Trick ‘r Retreat? ‘JC3’ Gets Peek-a-Boo Premiere

By Glenn Lovell

Good news/bad news for the incredibly patient fans of the “Jeepers Creepers” franchise, launched in 2001 and, based on the original’s drawing power, continued two years later with the even more popular “JC2.”

No. 3 in the series – pitting a ravenous winged Lucifer, aka The Creeper, against mostly unsuspecting (read dumb) teenagers — reaches screens today after 14 years of teased start dates. Two years ago, Variety announced it was “in the works.” Once green-lighted, the low-budget fright film, eventually shot outside New Orleans, faced an uncertain on-again, off-again production schedule.

Creeper4The bad news? The horror sequel, again written and directed by Victor Salva (“Powder”) and co-produced by Francis Coppola’s American Zoetrope, opens and closes today — will run, according to a poster and trailer, “One Night Only!”

You heard right. AMC and other exhibitors have scheduled the much-anticipated return of the Creeper for a single 7 p.m. Tuesday showing (locally at AMC Mercado 20 in Santa Clara, AMC Eastridge Mall 15 in San Jose and 11 other Bay Area venues). Depending on how well the grisly supernatural chiller performs, more dates may be added. (Certainly a promising sign for fans: AMC Showplace Manteca 16 sold out tonight’s 7 p.m., so quickly added a 9:30 showing.)

With Netflix redefining what constitutes a movie “opening” – its “Beasts of No Nation” was simultaneously shown in theaters and made available to stream in 2015 — the exhibition side of the biz is being redefined as we speak. But limiting a commercial-sounding horror entry to an “exclusive” single night sounds, well, counter-intuitive. (To date, the first two installments have earned $120 million worldwide.)

If this blog is any indication, there is a sizable built-in audience for “JC3.” Our lengthy Salva interview (“Can Victor Salva Move On?”), which detailed the director’s criminal past and his struggle to continue making movies, has received a lot of traffic in recent days.

So, again, why the lousy theatrical release? You’d think with the box office being in the toilet this year theater chains would be clamoring for a chiller with cult appeal.

Three possible answers:

√ The low-budget, no-star “JC3,” which like its predecessors was not screened for critics, is bad beyond words. Unlikely. Think what you will of Salva, he is an undeniably talented filmmaker. Indeed, his “Nature of the Beast,” “Powder” and first “Jeepers Creepers” (especially the long-way-home buildup) represent the work of a nascent auteur with an edgy, hard-to-shake style and dark worldview (the result of being a persecuted gay in high school, he acknowledges).

√ The 59-year-old Salva in the years since his arrest has become an even more divisive figure in Hollywood, and exhibitors (contractually obliged to show the film?) fear a repeat of the October 1995 opening of “Powder,” picketed by Salva’s male victim and pilloried in the press with such headlines as “Disney Movie’s Director a Convicted Child Molester” (L.A. Times).

The answer to our headline “Can Victor Salva Move On?”: No. Establishment Hollywood has neither forgotten nor forgiven what Salva did. His career was virtually over when his victim’s aunt started emailing members of the press upon the imminent release of “Powder.”  AP broke the story; Daily Variety, the industry Bible, followed

The absurd Tuesday berth — Friday 10 p.m. or even a midnight showing make more sense — may be AMC’s way of discouraging the threatened protests and limiting blowback.

Or . . .

√ None of the above. The “One Night Only” thing is a Halloween trick, a William Castle-inspired gag to build awareness. It certainly got my attention.

(As of this writing “JC3” has not received a rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is not being advertised as an imminent video-on-demand option.)

Check back here for more on this developing story.

 

 

 

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