Sunday, June 20, 2004

Jeepers Creepers

Among the stock criticisms which were hurled at The Passion of the Christ, two of the more common were that the film was "sadomasochistic," and that it distorted the Christian message with its "antisemitism" and unremitting gore. The critics also feigned a touching concern that such movie might not be age-appropriate for younger viewers.

In particular we were told that the flogging of a half-naked Jesus was "sadomasochistic." It is, of course, customary to strip a flogging victim, since whipping the padded back of a fully-clothed victim somewhat defeats the purpose of the exercise.

This month the SCIFI channel is airing "Jeepers Creepers" and its creepy sequel. Director Victor Salva restores the original meaning of sadomasochism. As Roger Ebert noted in his review, "the movie has a healthy interest in the male physique, and it's amazing how many of the guys walk around bare-chested. The critic John Fallon writes 'at a certain point, I thought I was watching soft gay erotica.'"

The homoerotic fixation is not accidental, for as Michael Medved reminds the reader in his own review of the movie, Salva is a certified sex offender, having been convicted of seducing an under-age actor.

But there's more to the movie than its salivating sodomy. For the horror genre affords the director a pretext to present half-naked males as fodder for death by dismemberment, mutilation, and flailing alive. In case we've forgotten, the combination of sex and torture is the defining feature of sadomasochism.

What is more, both movies target the teen demographic. Summer movies naturally play to the teen market—which is out of school—and the horror genre is—whatever the reason—more appealing to young men. In addition, the SCIFI channel is also geared to teen and twenty-something males.

And yet that is not all, by any means. For the films are also blasphemous. Medved points out,"
In the well-shot, stylishly edited opening sequence the movie achieves more revolting resonance than the rest of the pathetic proceedings in part because of its shockingly sacrilegious and patently offensive imagery. At sunset in a deserted cornfield, three scarecrows hang on towering crosses in an unmistakable reference to Calvary. The figure on the center cross slowly comes to life, eventually spreading its wings and soaring over the powerless humans below like a dark angel. Does this warped Christological allusion connect with the fact that the producers sometimes refer to their latest 'Jeepers Creepers' project as 'J.C. 2'?"

Actually, this interpretation could be reinforced in several respects. The word-play is even closer than that, for "Jeepers" is, itself, a pious euphemism for the name of Jesus as an expletive.

In addition, a flying fiend is naturally suggestive of a fallen angel. That connotation might be coincidental in isolation, but in conjunction with other such motifs, the association appears to be intentional.

But beyond that, the Creeper whisks his victims off to an abandoned church. There he decorates the crypt with the corpses in what one character compares to a travesty of the Sistine Chapel. And one wonders, in this setting, if a villain who consumes his victims alive is not a parody of a priest celebrating the Mass.

Just judging by his name, I assume that Salva's family background is Roman Catholic. And I also assume that he takes ironic delight in the religious overtones of his name.

While we're at it, let us not forget that Francis Ford Coppola, of Godfather fame, is executive producer of the sequel. For some reason, Coppola has developed quite an appetite for the horror genre. Over the last few years his credits include Dracula, Frankenstein, Sleepy Hollow, as well as Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde—in addition to Jeepers Creepers 2—while his movie "The Third Miracle" presents the Catholic Church as a venal institution.

What we have, then, is a sadomasochistic movie about an Antichrist figure, or Satan incarnate. And even though the Creeper is putatively the villain, the element of voyeurism makes him a subversively sympathetic character from the director's twisted standpoint. Moreover, the director's lustful perversion can only render him hostile to Christian ethics. Hence his profanation of central Christian emblems is a calculated desecration. Those in bondage to abomination can only abominate the holy, for they have traded the light of the world for the kingdom of darkness.


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