As the Creeper in Jeepers Creepers 2 decidedly picks off his victims, one by one, those victims’ body parts become subject to the Creeper’s desires. Desire, in this case, functions as a restorative property for the Creeper. He therefore selects his victims based on the most desirable body part (i.e. – the head, the eyes, the hands, etc…) in a process that can only be described as “sniffing out” or “smelling” the desired thing. This occurs because he must harvest these body parts for his 23 years hibernation and also replace parts of himself that are destroyed by his victims. The Creeper is then what Harry Benshoff defines as the “monster queer”: a monstrosity that accounts for the sexual Other, oft disrupting heteronormative romance or intentions. As the monster queer disrupts heteronormative romance, he too disrupts heteronormative narratives: the central fragmentation present in the slasher film, further evinced in the fractured body, as the Creeper selects this part or that. [open endnotes in new window]
As the majority of these victims are men, it appears he is looking to select the most attractive portion of that victim’s body to better equip himself. Attractiveness is evident in his selection, because each victim adheres to a specific body type and specific appearance—comparable to what conventional standards defines as attractive. It is therefore suggested that the Creeper selects these victims based on his apparent attraction or “desire” for these male characters. Consequently, the Creeper aspires to be a more attractive form, in spite of his inability to mutate his physical appearance indefinitely – each time he adds a victims’ appendage, the appendage is recognizable as the victim’s for mere moments and then the monster restores back to his original self.
Physical desire and reconstituting one’s self as desirable seem to be the Creeper’s intention; and more importantly, that intention is centred onto masculinized victims. In other words, the Creeper is regenerating himself in order to attract potential same-sex sexual partners. Clover previously established that the victims in these films were often portrayed as feminized during their moments of demise. Her initial assumptions regarding the ostensibly masculine slasher, who desired the female victim and disposed of the male would, suggest that a renegotiation of the slasher’s desire is in order. Clover argues the point
Consequently, if the desire for these men is self-indulgent, as it seemingly is for the Creeper, he awaits the perfect “mate” or “partner” and will utilize these victims as identities he decides will better his body. Not using the victims solely for a sexual engagement, he will use violence to satisfy that need.
Identity and gender constructs play an integral role in heteronormative society, as displayed through the characters on the bus: an all male basketball team accompanied by extremely delicate, feminine cheerleaders. Heteronormativity, as defined in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer Psychology: An Introduction, refers to “the perceived reinforcement of certain beliefs about sexuality within social institutions and policies.” Inherent in these “beliefs about sexuality” are the implications that sexual preference should be heterosexually influenced, that a “family” constitutes a heterosexual coupling, and that marriage is limited to one man and one woman. The film’s characters epitomize this definition of heteronormativity, as they build the foundation for the film and for the types of victims the Creeper chooses. Each male victim displays prominent attractive features and represent the varying masculine identities typically encountered in a U.S. high school. Generally, such students might find homosexuality unnatural or monstrous, often bullying or provoking a queer student. Benshoff supports this claim, arguing:
This irrational fear regarding the “monster” and the “homosexual” works to create a disingenuous identity formation, which propagates further fear and misunderstanding of queer identity. In other words, the monster is just as feared as the homosexual; and queer identity, because of its apparent monstrosity, becomes an identity construct to mistrust.
Just as the Creeper displays extreme monstrosity, his victims display a similar monstrosity as their ostensible masculinity battles the Creeper’s sexually violent advances. In these instances, the characters label the victims as the Creeper’s choice, instigating a verbal argument between the trapped boys divisively deciding to kick those he selects off the bus. These singular moments in the film occur as the male victims are trapped in their Terrible Place, with the Creeper looking in at them erotically through the bus’s many windows. Desire is at the forefront of this voyeurism, recalling Laura Mulvey’s psychoanalytic concept of the male gaze:
While the Creeper does not project his “phantasy on to the female figure,” he projects that desire onto the male form, taking in the men’s attractive qualities, desiring those qualities overtly and lasciviously. It is thus arguable that in this film a queer gaze has been appropriated, whereby a symbolic order remains intact, but the film renegotiates the traditional gender binary from male/female to male/male. The receiving male is sized up by the camera/the Creeper, emphasizing (a) the character’s sexual magnitude and (b) his inferiority to the camera’s/the Creeper’s gaze. This new queer gaze reflects those same controlling properties and overt, bodily exploitations Mulvey detailed in her theory of the male gaze.
Among the men trapped in the bus, they too recognize this form of desire evinced by the Creeper’s sniffing, smirking, toothy-grins and the erotic licking of the bus’s rear-facing window. The rear window is situated within the back door, ironically labelled Emergency Exit. “Back door” is a common euphemism for “buttocks” or “anus”; however, it is even more suggestive of anal intercourse. With the monster queer peering in through this “back door,” going so far as to lick it, it would suggest that what the Creeper desires is the penetrative areas of the male body: the anus, the mouth, and even the eyes. The camera accentuates these actions using multiple shot reverse-shots to highlight the victims’ reaction to the Creeper’s highly suggestive, lascivious advances. Consequently, the Creeper’s gaze penetrates the bus, evincing his queernes to the passive males within.
His recurring gaze that accentuates his queerness coupled with the act of choosing help to establish the underlying cathexis exhibited by the Creeper’s projected desire. In other words, it is his libidinal energy focused onto that male form that shapes the Creeper’s determined gaze. These men are unaccustomed to the voyeurism directed onto themselves, as they, arguably and suggestively, direct their gaze onto the female form. It is this shift from active/male to passive/male that propagates further a queer interpretation of the monster and his victims. Moreover, it also provides an instance for the homosexual to renegotiate those power structures related to gender that are constituted and rooted in the patriarchal foundations of Western Society.
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick argues in Epistemology of the Closet that as we as humans further subcategorize ourselves into those rigid, restrictive binarisms (hetero/homosexual), we further divide ourselves apart from one another. While she emphasizes the hetero/homosexual binary predicament, she does not focus on any truth labelled out by those subscribing to the “minoritizing” or “universalizing” views of sexuality as she deems their “truths” arbitrary. Rather, her emphasis is on the performative nature associated with minoritizing and universalizing views. In other words, those who view homosexuality and its problems as relevant only to a small set of individuals (minoritizing) would be more inclined to perform homophobic, divisive actions. Thus, this division emphasize how devaluation underpins the monstrosity of the Creeper, because he must exist in a period of “every 23rd spring for 23 days” when he gets to eat. He can only exist in this period of growth and rebirth (suggested by “spring”) for a miniscule amount of time, because the construction of his queer identity is contrary to the heteronormative ideal of male desiring female and vice versa.
Furthermore, his limited active existence provides him with a fragmented population, from which he can select his victims. It is a notion suggestive of the queer community, whereby queer identity is ostracized to the outskirts of heteronormative society. And where their identity constructs are limited, they too have limited partner choices. Similar to that ostracizing, the Creeper must exist outside the cities and towns of modern United States, isolated to the largely unoccupied frontiers of the Midwest. Vast open fields and extensive road provide the setting for Jeepers Creepers 2, trapping the victims in the bus within this queer terrain dominated by the Creeper. Though his visibility is obvious to the viewer during periods of sunlight, the victims do not encounter the monster queer until nightfall; only the young boy at the onset of the film encounters the Creeper and meets his demise during the day. Here the film depicts its manifold representations of queer monstrosity, which
Underlying the Creeper’s model for selection is the representation of paedophiliac desire and bodily rape, suggested by the younger, on the fringes of barely pubescent, boy and the bus’ array of men. Furthermore, Satanism is evoked in that the monster queer looks devilish (i.e. – sharp features, sharp teeth, sharp piercing eyes and a demonic aura), suggestive of a supernatural being, a demonic figure. This link between archaic assumptions regarding queer identity as monstrous with the victimization of men epitomizes the monster’s assumed identity formation as queer. In addition, it provokes the specific religious ideology regarding homosexuality and queer identity, where homosexuals are doomed sinners, separated from heaven and ostracized to hell.
Given that the Creeper escapes the fringes of hell and with agency unwittingly consumes his male victims, Christian ideology and Judeo-Christian Western society are placed at odds against an indestructible force. Where the monster queer is indestructible (he is stabbed multiple times in his body and his face), he becomes a force that Western society cannot overcome. Just like the pleasures Christianized Western societies cannot overcome, the monster queer represents that part of queer identity that accepts his/her sexuality and does not shirk the desires for the [same-sex] body. Sedgwick notes:
Whereas these traditions elaborated the female form as an indicator of pleasure (or the flesh), queer identity labels as the indicator of pleasure the same-sex body. Queer identity constructs, therefore, go against heteronormative ideals to fetishize the opposite sex, but also disregard any sense of maximum anxiety or prohibition of desire. Moreover, as the Creeper consumes his victims’ body parts, he is in turn giving in to the flesh, but he is also working to recreate his own form into that idealized male figure.
The Final Girl (Minxie) works to combat the Creeper’s intention to turn her male friends into a piece of himself, fighting back violently and forcefully. Her position in Jeepers Creepers 2 does not mean she will be saved by a patriarchal figure, rather she will combat the monster queer herself, demonstrating her agency and position within this chaotic sphere. In other words, she, like the “monster queer,” is fighting for her own existence in the hostile, chauvinistic world into which she was born. Clover defines this ending as one of two possible types:
Being rescued versus her ability to kill him herself gives the Final Girl the cogency to reckon with her own “monsters”; and in this case, the monster threatens her future within the male/female, hetero/homosexual binaries laid out by heteronormativity. Furthermore, she becomes the independent figure to which the male victims can turn as they seek asylum, engraining her future role of matriarch. Minxie, therefore, becomes the Creeper’s own monster, as they both struggle to overcome one another. He must continue his pursuit of male victims, his pursuit for existence, while she must struggle against him to guarantee and maintain her status within patriarchal Western society.
At odds with existence, the Final Girl and the monster queer operate within a sphere of predetermined power structures: an evident hierarchy of male/female, hetero/homosexual and normative/non-normative identity formations. This suggests that these binaries are institutionalized constructions, positioning the first identity in the binary in the active role and the secondary position in the passive. To support such a claim, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick argues:
In other words, the “monster queer’s” sexuality and the Final Girl’s sexuality are at odds with one another, just as the charaters are at odds with one another for existence and acceptance.
Ultimately the Creeper is overcome not at the hands of any one person but because of his limited time to scavenge his isolated setting for potential victims. Moreover, the film’s ending shows the Creeper tied up in a barn, recalling the bleak images of KKK hangings of African Americans in the rural South. And as the Creeper awaits his next spring, so awaits an aged man, ready to combat this “monster queer.” I find the film’s ending suggestive of the queer awaiting for his/her acceptance and the patriarch waiting to deny that acceptance whenever need be.
In conclusion, I have looked at the ways in which the slasher film has been defined, detailing its specific proponents (as informed by Clover’s work), relating the film Jeepers Creepers 2 to its generic conventions and narrative structure. Furthermore, I have attempted to extend Harry Benshoff’s definition of the monster queer in terms of the slasher film. By looking at the slasher in terms of sexuality and not just gendered power structures, I hope to expand Clover’s gender-based assumptions to consider the slasher film’s relationship with (homo)sexuality.
While I have employed a narrative approach with elements of textual analysis, this essay did not permit the space to examine fully the critical reception and/or queer readings of the film that could have further substantiated the analysis. One could also undertake a more detailed exploration of the director’s own sexuality and his widely publicized paedophilic scandal from the late 1980s. Further research on sexuality and the horror film may focus on queer appropriations of the genre both historically and contemporaneously. This will allow for a more thorough examination of the queer undertones in film narratives, especially in horror. It may also open up debates around film spectatorship including the possibility that the gay community has identified with the figure of the monster in a multitude of ways, something that requires much more consideration.