Stop us if you’ve heard this one. A vaguely demonic creature emerges every 20-something years to terrorize, stalk and ultimately devour residents of a small town before returning to its slumber. Nope, we’re not talking about Pennywise, the freaky killer clown currently rocking the box office in director Andy Muschietti’s It. As horror fans will know, the same modus operandi applies just as equally to the Creeper, the boogeyman that headlined 2001 horror hit Jeepers Creepers and its 2003 sequel. Now, writer/director Victor Salva and actor Jonathan Breck – who donned the hat and trenchcoat as the Creeper in Salva’s previous two entries – aim to resurrect the character once again with Jeepers Creepers 3.
Set between its predecessors, this installment attempts to recontextualize those events while introducing new characters that have been affected by the Creeper’s rampage. While Brandon Smith reprises his role as Sergeant Tubbs from the first film, Jeepers Creepers 3 spends much of its time on potential final girl Addison (Gabrielle Haugh), her grandmother Gaylen (Meg Foster) and a disbelieving sheriff (Stan Shaw). In addition to the requisite kill sequences, the film continually teases that it will unveil some of the mystery behind the Creeper, whose origin and methodology have been left largely unexplored to date.
However, fans of the franchise are bound to leave Jeepers Creepers 3 unfulfilled because not only does the threequel fail to deliver on the copious build-up surrounding crucial development on the Creeper himself, but the characters that claim the vast majority of the screen time are about as shallow as a kiddie pool. There’s the shy, virtuous local boy, a group of brazen frat boys who receive their comeuppance (spoilers? we think not) and a gaggle of police officers who are woefully unprepared for what they’re facing. The Creeper’s real nemesis, as it turns out, is cliches. It’s not so much that the actors here aren’t trying (they’re not), but even if they were, the material is about as uninspired as one can imagine, reeking as it does of a desperate attempt to revive a franchise that most have long forgotten about.
Alternating between awkward, painful and just plain blah, Salva’s script takes no chances and seems content to churn out another run-of-the-mill slasher film. The hackneyed dialogue and nonexistent character arcs leave the poor stars little choice but to either appear listless or completely over-the-top (the wisest among them choose the latter). Exaggerated performances are par for the course in horror, but this particular film isn’t bold or outrageous enough to sustain even that. Rather, Jeepers Creepers 3 feels like the kind of release that is destined to keep insomniacs company during its inevitable 3am airing on Syfy after a Sharknado marathon. Even then, its barely present story and lifeless death scenes may still lose out if it winds up competing with a particularly engaging infomercial or two.
Despite the fact that Jeepers Creepers 3 brings so little creativity to the screen, the film all too often finds itself wallowing somehow in its own significance. Characters tend to spout out thuddingly heavy-handed exposition about how fearsome the Creeper is and how his killing spree has left tragedy in its wake. But since all three of the existing movies take place around the same time, there’s too little onscreen history for the film to reference and no reason for audiences to feel emotionally invested in what these characters are feeling. If the franchise were to mix it up and hop through different time periods (befitting the Creeper’s nature), then each installment could cumulatively create ongoing threads while also working as an anthology. Instead, Jeepers Creepers goes the Saw route and mistakes complicating its timeline with building its mythos.
Perhaps Salva and his team were deliberately aiming for a so-bad-it’s-good aesthetic with Jeepers Creepers 3, and many of the above criticisms are earmarks of a raucous good time that chucks conventional storytelling wisdom and character development (appearing tailor-made for that aforementioned Syfy destination) in favor of some good old-fashioned blood and guts. Sadly, this isn’t the case either, as the violence never offers more than a perfunctory thrill. Without compelling characters and a rich mythology to grasp onto, there’s little to recommend in Jeepers Creepers 3 to anyone but the most diehard fans of the series.
To be honest, the franchise could still have some life in it (in fact, Jeepers Creepers 3 teases what could be a somewhat more satisfying follow-up), but Salva doesn’t put enough thought and/or care into his creation to reignite much interest in the Creeper or his misadventures. It’s as if the director simply thought that returning to the franchise after 14 years would be enough to send fans flocking back to theaters. After all, both previous films were sizable hits, given their modest budgets.
While this third outing seems designed to inspire more stories to come, with Jeepers Creepers 3 acting as the series’ supposed comeback, those subsequent tales might never materialize.
Lacking in imagination or genuine scares, Jeepers Creepers 3 falls tragically short on just about every front.