★ out of ★★★★★
The Creeper is back and way less scary than ever!
In 1988, director Victor Salva was convicted of sexual misconduct with one of his 12-year-old actors and possession of child pornography. His sins of the past came back to haunt him when making the third installment of Jeepers Creepers. His inclusion of a character who had been molested by her step-father did not sit too well with the Union of British Columbia Performers who urged actresses to boycott the film and got the casting call removed from its website. This delayed production. Threats of protest created further delays and led to the decision to give it a one-night-only release. Upon seeing Jeepers Creepers 3, I now suspect its limited and overdue delay was less about its public outcry and more about the production company seeing the rough cut and thinking, “Oh shit, we CANNOT release this in theaters.”
For those that haven’t seen the first two, the movie envisions a monster that comes out every 23 years and eats people to regenerate its own body only to again go back into hibernation. It has creepy bat wings, it smells fear, and is generally, well, creepy. The first film had some genuinely disturbing moments, the second some “picking the teenagers off one-by-one” fun, and this one has…nothing. Well, not quite nothing, but I’ll get to that later.
Jeepers Creepers 3 fails to do anything right. The pacing lurches unevenly, attempting to divide screen time equally among its underdeveloped characters as they speak in cliches. A troop of cops, a grief-stricken grandmother, some teenage dirt-bikers, and a boy and girl in love. The film swivels between these groups talking about or being pursued by the Creeper. The cops say cop things, the crazy old woman prophesizes nonsensically, and the boy tries to woo/rescue the girl. I would say that it’s all by the book, but it isn’t because instead of a plot, we merely get these vignettes of foreshadowing as the script teases its audience with suggestions of a big reveal about the past of the Creeper and an epic showdown of evil baddie versus modern armaments. Even if these paid off (they don’t), we would still be left with nearly 90 minutes of trite dialogue and special effects reminiscent of Sharknado.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about this movie, and believe me – it’s a tough call, is the creature himself. He hunts in the daytime now, creates silly CGI booby traps, wears a bright red shirt, and is evaded easily several times. That’s because this time around, the scarecrow-like winged demon totters around like a drunken buffoon. This brings us to the single greatest moment in the movie. I’m going to spoil it for you, because I made a gif and it is wonderful. The immortal, vital organ -eating, glaive-throwing, wind-riding big bad trips and falls out of his own truck. I am grateful for the moment that Jeepers Creepers gave me with my funny bone; it had been a while since we had connected so intimately. So, what this movie offers is potentially a so-bad-it’s-good appeal and it’s probably not even very valuable in that context.