It seems somehow ironic that a grim, violent and disturbing horror film should be given a title that contains one of those rather twee American exclamations - jeepers - the sort used in early films so as not to offend and later in TV shows like Scooby Doo when clearly anything above 'gosh' might upset the odd child. Anyway, Jeepers Creepers 2 is directed by Victor Salva whose only other notable film, aside from the original on which this sequel is based, is Powder (with lovely score by Jerry Goldsmith) and that was more infamous than successful. Still, the original Jeepers Creepers was a low budget horror flick with a nice build up, some good tension and turned in a profit on its modest outlay, so naturally a sequel arrived with more budget and less quality. Like the original, the sequel is scored by Bennett Salvay who appears to be trying to make the break from TV scoring and Jeepers Creepers 2 is a good enough effort to hope that he gets noticed and moved onto bigger and better things.
Horror seems to be the genre of choice for composers breaking into film scoring, which is unfortunate as it can be fairly unforgiving genre, swallowing up careers without warning (I'm required not to mention Marco Beltrami at this point). Fortunately, as Brian Tyler managed with Darkness Falls, Salvay does a good job for much of the time, assembling enough exciting passages to outweigh those less interesting suspense building tracks. The opening isn't entirely promising, despite a couple of action licks that suggest something could happen if the suspense isn't allowed to dominate. Fortunately, it isn't and those eerie, high string and orchestral hit style tracks that almost always sink horror scores are gradually pushed into second place as an exciting horror/action score takes over. True, there isn't anything new in the style of action scoring, but Salvay seems to eschew anything synthetic, creating all his excitement with edgy strings, nicely placed dissonance in the brass parts and an expert deployment of acoustic percussion. Highlights include Field Chase, The Big Battle (more inspired track titles) and Bug Truck Chase, but all the action passages are similar, but without being samey, remaining exciting without being unyielding and tedious.
Despite his more extensive credentials in TV scoring, there are only a few hints of this, with just the occasional passage which seems to have a surprisingly slim line orchestration. However, this could be seen as a bonus since when Salvay beefs up his forces, the impact of the increased density of sound is all the more striking. I admit it, I was fully intending to write a scathing review of Jeepers Creepers 2, but it's just about the most listenable horror score I've heard in several years. It won't win many points on originality, although pleasingly, there is little that suggest any great debt to any other specific composer or score, but as noted, horror scoring has its own set of rules and clichés. Although Salvay succumbs to them occasionally, he does enough with them and uses them sparingly enough that even when they do become tiresome (which is rarely), it isn't long before a brace of action returns to bring the score's momentum back up. Not a classic, but in a genre mired in variably atrocious efforts, Jeepers Creepers 2 stands out as a worthy, enjoyable and an exciting listen. Worth an indulgence as a guilty pleasure, at the very least.