NOWADAYS, A horror flick that sets out simply to frighten - as opposed to flaunting its postmodern smarts a la Scream, and reminding us that we've been there, done that - almost qualifies as a rarity. Jeepers Creepers is that flick, a properly Gothic nightmare, whose idea of "tongue in cheek" has nothing to do with jokiness. The director, Victor Salva, elicits a creeping sense of dread from the start: Darius (Justin Long) and his sister Trisha (Gina Philips) are driving home from college down a long, lonesome country road, bickering amiably, when they spot, off the road, a shadowy figure dumping what looks like a body wrapped up in a bloody sheet. Tempted to flee, they instead investigate their sighting and uncover some grisly home decoration. What's more, there's a bogeyman out there who wants something from them, the clue to which is contained in the jaunty title song.
As a genre piece, of course, it can hardly help recalling scary movies past, but that is never its point. The echoes of Spielberg's Duel and the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre lend a rough-hewn Seventies feel to the enterprise, and as long as the identity of the siblings' pursuer remains mysterious, Jeepers Creepers ratchets up the tension expertly. Crows mass along rooftops in menacing profusion, and scarecrows loom out of the night. Credibility is enhanced by the committed, unshowy performances of the two leads, who make their affectionate antagonism towards each other absolutely convincing. As the horror becomes explicit, the movie's ominous grip begins to loosen, and the effects suddenly look a bit low- budget and tinny. Nevertheless, it's an authentic dose of frights that may surprise even jaded aficionados.
Marseilles in Robert Guediguian's ensemble drama, La Ville est Tranquille, is many things, but "calm" isn't one of them. This is a place bristling with social and racial tensions, where life for some is so grotesque in its awfulness that death comes to seem a blessed release. Michele (Ariane Ascaride) works at a fish market to support her junkie daughter, and supplements her meagre income turning tricks for a soft-hearted taxi driver (Jean-Pierre Daroussin), himself no stranger to compromise - he abandoned his fellow- dockers for a redundancy pay-off. The whole city seems on the verge of a breakdown: marriages decline into bitterness and recrimination, the far Right is fomenting race hatred, while prostitution, money and drugs chase one another in an increasingly savage circle.
Guediguian shades in this Marseilles mosaic with clear- sightedness and compassion, and suggests that, even amid lives of quiet desperation, slender shoots of hope still flourish: the young prodigy whose piano-playing bookends the story seems to transcend the …