Jeepers Creepers 3 (2017)

SEPTEMBER 26, 2017

GENRE: MONSTER, SUPERNATURAL
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REGULAR SCREENING)

Much like Cropsey, the Creeper is a cool villain that deserves better vehicles to show what they can do, as Jeepers Creepers 3 continues the series' tradition of being better on paper than in execution, forever trying to recapture the magic of the first film's first act. That 30-35 minute stretch of the original, where it's mostly just the two kids in their car being pursued by the Creeper, is nearly perfect, but the next hour, and its first sequel, are handicapped by weird narrative choices, clunky pacing, and an abundance of characters. For a while, it seems like the 3rd film would stick to what worked about the original and deliver on the promise (to the best of the filmmaker's abilities when working with a lower budget this time around), but alas the usual issues start rearing their ugly head.

All except for one, which I might as well get out of the way now - it's thankfully not as skeevy as the other two, or the director's other films that I've seen. No shirtless boys, no gross metaphors (I'm still somewhat repulsed by JC2's "he can get in through the backdoor!" sequence), etc. An early cut of the film apparently included a brief reference to the heroine being abused by her stepfather (and another character saying something like "Can you blame him?") but thankfully they were excised (the backstory was changed; the stepfather is now said to have disliked the girl, prompting to her to live with her grandmother instead), leaving the film free of anything that would remind you of the filmmaker's abhorrent past. And on that note, as always I will simply remind you that he plead guilty and was imprisoned for a while (unlike some others who deny their crimes and walk free), that many people who have worked with him since have sworn that there was nothing uncomfortable about their production(s), and that he is but one of the many people who worked on the film and deserve to see their hard work recognized. I don't condone what he did, but I'm not going to take it out on, say, Jonathan Breck (the Creeper), either. I matched the cost of my ticket to support the GoFundMe for his victim, who is trying to spread awareness of what happened to him and child abuse as a whole - I urge you to support him as well if you have the means to. It's also worth noting that he volunteers at a workshop for juvenile sex offenders, encouraging them to do as he does and work his issues out through creative means - i.e. going out and actually working on problems, as opposed to just tweeting how much you don't like that they exist.

If you care about the film at all you probably have heard by now that it takes place in between the first two films, which has two benefits for the production: they don't have to make it look like the future of 2024 (now a lot closer than it was when the first two films were released) and they didn't need to bring back Ray Wise and (likely) kill him off in order to explain how the Creeper got away from the makeshift prison he was in when we last saw him in JC2. But I figured it'd take place on some random day in the middle of that 23-day spree, so I was surprised when the film began (after a 1978 prologue that I'll talk about in a bit) right at the end of JC1, with the surviving cops regrouping and trying to figure out what the hell just happened after Darry (Justin Long's character) was taken from their "protection". Only one cast member (besides Breck) really returns, Brandon Smith as Tubbs, the high-strung desk sergeant who spent most of his screentime in the first film just kind of growling and muttering at the psychic lady - but he was the only one of the cops that had a distinct presence so I doubt anyone will notice/care that his fellow officers aren't the same, and it's pretty admirable to do the "immediately picks up" sequel thing for a movie that was made sixteen years later.

As for Gina Phillips as Trish, she's top billed on IMDb, but it's practically a spoiler to announce that she's in the movie at all, since she doesn't appear until the film's closing shot, in an epilogue not unlike JC2's: she's basically waiting around to fight the Creeper when he returns in 2024 (I'm not sure what year her scene takes place in - she has a modern laptop, so I'm guessing it's just some form of "present day". The slow pan up to reveal her face is treated as a major surprise, so I don't know why they announced her return for what's basically a twist cameo (oddly, another sequel coming around soon did the exact same thing with its most famous survivor, but knew better than to put that person on the damn cast list), but hopefully no one was only interested in the movie to see her grand return, as it seems we will have to wait for Jeepers 4 to see what Trish has been up to all these years. Unlike Smith (already an older guy) there's no way Phillips could pass for her 16 years younger self, and thus it was obvious that she wouldn't be in it all that much once the 2001 setting was established, so hopefully the next film finally cuts to the Creeper's next spree so she can take an active role in the proceedings.

Speaking of the timeline, as I mentioned the film opens with a prologue set during a different Creeper spree - 1978's, to be exact. At first I figured it was just a way to get a kill in the movie, but not only does the victim have a role in the main part of the film (as a ghost/hallucination/whatever), but it's also a fun little bit of connective tissue - it's the victim that Darry and Trish talk about in the first film, when she realizes they're on the same road as "that old story". It's a throwaway detail that doesn't mean anything, but it's a nice little nod to the first film that registers as the kind of thing you'd never get in a series that kept changing hands like the Friday the 13ths, where such world building is a total mess due to people coming in without respecting what came before. Using the whole buffalo is always a surefire way to win me over, and I like that it's a little detail that won't bother anyone who doesn't remember or never even saw the original. This is the best way to do a callback, in my opinion - it's fun for the people who'd notice, but doesn't hamper the ability for a newcomer to enjoy it.

Unfortunately, the flipside of the "in between" approach is a major one - you're watching the whole movie knowing that the Creeper won't be killed or even stopped for any meaningful amount of time, as he's up and about in Jeepers Creepers 2. I mean it's not like I ever think Jason or Freddy is truly dead at the end of their films (even in the ones that promise as much), but there will at least be the catharsis of seeing the heroes triumph over them and walk away thinking the nightmare is over forever (and those guys are usually down for some time - Jason was in the bottom of Crystal Lake for at least a decade at one point). It's practically a guarantee from the start that the movie won't offer that, and (spoiler?) it doesn't - I'm still not even sure how to describe the Creeper's final moment in the film, and the heroine never gets any major victory over the damn thing. At one point she uses one of his own weapons against him (a very crowd-pleasing moment, actually) but it barely even phases him - he's after her again moments later, so it's about as much of a victory as Laurie stabbing Michael with the knitting needle.

The other big problem is that the movie is very disjointed. There are basically three separate plotlines going on, two of which would be perfectly enjoyable if fleshed out to their own movie, but hurt by the constant cutting around as they very rarely intersect. One is basically a redux of the original - two teens (potential lovers this time, not siblings) have caught the Creeper's eye, and he's going after them. After the usual setup stuff they find themselves trapped under a car as the Creeper stalks/kills a few people around them, and later the girl is trapped inside the Creeper's trademark "BEATNGU" truck (p.s. we learn that his license plate is a homemade one, killing sixteen years of "Creeper at the DMV" jokes), giving it some claustrophobic flair that recalls the best moments of the first sequel, and here's where the prequel element also pays off somewhat - we're never sure that she's "safe", as she isn't around in the "next" installment, giving the director license to kill her off (not unlike Platinum Dunes' Chainsaw prequel). Their scenes are the best in the film, and mostly why it's overall at least on par with JC2, making me wish that they just stuck to them the whole time - it might come off as a remake of the original with such a limited cast, but at least it would be focused and suspenseful, and a marked improvement over the other followup.

The second storyline revolves around Tubbs and a group of hunters led by Stan Shaw, who is basically just Creighton Duke with a team. These guys have apparently been tracking the Creeper and have professional versions of the truck-mounted weaponry Ray Wise used in the other sequel, but given the low budget there is precious little time devoted to them actually doing action-y things. Worse, those scenes suffer the most from the film's bad CGI - the Creeper himself always looks great, but his weapons look like cartoons in some shots, particularly these Mario Kart-esque bomb-shell things that he shoots from his car and can apparently track their targets. My friend said they looked like the Langoliers from the miniseries, and it's pretty apt - plus the fact that the Creeper now apparently has Thor-like powers over his weapons (at one point he literally has his axe fly from the ground into his hand as if by telekinesis), something I don't recall in the others. His truck is also booby-trapped, which results in a few interesting moments, but again is one of those things that makes me wonder why he didn't use them the day before - the harpoon that can puncture vehicles would have been handy all those times he was chasing Darry and Trish, no?

The third subplot involves Meg Foster, who plays yet another crazy old lady that lives in this town. Her son is the guy who dies in the prologue, and his ghost keeps coming back to tell her to get out of town because the Creeper is coming to get "it" back and kill anyone nearby. After a while we finally learn what "it" is - one of his old hands, which is buried in a pot in her field. When someone touches the hand they will spazz out and see the Creature's origins, I guess? Anyway, it's a subplot that's just as interminable as it is goofy, and it doesn't even have a payoff - the Creeper finally comes across it near the end, but he doesn't need an old hand (he's already grown a new one), so he just crushes it and howls at the moon, as birds drop from the sky around him. I don't know what the point of any of this nonsense is, but I DO know if it was all cut from the film it would barely make a difference, and seems like it's there only to keep the director's tradition of including goofy, unexplained supernatural subplots in his films. As a result, Foster's role is limited to either screaming at a ghost (we occasionally see it from other people's POV, showing her yelling at nothing) or standing around watching people touch the hand or whatever. She's the grandmother of the girl that's trapped in the Creeper's truck, so I kept hoping she'd mount a rescue or something, but alas - the two barely ever interact in the entire film, adding to the disjointed feeling.

But for a movie that was practically willed into existence after a number of false starts over the years, the fact that it's decent is kind of a miracle. The budget is lower but not to the extent that it can't deliver what fans want (in fact, I think we see the Creeper more than ever), and while it eventually loses its luster, it's interesting to see how much of the film is set during broad daylight. With some tighter editing (the director's usual editor Ed Marx, who has cut all of his films dating back to 1999's Rites of Passage, did not return this time) it could have worked fairly well, but the jarring shifts between characters who rarely interact, and the fact that you know the movie is building toward an anticlimax (though there is a nice little twist that ties into JC2) is something the movie never fully overcomes. It's worth a look for series fans, for sure (and you can get another chance on October 4th if you missed this "one time" screening), but don't expect to be converted if you weren't on board with those.

What say you?

P.S. I left his name out on purpose. People are on a witch hunt this time for some reason, and I don't get why since it's not exactly a secret and has been widely known since Powder (before the internet), but I'm not in the mood for a bunch of anonymous assholes to blast me - a father, by the way - for "lining the pockets of a monster" after finding this review by searching for his name (I can't very well leave the name of the movie out, alas). Does me seeing the film mean it's more likely he'll make another film? Maybe. I don't think it means he'll go out and hurt someone else, though, and besides, the kid's mother has said she has no problem with him continuing to work, so I don't see why I should feel any different than her. At any rate, comments are moderated (as they always are for every review) and won't get posted if they're vile, and if you're so offended by me seeing the film I encourage you not to yell at me on social media, which does nothing (except raise more awareness of the film's existence - several people told me they only knew it was playing because of tweets blasting the filmmaker), but instead match my $12.50 ticket price to RAINN or a similar organization, or donate to the GoFundMe I linked above.

3 comments:

  1. The Creeper was great in this movie. But the stupid hand subplot and lack of a climax really hurts the film (I had forgotten it took place in between 1 & 2)

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  2. You're alright in my book BC. Thanks for the balanced review xx

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  3. waiting desperately. I loved both before.

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