I watched Jeepers Creepers: Reborn (So You Don't Have To).

by Paul Deeter

Jeepers Creepers is an interesting landmark of a horror film. It came out in 2001, a time which remains a period of nostalgia surrounding Thir13en Ghosts, The Others and preluding The Ring and House of Wax in following years. It's a movie that's been through the ringer critically but seems to live off of the nostalgia horror viewers of the millennial category have for the time it came out. The movie did quite well commercially, so maybe it deserves a fair shake from critics? Maybe its worth revisiting. I have found that my interest in early 2000s horror comes from the period of horror movies I was too young to see due to their R-Rating in theaters. A lot of these movies I did catch (with or without permission) on their home release, but the quench for ideal audience experience was lost on me during these years. So part of me, and I think in a large part most millennials could agree, the warmth of nostalgia and sometimes missed opportunity of catching these films in the theater left a lot of love for sometimes terrible movies. Jeepers Creepers is a cult feature that doesn't quite fall into the terribleness of films like Ghost Ship of 2002, but isn't also comparably underrated in the respect of films like 2005's House of Wax. It's an ugly film visually, and a nasty film in respect to its violence and onscreen cruelty. But its also got some style, and a solid performance by young Justin Long. It's a curious feature, one a monster effective enough to spawn a small franchise, but not nearly as interesting as memory serves.

Jeepers Creepers 2 was a horror film I rented from Blockbuster in 2004 when I was thirteen, and it was one of my first at home R-rated film experiences (and I turned out okay, right?). Again I often remember this film fondly for the level of violence I wasn't quite attuned to seeing, and also the scares it worked effectively on me from that age. But would I watch it again? After recently seeing Jeepers Creepers 1, I would not.

But this article is not about the previous three Jeepers Creepers films; to be fair I haven't even caught the third one, but that was partially due to the controversy surrounding the director and the film's treatment of that issue: Jeepers Creepers 3 caused controversy over its alleged use of child molestation as a plotline. [it] was singled out for criticism due to Victor Salva's 1988 incarceration for sexual abuse and possession of child p***ography. This leaves a bad taste for the support of the original two features, and frankly, after re-watching 1 out of of curiosity inspired by my nostalgia, I felt a little dirty even streaming his earlier works. So is it fair to rebuke my piece on Jeepers Creepers: Reborn? Well perhaps, if not for the fact that this reboot is in the hands of director Timo Vuorensola as his first feature film.

The film exists in a Scream-like universe where the first three films exist on the subject of the unsolved mystery of "The Creeper". The topic is also being covered at the HorrorHound convention, which the young leading couple are in town to attend. Chase and Laine are their names, but its really not like there's any characterization here outside of the fact that Laine is apparently pregnant and Chase doesn't know, and Chase is going to propose to Laine (which Laine doesn't know). I should mention at this point that the horror convention Laine and Chase are attending looks nothing more than some countryside backyard carnival. I understand the budget of this film is a lowly 5$ million (of which it only made 3$ million back) but some clever set building could have at least somewhat make up for the trappings of a limited amount of funding. The low attention to detail here is not surprising, but still quite depressing.

Laine argues that there could be a psycho in the midst of this low-production horror event, eerily accurate to the outcome of our characters; she even goes on to note that "even music festivals have body counts" (apparently she's watched too many of the Fyre Festival documentaries). But the rumor mill of "The Creeper" is alive and well even without the knowledge of the actual monster milling about the festival himself. The pacing here is comparable to a slow burn mumblegore movie set up, but has none of the clever trappings to inspire anything but boredom in following the story through. What's possibly worst of it all is the atrocious dialogue and acting per each character that's thankfully knocked off before we spend too much time with them. One doomed character claims he need to "Tinker Tailor his Soldier Spy" as an apparently understood colloquialism for pissing in the woods. The quirky writing is neither clever or understandable, and mixed with the buildup of almost half the film's runtime before we actually face the Creeper head on, I was more than tempted to retire within the first act and a half of the film.

But eventually The Creeper starts to emerge from the shadows to prey on our protagonists (and a few other forgettable characters) and at this point, do any of us care? The deaths are immemorable, the creepy subplot of the pregnancy and its ritualistic purpose in the film is just dumb and any sort of terror or dread inspired in the original films surrounding the mystery of the Creeper and his building menace over the films' characters is nowhere to be found. Jeepers Creepers: Reborn is the worst kind of reboot. Worse than the Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboot, which attempted originality in its ultra-violent murders and an action element over horror. Once the Creeper shows up any offerings of even jump scares, as cheap as they can be, is off the table. What we're left with is corny haunted house style camp, but not the fun kind.

Just as any horror reboot is challenged to determine its relevance after the quality of an original franchise or story, this film fails like most of the others. The character design is mostly kept close to the original films (unlike the atrocious re-casting of Freddy Krueger in the remake of Nightmare on Elm Street) but the nostalgia factor of seeing the Creeper back on the big screen (or more likely the small computer screen for streaming viewers) is not enough to pull in new or returning crowds. It's unfortunate to have to admit it, but Jeepers Creepers was never meant for cult status and even with the power of nostalgia, there's no real need to return to this turkey of a franchise.

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