Content warning: there is brief discussion about the crimes Victor Salva perpetrated on 12 year old Nathan Forrest Winters for which Salva was prosecuted and jailed.
Also for full journalistic ethical transparency – I was given a free pass by Fathom Events to see this film. I did not give this movie a dime, I swear.
I remember when Jeepers Creepers hit the big screen back in 2001. Horror was in something of the doldrums of that time, the slasher craze reignited by Scream was already fizzling and a lot of horror was shot on video, finding home not on the big screen but on the shelves of video stores. There were still those filmmakers however who wanted to relive the glory days of the 80’s where the bad guy was the draw, their masks or horribly disfigured faces adorning horror magazines. It was time for another shot at this kind of memorable protagonist, Scream’s “Ghostface” was just a temporary disguise in a series of whodunnits and the Wishmaster was fun but didn’t take. The Creeper looked like it could have been a contender and he left an impression with some. There are spoilers ahead but they’re not spoilers for anything worth watching so fuck it, you know?
Also while we did have the Internet in 2001 but it was not this incredibly powerful tool for spreading information that it is today. So for a lot of people Jeepers Creepers or maybe 1995’s Powder were their introduction to Victor Salva, but even those who knew his work on Clownhouse at the tailend of the 1980’s may still not have been familiar with his status as a sex offender. On the set of Clownhouse Victor Salva abused one of the young male cast members and ended up pleading guilty to several charges including sexual contact with a minor under 14 and procuring a child for pornography. More child porn was found in his house after his arrest. He served 15 months of a 3 year sentence. The nature of his crime being as abhorrent as they were, his attempts to create more films have been plagued with protest and controversy. Powder was produced by Disney who received considerable pushback including from the actor Salva had molested. Disney said they did not know about Salva’s criminal past when they greenlit the film.
Victor Salva’s status as a sex offender has dogged his career and rightfully so, one might wonder if he should have just found himself a different career rather than the one he exploited in order to abuse an underage boy. Jeepers Creepers and its sequel have continued to face resistance and condemnation and it has taken 14 years for a second sequel to be released. Even then Scream Factory’s Blu-ray releases of the first two films in 2016 caused outrage and the premier of 3 was cancelled entirely due to threats of boycott and protest. Victor Salva committed horrific crimes and while the Woody Allens and Roman Polanskis of the world have skated by or avoided prosecution for their behavior we must never forget nor diminish the lifelong effect sex offenders and their crimes have on their victims.
It is with all of this painful context that we can talk about the movie series and there is one thing that should be made abundantly clear: Jeepers Creepers 3 is not worth your time, whether that’s to pay to see it or to insist others do not. Jeepers Creepers 3 is the worst in a very mediocre franchise and does not deserve any energy to be spent upon it in any way.
The fact of the matter is that in the grand pantheon of Horror Monsters, The Creeper doesn’t have a great amount of quality behind him. The first Jeepers Creepers has some great early scenes such as with the Creeper’s incredibly scary truck which is arguably the best part of the entire character and the discovery and design of his monstrous hideaway under an old church is very well realized. However things just fall apart once Darry (Justin Long) and his sister Trish (Gina Phillips) are actually pursued by the monster himself. The Creeper only appears for 23 days every 23rd Spring (not a great origin to base a sequel franchise on) where he must catch and eat humans in order to regenerate his own body. He’s creepy in theory but he just hardly does anything apart from look scary in his big hat and trenchcoat and occasionally fly. The first film felt needlessly padded in some places and truncated in others where despite the final scene of the movie proving to be one of the strongest scenes in the film how we got there just felt empty and unimaginative.
Jeepers Creepers 2, which showed the Creeper stalking a schoolbus full of teenagers on the way to a football game, is largely worthless. That’s until genre hero Ray Wise shows up and manages to wring a couple of fun action scenes out of the Creeper and the mobility afforded him by his wings. The sequel did not even have the scary old truck that everybody enjoyed from the first film. The connection between both films was pretty slapdash, it’s not clear if these events were running concurrently or not, seeing as there were no major returning characters save for Jonathan Breck as the Creeper. While the first Jeepers Creepers was more of a Halloween/The Terminator stalk and kill style horror film, the sequel is mainly an action film with just a big monster dude as the antagonist. These are not great movies and really don’t stack up very well against other attempts at horror franchises. They’re at best passing entertainment and great fodder for weekend reruns on SyFy and boy does SyFy like to show these movies a lot. There are certainly fans who wanted another sequel but I highly doubt this sequel was any kind of a transformative experience for anybody who sees it. That hasn’t prevented Salva working to create another vehicle for his creature to stalk through.
Jeepers Creepers 3 takes place immediately after the events of the first film and before the second, beginning with a terribly-written bit of extremely vague narration about crows. We are brought back to the police station just a short time after Darry was snatched away by the Creeper. Sgt. Tubbs (Brandon Smith reprising his role from the first film) looks on at the carnage and disarray the Creeper left in its wake. The police do however have his truck and soon discover that it has devices built into it to prevent anybody other than the Creeper from entering it. It’s right around this time that Sheriff Tashtego (Stan Shaw) shows up with his vigilante force dedicated to hunting down and destroying the creature for good. Now that Sgt. Tubbs has seen the Creeper for himself Tashtego wants him to join his loose group of Creeper Killers. Meanwhile Gaylen Brandon (Meg Foster) owns a farm and sees the ghost of her dead son at the site where he buried the severed hand of the Creeper 23 years previous. Also, Gaylen’s granddaughter Addison is staying with her who is 100% there to get into trouble so the local farm boy who likes her can win her love when he saves her. We wait for all of these bumbling idiot characters to run into the Creeper so they can be caught. Or not. Whatever.
It’s clear that Jeepers Creepers 3 did not have the budget of it’s older siblings. Those films contained a lot of practical effects, while here a lot of the effects heavy lifting with computer effects. All of the car crashes, flying monster scenes and anything that would have required a dedicated stunt team is replaced here with visual effects. While I definitely prefer practical effects over computer generated ones, I’m not a hater, but the effects in Jeepers Creepers 3 are just dire. At best they look rushed and unpolished, at worst they frankly look completely inept with no consideration given to scale, believability or even imagination. The Creeper himself is less elaborate, just a big mean guy with a cool-looking gnarled monster head but rather disappointingly just wearing a red t-shirt under a large duster coat. Seriously, a bright red t-shirt. He stalks around and grimaces, sometimes he sniffs someone really hard, and occasionally he pulls out an axe or his Bone and Teeth Ninja Star to rather ineffectively attack his targets. He’s most effective when flying and quickly snatches his victims right off the screen using the oldest editing tricks in the book. The Creeper doesn’t even seem all that motivated to do anything, he just lumbers around and the stupid characters mainly just send themselves to the slaughter. Oh and he might have telekinetic powers? Not sure. Once again the budget kills the creepiness because most of this film was shot during the day to avoid expensive lighting for night shoots and without the night, he’s just not all that scary.
Remember we talked about that cool old truck from the first movie? Well now it’s not only a cool old truck but it’s a Saw-style death machine on wheels. It has a mechanism that I can only be described as magic that can detect when someone not the Creeper attempts to get in the back of the vehicle. It causes a sort of portcullis where spikes shoot out from the top and bottom of the entryway that skewers anything that is in it’s way and creates a temporary barrier. Then the doors close by themselves. THEN the truck fires a harpoon with an impossibly long cable in a straight line, and then after a few minutes pulls it back. I’m pretty sure this is all one automated sequence because it goes through it twice during the movie like clockwork. The truck also has internal traps as the Creeper was apparently prescient enough to know that at some point, somebody was going to crawl from the back of the truck and while still lying down would pull the handle to the passenger-side door. We know this because there is a spike at the exact right height and position to skewer a head from that one position. The truck also drops tiny versions of those spinny robot things from the Battleship movie that look terrible here and just don’t make any sense at all for this character. The van is also completely bulletproof which is just great for making your protagonists look like morons when they try and shoot it and kill themselves with the rebounds in the process.
As for the characters we’re meant to be cheering on, they’re tolerable to utterly laughable. On the high end are stalwarts like Stan Shaw and Meg Foster who know how to get as much out of the terrible forced dialogue as they can. As for Addison and the other young characters they’re pure fodder and honestly don’t really make enough of an impression to really be worth talking about. However seeing this film with a crowd was interesting because there was one character that just kept the whole theater chortling in a way that I don’t think was intended and that was Brandon Smith as Sgt. Tubbs. Returning from the first movie Smith goes way back with Salva to Powder and there’s something about his anguished, resentful presence in the movie that just makes him impossible to take seriously. It’s not just that we’re meant to buy that 16 years later this is the same guy that was in the original movie just hours after those events but his performance is painfully cringeworthy. Every time Stan Shaw unleashes some new revelation on Smith about The Creeper he gets this pitiful look on his face, it elicited chuckles every single time. Unfortunately the plot partly revolves around this character becoming a believer and taking up the cause against the Creeper. But every dramatic scene with him falls absolutely flat because he is a clown, a big sad clown in a cop uniform.
There are very few memorable moments in Jeepers Creepers 3 but there’s one I just have to recount because it’ comical incompetence is staggering. So one of the anti-Creeper team has a big fuck-off gatling gun on the back of a pickup. Unfortunately he doesn’t know about how the truck is entirely bulletproof. So when he tries to fire his bad CG bullets at the truck he and his driver get torn to pieces and their pickup gets taken out and wrecks at the side of the road. Tubbs and Tashtego also utterly fail to do any harm to the Creeper and his magic truck and they too crash off the road. Inexplicably the Creeper decides to get out of his impregnable truck and lumber in Tashtego’s general direction, axe in hand. Our brave Sheriff meanwhile has noticed that the big fuck-off gatling gun might still be operable so he takes off for it. As Tashtego tries to crank the gun up and aim it the Creeper unfurls his wings and launches himself towards the felled truck. As the Sheriff struggles with the gun he sees the Creeper flying towards him, axe drawn. So he yanks at that cannon, and he yanks, and he tugs, and he pulls and he grapples and the cannon for a painfully long time. The Creeper is moving in slow motion the entire time as if frozen while the Sherrif gets his shit together. The Creeper… just hangs there like a pro wrestler whose opponent has forgotten to bounce back off the ropes and he’s left in a silly, fixed pose like a complete idiot. It was parody by way of utter ineptitude and by the time that gun has started being fired at an immobile Creeper the whole theater was laughing. This is a terrible fucking film.
Eventually the Creeper literally gets fed up and leaves. Really. And then we get to see farm boy get the girl before heading off to join his school football team on the schoolbus. Yeah that fucking schoolbus. Then the final obnoxious tease for a sequel is Gina Phillips from the first movie was the one delivering the terrible narration at the start of the movie! OMG! What a load of crap. Man.
This film is a disaster, a tedious film filled with over-serious goofball characters with a central monster who doesn’t even look like he gives much of a shit. Victor Salva had a decade to get this movie right and while the small budget didn’t help, the story here is just utter shit. But then again the stories have always been shit because Jeepers Creepers was never a good franchise to begin with. After this wretched debacle perhaps Victor Salva just needs to find a new career as he is neither welcome nor competent enough to justify keeping around. Maybe if he goes away for 23 years…