The Creeper makes his long-awaited return to stalk again in “Jeepers Reborn”, but should he have just stayed in hibernation?
Reboots, requels, rehashes…. Reborn.
The fourth Jeepers Creepers flick has landed, this time with a cheeky disregard for everything that has come before — intending to reestablish its voracious villain to fans of the chilling 2001 original. Offering up a convoluted tapestry of origin for The Creeper, Jeepers Creepers: Reborn attempts to reenergize the franchise with a larger scope but falls short of meeting expectations on just about every level.
Opening on a familiar rural road, seasoned horror fans should be happy to see a welcome genre face, Dee Wallace (E.T., The Howling, Cujo), cameo as the better half of a traveling couple that comes under siege from a large and intimidating vehicle bearing the ominous license plate of BEATNGU.
Less happy, however, might be some viewers who cannot help but bemoan a clear lack of originality with this introduction. But thankfully, this plot is quickly shaken up, and the true main characters are introduced.
They are Laine and Chase (played by relative unknowns Sydney Craven and Imran Adams).
While the two’s storyline doesn’t offer any wild or exciting departures from that original setup, they are at the very least a bit more rooted in reality and contain enough traits to warrant at least a little bit of investment. Laine is dealing with a potential pregnancy, and Chase is so earnestly nerdy in his admiration of horror and the macabre that it is almost impossible for a horror fan not to like him even just a little.
Traveling to a mystery destination at Chase’s choosing, the two lovebirds arrive at a voodoo shop with all kinds of nifty artifacts and lore.
This is the first hint that this entry has considerably more productive ambitions than a simple stalk-n-slash.
Not staying long, they move on to the real meat of their trip: the Horror Hound festival, which features all kinds of tricks and treats for fright fans.
It is hard to deny the fun energy of seeing all the cosplaying confection, and the setting does offer some exciting possibilities.
Laine and Chase get whisked away from this, however, when a rigged raffle wins them the opportunity to escape from the Barnabet Mansion (which has been set up as an escape room). Joining them is a camera crew whose members range from somewhat likable to downright forgettable.
Interspersed with all this night’s turn of events is the arrival of The Creeper, who more or less cocoons in his way out of hibernation just in time to for the horrific festivities.
He intercepts the group’s arrival at the old, dilapidated, and very cool-looking mansion and wastes no time painting the walls red by swiftly dispatching some of the camera crew and kidnapping Laine right before Chase is about to ask her to marry him.
Debatably interesting is the fact that The Creeper seems less motivated to kill her and more transfixed on her unborn baby.
Regardless of what he plans to do with her (or her baby), it is up to Chase and the surviving members of the camera crew to attempt a rescue of Laine.
The rest of the movie plays out to mostly disappointing haunted house results, with The Creeper toying with his prey for what feels like a small eternity.
Not even the gore can save the show here, with just about every kill either off-screen or too fast to really leave any impact.
The blood feels hollow, the stakes are virtually nonexistent, and the lead female actor Sydney Craven as Laine, seems to be cast less for her acting abilities and more for having a wickedly uncanny likeness to Megan Fox. (Laine cosplays in the movie as Jennifer Check from the under-appreciated and fantastic 2009’s Jennifer’s Body).
On the flip side, Imran Adams imbues his Chase with genuineness and physicality that lends this movie a modicum of immediacy and terror.
The plot is otherwise ridiculous, the CGI glaringly cringe, and The Creeper design itself leaves much to be desired (regrettably, for the first time in the franchise Jonathan Breck does not return). Instead, Jarred Benjamin steps into the role.
Though he does a serviceable job, any hope of establishing a presence is hampered by a tension-killing over-lit lighting scheme that permeates all of the final act.
Not for nothing, the dialogue and performances are so laugh-out-loud outrageous that JP4 holds high potential for being enjoyable on a camp level.
It may have been time for a new entry in a franchise that has seen increasing diminished returns to traffic in some new blood.
These shifty townspeople, pagan rituals, archaic weapons, and clueless Hollywood sycophants are not it, though, and feel out of place in a Jeepers Creepers movie.
While some good chunks are scattered throughout, they are the exception and not the rule.
Ultimately, Jeepers Creepers 4 is hopelessly unable to escape its direct-to-video trappings: it looks cheap, is pretty terribly acted, and feels long even at under 90 minutes…earning it a rating of 2 out of 5 teeth.
Hardcore Jeepers fans are better left waiting for streaming — if they dare at all to watch this one. A swing and a miss.