Despite disquieting subtext, Jeepers Creepers 2 is a reasonably entertaining shocker.

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Despite disquieting subtext, Jeepers Creepers 2 is a reasonably entertaining shocker.

As one who assesses creative works, you try to separate the individual artist from the output he or she produces. Watching Bedtime for Bonzo, for instance, you don't want to think about Reaganomics. But Jeepers Creepers 2 writer-director Victor Salva doesn't make it easy to ignore the fact that he was convicted for molesting the twelve-year-old lead in his 1988 film Clownhouse.

It's not just that the premise of Jeepers 2 and its predecessor both deal with an ancient demon (known as the Creeper) who periodically emerges to literally sniff out teenage boys and eat certain parts of their anatomy. Jeepers Creepers 2 centers on a high school boys' basketball team called the Bantams, which gives the players an excuse to chant a fight song featuring the lyrics Better not mess with the mighty cock! Their bus breaks down, so naturally some of the boys decide to sunbathe shirtless on the vehicle's roof while several others go off to urinate together. Salva is either deliberately making a twisted joke, or someone like executive producer Francis Ford Coppola said, "Look, Victor, we know you have to put some sort of teen-boy fetishism in all your movies, so just get it all out of your system."

The creepy subtext never totally goes away (the Creeper tears off one victim's shirt along with his head, leaving a buff, bare torso twitching like a chicken), but the rest of the movie is focused less on flesh and more on fear. Salva still isn't great at building suspense (his sense of pacing feels off), but there are plenty of sudden shocks, many of them exceedingly cheap but fun.

Jonathan Breck has grown into the character of the Creeper quite effectively -- his malevolent stare is almost as nightmare-inducing as the notion of Salva moving into your neighborhood. And the costume has come a long way -- the exposed-zipper green-rubber suit has given way to a glistening, animatronic nightmare.

It's a shame the rest of the actors aren't as effective as Breck. Salva's script may be partially to blame for badly defining the characters, but the generic performances don't help. Many of the characters are interchangeable, save for Suddenly Psychic Girl, who conveniently receives visions that reveal the entire plot unto her, courtesy of the ghost of that dorky kid who died at the end of the first flick (Justin Long).

Fortunately, Ray Wise comes to the rescue, playing a father who lost his youngest son to the Creeper at the start of the film and during the course of a single day has become a highly trained demon hunter. Any Twin Peaks fan will automatically associate him with the role of grieving dad (and, come to think of it, with that of child molester, too). It's fun to watch him play the Ahab role (complete with harpoon gun), and even more fun to watch the stupid kids die.

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