Obscure SOV Weirdness: “The Witching” (1993)

Directed By
Matthew Jason Walsh as Eric Black

Version Reviewed
N/A

Total Runtime
~1 hour, 3 minutes, 24 seconds

Synopsis
A mom and dad are on their way out the door to an off-Broadway one-woman show. The mom starts verbally checking off last-minute preparations in typical worried mom fashion. One of them is reminding her son Stewart (Auggie Alvarez, Zombie Bloodbath) to take good care of his grandmother. This includes applying ointment to her corns and keeping her pacemaker away from the microwave. Stewart’s mom talks to him like he’s ten even though he looks thirty and listens to heavy metal music. In fact, he’s pretty miffed that he won’t be able to see the band “Black Tooth” performing nearby.

Another thirty-year-old who actually acts ten named Morris (Mike Hellman, Goblin) rides up on a bicycle, excitedly honking his horn whilst waving around a copy of the board game Parcheesi. “Hi, Stewart! Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Goodman! I decided to come over since you couldn’t go to that concert.” His front wheel hits the curb and he falls over. He dusts himself off and says “Wow!” in amazement at nothing. He’s wearing a white button-down shirt tucked into white pants. His long black hair is pulled back in a ponytail. I get the impression his look is a tribute to Reggie from Phantasm.

I feel like Stewart and Morris’ names should be switched. Between the Mad TV character and a kid I went to school with who had a high-pitched voice and wore equally high heels on our third grade field trip to a nature preserve, I tend to associate the name “Stewart” with effeminate man-children more than I do “Morris”.

The family’s Vietnam War veteran conspiracy theorist neighbor Mr. Flopchek greets them from atop his roof. He’s sitting in a makeshift deer stand/guard booth, holding a rifle, prepared to gun down the extraterrestrials who he claims abducted his nonexistent wife, should they ever return.

Stewart’s mom and dad threaten to ship him off to military school if anything goes awry. They finally depart in a fabulous wood panel station wagon.

Inside, Morris is watching TV with the grandma, named “Gramma”, who’s apparently so senile she hasn’t realized her dog Chewy is dead and mistakes an erotic movie titled “Sweaty Babes From Hell” for an episode of Jeopardy. Her sole purpose is providing wacky misunderstandings that are more cringey than funny. One of the subtler things she does is alternate between calling her dog “him” and “her”. I can’t tell if it’s accidental (she’s clearly not a “professional” actress) or part of her gimmick. Maybe Chewy is one of those gender-fluid, non-binary zoomers from TikTok.

Stewart retreats to his basement to mope next to his furnace. Morris follows him down. “What’s up, man? You called me a jerk-off for no reason.” No he didn’t. Nobody said that. Is there a scene missing here? That’s when the unlikely friends notice an ominous green light coming from behind the wood paneling. Lots of wood paneling in this movie. Stewart reaches his hand in.

“That’s not ordinary, right?”

“I don’t know if you should be doing that.” Morris cautions. “Remember in the movie The Amityville Horror where they found that weird room in the basement that was painted in human blood?” As I recall, the detail about the red paint being blood only appears in the book.

Stewart pulls out the diary of a man named Goodman Benny. He recognizes the name as one of his great ancestors who hunted witches and built his family’s house. He reads a passage aloud dated July 15th, 1693.

“That’s today,” Morris notes. “That’s three-hundred years ago today.”

The passage relates how Goodman Benny captured the queen of the witches, Morgana of Oberon, and banished her to Limbo using a spell. He did so to prevent her from activating a powerful machine called the “Pazuzu Configuration” capable of immersing the land in eternal darkness. At that point, the machine was still missing three crucial components: “Meat that is not meat, a clock that counts the beat of a heart, and three drops of virgin blood”. I wonder where Oberon is, and if it was named after the fairy king of mythology, the Uranian moon, or the metal god from the Metal Church song “Metal Church”? I’m guessing the latter.

“Geez, sounds like the end of Star Wars.” Morris says, putting the info in terms we can all understand. “You know, right before the Death Star blew up, before Darth Vader could use it to destroy the Rebel Force.”

Somehow, out of all of this, I’m having the most trouble believing Stewart’s modern-looking home in the middle of a subdivision is three-hundred years old.

Stewart tempts fate by reading an incantation Benny warns will reverse the spell. The incantation is a bunch of silly nonsense words including “bing bong bada bing bada bing bong” and the phrase “klaatu barada nikto” from the same year’s Army of Darkness, which Sam Raimi got from the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still. I swear I can hear someone snicker off-camera when Stewart gets to the part that goes “blah dah blah fahrvergnügen”. Frankly, with all these popular movie references, I’m surprised it doesn’t contain Chucky’s chant from the Child’s Play series.

“Klaatu Barada Nikto.”
Credit: The Day the Earth Stood Still, YouTube

At that precise moment, the power goes out. There’s a faint rumbling sound which I think was supposed to be louder. Stewart brushes it off as an earthquake, a train, or his grandmother keeling over dead. “Gracious, Chewy, excuse yourself.” Gramma says.

By now, Morris is pretty freaked out. Stewart offers to get him a Coke™. The same green light from behind the wood paneling pours out of his fridge. He slams the door shut and whirls around with a panicked look on his face, uttering the most iconic line of the movie. “THERE! IS A HALLWAY! IN MY REFRIGERATOR!” He repeats himself twice. Fearing he’ll somehow get blamed for ruining the costly appliance, he decides to investigate.

“Hey, wait a minute. I’m not going in there.” Morris protests. “Nuh-uh, no way, and you can’t make me either.” Cut to them in a foggy room holding flashlights and baseball bats. “Oh, yeah, well, next time you won’t make me, I bet.” How is that a joke? And what perils await these brave men?

[continued below]

Thoughts (Possible Spoilers)
The refrigerator leads them through a few rooms with rock walls to an open space in a cave where they observe Morgana (Veronica Orr) addressing three or four groaning zombie disciples. Morgana isn’t the witch from the VHS box. She’s black. So that’s confusing. There’s a rubbery wolf-like creature named Scully perched on her shoulder. This is the third movie I’ve watched with involvement from J.R. Bookwalter to feature a character named “Scully”. Morgana is flanked by two henchman in cheap Halloween masks. To her right, Beast. And to her left, Sluggo. Beast has a black face with little white splotches on it. He’s picking his nose and is wearing a White Sox hat, despite living in Limbo for three hundred years. Sluggo has a black turtle face, white slicked-back hair and a leather jacket, despite living in Limbo for three hundred years. Shouldn’t they be wearing waistcoats and breeches?

Her and everyone else call them “oh-cul-ee-its”. I can’t tell tell if they’re trying to say “acolytes”, “occultists”, or “affiliates”.

Morgana announces Benny’s spell has been broken to mild groaning approval. She instructs Beast and Sluggo to go to the physical realm and retrieve what she needs to complete her Pazuzu Configuration, because, apparently, even though they’re the least human-looking of the bunch, they’re the only ones who can set foot in sunlight. I guess that explains why Morgana wants to immerse the earth in eternal darkness.

Morris burps from the Coke™ he drank, alerting the ghouls to his presence. He and Stewart narrowly escape to the kitchen. They chain the fridge shut.

Stewart goes upstairs to lie down. He says he has an “adult-size bangaroo” (a reference to an old Bayer aspirin commercial). A hooded figure emerges from his bedroom closet. The figure lowers its hood, revealing a harmless-looking blonde girl with stupid, poofy bangs. This brings up an interesting question. Do bangs on a woman count as a mullet? I say yes.

Stewart threatens to channel Jeff Jarrett and smash a guitar on the harmless-looking blonde girl’s head, but she sends it flying across the room with a single finger-pointing motion. The girl introduces herself as Bethany, Morgana’s step-daughter, and pleads for help destroying her wicked step-mother’s contraption so that she can do all she’s ever wanted, live a normal life as a mortal. She pathetically sticks out her bottom lip until Stewart agrees. I don’t want to call her the worst actress ever, but I haven’t seen worse. God bless her, she tried.

Downstairs, Scully just sort of shows up in the kitchen. There’s a point-of-view shot of him scurrying across the floor to bite Chewy, completely undetected.

Mr. Flopchek invites himself in to watch nude female mud wrestling with Morris and Gramma, citing an inability to do so at home because aliens control his TV. He turns on the show and makes a comment about how he hasn’t seen so many breasts since he was a grade school teacher. Oh, Flopchek, you rascal! The characters sit through an advertisement for “Let’s Scare Crazy Fat Ethel to Death”, which sounds like a mashup of Let’s Scare Jessica to Death and Criminally Insane II, also known as “Crazy Fat Ethel 2”. I wasn’t expecting a Nick Millard reference. It brings a tear to my eye. Gramma gets up to give Chewy a bath.

Scully is back on Morgana’s shoulder. Morgana peers through a crystal ball (snow globe) and sees something in Stewart’s house that meets one of her three requirements. She commands Beast and Sluggo to get it. They tell her they can’t; the fridge is chained shut. Ok, what’s going on? Are we pretending we didn’t just see Scully and Bethany inside the house? How’d they get there, and how come they can go in the light all of a sudden?

Morgana conjures a demoness wearing chains and a cape “from the Ninth Circle of Hell” directly into the house to attack Morris and Flopchek. The Ninth Circle of Hell is Treachery. It’s where history’s worst traitors go. I don’t think that’s a factor here. The writer probably just picked that term cos it sounds cool and sinister. Anyway, the demoness crawls out from behind the TV. Morris and Flopchek put her over as majorly ugly. Flopchek gets up to fight.

“Oh my god! You think her face is bad, you oughta smell her breath!” he yells back to Morris.

The demoness throws Flopchek into a corner and lifts Morris up by his throat. Stewart hears Morris’ screams of rape and heads down with a bat. He swings away but it has no effect.

Meanwhile, a feisty pizza delivery girl named Dixie arrives at the door with some other family’s pizzas. Morris politely takes time to answer. In accordance with her restaurant’s delivery policy, Dixie flashes her breasts, causing Morris to faint. Dixie steps in to set down the pizzas and comes upon a bizarre scene. She pulls out her .357 Magnum, because of course she does, and drops the demoness.

Flopcheck can’t find his hotdog. Stewart concludes that it must have been taken to fulfill the “meat that is not meat” requirement. After that, Morgana sends a hex through time and space to the house, where it ricochets off a table and hits Morris, turning him into a frogman (i.e. him with a green mask and gloves).

From there, things only get weirder. Gramma unchains the fridge to get prune juice and is kidnapped by Sluggo. Morgana devises a plan to rip out her pacemaker and use it as “the clock that counts the beat of a heart”. Morris is frog-napped as well for his virgin blood. Stewart finds himself in a swordfight with Beast, except instead of swords they use blowup dolls. Yep.

Stewart, Bethany, Flopchek, and Dixie eventually re-enter Limbo. A skeletal corpse (Fred the Corpse as “Himself”) appears out of nowhere to greet them. “So glaaad you could make it! Let’s show them some hospitality, shall we?” Fred croaks. I’m 99% sure he’s the prop from the melt scene in Ozone, also 1993.

Will our heroes be able to foil Morgana, save Gramma, change Morris back, and fix the refrigerator, all before Stewart’s parents get home? Tune in and find out!

The Witching was shot on video in 1993 near Kansas City, Missouri, Todd Sheets’ neck of the woods. The area’s many caves account for the rocky locations in Limbo. However, the movie takes place in the fictional town of Wembley, with no state being given. I assume Wembley is situated further east in New England somewhere, due to the witch hunting angle.

The movie shares its name with an alternate cut of the 1971 movie Necromancy starring Orson Welles and a generic-looking 2016 movie. While you wouldn’t be wrong to assume it’s at least partly horror like those two, The Witching is in every way comedy.

It was written and directed by screenwriter/musician/occasional filmmaker Matthew Jason Walsh, who’s worked closely with David DeCoteau and J.R. Bookwalter over the years, writing thirty-two scripts for the former and six for the latter. It was produced by Todd Sheets, using his regular actors, but wasn’t done in his dreary, gloopy, gory style. In fact, it shows very little blood.

Sheets is also credited as “director of photography”, although I’m not sure why you’d need one of those for a movie shot with a camcorder. It’s not like camcorders had interchangeable lenses, filters, or media. They zoomed in and out and recorded to cassette tape. That’s about it. Sheets doesn’t seem to have done anything special with the lighting either. The whole movie is dark and extremely hard to see.

Editing was done by J.R. Bookwalter under the pseudonym “Darryl Squatmpump”. The final product was issued by Video Outlaw, a subsidiary of Bookwalter’s main label Tempe Video (confusingly, based out of Akron, Ohio). I’m not sure what the point of the separate sub-label was, considering Tempe’s catalogue was already pretty diverse — they had SOV movies, legit films, in-house productions, and acquisitions. I’m guessing it was a means for Bookwalter to release movies he wasn’t especially proud of or willing to put his name on.

I have mixed emotions about the VHS box (click here). On one hand, it lets us know up front that we’re getting a comedy. It doesn’t put up a pretense of horror.

Credit: The Simpsons, Frinkiac.com/Disney

On the other, it features a random white witch who’s not in the movie.

Credit: The Simpsons, Frinkiac.com/Disney

I can see her boobs.

Credit: The Simpsons, Frinkiac.com/Disney

Like the last Walsh/Bookwalter collaboration I watched, The Witching contains and relies on elements lifted from other more popular movies. As I’ve already mentioned, it references Star Wars, Phantasm, The Amityville Horror, and the same year’s Army of Darkness. You may have also noticed how “Pazuzu Configuration” is just a combination of the words “Pazuzu” (the demon from The Exorcist) and “Lament Configuration” (the puzzle box from Hellraiser). Plus, my gut tells me Flopchek was based on Rumsfield, the militant guy from The ‘Burbs.

The bones of the story were scavenged from Warlock. In both movies, witches are captured by witch hunters three-hundred years before present. The witches are then loosed in modern times where their main objectives become finding three scattered pieces of things to bring about the end of the world. At surface level, the movies are nothing alike, but the core similarities are there and they’re striking.

Even the part about the refrigerator being a doorway to another realm had been done before in the equally obscure would-be cult classic The Refrigerator (1991), in which an old Norge refrigerator (possibly a ’57) eats several people who enter its New York City apartment home.

Believe it or not, there’s a long history of refrigerators in horror. The modern conveniences make our lives easier; it was only a matter of time before we turned them evil. In Friday the 13th Part 2, Alice opens hers to find Pamela Voorhees’ severed head grossly touching her milk. The 1984 Filipino anthology film Shake, Rattle, & Roll, features a segment called “Pridyider” (pronounced something like “pree-jih-der”, derived from the brand name Frigidaire) about a fridge that scares a mom by turning her food into bloody body parts and slams shut on people until they die. It was remade as a stand-alone CGI-fest in 2012. A talking severed head appears in a fridge in the original (superior) 1990 version of It. That same year saw the release of a short film titled Attack of the Killer Refrigerator… and that’s just the tip of the icebox. What are your favorite moments involving refrigerators? Leave a comment below.

Getting back on track, I will say The Witching has an overzealous fanboy attitude that can be off-putting at times. It’s also a bit silly for me. Another big problem it has is its climax, which makes no sense and looks terrible. Morgana has most of the heroes lined up and restrained. Gramma punches Morgana. Dixie throws Scully at a cave wall. Somehow, this sets off an explosion. The explosion is five frames of spray paint from Microsoft Paint overlaid on the image. There’s a green orb and skull. Five more frames of spray paint signify a second explosion. Bethany kisses Stewart and says “Now that my step-mother is dead, and the Pazuzu Configuration is destroyed, we must get out of here quickly.” I didn’t omit any details.

On the plus side, The Witching is never boring, and packs a lot into its barely-feature-length runtime. I watched it because I’d never heard of it before and I have to admit I was thoroughly entertained. I feel like I’m part of a secret society watching a movie with only two user reviews and three critic reviews on IMDb.

Oddly, The Witching made its DVD debut as a bonus feature on Seduction Cinema’s release of The Witches of Sappho Salon. Seduction Cinema was the company responsible for all those late-night erotica flicks starring Misty Mundane back in the early 2000s. It also appeared in a bargain bin “Hardcore Horrors” six-pack along with The Vulture’s Eye, This Darkness, Soul of the Demon, Hollywood Vampyr, and Terror at Baxter U, which is now out of print.

I watched it on the Kings of Horror YouTube channel. Most of the comments there are complaints from casual horror fans who probably don’t even know what SOV means and felt tricked by the clickbaity title — “The Witching | Full Movie English 2015 | Horror”. If anything, all their negativity made me want to enjoy it even more. I’m a contrarian at heart. When movies are universally loved, it kills my interest in them and vice versa. I don’t know why I am the way I am.

The Witching is also available to rent and purchase digitally through Amazon Prime Video. Hilariously, Amazon lists two directors — “Eric Black Matthew” and “Jason Walsh”.

Whatever his name is has only directed two subsequent movies — I’ve Killed Before (1995), a short about a serial killer who takes an apprentice under his wing, and a feature-length remake called Bloodletting (1997). Slightly related: he wrote a movie called Blonde Heaven, directed by David DeCoteau, that’s alternately known as “Morgana”/”Morganna”.

Now, to quote Stewart, “Let’s make like a baby and head out.”

Body Count
In the end, the villains are vanquished, but we don’t see them “die” and it’s unclear how many there are… I’ll just put 0.

Bod Count
0.

Overall Enjoyability
3 fanboy movie references out of 5 (I’ll be honest, I never rate anything lower than 3 because I only like to review movies I genuinely enjoy).

I Got My Copy From
N/A

Recommendations
these other “witch” movies from around the same time:

Witchboard (1986)
The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
Witchcraft (1988) and its fifteen sequels
Witchery (1988)
Teen Witch (1989)
Witch Trap (1989)
The Witches (1990)
Witchboard 2 (1993)
Witch Academy (1995)
Witchboard III: The Possession (1995)
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Witchouse (1999)
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)
Witchouse II: Blood Coven (2000)
Witchouse 3: Demon Fire (2001)

I also highly recommend The Refrigerator (1991)

The Creeper at the DMV, or: Dear Scumbags, Quit Your Bullshit

There was a buzz surrounding Jeepers Creepers back in the day when it first came out. While it didn’t get many good reviews from the major news outlets, it did land a couple of magazine covers (Fangoria 206, Shivers 91), Hellraiser director Clive Barker called it “the most scary, stylish horror movie [he’d] seen in years”, and all my middle school-age friends were talking about how “cool” it looked. I know I enjoyed it. My mom even took me to see Part 2 at the multiplex and we had a fun time. In my opinion, it holds up as one of the best horror films of an era that brought us quite a few gems because of its novel concept and gradual way it reveals its monstrous villain’s appearance and range of powers without explaining too much about him.

As we all know by now, but maybe didn’t back then, writer/director Victor Salva is a registered sex offender. His 1988 conviction made headlines in 1995 when Disney produced Powder for him, because it looked awful for the industry leader in family entertainment to associate with a person who preys on children. By the time Salva set to work on Jeepers Creepers six years later, the controversy had died down and people simply forgot. There were plenty of promotional interviews with cast and crew for the first and second films in the series, but nobody seemed all that mindful of the monster lurking on the other side of the camera. I was just a kid with limited internet access, so if Salva’s dark past ever was dredged up in the media rounds and message boards, I missed it.

There are two kinds of registered sex offenders in my book. The ones who get screwed by the system — a very small percentage I’m sure — and the lowest of the low, the subhuman garbage. Victor Salva’s the latter. This wasn’t a case of him being seventeen dating a sixteen year old. Not even close. He was well into his twenties, abusing his position of power as a festival-winning filmmaker backed by Hollywood heavyweight Francis Ford Coppola to victimize one of his actors, Nathan Forrest Winters, for roughly four to six years (sources vary). Sicker yet, he videotaped at least some of it. These facts aren’t pleasant, but they bear repeating.

My heart sank when I learned this. For a long time, the mere thought of revisiting Jeepers Creepers gave me an icky feeling that doing so meant I was somehow supporting a pedophile. Salva’s widely circulated registration photo from 2000 in which he’s smiling doesn’t help. It gives me an unsettling John Wayne Gacy vibe.

Salva claims to have made a “mistake” and “paid dearly” for it, which doesn’t sound like an apology to me. I don’t believe monsters capable of prolonged abuse like him ever truly feel remorse, or change who they are deep inside. They may stop acting on their urges, especially as they age and their sex drives go down, but they can’t be reformed.

The whole situation poses tough questions. Like, is it wrong to knowingly enjoy the work of a terrible person? And, is it possible to “separate the art from the artist?” If so, when do we do that? Always? Or only some of the time? There are no black and white answers. It’s a moral dilemma straight from a college ethics class.

The same discussion came up when professional wrestler Chris Benoit cold-bloodedly murdered his youngest son and wife before taking his own life in 2007. There are still fans who argue that Benoit deserves to be inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame because, despite being a total piece of shit, he was a really good technical wrestler, guys. It’s delusional.

If you don’t watch wrestling, you may not realize how many people it takes to present what you see on TV. Wrestling is, by its very nature, broken up into segments, i.e. matches. For each of those, you’ve got two to four wrestlers (often more), their managers, a referee, a ring announcer, two to three commentators, writers/”bookers”, agents (known variously as “producers” and “coaches”), pyrotechnicians, lighting crew, camera crew, sound crew, and of course all the artists who provided the music, not to mention anyone who runs interference. It’s a machine with a lot of moving parts. The wrestlers are only one piece. When looking at it from this perspective, I consider it chill to enjoy Benoit’s matches.

I find modestly-budgeted films even easier to forgive because more people go into producing them. Jeepers Creepers credits over three hundred. Sure, Salva steered the ship, but the actors and actresses are the ones who brought life to his characters. And the special effects team fleshed out the Creeper. Without them, the movie is nothing. That’s why I say it’s time to lay claim to the series. It belongs to us fans now. Part 4 is releasing this year with zero involvement from Salva, and I for one am excited. It’s an opportunity for a fresh start.

Lamely, Salva wasn’t the first public figure to sully our favorite genre’s good name, and he won’t be the last. Horror has plenty of skeletons in its closet. The sad truth is, terrible people are everywhere, especially in Hollywood.

Film snobs love to forget that Academy Award winner Roman Polanski (Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant) is a repeat sex offender who fled the US to avoid prosecution. At least Salva served out his sentence, however lenient it was. Polanski ran like a bitch. Surrealist Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, The Holy Mountain) maintained for years that he actually raped co-star Mara Lorenzio in El Topo, ironically for the sake of realism. He only just recently walked back on that story, claiming it was a marketing ploy. Robert Blake, the actor from the hair-raising-est scene in Lost Highway, shot his wife of six months in the head in public, but was somehow never convicted. Harvey Weinstein (producer The BurningHardware, Dust DevilScream, the list goes on) committed untold sexual assaults spanning decades. Should we ban all these movies, these classics? Definitely not. If nothing else, they need to be preserved for history’s sake.

It does become harder to accept something knowing its author exerted near-total creative control over it, as with paintings, written works, small-scale productions, etc. I draw the line in some cases.

For example, I refuse to watch, let alone pay for, anything made by ultra-low-budget “filmmaker” Lucifer Valentine, which, by the way, sounds like a screen name an eleven year old emo came up with. He’s freely admitted in interviews to sexually abusing his (now deceased) younger, blind, mentally handicapped sister — there are so many levels of evil to that — and claims his biggest inspiration is Max Hardcore, a pornographic actor known for his exploitation and rough treatment of women in extreme fetish videos. Those two things tell me all I need to know about Valentine’s spineless maggot ass. I hope he ODs, cold and alone, in some shitty little apartment.

But I’m not here to tell you what to think about the people I’ve named or their movies. I’m here to examine something less serious. A minor plot hole in Jeepers Creepers. And ramble a bit.

The movie’s protagonists are a brother and sister on their way home from college. Darry, apparently short for Darius (Justin Long), and Trish (Gina Philips). We meet up with them on a vacant stretch of North Florida highway in the middle of a game they’re playing to pass time where they earn points by calling out personalized license plates. Darry incorrectly interprets “6A4EVR” as “Gay Fever”. Trish makes the steal with “Sexy Forever”, bringing the score to 5-2 in her favor. After passing the sexy gay motorist, they themselves are passed by a big rusty truck with a plate reading “BEATNGU”. In Part 3, a character identifies the truck as a 1940s Chevy Cab-O (or Coe, meaning “cab over engine”). I’m not a car guy, and wouldn’t have known that otherwise. So thanks, random character. The siblings disagree whether Darry gets a point for calling out “Beating You” because he didn’t do it immediately. I say let the man have it.

They pass the same bucket of bolts a short while later and observe its driver (Jonathan Breck), referred to as Beating You, credited as the Creeper, sliding obvious bodies wrapped in blood-stained sheets down a pipe that connects to the cellar of a boarded-up church. The Creeper notices them watching him and runs them off-road.

The siblings decide to investigate the cellar and find what Darry estimates to be five or six hundred bodies plastered to the walls like “some psycho version of the Sistine Chapel”. It reminds me of the inside of the terraforming station in Aliens. Darry and Trish peel away, seeking help at a gas station diner where they’re phoned by mysterious psychic Jezelle (Patricia Belcher) who plays for them the iconic title song, “Jeepers Creepers” written by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer, performed by Paul Whiteman and his Swing Wing. The song serves as a plot device and also foreshadows Darry’s unfortunate fate, adding an unexplainable sense of synchronicity to the film’s fictional universe sorely lacking in the sequels. The film ends with its monstrous villain listening to the jaunty 1930s song on a phonograph in a workshop. You can’t tell me the scene didn’t influence Insidious, where another monstrous villain listens to (a cover) of a 1920s song on a phonograph in a workshop. My favorite scene, however, is accompanied by a cover of Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Peek-A-Boo”, itself a take on “Jeepers Creepers”.

One of the key moments of the whole movie is when the characters realize “BEATINGU” actually reads “Be Eating You”. As Jezelle tries to explain, the Creeper is an ancient creature, perhaps a demon, that wakes every twenty-third Spring for twenty-three days to hunt humans. It smells fear and feeds on the frightened to regenerate its own failing body parts (Jeepers Creepers, in turn, was inspired by It). First of all, why would the Creeper advertise that he eats people, bringing unwanted attention to himself? Secondly, having a vanity plate means that at some point he went to the DMV and filled out paperwork to get it.

That’s problematic for two reasons. One, the Creeper has never been shown to be capable of speaking or writing (although he does like to whistle and definitely understands language, as evidenced by his interactions with victims and a police scanner hooked up to his truck). Two, he’s a hideous monster whose very appearance would clear out the building in seconds.

I like to imagine him patiently waiting in line for an hour. He finally moves up to the counter, only to be turned away for not having a first or last name or proof of address.

“Oh, I see.”

As funny as the above scenario would be, it’s just as likely the plate is handmade. I say this because it doesn’t denote what state it’s from, and even old plates did that. The Creeper is known to be skilled with his hands and could have easily made it himself. Like I said, he sets up two different workshops in abandoned locations to craft medieval weapons and practice taxidermy. The frustrating thing is, the cops run his plate, but never announce the results. In fact, they get the results of a skin sample back in less time. What? How does that work?

If the plate is a DIY project, we know the Creeper can write, but that still doesn’t explain why he’d choose to bring so much unwanted attention to himself from police. While it hasn’t been definitively proven that he can be killed by conventional weapons, they do slow him down, and probably hurt.

If I was Darry, or Trish, or Jezelle, the moment I learned he fed on fear, I’d try the ol’ Nancy Thompson technique, tell him “I take back every bit of energy I gave you. You’re nothing. You’re shit…” and turn my back, causing him to phase out of existence. If that didn’t work, I’d encase him in concrete. That’s gotta buy, what, a century or two, until someone breaks it open, out of curiosity or by accident? The good news is, every time the Creeper goes dormant, we as a species evolve intellectually and progress technologically. He’ll eventually wake to a time in which we have laser guns and can psychically explode his head and be greatly outmatched. And then, it’s game over, dick.

I recently re-watched the movies once apiece and didn’t notice a year (they all take place within days of each other, during the same “feeding period”) until the very end of Part 3 when it shows newspapers dated 2001. I consider this a huge missed opportunity. If the movies took place in 2000, just one year earlier, the Creeper would have been active in 666 A.D., which makes for an excellent origin story. Salva really should have done the math before committing to the year that he did.

Another aspect I’m not a big fan of is how much stronger and faster the Creeper gets as the series goes on. By Part 3, he’s laughably overpowered. He can pluck people off motorcycles in midair and telekinetically summon his weapons to his hand. Plus, all of a sudden his sixty-year-old truck is an indestructible tank rigged with limitless booby traps and sentient land mines. Even the rubber tires deflect bullets. It’s too hard to believe — which is weird because I can accept he’s a demon, just not a mechanical wizard. But really, materials have their limits. Cars weren’t widely available to the public until the early 1900s, meaning he’s had at most ninety-two days, or three months, to learn how they work and modify his truck to such an extent that gatling guns have no effect on it. I mean, come on. I’m guessing he doesn’t sleep much, if at all, during his periods of activity, but that’s still not very much time. He’s either supernaturally smart, has access to unknown materials, or… I don’t know what. I just know I don’t like it. I’m hoping Part 4, subtitled Reborn, returns to what made the original great. Subtlety and suspense.

What do you think of this series?