Like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, most of writer-director Victor Salva’s Jeepers Creepers unspools along a lonely stretch of country highway where the most terrible things happen to the nicest people. Also like Chainsaw, Creepers has a rare, unsettling dread about it—especially during its first half, when the film focuses exclusively on the plight of brother and sister Darry (Justin Long) and Trish (Gina Philips). Driving home for spring break, the pair are almost run off the road by a souped-up, welded-together tank of a truck. Further on, they see the same truck parked next to an abandoned church, where a menacing figure—identified as “the Creeper” in the film’s credits but nowhere else—is stuffing what may or may not be human bodies into a gaping drainpipe. Darry wants to investigate; Trish wants to keep driving. “You just want to go back and see if there’s something nasty at the end of that pipe,” she says, and sure enough, they do go back. And sure enough, there is something nasty. Lickity-split, the siblings find themselves pursued by a relentless creature, half-man, half…well, someone describes it as “a demon or a devil…or some hungry thing.” Once Salva’s film broadens its scope—to make room for additional victims, natch—its scariness is diluted and its credibility is strained. Still, Creepers is infinitely smarter than the latest I Know What You Did Last Summer knockoff, and its young leads can act circles around the Freddie Prinze Jrs. of the world. Most important, the Creeper is a genuinely terrifying creation, an unstoppable monster patched together from myth and superstition, and the movie’s ending is uncompromising and even haunting. In short, Salva’s is a chiller that brings the brain-dead season of summer movies to a brisk, scary end. —Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

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