CREEP AND NASTY
JEEPERS CREEPERS 3 (15)
Director: Victor Salva
Starring: Stan Shaw, Gabrielle Haugh, Brandon Smith
Review: RJ Bland
All horror fans have a few favourites from their formative years that helped them realise that they had a thing for scary movies. I was about 11 when my father bought the local video shop and I suddenly had access (well, not that he knew I was watching them) to a whole host of horror titles. I burnt through some of the classics (A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Exorcist and The Shining etc) and quickly found that although they left me feeling pretty unsettled (and led to several sleepless nights) I kinda got a kick out of that feeling. Jump forward several years and although I was already on my way to becoming a certified young horror fan, the movie that made me want to make horror films was Victor Salva's Jeepers Creepers. That may make you laugh but my memories of that screening were pretty special. I was 16 years old and although I'd seen a trailer, I wasn't really sure what the movie was going to be about. Sure, it kinda lost its magic for the last thirty mins or so but up until that point it felt like horror perfection to me. I remember looking at the audience halfway through the film (it was a packed screening) and everyone was transfixed/on the edge of their seats. The goal of one day being able to make an audience feel like that myself was planted in me that day, and although I have yet to write anything half as effective, I'll always have Jeepers Creepers to thank for the inspiration. The sequel, released a couple of years later, was a disappointing follow up but most of us hardcore Creeper fans were eager for more and finally, after 14 years of rumours and development hell, we got our wish. But was it worth the wait...?
Picking up immediately after the events of the first movie (this film really should have been called Jeepers Creepers 1.5), we see local law enforcement's efforts to impound the Creeper's truck backfire catastrophically. The local Sheriff assembles a group of specialist Creeper hunters and they head out into the night looking for the winged beast. The next morning, a local woman Gaylen Brandon, sees the ghost of her son underneath a tree in her garden. He was murdered by the creepers 23 years previously you see, and he's returned to warn his dear old ma that his murderer will be returning soon to retrieve something from the property that was buried 23 years ago – and that he will kill anyone who gets in his way. Including her and her granddaughter, Addie. What is it exactly that is buried and why does the creeper want it so bad?
Turns out, there's not too much point in caring. And even if you did, you still won't be satisfied by the lack of answers that the film provides. For the most part, JC3 is a hugely frustrating experience – especially for fans of the the original movie, who have waited an awfully long time to see a third entry of the franchise. It's difficult to put your finger on one vital flaw that brings the film down as there are just so many elements that don't really work. It's not even that the film is terrible, it's just rather underwhelming, a shadow of its former self.
All those things that worked so well in the first movie – tension, black humour, characters we cared about have all abandoned for the most part. The third movie in a series is never going to capture the same sense of mystery and originality as the original but you can still give us some effective set pieces at the very least. But strangely, Salva decides to tell most of his story during daylight hours, when things seem naturally a little less threatening. Driving through the deserted rural mid-west in the middle of the night is what the Jeepers Creepers movies are all about!
The Creeper's Truck also gets a promotion from a suped-up speed machine to some kind of demonic batmobile, which is admittedly quite cool to begin with. Breck does a solid job again but is let down by the insistence on seeing him in full view and on too many occasions. His presence kind of loses its power after the eighteenth time of seeing him on screen. Also, whose decision was it to dress him up in a shimmery crimson jumper? I was half expecting to see him sporting some shiny white shoes and an earring too. On some level it's just good to see him again but unfortunately the special and practical effects are something of a let down. I can make the leap of faith that a demonic winged monster surfaces every quarter of a century or so to eat body parts but please, at least make his flapping wooks look realistic!
One of the strengths of the original was the chemistry developed between Justing Long and Gina Phillips. The focus on two central leads really drew you into the story – and made you actually care about what happened tho the two squabbling siblings. Whilst the third film doesn't quite have the sheer volume of characters as the sequel, there are still too many characters involved. Salva does his best to switch between them all with regulairty but it affects the tempo of the film and more importantly leads to a set of characters who we really don't know too much about and who ultimately we care little for. Gabrielle Haugh is fine as Addie and her relationship with Chester Rushing is actually one of the subplots that works quite nicely. You just wish that they ditched some of the other characters (or at least we spent less time in their company)
The plot is also something of a mess. Whilst the nod to the missing teens mentioned at the beginning of JC1 is a neat touch – and the idea that the Creepers is returning to find something of importance is nicely set up, where it goes from there is rather confused and unsatisfying. The Creeper's original motivation was simply to eat people and although there were clues that he had been around for centuries, the ambiguity of the character was as unsettling as it was effective. Whilst JC3 still doesn't reveal much more about him and thus maintains that sense of intrigue – it sets up the idea that the thing that he is seeking to retrieve is vitally important to his origin and his eventual downfall. However without going into spoiler territory, none of this really leads to much in the way of a satisfying climax. In fact, by the time the credits roll, you might be frowning and asking yourself 'is that it?'. It almost feels unfinished.
The final minute or so provides some hope for a fourth film (for those who still want to see one) but also fails miserably in a logic-sapping set-up for what is to come next in terms of the timeline of the franchise (Jeepers Creepers 2). It's the kind of film-making decision that makes you wonder if the first film, whilst something of a masterstroke in my humble opinion, was something of a fluke. Will I tune in to see the fourth instalment, if there is one? Probably, but my expectations will be set to very low.