‘Jeepers Creepers: Reborn’ – Restarting a Troubled Franchise
The Jeepers Creepers franchise has a troubled history, but it came back to theaters in 2022 with hopes of erasing its past. Presented here is a brief history of what led up to the release of Jeepers Creepers: Reborn as well as a short review of the film.
Jeepers Creepers (2001) is fondly remembered by fans as a solid horror movie with a fun story and an awesome monster. The next movie in the series, Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003), followed with another entertaining outing. By the time Jeepers Creepers 3 (2017) finally came out though, it seemed like the Jeepers Creepers franchise was finished. The third movie didn’t come close to matching the quality of the first two, and the controversy involving series creator Victor Salva killed the intimidating Creeper.
However, in 2022, a new creative team attempted to bring Jeepers Creepers back to life. Jeepers Creepers: Reborn is optimistically intended to be the first of a new trilogy, but it already has a lot going against it. The stigma of the Creeper’s creator has never gone away, and a behind-the-scenes legal battle threatened to completely derail the movie’s release.
Release Dates & Review
Jeepers Creepers: Reborn was first released in limited theaters in the United States as a “three-night fan premiere event.” Hosted by Fathom Events, the movie was shown in theaters in the United States on September 19, 20, and 21 of 2022.
Amazon and Vudu appear to list a streaming release date of October 4, 2022. DVD and Blu-ray releases will be November 15 in the United States, though other countries may get earlier releases.
The movie is about a couple, Laine and Chase, who have very different outlooks on most things. Chase is a horror fanatic who loves scary movies and believes in the paranormal. Laine doesn’t understand the appeal of horror (and seems to look down on it) and is quick to assert her strict adherence to science when Chase brings up his theories on the existence of The Creeper. Reluctantly, Laine accompanies Chase to a horror festival near where The Creeper is supposed to have lived. Even more reluctantly, Laine goes with Chase to what they are told will be a Creeper-themed escape room, but what turns out to be a trap in which the creature hunts the couple and a few of the staff from the festival.
After seeing the movie, the plot feels unnecessarily complex. Many plot points aren’t explained well, and few lead to anything substantial. When the gist of the movie is “The Creeper stalks, kills, and eats people,” you don’t really need a complex plot to get the characters from point A to point B. There is a lot of explaining and setup in the first half of Jeepers Creepers: Reborn when all most people really want is for the action to start.
Once it does start, the action is okay. Seeing The Creeper up close with his victims is sometimes fun, but everything else is not so great. The special-effects budget was apparently stretched thin, so even though some of the makeup effects are alright, the heavy use of computer-generated effects greatly hurts the overall experience of the film. From swarms of CGI birds to The Creeper goofily flying across the screen, the computer effects are unfortunate. Many times not-so-great CGI can be ignored or can add flavor to a cheesy movie, but it doesn’t work that way here.
It is also clear that filming during a pandemic hurt the production, because many scenes are done on green-screen sets with jarringly obvious CGI backgrounds. The backgrounds and actors aren’t lit the same way, often making the characters look like they’re floating over the scenery. Even scenes shot on physical sets feel awkward when you can see the CGI background through windows and doors, like when the background from inside a moving car slightly obscures the edges of the characters’ faces.
There are worse movies out there, but for an anticipated release like this, it’s not good. The main characters in Jeepers Creepers: Reborn are interesting enough for a monster movie, and the cast did a good job with what they were given, but overall it’s tough to recommend this movie. Some of the chasing throughout the house in the second half of the movie is fun, and if that’s all you want, maybe it’ll work for you. But for fans of the series, go into this one with your expectations extremely low.
For a while, no one was sure that Jeepers Creepers: Reborn would be released at all. On February 24, 2021, Variety announced that Jeepers Creepers: Reborn had been filmed in relative secrecy. The movie was stated to have a release date in the fall of 2021, presumably sometime between September and November of that year. The year passed with no movie, and fans were left wondering why.
Post-production evidently went longer than expected, but that wasn’t the only reason the movie was delayed. News of a lawsuit regarding distribution began to trickle out in May of 2022. For those who want to dig into it, documents from the court case can be viewed on unicourt.com. For the rest of us, the case is essentially about Myriad Pictures (producers of the previous two Jeepers Creepers movies) suing the producers of Jeepers Creepers: Reborn for breaching their rights regarding worldwide distribution.
Court records show that the case was filed March 16, 2021, just a few weeks after the big announcement of the movie’s existence in Variety. Apparently Jeepers Creepers: Reborn wasn’t just a secret from moviegoers, it was also a secret from Myriad Pictures. Interestingly, the case is still ongoing, with a jury trial set for January 29, 2024. However, despite ongoing litigation, somehow the distributors apparently found a way to release the movie.
A Troubled Franchise
It’s nearly impossible to discuss the Jeepers Creepers franchise without bringing up Victor Salva. Salva created the franchise, writing and directing the 2001 movie starring Justin Long and Gina Phillips as siblings Darry and Trish, and featuring Jonathan Breck as The Creeper. Salva also wrote and directed parts two and three in the series, making the franchise, up until the release of the new movie, Victor Salva’s trilogy. Having Salva’s name tied to Jeepers Creepers is a problem.
The release of Jeepers Creepers 3 in 2017 was met with strong resistance. For those unaware, Victor Salva was convicted of sexual abuse of a 12-year-old in 1988. He served fifteen months of a three-year sentence, but he returned to filmmaking shortly afterward. Salva’s conviction was never a secret, but social media helped spread awareness by the time the third Jeepers Creepers movie came out. The understandable stigma attached to Salva’s name contributed to Jeepers Creepers 3 getting a limited, two-day theatrical release in 2017 before airing on television and releasing on home video later in the year.
With the franchise being firmly linked to Salva, many people thought Jeepers Creepers would never return. Would it really be financially viable for a film studio to make a movie that was guaranteed to have a sizable portion of the public refuse to see it? Apparently the new producers are hoping that nostalgia for the earlier movies will outweigh the negative impact the association with its former director still has on the series.
A Fresh Start
One thing Jeepers Creepers: Reborn has going for it is that the new creative team is distancing themselves from the franchise’s past. At least, they’re distancing themselves as much as possible. From the start, marketing material for the movie never mentions Salva. Additionally, Salva is not listed on the IMDB page in any role, not even with a “characters created by” credit for the inclusion of The Creeper.
Timo Vuorensola directed Jeepers Creepers: Reborn based on a script by Sean-Michael Argo. The director stated on Twitter that the script and the character of The Creeper are “completely new creations.” The new movie may very well be a completely standalone creation with regards to its plot, but to say it’s “completely” new feels disingenuous. Even if this version of The Creeper is a new creation, at the very least it still alludes to the original Creeper. In Reborn, the Creeper does look slightly different and we see it literally being reborn in the early part of the movie, but it is still connected to the original in some ways.
The Creeper in Reborn is portrayed by a new actor, Jarreau Benjamin, and he and the rest of the cast and crew deserve the benefit of the doubt. Director Timo Vuorensola hopes his movie is a good time for audiences, and for the right crowd it delivers. With early reactions being rather poor, it puts into question whether or not the producers will go forward with their plans for a trilogy. Perhaps Jeepers Creepers: Reborn can find its audience on streaming and home video.