Victor Salva's auteur turn in B-horrorland is better than most, mainly because he is so much more interesting a storyteller than many of his genre contemporaries. "Jeepers" has several things going for it: suspense, developed characters, above-average acting, and visual style. That's not to say it's great or even very good. The movie is wildly uneven, a problem bound to disappoint anyone grabbed by its beguiling opening.
About that opening: like the low-budget filmmaker he most resembles, George Romero, Salva has built his story upon simple, elemental horror. Kids witness what look like bodies being dumped down a sewer pipe next to a rotted church; their curiosity must be satisfied. What he accomplishes in the first act is a quite masterful bogeyman set-up, disturbing yet inviting, and for a moment, we may think we hear Tobe Hooper's chainsaws. Especially good is Salva's patience in developing his sibling protagonists, their dialogue and reading good enough to establish what most genre work can't even dream of -- plausible characters. But where Romero is famous for exploring the dimensions of his (deceptively) simple premises, Salva retreats from them into mannered predictability.
Narrowing his scope to a cat and mouse game, the writer-director fritters away too many possibilities even before the second act is out, and the third act is plainly bad. Why bother subverting expectations early on if you're only going to resort to cliche later? The clairvoyant character is lifted from "The Shining"; the police station siege is a "Terminator" retread. And why establish an aesthete-predator at all if you're only going to have him jump out periodically and kill, like any Freddy Krueger? Salva has complained about last-minute budgetary restrictions yet so much has gone wrong by the final half hour, dissipating tension, squandering sympathy, indulging in camp, and (the worst misstep) calling in his deus ex machina voodoo chile, that it's hard to see what more money could have done.
Salva's imagery, however, is always striking. The production design is shoestring brilliance, helping make his highway and sewer pipe sequences genuinely spooky. And there's subtext aplenty. The current of fetishistic erotic violence invites all sorts of interpretation; in fact, fairly or not, this may be the first horror film for which knowledge of the director's well-publicized past seems likely to make some parts scarier.
On their way back home during the spring break, Darry and Patricia Jenner witness a mysterious person dumping something down a tunnel. Deciding to discover what was dumped down there, Darry discovers a huge disturbing hideout full of modified bodies. Darry and Patricia set off to get help, unaware that the individual is now aware of who has been down the tunnel. Darry and Patricia soon realizes that their pursuer is not just a mysterious person, but something even more horrifying, who has more in store than they could possibly imagine.
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August 11, 2012 at 6:17 am