Modern horror, especially horror taking place after 2005, has a problem that its predecessors had an easier time avoiding – phones. This isn’t to say it wasn’t an issue for horror in the past, only that a landline could be cut with relative ease, and mobile phones and the internet were either unheard of or not commonly available. This allowed horror films and literature to insulate their characters from the outside world in a believable way that invited the viewers or readers to step inside the victim of their film or book without a huge suspension of disbelief. Now, however, well…
No Phones Work in Horror Movies
We all know perfectly well that no matter the situation, no matter the locale, every single person’s phone in the horror movie is going to pop up and say (usually with some clunky expository dialogue) NO SIGNAL. We’re over it. It’s been done. It’s disengaging and often ridiculous. If I can order a pizza in a log cabin in the North of Scotland, then you better be damn sure I expect people to be able to phone the police in North Carolina when there’s at least three Starbucks in the town they’re in.
However, some horror movies find their way around this issue, and Jeepers Creepers did it in 2001 when they could have, arguably, gotten away with it. (Yes, I’m aware they had a phone that popped up and said LOW BATTERY but let me explain why that didn’t matter.)
The main reason that a phone is an issue in horror is that it calls in the outside world. Horror works best when it can isolate its pray within a heterotopia of its own creation. There is a certain comfort that is involved with the fact that we can always call the police. Horror movies know this.
By ostracizing the main characters from the emergency services, from loved ones, from the man down the street you know has a gun license, you create tension and stakes that rely solely on the will to survive of your protagonist. That is about as easy to do nowadays as pouring hot coffee from a chocolate tea pot. Where Jeepers Creepers flips the narrative is that it deliberately forces the protagonists Trish (Gina Philips) and Darry (Justin Long) into public spaces. This is terrifying because good ‘ole Mr Creeper couldn’t care less how much help Trish and Darry get. He’s still going to get those eyes.
Jeepers Creepers Where Did You Get Those Peelers
In case you haven’t seen it, Jeepers Creepers is a film about a brother and sister driving home from college (the long way… duh) who piss off a creaky, cow grated-van, simply by existing. The van gives them a wee fright by honking its ominous horn and driving too close to them before carrying on its merry way.
Trish and Darry are, rightly, terrified, but brush it off as the driver just being an “inbred.” So far so cliché. However, they continue down the highway and stumble across the van outside an abandoned church right by the side of the road, within easy eyesight of any passing motorist (I did not say this was the best horror movie since sliced bread, so bear with me.) Trish and Darry see who they assume is the driver of the van throwing sheet wrapped, tied with rope, body shaped packages down a big tube plunging into the ground. Mr. Creepers see them seeing him, the games a bogey!
The film culminates in a siege upon the local Poho County Police Department (PCPD) where the police do what all police in American horror films do – OPEN FIRE! The result is negligible and a dozen or so police officer with a full armory couldn’t accomplish what Trish and Darry had done with their car a few scenes earlier.
Police in Horror Movies
With police horror movie scenarios have a conundrum. They need to keep the tension high, and having an army of police at your door in a matter of minutes often causes problems in the storytelling. In the case of Jeepers Creepers, you have a monster that is so good at what he does, the police become irrelevant.
A different take on what I have so far categorized as “deliberate ineptitude” comes from Sara McCartney on Horror Homeroom. In her own article titled Horror Fans Don’t Call the Cops she brings up an interesting point. Policemen are not supermen capable of feats unbeknownst to the regular cinema goer, but are in fact “ordinary people whose lives are interrupted by danger and terror that they could never have expected.” This imparts a vulnerability on the police that many of us don’t like to consider, especially in our real lives.
Because, if the police can’t save us, who can?
Last Updated on April 13, 2021.