(Spoiler alert! Although I doubt people would read a review of the commentary before seeing the movie itself, but just in case….)
Jeepers Creepers was given an unassuming release in 2001, but much like the 1938 song written by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer from which it takes its title, it had a lingering affect on audiences. Teens and twenty-somethings who saw it expecting some cheap thrills were unprepared for this tense, original and fairly smart horror film.
On his commentary track, writer/director Victor Salva gives due credit to actors Gina Philips (Trish) and Justin Long (Darry) for elevating the material through their strong performances and chemistry. The material itself, however, is stronger than you might expect, and credit for its conception and execution must go to Salva.
Knowing when to say ‘no’
This is especially true in light of Salva’s resistance to the pressure that was put on him to change certain aspects of the film.
A lot of it focused on minor details like, you know, “the beginning” and “the end.” For example, Salva explains that at preview screenings he was repeatedly pressured to cut the opening sequence, which features some back-and-forth between siblings Trish and Darry, and get straight into the action. Apparently waiting a whole four minutes and forty-five seconds for the characters to be attacked was too much for some viewers.
Salva decided not to cut it because that time is necessary to build the characters. “If you don’t invest a few fleeting moments in the characters for a film, no matter what happens after that it’s going to be less significant,” he says (00:03:28).
Preview audiences also didn’t like the grim ending of the film, which created more pressure for Salva. He even wrote an alternate ending, but ultimately stuck to his guns (01:24:00). But preview audiences weren’t the only ones pressuring Salva. “I was under great pressure to provide a complete back story about the creature . . . from people who make horror films for a living and some quite famous ones,” he says.
“I really went against their advice and the advice of the studios and the advice of my agents and managers and said no, The Creeper should be a silent, enigmatic character that we know very little about. In fact, the less we know about him, the more frightening he’ll be. I did bend to pressure for a brief moment and wrote several lines for The Creeper but Francis [Ford Coppola, an executive producer on the film,] had the wisdom when he read them to say, ‘Take these out. What are these even doing here?’” (01:04:15).
To Salva’s credit, he provides enough interesting material on the Jeepers Creepers DVD commentary that it’s just too much for one blog entry. Next time we’ll see what advice he actually did choose to follow, as well as some technical tricks he used during production and his thoughts on finding character motivation during the writing process.
What do you think? Would the film have been better if Salva had trimmed the opening and gotten right to the action? Were you left wanting to know more about the Creeper’s origins in this film? Did you even like this film? Leave some comments below and let us know!