“MEH” Halloween Movies—THE INVITATION & JEEPERS CREEPERS REBORN (BEAUCOUP SPOILERS, HERE AND THERE!)

Figure 1 – The Invitation Poster

I have to tell you: I love a good horror movie, whether it’s a ghost story (I don’t believe in ghosts), a good vs. evil (I don’t believe in gods, demons, or devils), a psychological horror story, or even—to a degree—an old-fashioned slasher. I don’t even wait for Halloween; when one presents itself I just jump in with both feet—where’s my popcorn?!

But this week I was disappointed—so disappointed that I won’t even bother redacting my spoilers, so if you want to see either of these films, you probably should wait to read this until you’ve done so. I generally don’t write reviews if I don’t like what I’m supposed to review, but I’m kinda caught short today, so to speak, so you get to hear what I’ve seen recently. Too bad the “last” Halloween movie (yeah, sure) with Jamie Lee Curtis, isn’t out yet. I could have done a trio of not-so-great movies. (Let’s face it, that franchise will probably outlive you or me, practically guaranteeing that Jamie Lee will too.) Anyway, here goes.

When we saw the poster for The Invitation, Lynne, the B&T, said, “Not another sparkly vampire movie!” (She’s a lot more perceptive than I am, often.) Well, she was wrong and she was right. Fairly early on, you’ll be asking yourself “Wait…is this a vampire movie? It’s broad daylight!” So, yes, is the answer, but no sparkles.

The only people I’d heard of before (though the leading man looks vaguely familiar) are Evie, played by Nathalie Emmanuel (who was Missandei in Game of Thrones) and Sean Pertwee (he was Alfred Pennyworth in Gotham), who plays Renfield, the head butler. (Hey, “Renfield” is a dead giveaway for horror genre fans and especially old-timers like me.) The head bad guy, De Ville (shades of Cruella de Vil), which is an alias, is played by Thomas Doherty and, despite his look of familiarity, he’s been in a bunch of stuff I never watched, like The Descendents (several versions).

Anyway, Evie—who works as an event waitress—takes a free DNA test from a gift bag filched by a co-worker, and discovers she has relatives; she thought she was pretty much alone in the world. She meets her cousin, who seems a pleasant enough fellow, and he invites her to a paid family reunion in England, at the home of Count De Ville—at the newly-renovated Carfax Abbey II (I think it was). Again, the name is a dead giveaway. She meets her extended family and finds out she’ll be a guest at a family wedding; surprise, surprise, Sgt. Carter! She’s gonna be the bride! If the previous names aren’t enough of a giveaway, she attempts to escape later in the film and is taken in (ha, ha!) by Jonathan and Mina Harker, who betray her.

Got it yet? It’s a modernization of the original vampire (discounting Varney the Vampyre, which I think was later) story. That’s the part that just got on my nut, as they say. To its credit, the movie moves along swiftly. I won’t describe the story in detail—and Evie is not your typical “scream queen.” She actually acquits herself quite well in the film. There’s a few gory parts, and a mild bit of nudity, and I can’t say it ever really dragged. I only wish they’d done an original vampire movie.

Figure 2 – Jeepers Creepers Reborn Poster

Both Lynne (the B&T) and I liked the first two Jeepers Creepers movies; in fact, I have them on DVD (one has a cool lenticular cover). I also liked Jeepers Creepers 3, which I just rewatched; in fact, that film comes between 1 and 2 in the sequence. (Trivia: the song “Jeepers Creepers,” written by Harry Warren with lyrics by Johnny Mercer in 1938, does not appear in this film or in the third film of the series. Were the rights unavailable, or did the rights owners not want the song tied to this series any more?) Anyway, in some ways, the film’s a tribute to HorrorHound magazine and its eponymous festival (held in March of this year in Cincinnati). Btw, the only name actor I recognized was Dee Wallace (The Howling), who appeared in a flashback early in the movie. (Who can forget her Were Poodle in that one, eh?)

If you’re not familiar with The Creeper, he/it is a humanoid figure, dark-skinned, who always appears in a dark, ragged long coat/duster and hat; he (I’ll keep saying “he” to make it easier to write) apparently eats human flesh; he is a figure of legend where he lives. Every 23 years he reappears and kills for 23 days; sometimes body parts are found, but not very often. If you’ve seen any of the first 3 movies, you’ll know that he is practically immortal, replacing his own damaged body parts (including the head!) from his victims’—oh, yeah, and he flies, too, with dragon-ish membranous wings. In the first movie, he was skinning his victims and jigsawing the skinned parts together. Altogether a very inhuman semihuman.

Apparently finding the midwest (I can’t remember where the first movies were set) too hot for him, he now turns up in Louisiana. Laine (Sidney Craven) and her boyfriend Chase (Imran Adams) are on their way to HorrorHound festival at his insistence, even though she’s a scientist (she says so) and doesn’t believe in any of this horror movie stuff. (HorrorHound celebrates all sorts of horror movies, like Halloween, It (both versions), Texas Chainsaw Massacre, etc., and people cosplay as Freddie Krueger, Pennywise the Clown, Beetlejuice, etc.) Apparently The Creeper is also a local legend in whatever Louisiana Parish this is, because somewhere in the early part of the film we see The Creeper being “reborn,” it now being 23 years since his last appearance Laine and Chase stop at a voodoo shop to get directions, and she has her first creepy vision of something. These visions, involving creepy people and rituals, recur during the whole movie. After they leave the voodoo shop, the proprietor calls someone and says “they’re on their way.” Laine calls her friend and arranges to meet him at the festival’s hotel. Chase secretly wants to propose to her, and has a ring in his pocket. If you’ve seen even a few horror movies lately, you’ll know what’s going to happen at the festival.

Laine hasn’t told Chase her secret: she’s preggers. (Yes, it’s his.) Turns out (this is a big spoiler) that some of the people she’s seen in her vision are actually a cult dedicated to The Creeper, and they intend to give her unborn child to it to help make it immortal. So you put The Creeper, a horror festival, some cultists, a pregnant woman and her boyfriend and rural Louisiana all together and mix well, and much hilarity—er, blood and body parts—ensues. You can guess what happens if you’ve seen even one horror movie: some people die, bad guys and good guys, and the protagonists escape. Plus the villain dies, but does he? (That’s one of those “must-have” tropes, the unkillable (Jason Voorhees, anyone?) killer. This one has more of a supernatural bent than the first two, but the third gave us a few more supernatural hints.

For example, The Creeper has a big black truck (license: BEATINGU, or “Be Eating You”) that is not only indestructible in all parts (I found this out by rewatching JC3), but whatever you shoot at it (tires included) will bounce back and hit you! Also, The Creeper doesn’t have to be inside to drive it; he apparently controls it by mind power. Altogether, they’ve made The Creeper an immortal (centuries old), unstoppable, superhumanly strong, unkillable killer, whose only saving grace is that he’s only hunting for 23 days every 23 years. In my less-than-humble opinion, that’s piling Pelion upon Ossa. (Go look it up.) In order to make people want to watch the inevitable sequel(s), you must have some kind of hope for the protagonists’ survival.

Unless, of course, you just want to see bodies, body parts, blood, and so on, and are not concerned with such niceties, as acting, plot, tension, etc.

It is what it is, and as such, I’m very disappointed, as there was at least some of the above in the previous three movies. YMMV, as always.

Let me know what you think, please. You can write your comments here or on Facebook, or even send me an email (stevefah at hotmail dot com). All comments are welcome! (Just be polite, please.) My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!

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