Not Your Average Creep

Not Your Average Creep

Not Your Average Creep

Highlights from the week in criticism.
Aug. 31 2001 11:30 PM

Not Your Average Creep

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Movies
Jeepers Creepers (United Artists). Critics tepidly endorse this "cannier-than-average teen horror movie" (Stephen Holden, the New York Times). Writer-director Victor Salva has recycled all the scream-show archetypes: teens (Gina Philips and Justin Long), a crazed rural recluse, and, yes, unspeakable horrors. The initial chase scene (itself inspired by Steven Spielberg's Duel) is the "scariest opening sequence of any horror picture in recent memory," according to the Los Angeles Times' ever-effusive Kevin Thomas. So, is the film's supernatural bogeyman adequately terrifying? Depends on who you ask. Some say it's "neatly constructed" (Stephen Hunter, the Washington Post) while others complain it "isn't half as horrifying as you imagined" (Holden). (To visit the movie's official site, click here.)—B.C.

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O (Lions Gate). Critics like the latest Shakespeare-for-teens: "Othello fits so snugly into the social context of a modern American high school that a film that restages the Moor's tragedy among 18-year-olds and their raging hormones was all but inevitable" (Kenneth Turan, the Los Angeles Times). Critics praise the performances of Mekhi Phifer, Julia Stiles, and Josh Hartnett and call the movie a "good film for most of the way, and then a powerful film at the end" (Roger Ebert, the Chicago Sun-Times). A few disagree, saying the film has aged over the three years it was shelved, waiting for Columbine fears to cool off. Plus, the audience "may feel they've seen [Julia Stiles] in something with low-wattage racial tension before, namely Save the Last Dance" (Elvis Mitchell, the New York Times). (Click here to watch the trailer.)—E.T.

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Book
Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble, by Stefan Fatsis (Houghton Mifflin). Reviews of this "entertaining, obsessive account of a subculture of obsessives" (Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today) mostly recycle tasty vignettes from this excursion into the world of top-level Scrabble (one player is nicknamed "G.I. Joel" for his chronic gastrointestinal ailments, another travels with stuffed animals and an oxygen tank, one speaks in "high ebonics," etc). When critics get down to analyzing the book, they're impressed, calling it a "can't-put-it-down narrative that dances between memoir and reportage, including a comprehensive history of the game" (Bernadette Murphy, the Los Angeles Times). (Click here to play Scrabble online.)—E.T.

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Music
Vespertine
, by Björk (Elektra). Though unable to suppress snide comments about the outlandish swan outfit the Icelandic singer performed in at the Oscars, reviewers are in passionate awe of her fifth solo album. Billboard calls it an "intimate, often breathtakingly beautiful collection." Filled with sampling and electronic manipulation, the album nevertheless sounds like music emanating from "a warm, densely layered womb" (Neva Chonin, the San Francisco Chronicle). Björk "seems to reach deep within herself for her truest and most impressive work yet. … Through intricate melodies that are simultaneously haunting and soothing, Björk and her collaborators create a series of dreamy soundscapes … she has surpassed even her own lofty standards" (Steve Baltin, the Los Angeles Times). (Click here to listen to fan remixes from this and other Björk albums.)—E.T.

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Comfort Eagle, by Cake (Columbia). The pride of Sacramento, Calif., have moved to a new label, and most critics say they've cooked up a winner. Though the band's known for quirky hits, this album is proof that "Cake has more than quirk in its musical quiver" (Steve Ciabattoni, CMJ). Their unique Moog synthesizer and trumpet-fuelled sound continues, but "Cake's formula is tighter than ever" (Arion Berger, Rolling Stone). "Like the band's namesake, these tunes are sweet diversions that go down easy. Luckily, they settle in your head, not your thighs" (Shane Harrison, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution). (Cake's spartan official site has music clips, tour info, and a poll on whether the band should play in Finland or Orlando, Fla.)— B.W.

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Ben Wasserstein is an associate editor at New York magazine.

Eliza Truitt, a former editor at Slate, now works as a wedding photographer in Seattle.

Bryan Curtis is editor-at-large of the Ringer. Follow him on Twitter.