He's back but hardly better in Jeepers Creepers 2. Writer-director Victor Salva's Creeper monster (Jonathan Breck) suggests some supernatural scarecrow/bat/Freddy Krueger/Grim Reaper hybrid. He (it?) targets and dines on a group of marooned kids--a high-school basketball team and cheerleaders--and their supervisors on a bus he/it disables on a desolate country road. Why such a by-the-numbers sequel emerged is beside the point. More pressing is why school and law-enforcement authorities are not hot on the trail of a busload of missing kids out on a simple day trip. If the authorities don't care, why should we?

Salva rounds up the usual prospects for this uninspired horror yarn: Among the bus-bound students are team members Double D (Garikayi Mutambirwa), the annoyingly hostile and sullen Scott (Eric Nenninger) and the possibly gay Izzy (Travis Schiffner), and bespectacled team manager Bucky (Billy Aaron Brown). Helping to fill out the expected damsels-in-distress component are the school cheerleaders, including pretty blonde Minxie (Nicki Aycox). Films like this also need the quickly disposable, who are inevitably supervisory figures. Thus, Jeepers Creepers 2 quickly tosses to the menacing Creeper creature coaches Hanna (Thom Gossom, Jr.) and Barnes (Tom Tarantini) and the doubly jinxed butch bus driver Betty (Diane Delano).

Early on, the Creeper cuts his teeth (so to speak) on a local farm family. It's the paterfamilias Taggart (Ray Wise, also on screens in The Battle of Shaker Heights) who survives the ordeal and lives to become centerpiece to the film's attempt at an ironic ending.

Steeped in clichs, Jeepers Creepers 2 doesn't even compensate with de rigueur scary moments. Yes, the Creeper on occasion will suddenly slash through a bus roof or poach a wheat field to grab at some human grub, but we're expecting that. (Fiends, too, gotta eat.) Nothing scares in this film except for the cynicism behind its making.

There are some gooey-icky special effects and the Creeper, with scaly skin, huge wings and oozing entrails, is often gruesome. And who can resist one of the lengthiest stabbing scenes in film history?

Jeepers Creepers 2, probably the lamest of the summer's disappointing sequels, is an insult to audiences and a wake-up call to cynics still betting that movies can be assembled like widgets. Moviegoing humans need a lot more to feed on.

-Doris Toumarkine