Discussing any of the Jeepers Creepers films is impossible without first acknowledging that their director, writer, and creator, Victor Salva, has an unforgivable past as a convicted pedophile. That being said, the first two in the series (especially 2001’s Jeepers Creepers) rank among some of my favorite horror movies of all time. 2017’s Jeepers Creepers 3 was yet another follow-up from Salva, but unfortunately marked itself as a hugely disappointing mid-quel that took place between 1 and 2. A more apt name could have been Jeepers Creepers 1.5. Flash forward to 2022, and new title Jeepers Creepers: Reborn—this time lacking any involvement from Salva—comes to theaters by way of three-night-only Fathom Events screenings. Directed by Timo Vuorensola and written by Sean-Michael Argo, Reborn does not contain so much as a tiny fragment of what made those first two films so special. Not only that, Reborn is aggressively awful from top to bottom in a way that seems to spit in the face of longtime franchise fans.
Reborn begins innocently enough. An elderly couple (Dee Wallace, Gary Graham) is pursued by a dented, intimidating truck with a BEATNGU license plate. They spot The Creeper (Jarreau Benjamin) throwing bodies wrapped in sheets down a chute near a dilapidated church, just before The Creeper runs them off the road. If any of this setup sounds familiar, that’s because Darry and Trish go through almost this exact scenario before encountering The Creeper in the original 2001 film. Just as the couple are peering down into the chute in horror, we pan out to reveal that this true story is being depicted in the fictional Macabre Mysteries, watched from someone’s iPhone. Young couple Laine (Sydney Craven) and Chase (Imran Adams) go back and forth about the existence of The Creeper; Chase even goes so far as saying that there were “three movies made from the legend.” Forgive me for thinking it, but for just a moment I thought maybe Jeepers Creepers: Reborn was going to stay the course on this exciting meta route.
Our first glimpse of the creature himself is crawling on the ground minutes later, assumedly awakening from his slumber, and nabbing his signature costume from a nearby scarecrow. At this stage, The Creeper is kept in the shadows at his most menacing. While Reborn does at least manage to sidestep 3’s ridiculous overuse of slow-motion and keeping The Creeper constantly shown in pure daylight, once we eventually do get a full look at him here, there is simply no comparison. In the first three films, actor Jonathan Breck was The Creeper—there is no denying the nuance and eerie ticks he fueled into his portrayal of this revolting creature. No offense to Jarreau Benjamin, but he cannot hold a candle to Breck’s interpretation. The makeup job on Benjamin is awful, and incomparable to what came before. Not only that, but this does not feel like the same Creeper depicted in the last few movies. A trademark whistle is introduced, along with an apparent superpower involving crows. I actually got chills when The Creeper’s truck makes a triumphant return, but even this is short-lived. Nothing about this Creeper works after his shrouded, creepy initial appearance.
Chase plans to propose to Laine later in the day, but first, they will make a pitstop at HorrorHound 2021! A silly montage in which Laine tries on multiple cosplay costumes goes on for too long. In fact, every time we focus strictly on Chase and Laine’s relationship, the movie practically flatlines. Laine doesn’t know Chase is planning to propose that night, nor does Chase know that Laine is pregnant with his child. Dubbed the “Coachella of Cosplay,” HorrorHound is weirdly quite empty overall, which I suppose could be chalked up to filming the movie during Covid. The duo play weird carnival-style games like throwing The Creeper’s stars at a target, and encounter various weirdo dressed as pop-figures like Beetlejuice and Michael Myers. Chase and Laine stick around long enough for the plot to take its next turn when they enter the “Creeper Draw.” By way of sabotage, Chase and Laine win the grand prize: one night at a Creeper-themed Escape Room for two! Can they survive the night?
I have nothing against low-budget horror whatsoever—in fact, I’d go so far as saying it is the horror genre’s bread and butter. But going from the 2001 film’s ten-million-dollar budget to the thousands this had to have been made for is glaring. There is no one to blame here for the garish filmmaking and ugliness of the photography other than the director himself, Timo Vuorensola. Everything looks so fake and cheaply-made from top to bottom. Whether it be the makeup, the copious offscreen deaths, CGI blood, or obvious use of greenscreen in depicting a house, a rooftop, or a graveyard, Reborn is one ugly movie. They couldn’t even get The Creeper’s signature “Jeeper’s Creepers” song correct either, using some awful tune with the word “jeepers” in it, then proceeding to showcase it no less than three times. Also, if you’re trying to be meta, you don’t get to also throw in one clever nod to Darry and think the audience won’t try to put the pieces together. I was so frustrated by brief moments of action promise and occasionally fun indoor chases reminiscent of Saw II, vibes that are snuffed out as swiftly as they appear.
If one can somehow get past The Creeper looking entirely different, the tweaking of the series mythology, half the movie appearing like it was filmed on an iPhone, a generic placeholder song for the signature theme, poor acting, and dialogue like “how do you like those peepers, bitch,” then maybe Jeepers Creepers: Reborn is for you. Its ending promises yet another sequel (why not?), but personally, I am still waiting for a follow up to the final scene of Jeepers Creepers 3. Trish spoke of a “call to arms” in the concluding moments, threatening to take down The Creeper once and for all. Can we just wipe the slate clean here and start from scratch? Not giving Trish or Taggart the explosive conclusion their characters so rightly deserve feels like a sin. Nevertheless, Reborn is what we got. I did not think a step down was possible after the disappointment I felt from 3, but Reborn is an embarrassment. Is it too much to think that The Creeper should have just stayed dead?
Jeepers Creepers: Reborn brings cheesy one-liners and copious greenscreen to theaters everywhere through Fathom Events, playing nationwide on September 19th, 20th, and 21st, with future release plans to be announced.