The third installment in a horror franchise is always a tricky thing, the filmmakers often having made a quick buck on a sequel to their successful first outing have completely run out of ideas come the third chapter. Now in the case of Victor Salva’s Jeepers Creepers 3 it’s not a matter of being bereft of new ideas but instead in this third installment Salva incorporates new elements and mythology that unfortunately don’t work at all.
In 2001 writer/director Victor Salva brought to the screen an original monster with an interesting mythology, a creature that would awake every twenty-three years and hunt for twenty-three days, but as cool as the premise for the original Jeepers Creepers was it kind of made for writing sequels a little bit harder. Do you want to have your sequel take place twenty-three years in the future? In 2003 Salva solved this issue by having Jeepers Creepers 2 occur four days after the conclusion of the first film, during the Creepers last days of his hunt, but as that film ended with the Creeper being defeated and nailed to the wall of Ray Wise’s barn it made a third chapter even trickier to come up with. Jeepers Creepers 2 also ended with an epilogue where we saw an older Ray Wise, who had been watching over the desiccated corpse of the creature for twenty-three years waiting for it to awaken, so obviously any sequel would have to follow that timeline, right?
He doesn’t honor the ending of his second film at all but instead he cheats us and has Jeepers Creepers 3 take place in the days between the first movie and the second movie. Seriously, that’s the best he could come up with? A film where the monster hunts a bunch of people that we know have no chance in winning against it because in the previous entry we saw the creature very much alive before being brought down by Ray Wise, so where is the suspense? The only way this film could remotely work is if the current group of potential victims were interesting and we cared whether they lived or died, and maybe we`d learn a bit more about the Creepers history, but the film fails to deliver on both those counts. The filmmakers also unwisely decided to have almost all the Creeper attacks in broad daylight, and I’m not saying you can’t make an effective horror film that take place under the harsh light of the day but in the case of the Jeepers Creepers films Salva clearly didn’t understand what made his previous entries so effective.
Well what about the menu of victims for this film, are they any good? In the first Jeepers Creepers we got a cool and believable brother/sister dynamic, one that you don’t normally get in this genre, then in the sequel we had a busload full of teens who were thrust into a terror that would challenge their own moral compasses. With Jeepers Creepers 3 all we get are generic two dimensional meat sacks whose only job is to scream and die. There is Gaylen Brandon (Meg Foster) who is haunted by her dead son Kenny Brandon (Jordan Salloum), a victim of a Creeper attack twenty-three years ago and whose corpse appeared in the first film, and then there Addison Brandon (Gabrielle Haugh) whose sole character trait is that she really loves her horse and may have a crush on local feed store employee Buddy Hooks (Chester Rushing). Sgt. Davis Tubbs (Brandon Smith) is one of the cops to witness the Creeper attack that ended with young Derry (Justin Long) being carried off by the monster in the first film and he is joined by Sheriff Dan Tashtego (Stan Shaw) whole leads a team of Creeper hunters that consists of survivors of past attacks.
That none of the characters in this film are even vaguely compelling is not the key problem with this film, almost the entire Friday the 13th franchise is populated by such characters, but it’s the ham-fisted additional mythology crammed into Jeepers Creepers 3 that sinks the film. In the first two films we know very little about the Creeper, other than his hunt cycle and that he picks his prey through sent and can regenerate from almost any damage, but Salva now introduces the idea that if you hold a severed part of the Creeper (for some reason the Creeper dropped his hand during this film’s prologue) you will learn secrets about the Creeper’s origins. That may seem rather weird and kind of arbitrary but what really sucks is that though several people do take hold of the severed hand of the Creeper we never learn if it divulged any secrets or not. How can you introduce such a narrative device and not actually have it pay off?
Salva’s inability to understand simply story structure is almost overshadowed by the idiotic alterations made to the Creeper’s truck. In the first movie it was a scary rusted hulk that hounded our heroes in the same manner as the truck from Steven Spielberg’s directorial debut Duel, it was not some kind of magical construct with gadgets and a mind of its own, but in Jeepers Creepers 3 it’s practically the fucking Batmobile. All of a sudden its rear doors are guarded by a spiked portcullis, and down in the undercarriage there is a spear gun that can launch a chained spear that drags its victims back into its clutches. Worst of all is that the truck apparently operates such devices autonomously with the Creeper not even having to be around to operate them. Is the truck sentient or does the Creeper have some kind of long range mental control over it?
Jeepers Creepers 3 had a long road into production, originally to have been released back in 2006, and with over a decade of problems with script and cast changes it’s no wonder the final result was a bit of a mess. What is the real shame here is that the film isn’t even an interesting mess, it’s just a drab and lifeless cinematic turd with none of the spirit or fun that the first two installments had contained. Like Jeepers Creepers 2 this one ends with an epilogue hinting at the next chapter but I wouldn’t hold your breath as anything set up in this film ever paying off is a long shot.