Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003) followed shortly after and offered a more generic – yet still somewhat effective – slasher movie. Salva's original concept has been stripped back, simplified and presented in a one-location narrative, set almost entirely in and around a big yellow school bus. It was not the sequel fans had wanted, and it failed elaborate on the established mythology, yet over the years the appreciation for it has grown substantially.
JEEPERS CREEPERS 3 comes to us 15-years later and finds its story wedged between the two previous instalments, and rather than pushing the series forward Salva returns to his franchise with an attempt to bridge his previous narrative with the subtext that was lacking from part 2. This new addition to the legacy is a curious chapter, to be sure, and one that will inevitably frustrate a lot of viewers. It is a flawed movie within the context of the franchise, and yet it holds enough appeal to appease the more dedicated fans.
Picking up immediately after the events of the first film, JEEPERS CREEPERS 3 (subtitled 'Ravenous' for Australian release) begins with the capture of the creature's truck. A group of Monster Hunters arrive on the scene and join the police in their operation to track and capture the Creeper. We discover that these men have a history with the creature, dating back to its previous harvest 23-years prior, and will stop and nothing to kill it before they're too old to face it again. Throw in a few subplots, and characters with varying degrees of relevance, and the scene is set for a more detailed chapter that attempts to explain the Creeper's origin without actually explaining it at all.
Cue instant frustration... some will react to the storyline as unnecessarily convoluted, while others will welcome its attempt to dig a little deeper into the mythos. Those – like myself – who appreciated the complexities might be more forgiving of the film's additional shortcomings, such as poorly conceived CGI violence and the perplexing use of green screen. Some things are unexpected, such as the Creeper's truck being heavily booby-trapped with the ability to defend itself. I certainly don't recall this level of ingenuity in the previous films, and while the concept is pretty cool (in a means to be gory way) it isn't compatible with the other instalments. The creature itself is different, with its features being simpler and less organic, and pitting him in a day-lit environment exposes the synthetic nature of his creation. Where he once resided in the shadows as a monstrous lurking predator, he is now a fully exposed humanoid whose demonic attributes are counterbalanced with sword-play and action sequences.
Director Victor Salva has a dark and troubled past and many people believe that there is no place for him in the film industry. And while his crimes were committed 30-years ago, and he paid his due in the eyes of the law, there is that ever-lingering moral question of whether we should support his creative efforts at all. It's an emotional and impassioned conversation, which for my part I am able to seperate the man from the art. He accepted his accountability and paid his debt to society. He returned to society as a free man, and regardless of people's moral assertions of him, he has every right to pursue his craft (just as everyone else has every right to avoid his art).
Of course I mention his criminal history as to add context to the production of JEEPERS CREEPERS 3. Salva's crimes follow him wherever he goes, and making high-profile films is problematic. This film saw him run out of Canada when the casting agents drew attention to his presence, and no doubt he faces countless obstacles when mounting productions. Perhaps these barriers restrict his ambitions and contribute to the quality of JEEPERS CREEPERS 3. Maybe such disadvantages are the residual karma for the behaviour of his past. Whatever the case, his third Jeepers film is fraught with affliction and there's a sense that he is exhausted.
With that said, there is no denying his eye for horror. His propensity for crafting visceral, nightmarish landscapes is undeniable, and for all of his missteps in JC3 it remains a visual feast to behold. From nicely orchestrated slow motion, to gracefully captured wide-shots, Salva has delivered a serviceable interjection to his previous two instalments, with the promise of another. It ties those movies together nicely and leaves the door open for further exploration.
JEEPERS CREEPERS 3 IS AVAILABLE ON DVD THROUGH EAGLE ENTERTAINMENT ON 18/04/2018.