Warner Bros. Pictures.
“Willard” (1971) and its sequel, “Ben” (1972), were another pair of 1970’s movies that got plenty of airtime on 1980’s television. I read both books when I was a kid too.
First I picked up Stephen Gilbert’s Ratman’s Notebooks at a yard sale, because that’s how you found cool horror books during summer vacations when you were too young to drive. (Sometimes adults had few compunctions about what they sold to minors too. I bought a vampire book in gradeschool that was full of nude photos, for some reason, and that led to what I’m sure was an interesting conversation between my parents and the neighbor-proprietor down the street.)
Anyway, I absolutely loved Ratman’s Notebooks (despite its lamentable absence of nude photos) and I finished it in a day or two. The novelization of the “Ben” film by Gilbert A. Ralston was somewhat less impressive, but I still enjoyed it.
If you’re a comics fan, like I am, then it might occur you that “Willard” and his army of trained rats seem to inspire a villain in Batman’s rogue’s gallery — Ratcatcher. Ratcatcher has been a minor league villain since he debuted in DC Comics in 1988, but he’s a pretty neat bad guy when placed in the hands of the right writer.
I feel certain that anyone will recognize Ernest Borgnine in the first trailer below– his face and voice are impossible to confuse with those of another man. If the disaffected, spooky, eponymous Willard looks familiar to you, that’s none other than a young Bruce Davison. He’s a good actor who’s been in a lot of films, but I think a plurality of my friends will know him as Senator Kelly from the first two “X-Men” movies (2000, 2003).
You’ll note the presence of flamethrowers in the trailer for “Ben.” Flamethrowers were a staple of 70’s and 80’s horror films; it was just part of the zeitgeist. They were handy for heroes fighting any nigh-unstoppable nonhuman baddie — think of “The Swarm” (1978), “The Thing” (1982), “C.H.U.D.” (1984), “Aliens” (1986), and “The Blob” (1988), for example. Hell, 1980’s “The Exterminator” featured a vigilante using a flamethrower to kill criminals. It was a weird time.
I just cannot be partial to slasher films. It’s never been my preferred horror sub-genre to start with, and, at this point in my life, these movies have become so predictable and devoid of story that I often find them boring. There are exceptions — some of the the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” films (1984- 2003) and “Child’s Play” (1988) were grotesquely creative and had terrific supernatural setups that were well executed. But even the attraction of John Carpenter’s original “Halloween” films (1978, 1981) is still mostly lost on me.
With all of that said, I’ll still say that my horror fan friends were right when they told me that 2018’s “Halloween” was a superior sequel. It looks a lot better than the segments I’ve seen of of the campier followups in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
It’s far better filmed and directed, it’s occasionally scary and it benefits from a very good cast. (Jamie Lee Curtis is of course quite good as the film’s heroine and perennial “final girl.” I’m also always happy to see Will Patton on screen, and I like Judy Greer a lot.) The script occasionally shines unexpectedly, too — the screenwriters have a truly impressive talent for making minor characters vivid with funny throwaway dialogue. (One of the three screenwriters is actor-writer-comedian Danny McBride, who I liked quite a bit in 2017’s “Alien: Covenant.”)
I’d be lying, however, if I told you that I wasn’t occasionally bored by this latest “Halloween” — simply because its basic, boilerplate plot and conclusion seem endlessly redundant with those of other slasher films. There are few surprises toward the end — one “gotcha” moment was especially nice — but the overall story is just too tired. I’d rate this film a 7 out of 10 for its merits, but I can’t actually get excited enough about it to recommend it.
Dark Horse Comics.
Dark Horse Comics’ 2003 limited series was a reprint of issues #24 to #33 (1988 to 1990) from Comico’s original publication of “Grendel.”
The first two “Jeepers Creepers” movies are vastly underrated classics, in my opinion — they’re well scripted and boast a truly original and frightening bogeyman. The third, regrettably, struggles to retain even a B movie charm. It’s a substandard horror film that I’d only grudgingly rate a 4 out of 10.
“Jeepers Creepers 3” (2017) is cloddishly written and awkwardly filmed. The film also suffers from action sequences that are absolutely cartoonish. A lot of this stems from the titular Creeper’s antique vehicle, which is now inexplicably depicted as being … conscious? Possessed by the Creeper? It drives itself, deflects bullets, launches projectiles, and contains booby traps that defy physics. This leads to some Wile E. Coyote-style fight scenes with the story’s various protagonists, in which the saddest victim is the franchise’s credibility.
About those protagonists — there are far too many to examine with any real success; the two ostensible teenage main characters fall a bit flat. There are so many characters that have backstories connected with the Creeper (and his signature, decades-hopping supernatural murder sprees) that the film simply becomes confusing. And that confusion is made worse by this film’s chronology with the previous movies — it takes place immediately after the first, but before the events of the second. (In all fairness, maybe the problem is me … I am being quite honest when I write here that I just do not follow movies as well as other people.)
With all of this exposition, though, one bit of lore is egregiously omitted – contrary to some of the movie’s advance press, we learn nothing about the creature’s origins. And this is extremely odd, because a bunch of characters do. There is a befuddling central plot point where the good guys methodically gain knowledge of their otherworldly foe by … touching one of its severed body parts. But we, the viewers, learn nothing.
Even the makeup and special effects were inferior to the prior films.
I’m confused by all of the things I’ve written above, as “Jeepers Creepers 3” was written and directed by Victor Salva, who wrote and directed the excellent previous movies in 2001 and 2003.
I hope I’m not being too hard on the movie, because there’s still some fun to be had. Jonathan Breck still chews the scenery quite nicely as the Creeper, and the monster’s character concept still manages to please. In a horror movie market often dominated by seemingly interchangeable serial killers and undead little girls, the Creeper is a truly inventive monster — part human; part gargoyle; part body-stealing, feral Frankenstein’s monster. He’s fun to watch, particularly for horror fans who’ve grown tired of the Patrick Batemans and the various angry ghost children that endlessly haunt the zeitgeist. You could do a lot worse for a plot-driving antagonist.
And, thanks to so brutal a bad guy, there are occasional moments of tension in the movie. It’s a bit scary, for example, when he attacks a group of teenaged motorcyclists.
This isn’t enough to make recommend paying for the movie, however — even if you’re a fan of the franchise, as I am. I’d wait for “Jeepers Creepers 3” to hit Netflix or Hulu, or wait until it’s playing on SyFy again.