Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is loved by the Substream staff more than Halloween. With October’s arrival, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a slew of special features we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day.
31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring column that will run throughout the month of October. The goal of this series is to supply every Substream reader with a daily horror (or Halloween-themed) movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your All Hallows’ Eve festivities. We’ll be watching every film the day it’s featured, and we hope you will follow along at home. Reader, beware, you’re in for a… spooky good time!
Day 18: Jeepers Creepers (2001)
The first time I saw Victor Salva’s Jeepers Creepers, I happened upon it by accident. The Food Network had grown stale, and after a bit of channel surfing, I landed—as per usual—on SyFy (formerly know as Sci-Fi Channel). I couldn’t have been more than 12 years old, but as someone who took great pleasure in watching Linda Blair piss her pants and vomit pea soup, I decided to give it a try—and spent the next 90 minutes cowering behind a pillow.
The brainchild of an actual monster (sucks, I know), Jeepers Creepers is a love letter to the classic creature features of yesteryear. It’s perfectly paced, loaded with charm and, best of all, you’ll scream and squirm all while busting a gut. Few horror films are so invested in their narrative, and this devotion to dismemberment shows in every grisly detail. This is a movie made to make your heart stop, and boy howdy is it a good time.
Siblings Trish (Gina Phillips) and Darry (Justin Long) are headed home for spring break when they’re almost run off the road by an old, beat-up truck. They’re shaken, but since they live in Florida, a.k.a. The Weird Crap Capitol of the World, they laugh it off and are back to bickering in no time.
Hours pass and the duo encounter the truck again. This time, it’s parked outside an abandoned church, and the driver—a big Undertaker fan—is dumping what appears to be a body down a large drain pipe. Rightfully freaked out, Trish and Darry hightail it the hell out of there, but not before being pursued and run off the road for a second time.
Because he’s a much better person than you or I, Darry contends that someone may still be alive at the bottom of the pipe, and eventually guilts Trish into returning to the church—unarmed, without a cell phone, in a car that barely runs. Seems legit!
I don’t want to spoil all the fun, so I’ll stop there—just know you’re in for a wild ride. What starts as a fairly run-of-the-mill slasher flick quickly snowballs into a zany bloodbath of epic proportions, and as the body count rises, it becomes increasingly clear that no one is safe and nothing is off the table. It’s bat shit crazy in the best possible way, and well-worth enjoying in real time.
Frights aside, Jeepers Creepers is wonderfully put together. Despite being a disgusting scumbag, Salva builds tension effortlessly while sprinkling in more twists and turns than this year’s presidential race. Gina Phillips and Justin Long are all too real and relatable, making their characters’ increasingly poor decisions all the more maddening. Even the world these characters inhabit—jam-packed with classic cars, desolate country highways, and roadside diners—feels developed, livable. Sure, there are a few flubs along the way (Trish’s eyes change color on multiple occasions?), but that’s all par for the course. The scares are palpable and nearly non-stop, and at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.
I know a few people who think this film is stupid, but honestly, I don’t really know what they were expecting. I mean, there’s a [spoiler alert] giant, winged demon flying around punching holes in cops; does that sound like Oscar fodder to you? In fact, I’d go so far as to say that’s the best part about Jeepers Creepers: It revels in its camp, and does so with impressive tact. In a world where many monster melees take themselves far too seriously, this crazy train makes the most of an original story, relying on sharp dialogue and ingenious imagery to keep things moving. It’s fast, fun, and easily digestible—the perfect accompaniment to a creepy October evening.