Back in 1989 writer/director Victor Salva crafted a chilling tale of homicidal clowns who possess a knack for stalking young boys. The picture (titled Clownhouse for those who may have missed it) is a genuinely unnerving piece of work with some highly disturbing moments on display.
Honestly, what the hell is more frightening than grim guised serial killing clowns?
How about a child molesting director?
While filming Clownhouse, Victor opted to make a career destroying decion. Sadly, he forced then 12-year-old Nathan Forrest Winters (who portrayed Casey Collins) to engage in videotaped sexual acts including oral copulation. Salva’s abuse quickly surfaced in the media, not only terminating any hope of Clownhouse garnering commercial success, but also earning him a three year prison sentence after pleading guilty to one count of lewd and lascivious conduct, one count of oral copulation with a person under 14, and three counts of procuring child pornography.
As amazing as it may sound, Salva served just 15 months of his prison term. Forced by law to register as a sexual offender, Salva was quickly blacklisted amongst his Hollywood contemporaries. It would be x years before Victor returned to cinema, with the rarely seen The Nature of the Beast (how appropriate).
The following half decade afforded Salva few opportunities, though astonishingly, he somehow found himself in the director’s seat for the Disney financed feature, Powder. Powder floundered at the box office, and, given the circumstances surrounding the film (namely Disney’s involvement), Salva’s past was once again brought to the media forefront.
Again Salva faced a lengthy hiatus from film, not returning to helm another film until 1999 when he spearheaded the forgettable Rites of Passage. As expected, the film underwhelmed, and at that point, numerous critics had finally declared Salva’s film career deceased.
Two years later that declaration evaporated. Salva returned to action with the sleeper horror hit Jeepers Creepers. Jeepers, shot on a $10 million budget earned a reasonable $37 million domestically, and suddenly genre fans were faced with an outlandish dilemma: to support a convicted child molester or not, based solely on what many conder a stellar film.
As the decades unfold it seems as though many have forgotten Salva’s despicable conduct. Or for that matter, perhaps they’re mply ignorant to the man’s background. Of course, we’ve got a third option, albeit unlikely: perhaps many have forgiven Victor.
Jeepers Creepers II followed two years later, and again, crowds flocked to screen the grizzly sequel, which like its predecessor proved a lucrative production. Not only was the memory of Salva’s checkered past fading, it appeared his popularity had taken a turn for the better.
These days buness inders and pundits are still quick to dismiss Salva’s existence. Horror fans however, aren’t so quick to write-off the rebounding filmmaker.
A third installment of the Jeepers Creepers franchise is in the works as I type, and fans are buzzing with anticipation of the film. In fact the Creeper has already begun to take on an iconic image in the minds of genre fans.
But the Creeper apparently isn’t the only saving grace for Victor, as his upcoming chiller Rosewood Lane is swimming in a masve pool of hype. Admittedly, the idea of a psychotic paperboy is alluring, but is it alluring enough to finally forgive Salva for committing such appalling actions?
Sure some twenty-plus years have passed nce Victor’s notoriously heinous gaffe, and yes, people change, evolve…improve. But at the end of the day, one must look in the mirror and ask themselves: Does one thrilling franchise (and a proming yet-to-be-released picture) warrant forgiveness for Victor Salva?
While Victor Salva once looked to be a casualty of his own disconcerting fetishes, the times have changed. Somehow Salva is regaining steam and respect as a filmmaker (hopefully he's learned to conduct himself appropriately behind closed doors as well). I suppose the final question I pose is this: Has Victor managed to redeem himself in your eyes?
As a father, I know my answer, regardless of how much I may enjoy his films.