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Jeepers Creepers (2001 film)

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Jeepers Creepers
An eye peers through a stitching of human skin. Above it, the phrase "What's Eating You?", and below, "Jeepers Creepers".
Theatrical release poster
Directed byVictor Salva
Written byVictor Salva
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyDon E. FauntLeRoy
Edited byEd Marx
Music byBennett Salvay
Production
companies
Distributed by
Release date
  • August 31, 2001 (2001-08-31)
Running time
91 minutes[1]
Countries
LanguageEnglish
Budget$10 million[3]
Box office$59.37 million[4]

Jeepers Creepers is a 2001 American horror film written and directed by Victor Salva. It stars Gina Philips and Justin Long as Trish and Darry Jenner, siblings who are pursued by the Creeper, a demonic creature and mysterious serial killer portrayed by Jonathan Breck. The film takes its name from the 1938 song of the same name, which is featured in the film under a version by Paul Whiteman.[5] Patricia Belcher and Eileen Brennan also appear in supporting roles, with Salva making a cameo appearance.

Produced by American Zoetrope and the German companies Cinerenta-Cinebeta and Cinerenta Medienbeteiligungs KG, Jeepers Creepers began production in August 2000 after Salva convinced the studios to cast Philips and Long with the help of executive producer Francis Ford Coppola. Due to severe budget cuts, the third act of the project was rewritten during production. Filming took place in the state of Florida in Ocala, Dunnellon, Reddick, and Lake Panasoffkee, concluding after a two-month shoot.

The film was theatrically released by United Artists and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on August 31, 2001. It was met with mixed reviews from critics, but was a commercial success, grossing $59.37 million against a $10 million budget. Two sequels have been released: Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003) and Jeepers Creepers 3 (2017). A fourth film, Jeepers Creepers: Reborn, is scheduled to be released in 2021.

Plot[edit]

Trish Jenner and her brother Darry are traveling home from college for spring break. As they drive through the Florida countryside, an old truck threateningly tailgates them but eventually passes. They later observe the same truck parked next to an abandoned church with the driver sliding what appears to be bodies wrapped in blood-stained sheets into a large pipe sticking out of the ground. Having noticed their car pass by, the driver pursues and runs them off the road.

After the truck drives off, Darry convinces Trish to go back to the church. Upon investigation, Darry hears noises coming from within the pipe and crawls inside with Trish holding on to his feet, but ends up falling in. At the bottom, he finds a dying man with stitches running down his stomach, hundreds of other bodies sewn to the basement's walls and ceiling, and the bodies of Kenny and Darla, a prom couple that had gone missing twenty-three years prior. After escaping, the two flee the scene and attempt to contact the police at a diner, where they are phoned by a strange woman who tells them they are in danger. She plays the song "Jeepers Creepers" on a record player, and confused, they ignore her warning and leave with two police officers providing a security escort. As they travel, the police learn that the church has caught fire and any potential evidence has been destroyed. The police are then attacked and killed by the driver, who loads their bodies into the truck. Witnessing the aftermath, Trish and Darry drive off in terror.

The pair stop at the house of an elderly and reclusive woman, begging her to call the police. The woman complies until she notices the driver hiding in her yard, who kills her before revealing its inhuman face to Trish and Darry. Trish repeatedly runs the driver over with her car but is left horrified as she sees a giant wing tear through its trench coat and flap in the air. The pair leave and drive to a local police station, where they are approached by psychic Jezelle Gay Hartman, the woman who called them at the diner. She tells them the true nature of their pursuer: It is an ancient creature, known as "the Creeper," which awakens every 23rd spring for twenty-three days to feast on human body parts, which then form parts of its own body. She also tells them that it seeks out its victims through fear, and by smelling the fear from Trish and Darry, it has found something it likes.

The wounded Creeper arrives at the police station, cuts off the power, and eats several prisoners to heal. The Creeper is swarmed by police but kills a number of them and evades capture. Trapped, Jezelle warns Trish and Darry that one of them will die a horrible death. Darry demands to know who, and Jezelle looks at Trish. The Creeper finds them but spares Jezelle before cornering Trish and Darry in an upstairs interrogation room. After sniffing and tasting them, the Creeper throws Trish aside and chooses Darry. Trish offers her life for her brother's, but the Creeper escapes out of a window and flies away with Darry. The next day, Trish is picked up by her parents, and Jezelle returns home in regret. In an abandoned factory, it is revealed that the Creeper has removed the back of Darry's head and taken his eyes.

Cast[edit]

Credits adapted from the British Film Institute.[6]

Production[edit]

Development and writing[edit]

A storyboard by Brad Parker depicts a truck crashing and exploding into a train.
A storyboard by Brad Parker showing the film's original finale.

Following its release, various critics and moviegoers concluded that the film Jeepers Creepers was loosely inspired by the 1990 police manhunt of Dennis DePue. That year, DePue had been caught dumping his dead wife's body behind an abandoned schoolhouse in the state of Michigan by brother-and-sister Ray and Marie Thornton.[9] The case was later publicized, appearing on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries on March 20, 1991.[10] The following day, DePue committed suicide after being involved in a shootout with police in Vicksburg, Mississippi.[11] The episode's depiction of the event, along with other small details, was found to be similar to the opening scene of the film.[12] However, the film's writer and director, Victor Salva, has not confirmed nor denied whether the film took inspiration from the case,[12] but instead said that the film used elements from films such as Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Duel (1971).[13]

Compared to other screenplays which took him an average of six months to complete, Salva was able to write Jeepers Creepers in a single month.[13] Salva wanted the main villain to focus on killing mainly male characters, stating that he was "very tired of seeing women slaughtered and raped in [films]."[14] To conceal his final girl-styled ending oblivious from viewers, Salva employed various red herrings throughout the opening scenes of the film, leading viewers to believe that Trish was going to die.[15]

His original script also featured a twenty-page third act which was eventually cut from the film.[14] In it, Darry drives the Creeper's truck into a train, unsuccessfully sacrificing himself in an attempt to kill the Creeper.[16] Up to the start of filming, the entire sequence had been storyboarded in preparation for the shoot, but due to a budget cut of $1 million prior to filming, the entire scene and those leading up to it had to be removed and rewritten.[17][18] Because of this, Gina Philips and Justin Long were allowed to improvise many of their scenes, which Salva used in the final cut.[18] Some scenes cut from the script were eventually used in its sequel, Jeepers Creepers 2.[14]

The telephone scene featuring Patricia Belcher's character Jezelle was entirely rewritten during filming to allow her character to convey additional information about the Creeper.[8] In the film's audio commentary, Salva said that he believed that the film's defining moment was the reveal that the Creeper was not human and had wings, which told viewers that the main characters were, in fact, fighting a creature who also did not have a humanoid appearance.[8] Against advice from various agents, managers, and acclaimed directors, Salva decided to keep the character of the Creeper mysterious, and decided that because of this, he "couldn't give [the] story a happy ending."[13][15]

After completing the script for Jeepers Creepers, Salva gave his screenplay to executive producer Francis Ford Coppola, who had previously helped finance Clownhouse (1989), Salva's feature-length directorial debut.[13] Due to the recent successes of The Blair Witch Project and The Sixth Sense (both 1999), Salva received four offers from companies interested in the project within two days of him completing the script.[13] Additionally, Coppola began a negotiation with United Artists and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in an attempt to sell the distribution rights to the film. According to Salva, this process in pre-production took seven to eight months and resulted in Germany financing 75% of the original budget through the production companies Cinerenta-Cinebeta and Cinerenta Medienbeteiligungs KG, and with United Artists financing the rest.[13] Soon after, auditions began in Los Angeles.[13]

Casting[edit]

"Even though I know Jeepers Creepers is a genre movie, the thing that drew me to the script is that it is a drama until The Creeper shows up. It’s a relationship movie in a lot of ways. It’s a brother-sister relationship movie. It’s hard to know why an audience holds onto something or what they connect to in a film but I feel that people connect to this film because there was an actual relationship between two people that they could latch on to and care about the characters."

—Gina Philips[18]

In an interview, Philips revealed that she had decided to audition for the film after finding the script too scary to finish in one night.[18] She auditioned twice by herself for the role of Trish, and then once with a shortlist of actors who were auditioning for the role of Darry, one of which was Long.[18] Salva stated that Philips focused on her character with "intense focus", and said that it was "her authenticity that got her the part."[14] Talking with Hollywood.com, Long said he was not sure he was going to get the part, stating that he "assumed they were gonna cast a name. But I went in on a lark, and it clicked."[19] Salva would later say that Long was chosen for the film because he was one of the only actors that managed to convince him that he was actually scared during his audition.[8] During the casting process, American Zoetrope had originally decided that they were going to cast "big-name actors" instead of Long and Philips, but Coppola managed to convince the studio to allow the pair to star.[13]

The role for the Creeper was written specifically for Lance Henriksen, who dropped out of the project.[20] As a result, Jonathan Breck decided to audition to face his own fears of the horror genre.[14][20] After being told that he would be showing his own interpretation of the Creeper, Breck spent his time researching different animal movements.[7] On the day of his audition, he shaved his head and took part in the "sniff test", where he sniffed various members of the casting crew while in character.[7][8][21] When asked about his shaven head, Breck simply told the casting director that "this character wouldn't have hair", before getting the part.[21]

Eileen Brennan was cast as "the cat lady" after Salva saw her performance in the short film Nunzio's Second Cousin.[8] Chris Shepardson was hired to play the "dying boy" that Darry finds while in the Creeper's lair. Due to budget reasons, Salva had to write the character without any lines, but during filming, the crew eventually decided to give Shepardson a short line to say.[8] Additionally, Salva made a cameo appearance in the film as a victim of the Creeper.[8]

Filming and design[edit]

Actress Gina Philips grabs the edges of a large pipe; a car can be seen behind her.
Gina Philips in between takes and in front of the pipe used during filming.

Principal photography for Jeepers Creepers began around Central Florida in August 2000,[22] concluding after a period of two months.[23][b] Opening scenes of the film were shot on the SW 180th Avenue Road in the city of Dunnellon, with the church used in the film, the now-former St. James Church, being located miles away in Ocala.[25] The diner which the film's characters enter to call the police, "Opper's Diner", was a set built in Lake Panasoffkee, and a reference to producer Barry Opper.[8] An abandoned high school in Reddick was also used to film scenes taking place at a police station,[26] while a meatpacking factory in Ocala was used for the film's finale, which was demolished after filming concluded.[25]

According to Salva, the process of shooting the entire film was "grueling", as the crew had to work during the summer, in locations containing heat waves and high temperatures every day.[8] Scenes containing the church's pipe were shot using a six-foot pipe outside the church and two pipes in a sound stage warehouse, where the final scene was shot.[8] Due to the low budget, the art department's cafeteria was also used during filming to serve as the house of Jezelle.[8] According to Long, he and Philips tried to avoid interacting with Breck throughout the entire shoot to avoid connecting with the actor, which benefited their performances in making them looked scared when they were in character.[27]

The Creeper was originally designed by Brad Parker, and its costume was created by Brian Penikas through his company Makeup and Monsters while its wings were created by Charles Garcia and digitally rendered by Buddy Gheen, Scott Ramsey, and Bob Morgenroth.[13] The Creeper's truck used on-screen, a 1941 Chevy COE and originally a flatbed truck, had its back section created entirely by production designer Steven Legler.[8] During various takes, the truck stopped working due to its old engine.[8] As the film's budget was cut severely in the art department, only a few fake bodies were made to appear in the Creeper's lair.[8]

Music[edit]

Jeepers Creepers: Original Motion Picture Score
A shadowy figure stands in the center of the album cover for "Jeepers Creepers".
Film score by
Bennett Salvay
ReleasedOctober 2, 2001 (2001-10-02)
StudioTodd-AO Scoring Stage
Length45:29
LabelSouth West
Producer
Bennett Salvay chronology
Rites of Passage
(1999)
Jeepers Creepers: Original Motion Picture Score
(2001)
Jeepers Creepers 2
(2003)

The film score for Jeepers Creepers was composed and conducted by Bennett Salvay, who also served as a music producer alongside Salva. Its music was recorded and mixed at the Todd-AO Scoring Stage by Shawn Murphy, and edited by Chad DeCinces. The album was mastered by Patricia Sullivan Fourstar at Bernie Grundman Mastering.[28]

Track listing

All music is composed by Bennett Salvay.

No.TitleLength
1."Main Theme" (With Victor Salva)1:20
2."The Truck Attacks"3:04
3."Back To The Church/The Pipe"4:17
4."Finding The Body"2:39
5."The House of Pain"3:05
6."Kenny and Darla"1:17
7."Trish's Surprise"0:45
8."Trish and Darry's Theme"1:31
9."The Truck Returns"0:41
10."The Creeper Attacks"2:16
11."Monster Mashed/The Big Flap"4:12
12."Creeper's Tale"2:45
13."Bone Appetite"1:09
14."My Heart Goes Out"2:38
15."Creepy Crawler"1:59
16."My Brother's Creeper"6:34
17."Jeepers Creepers" (Music and lyrics by Johnny Mercer and Harry Warren; Performed by Paul Whiteman and His Swing Wing)2:21
18."Here Comes The Boogey Man" (Written by Lawton, Brown, Smith, Lang and Benson; Performed by Henry Hall and the BBC Dance Orchestra; Vocals by Val Rosing)2:56
Total length:45:29

Release[edit]

Theatrical[edit]

Jeepers Creepers premiered at the München Fantasy Filmfest[29] in Germany,[30] and at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Canada in July 2001.[31] The film was theatrically released in the United States by United Artists and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, who acquired the rights to the film for a mere $2.5 million,[32] on August 31, 2001, where it opened in 2,944 theaters and stayed in release for 126 days.[33] In October, Jeepers Creepers was shown at the Sitges Film Festival,[34] and the Bergen International Film Festival.[35] The film had its German release the following year on January 3, where it opened to a small quantity of 298 theaters.[36] On May 24, 2018, the film was theatrically re-released in Colombia.[37]

Home media[edit]

Jeepers Creepers was released on DVD by MGM Home Entertainment on January 8, 2002,[3] featuring two viewing options for viewers: standard or widescreen.[38] A special edition of the DVD includes ten deleted and extended scenes, an audio commentary track featuring Salva, a six-part featurette on the making of the movie titled "Behind the Peepers – The Making of Jeepers Creepers", a photo gallery, and a theatrical trailer.[38] On September 11, 2012, the film was released on Blu-ray by MGM and 20th Century Studios Home Entertainment, containing all of the same features from the DVD.[39] On June 14, 2016, a two-disc Blu-ray Collector's Edition of the film was released by Shout! Factory, featuring a "Then and Now" featurette, interviews with producer Barry Opper and actress Patricia Belcher, and a new audio commentary on the film featuring the voices of Salva, Philips, and Long.[40] On October 12, 2020, the film was digitally released by 101 Films, who later released the film in the United Kingdom on a Blu-ray set containing the same features as the ones found in the original special edition of the DVD and the Blu-ray Collector's Edition from Shout! Factory.[41][42]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

In its original release, Jeepers Creepers grossed $37.9 million in the United States and Canada and $21.3 million in other countries for a worldwide total of $59.2 million.[43] Its 2018 re-release managed to earn the film $153 thousand in Columbia,[37] bringing the film's worldwide total to $59.37 million.[4]

The film premiered in the United States and Canada on August 31, 2001, in 2,944 theaters on Labor Day weekend.[33] It made $15.8 million in its first four days, ranking 1st in front of Rush Hour 2 ($11.2 million), and broke the record for the highest Labor Day opening weekend previously held by the 1996 film The Crow: City of Angels ($9.8 million).[44] The film was able to hold the record until the release of its sequel, Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003), which made $18.3 million on its own Labor Day weekend.[45][46] In its first week, Jeepers Creepers made $18.1 million,[47] and grossed $6.2 million in its second behind the releases of The Musketeer ($10.3 million) and Two Can Play That Game ($7.7 million).[48]

In the United Kingdom, Jeepers Creepers opened on October 19, 2001, making $2.2 million in its first weekend, and a total of $8.8 million nationwide. Furthermore, the film's most profitable countries after the United Kingdom were Mexico ($2.5 million), Spain ($2.1 million), and Italy ($2.1 million). In Germany, the film began its theatrical release on January 3, 2002, and grossed $1.3 million.[43] In other countries apart from the United States and Canada, Jeepers Creepers made $21.3 million, bringing its total box office gross to $59.2 million.[43] On May 24, 2018, the film was re-released in Columbia in 83 theaters, earning $153 thousand.[37] Against its $10 million budget, the film was a commercial success.[49]

Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, which categorizes reviews only as positive or negative, 46% of 114 reviews are positive, with an average rating of 5.2/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Jeepers Creepers has a promising start. Unfortunately, the tension and suspense quickly deflates into genre cliches as the movie goes on."[50] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 49 out of 100 based on 24 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews."[51] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade rating of "D" on an A+ to F scale.[52]

In its initial release, various critics shared a similar opinion on Jeepers Creepers, praising its suspenseful beginning, but criticizing the rest of the film. From BBC News, Nev Pierce called it an "unsettling, gory, but intelligent horror flick", and compared it positively to Scream (1996).[53] Writing for the Chicago Tribune, Robert K. Elder said that he disliked the film simply because many parts were left unexplained.[54] The GW Hatchet journalist Mira Katz called the film "tragic", censuring the writing from Salva, the special effects, and the finale of the film, stating that it would leave the viewer with a "general sense of disappointment".[55] Film critic David Edelstein, from Slate magazine, criticized the film's general storyline and 90-minute runtime but said that "the movie is good enough to put a chill into the late-summer air."[56]

Stephen Holden, from The New York Times, gave positive feedback to the film's beginning, but stated that once the Creeper was revealed, the film "surrenders its imagination to formulaic plot filler".[57] Writing for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw said that the film "goes right down the pan" after its opening scene, stating that it is "not genuinely scary or genuinely funny".[58] Los Angeles Times film critic Kevin Thomas shared only positive feedback to the film, stating that it has the "scariest opening sequence of any horror picture in recent memory" and that "Salva has expertly built up enough sheer terror that [it is] uncomfortable to watch."[59] From The A.V. Club, Nathan Rabin wrote that the film "begins promisingly with an economical first half [...] but once its monster takes center stage, Jeepers Creepers heads downhill in a hurry."[60]

Reel Film Reviews critic David Nusair found Long and Philips' acting "superb",[61] and MTV's Charles Webb called out Victor Salva for "nail[ing] the casting" of both actors.[62] On the other side of the spectrum, Dorothy Woodend from The Tyee criticized the film and said that it "isn't helped" by Philips' look, who she said resembled singer Ashlee Simpson.[63] On a similar topic, The A.V. Club said that Long shared a resemblance to David Schwimmer,[60] while the San Francisco Chronicle said he had a small resemblance to a young Frank Langella but nonetheless supported and gave a positive note of his performance in the film.[64]

Accolades[edit]

At the Sitges Film Festival in 2001, Jeepers Creepers received a nomination for Best Film but lost to Vidocq.[34][65] The following year, the film was nominated for three awards at the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards, winning for Best Wide-Release Film and Best Supporting Actor (Jonathan Breck).[66] At that same ceremony, Brian Penikas was nominated for Best Makeup/Creature FX for his design of the Creeper but lost to the KNB EFX Group for their work on Thirteen Ghosts.[66] On April 13, 2002, the film received a nomination for Best Movie at the International Horror Guild Awards but lost to the Canadian film Ginger Snaps by John Fawcett.[67] On June 10, 2002, the film earned a Saturn Award nomination for Best Horror Film, while Justin Long was nominated for Best Performance by a Younger Actor.[68]

Sequels[edit]

As of 2021, three sequels to Jeepers Creepers have been created, of which two were also written and directed by Victor Salva.[69] The first sequel, Jeepers Creepers 2, premiered on August 29, 2003, and takes place a few days after the original.[70] In it, the Creeper pursues a bus filled with teenage students, who try to defeat the creature with the help of Jack Taggart, a man who seeks to avenge the death of his younger son Billy, who had been taken by the Creeper one day prior.[71] The film features a cameo appearance from Justin Long, who reprises his role as Darry, and the appearance of Tom Tarantini, who portrayed a prisoner in the original and Coach Dwayne Barnes in the second film.[72][73]

In 2015, after Salva shared his intentions in making a film focusing on the return of Gina Philips as Trish Jenner,[74] Jeepers Creepers 3: Cathedral was officially greenlit.[75] However, Phillips' role in the film was brought down to a cameo, and the film was released in 2017 by Screen Media Films as simply Jeepers Creepers 3.[76][77] The film takes place in between the two other films and follows the Creeper as it terrorizes a small community of people attempting to figure out its identity.[78]

A fourth film, titled Jeepers Creepers: Reborn, is scheduled to be released by Screen Media Films in 2021. Written by Sean Michael Argo and directed by Timo Vuorensola, the project was the first to contain no involvement from Salva. A "restart" to the series, the film is also serving as the first of a new trilogy.[79]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Breck also portrays a bald cop.[7]
  2. ^ Sources vary on the actual length of filming. While news reports and the film's audio commentary state filming concluded in two months,[8][23] Fangoria says that it actually lasted for three months,[20] and a 2010 blog from the writer and director Victor Salva says the crew stayed in Florida for a total of four.[24]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b "Jeepers Creepers". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Archived from the original on January 10, 2021. Retrieved January 10, 2021.
  3. ^ a b "Jeepers Creepers". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC. Archived from the original on January 3, 2021. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  4. ^ a b "Jeepers Creepers". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Archived from the original on January 4, 2021. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
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  9. ^ Beebe, Jessica (November 19, 2020). "Jeepers Creepers: The True Crime That Inspired The Horror Movie Explained". Screen Rant. Archived from the original on January 1, 2021. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
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  20. ^ a b c Kaye, Don (September 2001). "Meet the Creeper". Jeepers Creepers. Fangoria. pp. 22–23. Archived from the original on May 1, 2017. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
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  22. ^ Moore, Roger (July 22, 2000). "Central Florida to see lots of action, film-wise". Orlando Sentinel. Orlando, Florida. p. 2. Retrieved February 16, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  23. ^ a b Campbell, Ramsey (July 20, 2000). "2 previous movie projects faded away". Orlando Sentinel. Orlando, Florida. p. 18. Retrieved February 16, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  24. ^ Salva, Victor (July 6, 2010). "The Creeper Still Circles His 3rd And Biggest Film". Archived from the original on January 2, 2021. Retrieved January 2, 2021.
  25. ^ a b "Jeepers Creepers". Movie-Locations. Archived from the original on January 1, 2021. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
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  27. ^ Long, Justin (September 3, 2021). Jeepers Creepers, it's been 20 years!!. Retrieved September 5, 2021 – via Instagram.
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  35. ^ "Jeepers Creepers". Bergen International Film Festival (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on January 4, 2021. Retrieved January 4, 2021.
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