The re-quel has becoming something of a modern horror phenomenon. After David Gordon Green’s 2018 Halloween sequel, franchises like Scream, Slumber Party Massacre, and even Wrong Turn have come back out of the blue to scare audiences once again. The Jeepers Creepers franchise is next in line: a horror trilogy muddied by its controversial creator, now returning with none of those moral quandaries. Jeepers Creepers: Reborn is as such an entirely separate entity, though it doesn’t do enough different to stake its claim as a valuable series revival.

The film is supposed to kickstart a new trilogy of Jeepers Creepers films, entirely detached from the three that came before it. The one constant is the eponymous mutated killer, returning in his iconic fedora and trenchcoat like an even more bloodthirsty version of Resident Evil‘s Mr. X. This time he’s after a crew of young adults spending their time at a horror cosplay festival, located within a backwoods rural community that harbours dark secrets.

If it doesn’t sound like a ground-breaking plot, you’d be totally right. Simply put, the plot and characterisation are the biggest weaknesses of Jeepers Creepers: Reborn. We mainly focus on a young couple, Laine (Sydney Craven) and Chase (Imran Adams), as they spend their weekend in this uncomfortable rural village. The Wicker Man this is not, because we only briefly see these areas before going head-first to the horror cosplay festival.

It’s actually quite a fun sequence, with a montage of Laine trying on outfits based around notable killers from horror cinema’s history. These scenes are drenched with references to horror icons, and it’s during these points where the film works best. It leans into the wackiness of its concept and places its tongue firmly in its cheek, with director Timo Vuorensola clearly having a lot of fun. The same can also be said for the film’s cold opening, which is best left unspoiled. Suffice to say it plays with your expectations of horror cinema while also winking to the franchise’s lineage.

Unfortunately, Jeepers Creepers: Reborn spends far too much time focusing on the human melodrama. It’s here that the film feels far too much like schlocky mid-noughties slashers, with extensive focus on characters who are thinly written and far too uninspired for audiences to ever care about before their inevitable death. There’s a plot thread thinly written about Laine’s upbringing in a cult-like society, which rears its head later on, but lacks any sort of punch. The bottom line is that nobody watches a Jeepers Creepers film for the human characters, and in this sense the film really doesn’t play to its strengths.

It’s a shame, because the Creeper himself gets really little coverage in the film. The design is impressive with practical effects, though a lack of any backstory or explanation as to what this creature is could alienate viewers. Reborn is a reboot, after all, so those sort of contextual details would no doubt be more valuable than the time dedicated to the human characters’ drama. For a film that puts so much stock in the silliness of horror – even down to the Creeper’s truck having a personalised number plate – it doesn’t realise that when it doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s much more engaging.

But overall, Jeepers Creepers: Reborn is a tough sell if you aren’t already somewhat invested in the franchise. There’s nothing unique here, nothing that makes it distinctive as a Jeepers Creepers film. In fact, if you took the Creeper and replaced him with any other monosyllabic horror killer, you wouldn’t notice much difference. And that lack of identity is the film’s biggest sin.

★★½

Jeepers Creepers Reborn releases theatrically on September 24, 2022. It releases on digital, Blu-Ray, and DVD on October 10, 2022.