In 1971, Francis Ford Coppola made a film called The Godfather. In it, a hot-headed studio executive refuses to give a role to a singer, and a mafia family decapitates the studio executive’s horse to persuade him otherwise. Decapitating a horse is a rotten thing to do. But the film also reveals that the studio executive is against giving the role to the singer on the grounds that the singer stole his girlfriend — an adolescent minor — away from him. This moral ambiguity makes it easier to forgive the relative evil of the mob’s horse whacking.
It is natural to assume that Coppola, and his film, privilege the twisted morality of the mafia’s over that of a pedophile. But one almost forgets: even when the mob was punishing that studio exec, they were endorsing the guy who stole his girlfriend — another pedophile. Cut to 2015, and convicted and admitted child molester Victor Salva has announced that he will direct Jeepers Creepers 3 — the third installment of a horror series far more successful than it is any good — and that Coppola will serve as co-producer. One wonders if The Godfather, or its maker, ever had any objections to pedophilia in the first place.
The set of Salva’s directorial debut, Clownhouse, is now infamous for being the grounds on which Salva repeatedly raped, and filmed, the film’s 12-year-old star, Nathan Forrest Winters, during ‘rehearsal time.’ In 1988, Salva was exposed, arrested, and convicted of sexually abusing Winters and the possession of child pornography. He served 15 months of a three-year prison term before being released on parole. The year Salva was released, Coppola’s studio, American Zoetrope, distributed Clownhouse (AKA the scene of Salva’s crime) after it played at the 1989 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for the festival’s coveted Grand Jury Prize.
When Salva’s 1995 film, Powder, was released by Disney’s Hollywood Pictures, Winters shared with the public: “I’ve lived through years and years and years of pain and trauma. It doesn’t work like, ‘Boom! — I’m OK now.’ Please don’t spend your money on this movie. It would just go to line the pockets of a child molester.” At the time Winters made his statements, he was 20 years old and, according to SFGate, working “part time as a screen printer at his stepfather’s sign shop in Martinez[, California].” Powder made $30,862,156. In 1999, Salva laughed as he told San Jose Mercury News: “Let’s face it, anybody can work here who makes money.”
By 2001, Salva’s well-known Jeepers Creepers, in addition to reinvigorating the director’s career, delivered more proof positive of his filmography’s disgusting fixation on the bodies of exceptionally young males. Though the film stars a legal-age, then unknown Justin Long, Darius — the protagonist Long portrays — is a high school student. The titular Creeper monster (played by Jonathan Breck) Salva dreamt up for the film, whose body regenerates by eating male victims, preys upon Darius with orgasmic delight. The fetishistic dimension of Jeepers Creepers is ramped up tenfold in Jeepers Creepers 2, another ‘Francis Ford Coppola Presents’ affair released in 2003 in which the Creeper licks his lips and winks at his high-school aged male prey, who conveniently spend their down time sunbathing shirtless across the roof of a school bus. These moments only scratch the surface of a body of work that plays out almost like Salva’s very own subliminal confessional.
Today, according to Bloody Disgusting, Myriad Pictures has issued a press release that includes a quote from Salva:
“Writing and directing a new Jeepers film, the first in over a decade, is incredibly exciting,” said director Victor Salva. “For me and I believe for Jeepers fans all over the world that have been asking for more. What will go before cameras as Jeepers Creepers 3 is a new and terrifying chapter from the Jeepers universe. We are bringing back the Creeper’s truck, and will be addressing the big questions about The Creeper: what it is, where it came from and why it does what it does. More exciting though, this will easily be the most frightening rollercoaster-ride- of-a-Jeepers film that has been made to date.”
As horror fans, many of us share a unique sense that our horror and revulsion toward the grotesque things we seek out in our beloved genre is intrinsically good. Horror on-screen not only reminds us of our mortality, but also of our morality: we see something awful happen, and we are challenged by how we react and respond to said awful thing. In the extraordinary case of Victor Salva and his forthcoming sequel, one’s act of paying for a ticket to Jeepers Creepers 3, or of covering news surrounding its development as if the film is just another fun breaking story to consume in our daily horror diet, corrupts our relationship to the genre. Any endorsement of, or even neutrality toward, Jeepers Creepers 3 by any one horror fan, journalist, or other industry professional does not facilitate the great horror films’ reminder of morality. Rather, that endorsement or neutrality implicates such an individual in the warped morality of Salva and those enabling his further exploits.
What, then, might I suggest if the horror community’s attention must be given to news about an in-development project of a child molester? If you are a filmmaker, make a film in which a victim of child molestation vengefully beheads the horse of the famous Hollywood producer who financed his abuser’s latest film. If you are a journalist, be sure to include a history of Victor Salva’s admitted crimes in any reports about his ongoing career. And if you are a horror fan, just watch something else. Anything else. Jeepers Creepers 3 is an offer we can, and ought, to refuse.