Thursday, October 6, 2022

A Legend's Ornery Return: Jeepers Creepers: Reborn (2022)

Jeepers Creepers: Reborn (2022)
Rating: **
Starring: Gary Graham, Dee Wallace and Timo Vuorensola

It's been five years since the last Jeepers Creepers film hit celluloid and, my God, seeing how that movie was a trainwreck of underwhelming dumb proportions with its mediocre production value, insanely stupid writing and mind-numbingly boring characters, the less we talk about that garbage, the better. In fact, why not soft-reboot the entire infamous franchise without Victor Salva (Thank God. Screw that child-molesting son of a bitch!) and instead have Finnish director Timo Vuorensola take the goddamn wheel, toss in some new mythos material and gorier kills, all done under the budget of a 2000s SyFy channel movie. What could possibly go right?!

Reborn opens with a recreation of the original's opening scare as a creeper rides their beaten-up "BEATINGU" truck down a lonesome road, terrorizing an elderly couple (guest starring Dee Wallace!) who just happen to be driving there. The encounter turns South when the two old folks later spot the creeper next to an abandoned church and dumping what appears to be bodies wrapped in sheets into a pipe. Knowing they cannot just ignore this gruesome discovery, these elderly souls would later take a quick gander down that same pipe and they "never been seen since...", or so says the narrator of this episode of Macabre Mysteries, one that horror geek Chase (Imran Adams) is a big fan of considering he's a obsessed with all things "Creeper".

Yes, in this film's universe, The Creeper is a well-known legend (a cryptid, if you may) that is said to haunt a certain part of Louisiana, awakening every twenty-third Spring to kill and feast on humans for twenty-three days before going dormant and repeating this cycle. The creature inspired TV shows, movies (I think it was titled 'Creepy Creeper' or something. And they made three of them...) and horror events including, much to Chase's excitement, an escape room hosted by a Horror Hound convention which he and his more scientifically grounded girlfriend Laine (Sydney Craven) are driving to. As the couple go about their evening enjoying the festivities of game booths, sword swallowers, roasted muttons and that one guy pranking people with a fake arrow through the chest, we see THE Creeper crawl out of an abandoned house, dress up, arm themselves to the teeth and ride its trusty rusty truck for another twenty three Spring days of feeding and murder.

But it seems it's not the only shady figure in the plot as we see a few people eyeing on Chase and Laine, talking about a "tree-bearing fruit" and rigging the escape room event to make sure our unsuspecting couple are among the chosen participants. Could they be in cahoots with The Creeper? Well, considering one of them owns a shop full of Creeper memorabilia, that would be a resounding 'yes'. But why, you ask? Well. Because. Cult stuff. Involving babies.

So like Michael Myers and his "Thorn Cult" movies back at the late 80s and 90s, Jeepers Creepers: Reborn plays with the idea of expanding the monster's universe by introducing human followers who may have a hand on its killing spree and meaty munchables over the years, an added lore that, frankly, I'm at odds with; I understand that this movie is supposed to act as both a meta spin-off and a reintroduction into the franchise, so a fresh new take on the monster is something to be considered as a welcome opportunity to improve, if not at least stand out. Disappointingly, the attempted cult elements here didn't do much for me as the cultist's goals are so vague, it's almost non-existent, borderline unnecessary. Yes, it is hinted that whatever it is they're doing with The Creeper has something to do with a baby, but that's all to it. Just hints. Write the cult stuff off along with all the spooky visions and gory shrines and we could've still gotten a basic yet still manageable monster/slasher hybrid of The Creeper just being himself, still this mysterious winged and thorny humanoid that grows back body parts by eating "replacements" out from the victims it kills. (Though it did gain a new power here: his whistles are now painful to hear!) Perhaps it's done this way to act as a sort of 'hook' for possible future sequels, keep the audience on their toes as they wonder where this "Creeper Cathedral" act will lead to, but I'm sure as hell there could have been implemented way better than this half-ass swing on the concept.

Unfortunately, this isn't the only gripe I got with this movie; as mentioned, the production really shows its budget in a lot of scenes here, namely those involving CG effects as it all look abysmal (Wow, that albino crow sure looks so life-like with its digitally rendered pixeled feathers, eh?) and a few wherein greenscreen is obviously used as a backdrop. (Yeah, kinda hard to feel any scary vibes when a shot looked like real people standing next to a CG cartoon background) Make-up done for The Creeper also took a slight nosedive as, comparing it to the original three films, it looked awfully stiffer and more rubbery, looking a whole lot more like a mask. Say farewell to him being expressively "flirty" with its victims, I guess, and say hello to constantly snarled face with teeth bared.

On the brighter side of things, when it comes to kills and a gore quota, the film do deliver a more monstrous and bloodthirsty Creeper rampage as they go about hacking, stabbing and slicing its victims dead. Sure, it sacrificed suspense, creepy atmosphere and tone, but those looking for a decent deal of splattery slasher action are treated here with more hands-on kills and a chunky body part or two getting strewn around and/or eaten, all done with competent-looking practical effects. The stalk-and-hunt antics inside a dilapidated mansion is executed well enough for that matter, keeping the second act as exciting as a standardized monster flick would be, given that you're patient enough to wait until the forty minute mark to see it, in turn enduring painfully embarrassing visuals and a bunch of uninteresting characters just bawling around and being generic. (Yes, this includes our two main characters. Boring, they are. Really. Hardly anything about them stood out expect, perhaps, Sydney Craven spending the last half of the flick dressed up as Jennifer Check of Jennifer's Body (2009))

I cannot really say that Jeepers Creepers: Reborn (2022) is as bad as Jeepers Creepers 3 (2017) as Reborn at least tries to have a consistent and competent story, and too a more serviceable round of murder and grue, but I cannot find it in my blackened heart to say that this is also a good film, either. You could watch it if you like, but you're not gonna miss much if you do opted to skip this. Personally, just stick with the original Jeepers Creepers (2001) and it's 2003 sequel and you're still set for a good time!

1 male killed offscreen
1 male hung unto a meathook, gets bone throwing stars to the chest
1 male killed offscreen, later found disemboweled
1 female gets a thrown battle axe to the head
1 male pinned in the gut with a thrown sharpened plank
1 male falls to his death
Total: 6

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