Laine and her boyfriend Chase drive toward Jackson, Louisiana where Chase has planned a fun-filled weekend in the land of the notorious Creeper legend and where the annual HorrorHound festival lures fans from all over the world for a carnival celebration of horror. Rolling her eyes at Chase’s complete obsession with the Creeper and his love for horror, Laine indulges her boyfriend’s every geeked-out whim, including entering a contest for a chance to enter a Creeper inspired escape room held at a dilapidated manor house on the outskirts of town. The lucky winners and the producing team find themselves lured into a deadly trap orchestrated by a cult loyal to the Creeper and Laine, who has been handpicked by his disciples, learns through premonitions that the Creeper hungers for her unborn child. Trapped inside with an unstoppable winged monster hunting them down, Laine and Chase implore the others to fight back against a living legend of lore.
Fascinating is the monster that is the Creeper, a versatile humanoid with batlike wings, a serious sniffer, and a flesh-eating connoisseur with the strength of 10 men and a primitive, yet effective assorted arsenal of deadly melee weapons. The Creeper is a modern marvel and icon of contemporary antagonistic favorites this side of the early millennium having arrived on the big screen now over two decades ago back in 2001 and producing now four films between that time span, but within those 21 years, a tremendous controversy has tarnished the good name of the “Jeepers Creepers” legacy. That name is “Jeepers Creepers” creator Victor Salva who conviction as a child sex offender might not have stopped him from directing three “Jeepers Creepers” films but certainly put the rubber stamp of disapproval against any kind of box-office success with audiences steering clear of work. 2022 saw promise for the Creeper with a new, fourth entry entitled “Jeepers Creepers: Reborn,” a title resembling a phoenix being risen from the fiery ashes type of project that removed Salva not only from the director’s chair but also any kind of substantial compensation for the legal rights. Timo Vuorensola (“Iron Sky”) steps into frame as the franchise’s newest visionary to hopefully resurrect the Creeper from the depths of indirect persecution. With a story written by Sean-Michael Argo (erotic-fantasy-horror writer of “Sineaters” and “Fable: Teeth and Beasts”), “Jeepers Creepers: Reborn” promises new blood and a new creative process with possible white glove treatment without the sully of sin behind the scenes. The first “Jeepers Creepers” film to be shot almost entirely in the United Kingdom with a few Louisiana locale shots, the fourth flight of the Creeper entry is a coproduction between Black Hanger Studios and Orwo Studios.
With a new “Jeepers Creepers” installment focused on adverting attention away from its creator, “Reborn” comes with an overhauled cast, including a new face toward the Creeper. Instead of Jonathan Breck returning to resume the role in a fourth film, complications from an overseas production, English actor Jarreau Benjamin tackles the role with everything he’s got and with everything he has to work with. Breck cobbled together large boots for the assimilation of a western horror villain with a mischievous and ruthless personality as he toys with his food before he eats it in the first three films. Benjamin does a remarkable job attempting to emulate much of the same albeit the Creeper have a slightly different look because of Benjamin’s build and face structure. Nonetheless, as the Creeper, the greenhorn fills in quite well tormenting conned prey that includes on screen couple Sydney Craven (“York Witches Society”) as Laine and Imran Adams as Chase. To be honest, Craven and Adams had little emotion weight beyond a fantasy and lust dynamic and couldn’t find character and story support in what seems to be more of a close acquaintance rather than a highly involved and evolved romantic relationship. They’re teamed with producers of a reality show, game show, some kind of vague media show of sorts, as the unfortunate lucky winners of an escape room challenge as well as a local Jackson resident, Stu, with a Duck Dynasty beard and salty arura about him, played by Peter Brooke (“Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines”) and I wanted to know more about Stu. Is he good or bad? Is he a patsy? He’s mysterious but likeable and he’s written enigmatically up to a point but the descends into just another ordinary link in the chain. Ocean Navarro (“Infamous Six”), Matt Barkley, and Alexander Halsall round out the victims corralled by the cult of the Creeper. The Creeper worshipping group represented by a local shopkeeper (Georgia Goodman), a fire and brimstone preacher (Saverio Buono), and a horror hostess named Madam Carnage (Jodie Mcmullen) are a flake of a bigger scab that reveals nothing about their reasoning or their cause in helping every 23rd year for 23 days and the element of the cult cheapens the story because it goes unexplained. Overall, the performances are steady, if not slightly cliche at times, and the cast rounds out with Dee Wallace (“Cujo”) and Gary Graham (“Robot Jox”) with a familiar and strong opener that gets the blood going.
That very 15-or-so minute opener is “Jeepers Creepers: Reborn.” That’s it. That’s the film. It’s classic Creeper with a new, beaten down, larger box truck, starkly different from his rusted Chevy HD COE that’s like a supercharged street-legal tank but with the same BEATINGU double entendre license plate and malevolent-ripping energy that would make anyone’s heart race with fear as he tailgates and blares the horn at high speed. Yet, the opener quickly rescinds into an unsolved mystery-like episode and from that point on, Vuorensola and Argo work diligently to rapidly dismiss the first three films by meta means with one of the principals stating the Creeper stories gave way to three films, hence why the fourth film is subtitled “Reborn” and acts more like a reboot than a sequel. Perhaps that is why the plot adds a stronger motivation for the Creeper who is hellbent on extracting a prenatal child from Laine. “Reborn” invokes a return to the premonition theme that go hand-and-hand with the Creeper’s return as Laine has visions of her the centerpiece of attention, covered in blood, and a baby carriage containing, supposedly, the target, but the story is so far up the abstract tail with the visions and conjectural dialogue, we never receive a straight answer as to why the Creeper is after the peanut-sized pregnancy. With any of the four films, the Creeper dispatches prey in various neat ways with a primordial arsenal of medieval killing tools and the scenes of slaughter don’t disappoint. There’s actually a gory moment of a scalp flip and a brain snack that’s well executed. What kills “Reborn” with a stake through the heart is the rotoscoping at climatic end. Clunky, chunky, and disproportionate, the actors appear to be standing and moving around in a 2D environment with unintended rigid actions that dispel realism after a wonderful show of makeup and practical effects in the first two acts.
You don’t have to wait another 23 years to see the Creeper as “Jeepers Creepers: Reborn” lands on UK digital platforms on October 10th and on UK DVD and Blu-ray October 24th courtesy of UK distributor 101 Films. The just-before-Halloween release will contain a 15 certification and is available preorder at the https://101-films-store.com/. Unfortunately, I’m unable to dive into neither of the DVD or Blu-ray spec details or give a full critique of the audio/video aspects as a BD-R was provided for feature screening purposes only. The screener also didn’t have any bonus features and included only an English subtitle option. The film runs clocks in at 88 minutes and is shot with an Arri Alexa camera. “Jeepers Creepers: Reborn” might have dropped the surface level controversial dead weight but can’t fully shake the stigma and in an opportunity to reboot or rebrand the franchise, the effort is squandered by production snafus and shoddy presentation that’ll put the Creeper asleep for another 23 years until the next film.