There is an invariable controversy that dogs Victor Salva, one that emerged during the release of Powder, which is that in 1988 he plead guilty to having sex with a twelve-year old boy. This news had parental groups trying to arrange boycotts of Powder. The controversy has evaporated by the time of Jeepers Creepers, perhaps because Salva is making an R-rated horror film rather than a PG-rated family film. Personally, one feels that Salva should be left alone after having served his time and should not be slammed for trying to get on with life and become a productive community member. Moreover, one feels that an artist/filmmakers private tastes should have no bearing on evaluating their work any more so than say a presidents private affairs should affect his ability to govern a country. Nuff said about the issue it should not concern us any more here. On with the review.
Jeepers Creepers is not quite the classic it seems to think it is the promotional campaign even went to the extent of constructing a tv ad campaign that had Clive Barker saying so, while the film was (probably prematurely) called a modern horror classic by Cinefantastique. Victor Salva certainly knows how to create horror and Jeepers Creepers is a well constructed rollercoaster ride of eerie shocks, grisly viscerality and unexpected slam-punches. The Duel (1971)-like pursuit by the truck, the descent into the creepers lair and especially the spooky scene where the creeper attacks a cop car are all directed by someone who has a flair for genre material. That said, the film never fully puts the screws on the audience there are some good shocks but never a single sequence that the audience goes out buzzing about and becomes talked about for years afterwards, the way a classic should. Nor does Victor Salva conjure anything of the genuinely haunting atmosphere that Clownhouse had. [Although, he did in the much superior sequel].
Nor does Victor Salva offer any particular explanation for the creeper, there is never any level of subtext or symbolic function running beneath the film which leaves Jeepers Creepers a well made but standard issue monster movie. Being a postmodern, post-Scream (1996) horror movie, it is also filled with characters comparing their situation to other horror movie situations, although thankfully Salva never starts throwing in references to other films. The major negative note is the surprisingly abrupt ending. The film ends with one character abducted by the Creeper in any other genre entry, the film would have built to a climax with the other rescuing them but instead this goes out on a surprisingly downbeat note that leaves most of the audience puzzled.
Jeepers Creepers has a number of similarities to a couple of other films that came out the same year, particularly The Forsaken (2001), which was also about people on an innocent backroads journey having to take on a motorized supernatural force (in this case vampires), as well as the similar non-supernatural thriller Joy Ride (2001) concerning teens stalked by a serial killing truck driver.
Jeepers Creepers proved to be a modest sleeper success and build up a strong reputation in video afterlife. Victor Salva returned to make an even better sequel Jeepers Creepers II (2003), followed by Jeepers Creepers 3 (2017). Jeepers Creepers is spoofed in Stan Helsing: A Parody (2009).