Jeepers Creepers: Reborn begins with a promising opening sequence. It’s good enough to recall the film that started this franchise 21 years ago. A middle-aged couple (Gary Graham and Dee Wallace) is driving through the backwoods of Louisiana when they’re tailed by a truck with the familiar “BEATINGU” license plate. They’re passed aggressively on a two-lane highway before they inadvertently witness the Creeper (Jarreau Benjamin) dumping a body at a ramshackle house. Suddenly, it’s a cat-and-mouse game.
Then the problems for this fourth installment commence. There is no climax to this opening, as the cameras zoom out on Chase’s (Imran Adams) smartphone, revealing it to be part of one of those “unsolved mystery” internet shows. Chase and his girlfriend Laine (Sydney Craven) are headed to Horror Hound Festival. Chase has plans to make her his fiancée. Laine has to find the right moment to tell him she’s pregnant. The two make it to the outdoor horror con, but not before a lot of dawdling, including a strange montage sequence of Laine trying on several costumes in their hotel room.
When they finally make it to the show, Laine winds up having the winning ticket that prompts her and Chase to be a part of an influencer/TV personality’s (Ocean Navarro) show. Her and her posse are going to explore the same ramshackle barn seen in the opening sequence, alongside a couple other “lucky” individuals (Matt Barkley, Peter Brooke). Mere minutes after entering the home, the group is locked inside, with the hungry Creeper lurking — along with his insatiable appetite for human limbs.
Jeepers Creepers: Reborn is the first in the series not to be helmed by Victor Salva, which will eliminate the stink for a good handful of viewers, who felt unnerved by supporting a franchise created by a convicted pedophile. Iron Sky director Timo Vuorensola is the man behind this one (and presumably the other two installments in the new trilogy), alongside writer Sean-Michael Argo. It’s clear both men have a deep appreciation for the Creeper. Vuorensola and cinematographer Simon Rowling curate an atmosphere of macabre dread that makes this film, at least visually, fit in with the previous three flicks. In keeping with the series’ tradition, Reborn is narratively different from its predecessors. This is a franchise that admirably refuses to succumb to a formula; four films deep and it still hasn’t set a clear template for what to expect.
But visual flare only goes so far. Many fans were hard on Jeepers Creepers 3, but I enjoyed numerous aspects. Likely knowing it was his last hurrah with the series, Salva opted for a movie filled with low-key insights into the Creeper’s being, and actors who resembled average individuals. Jeepers Creepers: Reborn instead gives us unremarkable kills, no further development, and a cast of clichés in the form of the Redneck, the Influencer, the Geek, and the TV Producer. Nobody stands out. Worst of all (and I take no pleasure in critiquing actors, much less a young hopeful), but Imran Adams is the weakest link of all. An English performer struggling to emulate American speech, Adams is all slurred lines and flighty accents.
The scenes with the Creeper feel indistinct and interchangeable as well. Salva’s misstep with his third installment was leaving it open-ended enough to suggest further worldbuilding despite the fact he was unlikely to return to finish what he started. Reborn is a reboot, completely discarding all that came before it. The only trick up its sleeves is incorporating some of Laine’s half-baked premonitions of disturbing rituals, which are disappointingly never contextualized. As such, they come off as filler for a movie that has a pacing — albeit with little knowledge of how to effectively put it to use.
Confining the Creeper to an indoor setting also wasn’t the brightest move, for it limits his ability to fly, figuratively and literally. The film has a wonderful setting in Horror Hound — a sweeping outdoor location filled with denizens cosplaying as their favorite maniacs — but instead decides to ditch that locale in favor of another eerie haunted house.
The visual effects are clearly on a budget too. There’s a sequence involving dozens of crows swarming the roof of the house, which gives the impression you paid money to watch a direct-to-DVD sequel on the big screen for a limited theatrical run. Jeepers Creepers: Reborn is a miscarriage, and it lays an unsteady foundation for whatever follows next.
NOTE: Jeepers Creepers: Reborn is now playing exclusively in theaters, as part of a three-night only Fathom Event, from September 19-21st.
Starring: Sydney Craven, Imran Adams, Jarreau Benjamin, Peter Brooke, Ocean Navarro, Gabrielle Freilich, Gary Graham, and Dee Wallace. Directed by: Timo Vuorensola.
Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!