Jeepers Creepers 3

2017 | unrated (R equivalent) | starring Jonathan Breck | directed by Victor Salva | 1hr 40mins |

It isn’t at all surprising that Jeepers Creepers 3 was dropped by the studio and forced to make its debut in a hacked-up version on the SyFy Channel. In a year where Hollywood is unraveling with one sexual harassment allegation after another, releasing a movie made by a known and convicted pedophile that American Zoetrope has been working with for the last 2 decades probably wouldn’t have gone over well. It was bound to happen eventually, fun as they could be these movies have always had a moral albatross hung around them by writer/director Victor Salva. What is surprising however, especially given that hit status (Jeepers Creepers and it’s sequel both once held the Labor Day box office record), is that it’s clear that this project fell apart long before Harvey Weinstein was sleeping through rehab. Even put up against the direct-to-video standards this movie wasn’t intended to be, Jeepers Creepers 3 is complete and utter junk that looks like the end result of a production plagued with problems and starved for financing.

Originally titled “Jeepers Creepers: Cathedral” this film has been the subject of rumors for years. At one point it was going to be a prequel where we learned the Creeper’s origin story (not that we need one). At another point original film survivor Gina Phillips would return to avenge her brother in a weighty circular arc for the series. Nope, Salva has scrapped all of that, and the final project is a slapped-together place-holder film to keep this franchise copy wright alive until the next entry – a sequel that I can’t imagine will ever get made now. Why does this year’s DTV release Cult of Chucky look light years better than this movie? How is Don Mancini keeping that series relevant and firing on all creative cylinders while this one has completely dried up? The Creeper was poised to be the new Hollywood monster and now that iron has cooled.

Every 23 years for 23 days, this creature comes to life and feeds, replacing and regenerating itself by taking from you the body part it needs and consuming it. It’s a wonderfully disgusting premise and a unique monster. Salva clearing loves Universal monster movies and The Creature from the Black Lagoon in particular. I’m shocked that he doesn’t use this movie at all to advance the creature’s mythology. We get teases and glimpses that he has an origin (a severed hand holds a supernatural connection) but for the most part The Creeper spends this 2nd sequel more man than monster, walking around in broad daylight in full view. He like a cowboy in a duster and is literally whistling without a care in the world.

The fun of Jeepers Creepers was the slow reveal of this things abilities, but that genie is out of the bottle now. While another slow roll out might not have worked, Salva doesn’t have a game plane for what to replace it with. Upgrades to the character include making The Creeper an expert javelin thrower and tricking out his van with the ironic license plate and a host of new Creeper tech. The Creeper mobile turns into a 1920s style Batmobile. He has fitted it with bullet-proof armor, it drives itself and it launches harpoons at any cops or pesky biker kids that tamper with it. Every turn the film takes makes the Creeper more human-like and less interesting.

It’s one of many, many bonehead decisions that writer/director Victor Salva makes, after proving he knew exactly how to make this kind of gothic creature feature with the first two Jeepers Creepers films. Jeepers Creepers had one foot in a Texas Chainsaw Massacre homage, sending our heroes down Louisiana back roads and swamps, chased by an unforgiving mysterious force. Jeepers 2 played more campy into full Black Lagoon territory, replacing that film’s lagoon with a corn field and the boat with a school bus full of shirtless high school kids. Both films get ickier and infinitely sicker when you swap out The Creeper for Salva himself, where he has shaped these films into a therapeutic confessional envisioning himself as a child-hunting monster to work through his own monstrous tendencies through homage filmmaking. See. These movies get really dark really fast.

Moving on… Both those films had a restrained pace, set largely in single locations and milking suspense from that. Jeepers 3 is positively cluttered with stories and characters: a mother who is haunted by her dead son and guards a part of The Creeper, a group of clueless cops on the trail, a group of teenagers and a thinly veiled heroine who gets kidnapped, a group of vigilantes with a truck-mounted mini gun who aim to hunt down the monster. None of them are developed, Salva jumps back and forth between them without much rhyme or reason, trying to set up the next half-hearted Creeper set piece.

Also, strange for a horror film, is simply how most of Jeepers Creepers 3 is set during the day. There is a sequence late in the movie that is set at night, where our heroine is running through a foggy, Louisiana field and the movie looks like the previous two films. It’s a time-tested horror movie trope that everything is creepier at night and from a low-budget filmmaking perspective you can use darkness to cover up the seam-lines and cheapness of your special effects, but there is certainly no rule that says you can’t set a horror movie during the day. It’s worked before, Boon Jong-Ho’s The Host does this beautifully. Salva knows this, the first two films prove he knows this, and yet here we have the Creeper looking like a cowboy in bad make-up in a movie without any dark atmospheric tension.  Breaking tropes is always encouraged, but again Salva doesn’t seem like he’s knowing the rules to break them for a purpose. It makes one think none of this was a creative decision and it was all Salva just running around grabbing shots where he could. It’s just amateur hour mistakes.

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