Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
aka Friday the 13th, Part 5: A New Beginning
Director: Danny Steinmann
Starring: Melanie Kinnaman, John Shepherd, Shavar Ross, Richard Young, Marco St. John, Juliette Cummins, Miguel A. Núñez, Jr
Running time: 88 minutes
Genre: horror, slasher
When we said “final,” we didn’t mean “FINAL.”Little Tommy Jarvis ain’t so little any more. It’s been five years since his showdown with Jason Voorhees, and they haven’t been good years; Tommy’s been bounced from one psych facility to another, and all he’s gotten out of it are some freaky hallucinations, a hair-trigger temper, and a bad case of hormones that make him look twenty-five. At seventeen he’s on his own at Pinehurst, a bizarre halfway house that seems to run on the no-rules-at-all system. Even Trish is MIA, bummers. Upon moving into Pinehurst, Tommy makes a good impression on his new peers by going kung fu krazy on Eddie, and also meets Reggie, the coolest sassy little black dude since Webster. Neighboring deranged hillbillies Ethel and Junior show up to complain about teenagers sexing on their property (this is a problem?), and the day is capped by another resident, Vic, going apeshit and taking an axe to fat, laundry-hampered Joey. Arriving on the scene to clean up the forty whacks are paramedics, one of whom channels Rowdy Roddy Piper by chewing bubblegum and calling everyone “pussies,” but the other seems a mite … distraught.
That same night, the killings begin, first with residents, and then hospital personnel. The next day, Tina and Eddie sneak away for some good ol’ sex in the bushes clean fun, and are horribly murdered for their pains. Though residents are disappearing right and left, Pam pshaws Dr Matt’s worries and takes Reggie and Tommy off to visit with Reggie’s totally cool brother Demon. (Who the hell is Pam, anyways, and what does she do at Pinehurst? Is she a counselor? Who knows?) Mental hillbilly Junior shows up again, freaking Tommy out and provoking another kung fu frenzy, and Tommy runs off while Junior tears ass on his ATV, for what reason I do not know. When Demon, his girl Anita, Ethel, and Junior all end up dead, it starts to seem like perhaps Tommy’s become what he fears: his nemesis Jason Voorhees. When Pam and Reggie return to Pinehurst, they find the remaining residents all butchered, and there’s a dude in a hockey mask who seems real happy to see them …
“Buncha pussies.” Vilified by the fanbase, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning continues Tommy Jarvis’ story–he being the first Final Kid to make it past the first few minutes of the next sequel without either dying or disappearing from the chronology forever. But that’s not what upset fans, the ones who came looking for a Jason Voorhees killing spree. The flashpoint for F13P5 was the shocking twist ending, which left many fans feeling betrayed and/or ripped off. Now, we’re going to discuss that twist ending, because it’s impossible not to, so if you don’t know what it is and don’t want it spoilered, get out now. Now, let’s see what all the hate is about, shall we?
Bill: Hey! Where’s my 6-minute recap/murder montage? How am I supposed to know what happened in the previous four movies? Was I supposed to remember all that? Who are these two guys and who are they digging up and why? Who is this kid and why is he watching? Why does he seem scared? OMG! That man isn’t dead and … He killed those men! Who are these people and WHAT IS GOING ON?!
This is the first of the Friday sequels that doesn’t start with a “Last week, on Friday the 13th” montage and I kind of miss it. Though, I guess, this being a New Beginning and all, I can understand the need to start fresh, to look forward instead of back. That’s why they begin with Tommy’s prescient dream of the beginning of Part 6! Seriously. Two guys digging Jason up in the rain, the worms on his face, his resurrection … was this kid seeing the future or what? He foresaw the complete change in Jason’s MO!
In the previous three movies, Jason was a sneak-and-stab guy, not an all-out hack-with-machete cat. He learned from watching his mama how to stalk and sneak and surprise and kill. Most of his murders had some of that to them. In Tommy’s dream, Jason comes out of the grave with that damn machete and just annihilates, then walks straight toward Tommy. No more sneaking, no surprise, just stare you down and cut you up. Apparently resurrected corpses have no need for stealth or cunning. In the next movie, that is exactly what he becomes! And he stays that way for the rest of the franchise.
Makes it kind of ironic, then, that A New Beginning gets shit on so much for having a faux Jason, considering the killer in this movie is far closer to the Jason of 2-4 than the post-death Jason of the latter films in the franchise, the very unstealthy, annihilating, murder-machine Jason of Tommy’s dreams.
Fisty: That is an interesting point, mon frere. Jason Lives is often singled out for its use of parody and comedy, but A New Beginning is really where that starts. Even to the twist ending, the unmasking of not-Jason, Steinmann et alia seem to be taking the piss out of the franchise, using the F13 tropes with abandon. It’s not surprising that with not only Steinmann at the helm, but also writing the script in the company of Martin Kitrosser and Danny Cohen (the former was responsible for the fiasco that is F13P3), the story often meanders in bizarre and meaningless ways. Characters traipse in and out of scenes, being introduced for the sole purpose of feeding the kill machine as ANB homes in on an astonishing twenty-two deaths. Sadly, thanks to a revamp of the R rating, most of those kills are quick-cut to death leaving only a few of the trademark highlight death scenes.
For the most part, those kills are in Jason’s traditional stalk-and-slash style; we get a lot of the POV lurking in the woods shots (thank goodness the producers didn’t do something silly like completely take Jason out of his wooded and isolated setting … can you imagine?) and cunning murders using items at hand. Canonically, could there be some connexion between Tommy’s dream and the later unstoppable force Jason? Is this some kind of Dark Halfscenario?
Bill: Like, an undead Jason powered by Tommy’s unrealized psychokinetic power and forced to behave according to Tommy’s subconscious mental image of Jason? Neat idea.
As for the kills in ANB, while, yes, they are cut to shit, at least they do give you a ton of variety. You get a melding of the under-the-raft murder and the through the bed murders from previous films. There’re two nice axings, slit throats, stabbings, a beheading and, more interestingly and memorably, a railroad spike to the head, road flare in the mouth (awesome!), and my two favorites in the film and two of my favs from the whole franchise. I am, of course, talking about the naked shears-though-the-eyes followed by sickening crunch as the shears are closed and the very inventive leather strap-around -the-head! That’s the good shit!
Fisty: Those were solid. And, lest we forget, this was a fairly boob-heavy entry in the series, even with the sex scene being cut down to ten seconds. No other sequel has as many, except maybe F13P4, despite the MPAA’s meddling.
Bill: Oh, yes! There’s really only three characters that show anything in this installment of the series: Tina, Robin, and Lana. Tina and Robin’s scenes are pretty great, from my POV, and Lana gives a nice little flash, perfect for her tiny role. I just wish Violet would’ve shown some flesh. Tiffany Helm is adorable. Easily, the third most fuckable female character in the entire series (1 & 2 being the twins from The Final Chapter) but sadly, she keeps her kit on until the end. There’s another nail in the coffin of that “No naughtiness = safe” myth.
Fisty: Much like F13P3, ANB’s storyline often makes no sense (I’m looking at you, Kitrosser). The halfway house idea, and the treatment/rehabilitation of Tommy, while it could have had some interesting subtext, is under-utilized, and when it is in use, it is often ridiculous. (“Let’s hand troubled teens an axe and see what happens!”) The whole concept seems to go right out the window about a half hour in, rarely to be mentioned again. Pinehurst’s residents are also less than compelling, with the exception of Shavar Ross as Reggie, who fulfills the sequel’s need for a spunky little kid a la Tommy Jarvis of F13P4, and Melanie Kinnaman, who is largely memorable for her ability to
frolic run from Jason in the rain in a sheer white top. Neither of them are actual residents/patients, however; the teens themselves are prosaic, although Tiffany Helm’s Violet has her fans. (Bill:ME!)
As for the non-residents, they can be reduced to simple Jason fodder. They wander onscreen, do something ridiculous, then die. The waitress Lana looks at her boobs in the mirror because I guess she likes them (and we like seeing them) and gets it, Nurse Billy the cokehead rambles to himself and bites it, Joey fetishizes chocolate bars and dies … and that’s how the entire movie goes. The installment is metronomic in structure, alternating jokes with jumps or kills with jokes with jumps or kills, contributing to the illogical structure. It’s hard to maintain a storyline under that sort of pressure. Combined with the editing done to appease the MPAA, the results are extremely disjointed, another reason for fan hate.
Bill: I think you’re being a little harsh. Yes, Pinehurst seems to be a whole string of accidents getting shoved into happening, but they did explain that it was an honor system and, up to Vic snapping, the worst problems they seemed to have had was some kids running off to fuck in the bushes. So, stupid as it seems to us, as viewers, I could see how a sudden murder was the last thing they’d expect. (It did happen after Tommy showed up, too. More of his psychic influence?) As for the looney kids, I liked most of ’em! I liked the scene with Jake admitting his attraction to Robin, then, snubbed, turning to Vi for solace, only to be brushed off again. Poor guy. Robin’s guilt, after, when she’s kicking herself for hurting his feelings is nice too. It’s endearing. And I really like the touch of Vi setting too many places at dinner after Joey and Vic are gone.
The non-residents aren’t that bad either. Sure, they’re Jason fodder, but there’s fodder in all of these movies. There kind of has to be. At least they are mostly entertaining. Demon and his damn enchiladas are awesome. Ethel and Junior are maybe a little crazy, but someone had to stand in for Crazy Ralph and God’s Eyeball Man as the town weirdos (and perhaps family members? Could Ethel be a widow?) Then there’s Billy, sweet Cokehead Billy. He’s like Nurse Axel from The Final Chapter, only much cooler. And all of those guys have scenes prior to or are mention prior to their murders. I will give you Pete and Vinnie and The Hungry Handyman. They really were just pop-in roles and had no business even being in the movie. But, considering Steinmann was supposedly told to have a scare, shock or kill every seven to eight minutes, and he had to do this while setting up a new killer and peppering the movie with red herrings, I think he did an ok job. He does, at least, milk these mandatory add-ins for whatever he can get. With the exception of a couple wrong place/wrong time witnesses, he always either has the characters say something about the Pinehurst kids or having had some connection to them, or sticking in a clue, true or false, to the killer’s identity, making you question if Vic could be back or if it could be another Pinehurst resident. Then, after each murder, he goes immediately to Tommy having visions of Jason, implicating him as the psycho.
John Shepherd was fine as Tommy, but, you know, I really wish Thom Matthews had been Tommy in ANB, as well as Jason Lives. As a huge Return of the Living Dead fan, I would’ve loved to have Matthews in the same F13 with Mark ‘Suicide’ Venturini and Miguel ‘Spyder’ Núñez.
Fisty: I jizzed just thinking about that. I loves me some Miguel A. Núñez, Jr! And I’m not being harsh, I’m just being real. Let’s acknowledge the weaknesses while celebrating the umm, well, can we say it has strengths?
The production values, for one, are MUCH better, especially in night scenes. This was a DREAM to screencap, just gorgeous and easy. Roy definitely had a way better Jason costume than Tommy did in The Final Chapter. (Notice how that blue marked mask is less menacing than the red, though?) And Steinman, though he was laboring under the joke/jump requirements, handles it well, Undoubtedly, his background in hardcore porn, which has a similar style, benefited him in this case. Though it is sometimes incoherent and the storyline weak, it is still par for the course of a standard F13 sequel. What do else do viewers expect? The problem is, they expected Jason, and instead they got everything else F13 is supposed to deliver–except that it wasn’t actually Jason acting all Jason-esque.
AND THAT’S OKAY. Repeat after me, kids: THAT IS OKAY.
Why wouldn’t it be? One can argue that a Jason who isn’t really Jason is a cheat, but it’s just as easily argued that the Jason of the later sequels is hardly Jason at all. He lacks the personality, the pizzazz of our beloved cunning Baghead Wild Child. He’s Jason, but he’s also not-Jason, if you catch my drift.
There are really two eras of F13, and A New Beginning straddles them, as does Jason Lives. You have your early sequels, 2-4 which are a (somewhat) coherent narrative, mostly spanning a very short time period. The Tommy Jarvis trilogy awkwardly spans 4-6, and everything after 6 bears little relation to the earlier sequels. (There’s a nod in 7, but we’ll discuss that in its own time.) You could remove A New Beginning from the narrative entirely, and it really would not affect the clarity whatsoever, but there’s no reason to. It is a more than adequate entry in the franchise, hitting all of the tropes like clockwork, and there’s no reason for a fan to be offended.
Bill: The … (Fisty tells me “liminal” is the word I’m looking for) nature of A New Beginningisn’t really through any fault of the movie itself. The original idea of ANB was to set up Tommy as the new Jason, which, if they’d have stuck with that idea, would’ve made this movie integral to the evolution of the franchise. The marginalization of Part 5 can be laid at the feet of the fans. It was the fan outcry against a new Jason that forced the producers to abandon their plans and bring Jason back in Part 6 (which I am pretty thankful for, honestly.) I just don’t understand why everyone hates Faux Jason. When ANB was made, Jason had only been the killer for 75% of the series of films and Roy/Jason’s motives for killing were way more in line with Pamela Voorhees’ original motive from the first movie. I have never even seen a Neo Jason/Roy action figure. They have figures for Mrs. Voorhees and Baghead Jason, but no love for Roy. Yeah, sure, the mask with the blue slashes isn’t as threatening or iconic, but surely SOMEONE would buy it.
And, yes, Fisty, I may tend to gloss over some of the faults of this sequel. I’m just so used to defending it against haters that it’s hard to turn around and be critical of it. I mean, I love Tommy Jarvis. I like this movie. I like that the killer’s motive hearkens back to the original movie. I love goofy Cokehead Billy. I like that there’s some mystery in the series again. I like all the titties and the inflated body count. I like the chainsaw vs. machete duel. There is a lot here to enjoy! However, I suppose it does have its issues.
One thing that really irks me in this flick is the repetition of certain bits of sound and dialog, especially during the final battle scene. Having a character repeat something is fine, but not having some different audio of it is not. It makes me think of automated operators repeating recurring digits in a phone number AND I HATE THAT! And Steinmann’s (I’m assuming, but it could’ve all been in the script) apparent ignorance of contemporary music and hatred of anything musical is not nearly as charming and entertaining as Joseph Zito’s hatred of glass. It seems like half of the victims in this meet their end either singing or listening to some usually woefully out of place music. There’re at least two ski-bop-a-loo-bopping characters in this movie, including a teenager. I can see this coming from Billy the Cokehead (though even he seems like he would be into something a little more modern) but Pete and Vinnie? They seemed straight out of the ’50s, out of The Outsiders. It’s 1985! I think they’d have been into slightly more contemporary music. Oh, and Lana with her sing-songy, “Iiiiiiiiiit’s SHOWTIME!” Then there’s Demon and his woman with their, “Hey baby. Oooh baby. Oooh baby. Hey baby. Hey baby. Oooh baby, etc…” ARGH! Even Violet, at one point, is listening to some bit of music that IN NO WAY MATCHES ANYTHING SHE SHOULD BE LISTENING TO. We’re not talking Lion in place of AC/DC either. It’s just the wrong fucking music for the character and scene. I think His Eyes by Pseudo Echo is the only bit of non-Manfredini musical-anything that actually fits with the film.
Fisty: A) You just asked for a word without telling me what exactly you were saying, and secondly, you stole my line. But like we said about ANB, it’s okay. Essentially, the experience with ANB can be summed up in Steinmann’s own words: “When you guys pick and choose that stuff, it demeans the work. What’s important was, there were people getting killed, and you saw some breasts.” F13 in a nutshell, kids. Roy is not undeserving of his own action figure!
Important movie-related communique from Fisty:
DO YOU HAVE TO ARGUE WITH ME OVER EVERYTHING?