure team members squalling about how one team member is a "faggot", for example) and given his history as an offender, I find that profoundly unsettling.

I work with kids, so my perv alarm was going off long before I knew anything about Victor Salva's personal history, so again, I don't think this is just in my head. The fact that no women are shown consumed by the creature is also telling; Trish survives despite the fact that she did virtually all of the damage to the Creeper AND despite her pointing out to it that she was a better choice of victim because she was stronger than Darry. I think Darry's vulnerability is what attracted the Creeper in the first place; Trish was never really in the same danger that her brother ultimately faced. In the sequel only one woman was killed (the bus driver, my favorite character) but for all we know he just picked her up and dropped her somewhere. None of the cheerleaders are targeted, only the male team members.

It lends a very chilling aspect to an enraging film series, and for me, turns the first film into something profoundly ugly. The fact that the second part of the original was total shit really didn't improve my mood any. If you enjoy this film then more power to you, I certainly don't begrudge you that. I'm simply stating why I hated it so much, not attacking anyone.

That said, MAN did this movie ever blow.


Bevin said...

I haven't sat down and watched any of these films, but I've caught bits and pieces of them when you were, and I've heard similar comments made by other people who've seen them. What I find sort of funny is that people find the fixation on guys' bodies and the focus on their victimization disturbing, but nobody really seems to notice when the rest of the genre focuses on teenage girls the same way. Maybe I'm misunderstanding the source of the discomfort, since I haven't seen the films, but it just seems like the same thing coming from another direction to me.

Stac said...

Bev, I *almost* touched on that, actually, tempted to make some pithy comment about how it was nice to have the shoe on the other foot or something.

But honestly, it's not. Sure, women are objectified and often to horrible degrees in certain titles. But while that disturbs me I don't (for the most part) fear that the director or writer is actually going to carry out these deeds. And the movies that are particularly bad about it I would savage just as bitterly-- if I ever see Cannibal Holocaust I'm pretty sure that one's going to be UGLY.

It's the fact that this man HAS acted on desires to hurt others in the past that particularly frightens me here. And that these actions were aimed at kids. If it was adult-- well adult, I mean, like in their '40's or something, men, it wouldn't have been as disturbing. But Justin Long is very baby-faced, and the boys killed in the sequel are all high schoolers, so for the most part they are supposed to be eighteen, tops.

Cins said...

And here I thought I'd be the one to tear into this movie on the blog.
I hate this movie for the same reasons. I also don't think any of that is in your head because I felt the same way when I watched it. I didn't find out about the director's past until way after the movie. But those hosts made me feel really creeped out...and not in a good way.
its a damn shame because I love the begining of that movie! I did watch the sequel and I enjoyed it a LOT more than the first one depsite the creepy pedo feeling in certain shots (I think it was worse in the first one than the secon. Something about focusing on that tattoo really was off putting). But overall I felt the movie was far more satisfying..not great but I felt more justifiyed after wasting my time on the first one.

Stac said...

Cins: I agree, the sequel is better than the first, but it's still pronouncedly sexual to me. When the Creeper LICKED the glass?? How the hell else was that supposed to be interpreted? But I agree, the fascination with Darry's tattoo was unsettling.

LOL, I'm actually surprised that I beat you to it. :)

Bevin said...

Point taken, Stac, and I agree that the context of the director's known behavior, past or not, can flavor someone's perceptions of a film. But Cins isn't the only person I've seen make reference to how uncomfortable they felt watching the movie before they knew about the director's pedophilia conviction, either. Granted, again, I haven't seen the movies, and I have knowledge about the director's personal issues, so I can't make any kind of informed statement about this. But it does strike me as odd that a lot of people feel uncomfortable watching teenage boys being threatened and objectified, but not have that same issue, or at least not to the same degree, when it's teenage girls, regardless of their knowledge of the director.

Zacery Nova said...

I always forgo sleep to watch movies :D.

I saw the sequel to this film first and thought it was pretty good, I tried watching this movie but switched it off – it was…boring.

As far as I’m concerned, Victor did his time and hasn’t reoffended. Case closed.

Honestly, I had NO PROBLEM with the numerous shots of naked guys in the sequel, it was nice to watch men be objectified for a while as opposed to shoving titties in my face all the time.
I adore the sequel, it’s an exciting, compelling slasher flick with a supernatural twist and some good SFX.

Stac said...

Zac: I actually liked the sequel more than the original, because it was more even in tone.

And I don't have a problem with men being objectified: I have a problem with children being objectified. Given his history that objectification is really upsetting.

Stac said...

Zac: I'm sorry, I hope I didn't come across as curt in my reply to you; I've been packing all day and I'm reeeeally tired. I'll be more coherent next time, I promise. :)

Zacery Nova said...

It's totally fine :D I too have a problem with children being objectified, I'm just too willing to give people a chance!

Cins said...

Zac>>I definitely agree that the second one is a MUCH better movie than the first. Its better pacing and a MUCH better payoff. Granted, the Creeper came off as a bit "Mary Sueish" with him always surviving BUT I liked the whole regenerating factor and the idea that the farmer's family had become sudo guardians of the Creeper's body after he was defeated. For me, that created a good mythology that made me interrested in The Creeper. The first one just tossed us a scary monster and expected us to create a franchise around him (A la Jason and Freddy).

Stac/Bev>>Now don't get me wrong, the pedo factor does bother me with JC 1. But honestly, my main problem with the movie was the fact that the story went to total shit after the first 20 minutes. I was extremely disappointed how something that began with so much suspense crumbled into a a random Wacky chase movie. While the shots of Darry's belly did make me feel uncomfortable I did like the fact that the sister had to be the strong one and save her little brother. But by the time they established this, the story was so far botched that I just didn't care anymore.
And I'll be honest...I wanted SO bad for there to be a show down between Trish and the Creeper. I don't care how cliched is seemed but that's what I wanted to see. Trish could have been another Ripley if they played it right.