A poster gallery of the psychotronic flicks we’ve been watching over the past month.
A poster gallery of the psychotronic flicks we’ve been watching over the past month.
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
Director: John Carl Buechler
Starring: Kane Hodder, Lar Park-Lincoln, Terry Kiser
Running time: 88
Genre: horror, slasher
With my luck, you’re probably going to turn out to be another delusion. We must be sitting ’round a campfire, because we hear an old codger–OMAGAH, it’s Crazy Ralph! Talking story from Beyond the Grave!–rambling on about Jason Voorhees and
Crystal Lake Camp Blood Forest Green Crystal Lake while getting a pretty comprehensive flashback, showing numerous momentous occasions in the history of both, leading to the final confrontation Lake o’ Fire between Jason and Tommy Jarvis in Chapter VI: Jason Lives. Once Jason is chained at the lake’s bottom, we sit through an interminably dull title and credits sequence, and time passes–though how much, we do not know. Carol Anne Freeling Tina Shepherd stands outside a ramshackle cabin, listening as her drunken father and doormat mother fight. When the sounds of domestic abuse grow to be too much for the tot, she runs down the path to the lake, and out onto the rickety dock. In a move her parents have surely forbidden her many times, Carol Anne Tina hops into the family boat, and heads out onto the lake, without even a lifejacket for crying out loud. Her parents, having somehow caught wind of their daughter’s upset and finally acting like responsible adults, have chased after her. Daddy stands at the dock’s end, shouting for Carol Anne Tina to come back, but she’s too angry and frightened to do so–but not too angry to not rip a Carrie summon her psychokinetic powers and shake down the dock around his head. Into Crystal Lakes goes Daddy, caught below the heavy wood beams. DAAAAAA-DDDYYYYYYYY!!! NNNOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
It must be about a decade later when a grown Tina jerks awake. Mom’s driving her back to Crystal Lake, back to Trauma Central. You see, the whole killing her father with her psychokinesis thing kinda left some indelible marks on Tina’s psyche, and she’s spent some time institutionalized. But Dr “Bernie” Crews has got a bright idea about making
CarrieTina face her inner demons by returning her to the scene of the crime, so to speak. Definitely seems like a good idea. But who cares about that when on the horizon we spy fresh meat?! At the cottage next to the Shepard lakehouse are some young folks, and we’re treated to two girls in bathing suits and a dude in short shorts. Blonde Number One is none too pleased about the arrival of the Shepards and Crews–why we’ll never know except that she turns out to be a Grade A, cast-iron bitch. But when Tina’s suitcase pops open, dude is quick to bound on over, friendly as a puppy and quick to fondle her granny panties. As Tina snatches them out of his greasy mitts, he introduces himself as Nick, but it’s too late. Tina storms off, undies in hand while the peanut gallery smirks.
During an experimental session with Dr Crews, Carrie’s Tina’s powers demonstrate themselves, and we get the idea that just maybe the good doctor doesn’t give a rip about Carrie’s Tina’s problems. Instead, it seems that he’s all about her powers and how to exploit them. And we also learn that she has little to no control over them. Rather than go to her room and practice moving a hairbrush or lifting a dresser, though, or even reading up on the subject at the library, Tina traipses on out to the rebuilt dock and gazes at Crystal Lake’s placid waters. Thinking of her daddy, Tina feels around with her mind, searching for … a Presence. Not realizing this is a Seriously Stupid Move, she then consciously channels her power for the first time, directing it to raise whatever’s there to raise. And and the waters start churning, Jason awakens. When Tina opens her eyes, she sees his dreamy eyes and blacks out.
Of course, Tina–having been previously ensconced in the loving arms of a funny farm–will from here on out be viewed by everyone as an Unreliable Narrator. Those visions of everybody dying? Just Looney Tunes playing in her head! There’s no killer stalking
Crystal Lake Camp Blood Forest Green Crystal Lake! The partykids next door in the party cottage will provide appropriate Jason fodder while Tina makes the classic F13 Final Girl move of bonding with a random dude, Generic Hunk Nick. Jealous sparks will fly between Melissa (Grade A, cast-iron bitch) and Tina, and Maddy and Robin. Michael will make a shoddy Jimmy the Dead Fuck substitute. There will be titties and there will be mayhem. There will also be crazy psychic powers–and we’ll find out how much of a match they are for Jason.
Like has nothing to do with it. The first of the post-Tommy Jarvis Fridays, and only the second featuring an Undead Jason, The New Bloodhas a lot to live up to, but also a unique opportunity to take the franchise in a new direction. With a new actor playing Jason, impressive effects, and an exciting new plot device, the old formula could be livened up, which could lead to exciting new installments in the franchise. Didn’t happen.
Bill: “This installment is further proof that they just didn’t gaf.” -Fisty
I mentioned in our review of Jason Lives that that movie was in heavy cable rotation just around the time I started getting into horror mags like Fango. In fact, the very first non-comicbook horror magazine I ever bought was Gorezone #2 from July of 1988 with Jason’s maskless, rotting mug right on the cover, sporting a telekinesis-hurled nail driven into his forehead. The issue featured an interview with the new Jason, Kane Hodder, as a preview, and ended with speculative talk of him possibly returning in a future as yet unnamed Friday sequel, becoming the first man to take on the role more than once. Man, was I stoked. I took the issue to school and showed all my friends. I put up the pull-out Jason poster included with the issue in my room. I committed to memory all of the pictures of Jason walking out of the water, wielding an ax, lifting some dude up on a spike, etc… To this day, when I picture a maskless Jason, the image I see in my head is the face from that magazine cover, from The New Blood. About twenty percent of my daily activities back then consisted of watching Jason Lives, reading about The New Blood, and getting so excited I was practically vibrating. So it’s kind of odd that the movie itself doesn’t mean more to me than it does, but it just doesn’t. I can’t even remember the first time I saw it. Maybe it was on cable or maybe on video? Probably on video. For me, reading about the making of the movie meant way more than the movie itself ever did … which isn’t that hard to believe. I mean, the movie isn’t exactly all that great. The New Blood was maybe my earliest experience with Gustave Flaubert’s notion that “Anticipation is the purest form of pleasure.” (Shocked to hear me mention a French novelist? Think the name before this paragraph was wrong and you’re reading Fisty’s words? Nah, it’s me. I had to google the quote to find out who said it.)
Now, I don’t want anyone to misinterpret what I’m about to say next. I like Kane Hodder. I like the man and I like him in movies and, yes, I recognize that he did, as that old article predicted, go on to be the first recurring Jason and I applaud him for that. Having made that clear however, I have to go on to say that I just prefer C. J. Graham from Jason Lives as Zombie Jason. Sure, in The New Blood our fav undead mong is more like the Jason of old (at least in some ways): he’s a little sneakier; a little stalkier; he makes sure to use more of his old standard kills (facial stabbings, head crushings, window toss, etc…) from previous Friday the 13ths than he did in Jason Lives; but, as one friend of mine put it, “Hodder played the character like he had a chip on his shoulder.” He’s right. Whenever someone tries (futilely) to stand up to him, you can see in his face/hockey mask, “How dare you, sir or madam?! Don’t you know that I am the
Crystal Lake Camp Blood Forest GreenCrystal Lake Killer?” You could see that Tina, with all her psychic crap, was pissing him off, maybe even offending him with her defiance. Props to Hodder for being able to emote through an inch of latex, but I think Graham Jason’s utter unflappability and single-mindedness makes for a more frightening killer. Your attacks do nothing. They have no effect on him physically or emotionally. He doesn’t think, he doesn’t feel, he doesn’t even want, he just kills. He’s like a shark loose on the campgrounds. Camp Blood is Buckingham Palace and Graham’s Jason is the Queen’s Guard of murder. Hodder’s Jason might kill you, sure, but at least you’ll die with the satisfaction that you were able to get under that bastard’s skin before he did. Graham’s Jason (much like Fisty says of Paramount at this point in the series) just doesn’t GAF.
Fisty: I gotta say, I do love me some Flaubert. Well played, Bill. Well played. Something I do not love? The New Blood. It breaks my heart to say it, but I don’t love it at all. TNB is actually the first Friday the 13th I have a true, clear memory of. When it came out I was really developing consciousness for the first time, and though I have memories of things before that time, many of them are impressions at best. 1988ish was when I really began having awareness and establishing opinions independent of my caregivers. I also was in kind of a terrible, shitty situation, and TNB held a great deal of appeal for me as a story in which a frail young girl, victimized, finds inner strength to overcome obstacles … and rain blood and fire down upon EVERYONE. (I was also really into Carrie at this point. Totally not unusual; see Lois Duncan and the popularity of paranormal YA lit.) So I had fond memories going into it on the first round of our re-watch back in 2010, but sadly, the the reality of TNB no longer matched those beloved childhood memories, not in 2010 nor now.
Bill’s quoted me as saying that this is where Paramount really began to not give a fuck, and I’ll stand by that. Oh, the production values are fine, the actors largely adequate and generically disposable (ie, a perfect slasher cast), and there are kills that would be great if they hadn’t been cut to shit. But the story is fucking ridiculous and just demonstrates how little care was given to continuing the Crystal Lake-Jason mythos, and how much the emphasis was on injecting life into a dying franchise.
Until this point, even right through Jason Lives–though there is a perceptible shift there–Jason was not the hero of Friday the 13th, though he was certainly the star of the show. In Parts 2 and 3-D, the heroines are the spunky girls who make the triumphant last stands against our beloved mongo pal. Then with The Final Chapter came the advent of Tommy Jarvis, slated as the anti/hero of films to follow. But following Jason Lives, rather than continue in the same vein with a recognizable protagonist battling an ultra-powerful undead monster amidst parodic humor (wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute here!), or even return to the roots of the franchise’s formula, Paramount began upping the ante with bloody and vicious kills (neutered right out), a gimmick plot, an exciting new Jason (wondrous FX and all) as the anti-hero. And well, it’s pretty much downhill from there.
I prefer early Jasons to the later ones, and agree that Kane Hodder’s Jason is, well, too menacing and angry. I don’t want Jason emoting unless he’s missing his mother and filled with a righteous indignation that requires the death of all pretty young things within walking distance. If Jason is Undead, then I prefer him more like The Shape, or T-100, or Jaws. He should be a killing machine, and nothing more. “[H]e’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be living … .” That’s what I want out of an unstoppable, undead Jason. I don’t want Heathcliff or Belial or Charles Lee Ray.
Bill: Exactly! “I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face and, the blackest eyes… the devil’s eyes.” It’s interesting that Quint’s and Loomis’ descriptions of the shark from Jaws and Michael Myers are so similar. That vacuous indifference to life, death, suffering or fear is terrifying. It’s the horror of a natural disaster, an allegory for the unstoppable, unthinking, unaware, inescapable killing power of nature. The Shape is a tornado that destroys one home, but leaves every other house on the block untouched. Why? Why does he do it? Why there? No fucking clue. (I’ve always thought making Laurie Strode his secret sister in Halloween Part 2 was a mistake.) His motives are his own if he even has a motive at all. Like Randy from Scream says, “Motives are incidental.” And early Jason fits fairly well with that theme. He’s the Wild Child. He’s a dangerous force of the wild itself. When Jason stabs you or a storm drops a tree on your head or a flood drowns you or a bear murders you to death, they’re not doing it because they’re pissed off. They do it because, hello, it’s a bear! That’s just what they do!
An emotional Jason is just too human, too easy to relate to. When you try to humanize and explain why your killers are killers, it ruins something. Like you said, Fisty, it makes the killer the hero. I think that might have been a contributing factor to the downfall of the slasher film. The trend might have started as early as Halloween 2, when they explained Michael’s desire to kill Laurie by making her his secret sister (again, I always thought this was a mistake), and A Nightmare on Elm Street, where you first met a slasher with more character than his victims. Maybe you could also mention the Psycho sequels. Maybe. Now, I’m not researching anything here, I’m just running with an idea, so if you have other examples or want to disagree, I want to hear it, but that might have been the beginning. In 1988, however, was when the killers really eclipsed their victims to become the heroes of their films. That same year gave us The New Blood, with huffy puffy Jason, The Dream Master, being the first of the NoES movies to put Freddy ahead of his children, and Halloween 4, the first of the movies to start all that Celtic cult mumbo jumbo that shittied up the Halloween franchise. It’s also the year Childs Play came out. As of 1988, the victims stopped being important, the monsters stopped being unknowable, and something went out of balance. Sadly, that never seemed to go away. Now we mostly have a Leatherface that wasn’t just crazy, but had his face eaten by bacteria and was made fun of by his peers, a Jason that kidnaps instead of kills, a Michael that isn’t so much evil as he’s just really upset that his mom strips to shitty music, and fucking Jigsaw. Blah. I miss the old days. But at least I have Final Destination to make me happy. That franchise takes the idea of the empty, emotionless slasher-as-force-of-nature to it’s utmost extreme, totally de-anthropomorphizing the killer to the point that it doesn’t even have any kind of corporeal existence.
Fisty: In a world of Dahmers and Bundys and BTKs (oh, my!), we hardly needed more personalities, just Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil!
Bill: Yes! Very succinct. No one gets me like you do, Fisty.
But I went off on a little rant there. I need to get back to The New Blood.You said the production values were, “Fine.” I didn’t find them quite as satisfactory. The make up was good. Jason looks great. The scene where Tina tightens the straps on his mask and they cut into his head and pus leaks out … Oh my god! I love it! The kills, if they hadn’t been butchered, would’ve been spectacular, but it’s obvious that that’s where all the money went. Everything else about the movie just looks cheap. Distractingly so, for me. It’s so disappointing to see such a drop off from Jason Lives to this. I remember Jason Takes Manhattan looking way better than this one does. Hopefully I’m not wrong about that, because ugh, it’s terrible. The location sucked, too. The previous movies were filmed all over the place, but they all still had a certain size to them, a definite scope. The New Blood was filmed in Alabama and it just does not look like the Crystal Lake we know. The lake is too small, the forest too sparse. It looks like a boringly built artless set than a real location.
I was going to say something else, too. What was it? Jason is hero … victims play second fiddle … Oh yeah! Everyone in this movie that isn’t a narrator (I love Crazy Ralph!) or Jason sucks. Well, that’s an exaggeration. I kind of liked Maddy and Robin and I didn’t mind Tina herself so much (even though her hair was a mess!), but Nick was boring, Tina’s mom was boring, Crews was an asshole, everyone else was stupid, and Melissa was actually the first person in the franchise that I couldn’t wait to see die. I cheered at her death.
Fisty: Fine, adequate, whatever. They certainly weren’t great; this is one of the least pretty Fridays, with nothing like the clean look of say, A New Beginning. Capping it is a real pain since there are very few memorable or striking images that I want to capture. A few to illustrate the story, but not much else. Sometimes it’s hard to stop stuffing images into these reviews, but in this case, not so much. I’m with you on the make-up being great (though as I’ve said, I’m not a big fan of the look).
It’s also a crazy boring cast. Tina’s mother is dull as dirt, and the intriguing storyline with her and Dr Crews is set up, then left adrift. Which sucks, because it’s more interesting than whatever else was going on (namely, nothing but Tina spazzing out). We don’t even get a real idea about what Dr Crews’ nefarious plot is, though I assume he wants to make a big name with breakthrough research on psychokinesis, but who knows? And the relationship between Mrs Whatever (I just don’t care) and Dr Bernie is also more interesting than any of the kid relationships (though one I don’t want to see explicitly), especially with what happens, but again, no development. Just set up and forgotten.
The young kids are largely interchangeable (read: forgettable). Gelfling lookalike Lar Park Lincoln is obnoxious, vacillating between confused hysteria and near-hysteria. And she has THE WORST Carrie-face; Kay Lenz in The Initiation of Sarah was soooo much better. Bland Nick doesn’t even have Rick’s date-rapiness or Rob’s thirty-six hour vendetta to liven him up, just a vague mention of “trouble” (Sex? Drugs?? Rock n’ roll???) and some short shorts. Sci-fi geek Michael kind of sticks out, but he’s the lamest geek. Robin and Maddy were, well, I was going to say “okay,” but I kind of hate Maddy. Her makeover is terrible, and she’s so whiny that there’s none of the poignancy of say, a Vickie or a Sara. I don’t mind Robin and her stoner boy, and Robin’s stalk and kill might be my favorite in the film (kitty!). But HOLY SHIT, MELISSA. I honestly cannot think of another fodder-type as vile as she is. She’s not just mean girl or bitchy, she’s a genuine cunt. There is literally nothing redeeming about her whatsoever. Her death comes as a relief–and it’s practically the last one! The desire to see her go was pretty much the only thing sustaining my interest in the movie.
Why is it so dull? Well, besides the forgettable cast (I know I’ve used that adjective a LOT in this review, but it’s just so damn applicable), we have the nebulous plot and sub-plots that never really make much sense. Jason isn’t even mentioned until an HOUR into the movie, when Tina and Nick find a random Overlook-esque scrapbook with clippings about the murders that happened, what? Twenty years ago now? Which no one else recalls or mentions, not even in a “There’s a spooooky legend about this place, you guys!” manner. And that timeframe does nothing for the series, either. If anything, Jason should be more mythic, but instead he’s just this forgotten undead serial murderer. Who’s wandering ALL OVER the
Crystal Lake Camp Blood Forest Green Crystal Lake environs, apparently MILES from the lake itself (which must be freaking huge, yet shallow, because none of the locations look anything like previous ones, har-dee-har-har) to murder some tangential characters instead of stalking any of the primary victims-to-be. And even though the cabins of the two groups are literally a stone’s throw from one another, no one hears screams or anything suspicious when people finally start dying! Bah! It’s just so shoddily slapped together!
Bill: You want to talk “shoddily slapped together?” There are some serious temporal problems in The New Blood. It never feels like any time has passed between scenes. It’s such a problem that, at one point, I thought night had suddenly become day, because it wasn’t clear to me that it was supposed to be the next day. There are times when characters are supposed to be off wandering the woods, but, because you never get the sense of time passing, (or distance) it seems like they couldn’t have gone ten feet. Tina drives away in the family car for all of ten seconds before crashing, it takes her mom and Doc less than that to find the car and start wandering the woods looking for her, screaming her name, but she’s already home. And this lack of awareness of scale and time is even more extreme for Jason. My biggest complaint about The Final Chapter was Jason’s ability to be all places at once while still hiding in the basement, but The New Blood is staggeringly worse! At one point Jason is at the cabins doing some killing, then suddenly he’s in the woods, far enough out that other people drove there, then he disappears again, presumably back to the cabins, so he can once again appear, (after Tina, who is also magically everywhere at once) this time with a massive power tool that would not be lying around in the middle of the forest. And he did this while still having the time to drag out and arrange four different bodies killed at different times, in different locations out to one spot out in the woods. Now, I’m not one of those people that makes a big deal about him walking around and still catching running people and I don’t need any of the dumb explanations the remake provided about how he gets from place to place; I don’t care, so long as he gets to kill people. However, to pull the crap he does in The New Blood, he’d have to have the teleportation powers of Nightcrawler, Madrox the Multiple Man’s ability to duplicate himself, and perhaps Cable’s timeslide time travel equipment. I’m sorry, but, as badass as he may be, Jason still should not be capable of doing things it’d take a whole team of X-Men to pull off.
Fisty: There are definitely some problems with The New Blood. But there were things I liked about it, too. I liked that it had a beginning, a middle, and an end. In fact, I like that it ended best of all. And I liked Elizabeth Kaitan’s totally gratuitous boobs. Well, to be fair, I also appreciated the occasional nods to Fridays past, such as The Final Chapter‘s family house versus party house set up and Robin’s defenestration–though I’m half convinced that most instances of that were unintentional. And I actually do like the end. Even though Tina kind of sucks at fighting Jason, the psychic versus Jason showdown was pretty fun. And then his ultimate dispatch? It’s got a special kind of lunacy that I can dig. Daddy Shepard rising from his watery grave to battle Jason, despite apparently drowning in about ten feet of water, just offshore? (They seem to have never dragged Crystal Lake for his body.) Sure! I’ll even interpret it metaphorically, if you want! (Though one of the early “mystery endings” like that of Part 2 would have worked wonders following, especially with Nick going missing a la Paul.)
Bill: Yeah, the end battle is pretty fun, with fire and nails and couches flying all over the place. It’s the best part of the movie. I dug the return of the montage opening. Loved that they had Crazy Ralph doing the beginning narration. Given these few things, I’m not so sure all the other nods and winks were accidents. I’m convinced the death of the caveman stoner was an intentional shout out to Halloween: The dude walks into a dark room, the light comes up momentarily and reveals Jason standing still and silent before it goes dark again, then Jason slowly moves into position and gut-stabs the guy with a big chef’s knife. It’s too similar to The Shape’s stalk/kill scenes to be accident. Buechler definitely knows the genre and it’s films well enough to do plenty of nudge-nudging. He even later went on to work on a Halloween movie and he worked on a Nightmare, too, so he’s dipped his fingers in all three of the big franchises. Also, I want to say, contrary to what this review might lead you to believe, I really like his work. Cellar Dweller is awesome and his effects work is steller and his werewolf in Project Metalbeast (played by Hodder) is just so crazy that it’s coolness cannot be questioned. I may be reaching with this one, but I also kind of think, or at least hope, that the Shepards’ last name is a hi-five to John Shepherd, since he was the only Tommy Jarvis not to appear in the “Last time on Friday the 13th” montage at the beginning of the movie. I guess that could be me just wishing A New Beginning would get some of the respect it deserves.
The few bits of The New Blood that are cool, however, just can’t make up for all the suck. It’s just not up to snuff with the first six movies in the series. I don’t hate it. I don’t think I could ever hate any Friday the 13thmovie, but I can say for sure that it’s the worst of the films we’ve covered in the franchise so far. I really don’t dislike it, but I can’t defend it. It sucks. I only like it because it’s Jason fighting Carrie. And even then, the idea is better than the execution.
Fisty: I know my disappointment is palpable, but remember that my fond childhood memories were just MURDERED by watching it again. To me it’s just ten pounds of suck in a five pound bag, I’m afraid.
Despite an exciting new look and actor for Jason, and a potentially thrilling plot device, The New Blood is a new low for the Friday franchise. The aforementioned Carrie versus Jason contrivance was a failed stratagem both in that it didn’t generate a decent movie, and also because it opened the doors for increasingly flaccid, gimmicky sequels in the now enervated franchise.
Bill:But at least it adds weight to some of our (mostly my) crackpot Tommy as Psychic, Dreamin’ Tommy and Jason as Myth theories.
A poster gallery of the psychotronic flicks we’ve been watching over the past month.
Jason Lives: Friday the 13th, Part VI
Director: Tom McLoughlin
Starring: Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen
Running time: 86 minutes
Genre: horror, slasher
Maybe “lives” isn’t really the best word. There is only one thing that Tommy Jarvis fears … Jason. Tommy convinces his Sweat Hog friend Hawes from the group home (he’s still there?) that he has to face that fear, Maury-style. They road trip to Jason’s burial site in the small, rural community of Forest Green (formerly Crystal Lake). Tommy, however, plans on doing more than just confronting his fear: He plans to murder it by torching Jason’s corpse. After digging up the grave, seeing Jason in the casket triggers one of Tommy’s violent episodes and he repeatedly stabs the body with an iron rod, reliving his boyhood trauma of killing Jason. After the cathartic stabby-stabby, he leaves the rod in Jason’s chest and goes for the can of gas, but a sudden blast of lightning strikes the iron pole, Number-5ing Jason back to a semblance of life. Hawes becomes the first of J’s post-life victims, but Tommy escapes, heading into town to warn the people of
Crystal Lake Forest Green that Jason is back and more dangerous than ever!
Naturally, when the survivor of two previous mass murders in the area with a common MO bursts into the
Crystal Lake Forest Green police station, screaming at the cops about a killer on the loose, back up is called and they investigate immediately. NOT! Sheriff Garris and his deputy (probably Holocaust deniers) dismiss Tommy as a nut, informing him that they changed the name of the town to put all that Jason crap behind them, and then they lock him up for the night. Meanwhile, Jason is killing the shit out of random people on his way back to the camp, which is just about to open for the season.
The next morning Megan Garris shows up at the station with her friends Sissy, Paula, and Cort to ask her dad to look for a couple counselors (dead, d-e-d dead) that never showed up when they were supposed to. Tommy, still in the cell, not being a complete idiot like the
CLFGPD, connects the dots and tries to warn them about Jason. Megan takes notice of how cute the psycho in the cell is, but her dad shoos her and her crew away. He and Deputy Cologne escort Tommy out of town and send him on his way, warning him not to come back. But Jason is out there and the body count isgrowing. Kids are showing up at the camp. Megan’s friends (and a bunch of other people) are dying. Only Tommy believes. And only Tommy can stop Jason and save those lives, but the authorities are sure that Tommy himself is the killer and none of his books on the occult will help him if he’s locked in a cell or shot full of holes. “He picked the right day to pull this shit. Happy Friday the 13th.”
Some folks have a strange idea of entertainment. A crowning moment in the series, IV is arguably one of the very best Friday the 13ths. Production values are high, there’s talent on screen and off, and a charming self-awareness. Presaging the meta stylings of New Nightmare and Scream by nearly a decade, Jason Lives reinvigorated a series ailing from slasher ennui and the vitriolic reactions to A New Beginning. It also classes up the joint, sadly being the first Friday the 13th to not suffer cuts due to an X rating, and also being totally lacking in boobs. You win some, you lose some.
Bill: I wonder if any of the post-A New Beginning movies actually happened or if they’re just the increasingly bizarre nightmares of an insane Tommy Jarvis. That would actually explain a lot. The facts in Jason Lives aren’t consistent with the previous movies in the series. Jason is said to have killed Tommy’s mother and friends, but the people that Jason killed in The Final Chapter could hardly be called Tommy’s friends and there is no mention at all of his sister. Oddly, there’s no Mention of Roy-Jason either when Tommy’s history comes up.
Fisty: It basically retcons the end of ANB, dropping the idea that Tommy could be the new killer. And Tommy kind of implies that Jason really did drown way back in the long long ago and has always been supernatural, and not a baghead feral mountain man-child. Plus, they claimed Jason had been cremated in ANB.
Bill: The timing doesn’t add up either. Tommy has aged at least ten years, but Jason’s corpse doesn’t seem to have been in the ground for nearly that long. And, though the age difference between Tommy and Megan and her friends isn’t that great–handful of years, maybe–Megan acts as if the children of
Crystal Lake Forest Green were raised believing that Jason was just a legend, despite the presence of an actual grave with a headstone marked “Jason Voorhees,” and the previous films showing TV coverage and newspaper stories about his killing spree(s). Jason Lives fits so poorly with what we know came before that Fisty was wondering whether Jason Livescould be classified as a reboot of the series. But I’m going with dream, not reboot.
Jason Lives starts out with what is essentially a fleshed out rehash of Tommy’s dream of Jason’s resurrection from ANB. What brings Jason back? Lightning. Does that make any sense? Not really. Does it matter? Not really. It was good enough for Frankenstein and Short Circuit, so it’s good enough for Friday the 13th. Undead Jason then starts doing some really amazing things, like punching his fist through torsos and tearing arms off, folding people in half backwards. I guess he was always strong, what with his being able to smoosh people’s heads (he does some more of that in this one, too) and pop their eyeballs out and whatnot, so maybe that isn’t that unusual for him. Dropping down out of the trees like a hockey ninja, however, is definitely new and very un-Jason-like. Oh, and that one kill that always bugs me: Jason smashes someone’s face into the wall of a motor home and, rather than nose breaking, lips pulping, teeth shattering inward, the victims face makes a perfectly intact face-shaped indentation in the metal of the vehicle. (Lightning resurrection? I’m all in, but my suspension of disbelief stops at face-molds.) But if this is all in Tommy’s head as he sits around in a straightjacket somewhere, drooling, then the non-smooshy face-smoosh doesn’t bother me so much.
Fisty: Okay, I’ll give you the Tommy’s Dream theory, which goes a long way toward explaining the rest of the franchise. Despite the presence of the supernatural, this is the last of the “natural” Friday the 13ths, and it very neatly nails shut the coffin of the Tommy Jarvis Trilogy as well as the Wild Child Jason Hexalogy, while opening the door to the Killing Machine Super Jason as Myth Pentalogy … though if we agree with Horace (“Five acts a play must have, nor more nor less.”) then the franchise is off-kilter. Most fans would blame A New Beginning due to it’s Jason-less status, but I would argue that F13 is rather two pentalogies linked by a standalone episode, that being Jason Lives. “What the fuck are you on, Fisty,” you ask? Hormones and classics, my friends. But really, taking a step back and examining this installment and the franchise as a whole from a distance provides some clarity.
F13P1 through P5 chart the development of Jason, and later Tommy Jarvis. It’s the story of how a lovable little mongo kid drowned, his mother took revenge by murdering those she held responsible, and when she in turn was killed, her wild child takes his turn at vengeance, only to be brought down by an intended victim, little Tommy Jarvis, who then himself suffers the consequences of violence and takes refuge in insanity, even possibly becoming a killer himself and continuing the cycle. Again, this is all very classical, with Jason’s saga recalling The Oresteia (I was always kind of pissed that SPOILER Orestes got away with it; Clytemnestra is a much more sympathetic character to my mind).
Bill: Whoosh! Right over my head! I get what you’re saying about the linked pentalogies, but I don’t think you can really break the series down that way. For one, you can’t really consider Jason Lives a standalone movie. It would have to be part of the Killing Machine Super Jason cycle and that would throw off your numbers. Plus, wtf? You’re counting Jason X and Freddy Versus Jason? You can’t count those. Neither of them are by title Friday the 13th movies. Jason X is still great and sure the X can mean ten, but it’s still more of a spin off movie than truly part of the F13 series, a Laverne and Shirley to the Happy Days of F13. And lets just ignore FvJ. Seriously, Jason’s afraid of water now? Fuck that movie. That leaves us with nine movies. Traditionally, they’re broken down into two bookend standalone flicks, Mother at one end and Parasite at the other, with three overlapping trilogies between them, being comprised of One Weekend (2-4), Tommy Jarvis (4-6), and Zombie Jason (6-8). That works, but, if you really wanted to simplify it, I think it makes more sense to break the franchise down into two tetralogies, an ascending tetralogy and a descending tetralogy linked by ANB as the apex movie.
Now, I don’t pick ANB as the standalone because it’s not really Jason, but because it comes between Jason’s death and rebirth, when he existed purely as legend, as a boogeyman to be mimicked, as a sort of Candyman to refer back to one of the captions from our review of ANB. The Ascending Cycle begins in a pre-Jason era with Pamela, has Jason taking the murder-reins from her, moving out into a wider world away from the lake in P3 (IN 3D!!!) and the beginning of The Final Chapter, then returning to die and become true legend. Then, after A New Beginning, the series begins to move in reverse back to the beginning, although in a more exaggerated way. Jason returns to life, after a movie or so in the immediate area of the lake, goes back out into the world, returns to a child state, then a practically fetal state, and eventually passing into non-existence/Hell and leaving a Jason-less world. And Jason Lives, as the first movie of the Descending Cycle, perfectly signifies this switch into reverse, as it’s basically all of the previous movies played backwards: Tommy comes back to
CLFG from Pinehurst, Jason starts off dead and unmasked, returns to life, remasks himself at the beginning of the movie, (Fisty: Notice also that he starts out by killing random folks, then moves on to counselors), the camp opens and Jason ends up in the lake. And, from what I read about what was removed from the script but left in the novelization, Jason’s parent, his father this time, would’ve appeared at the end of the movie.
Fisty: Sooo, Jason is Orpheus? (Bill: No, but he was an Argonaut! *ba-dum-tish*) And wait a minute, they don’t overlap as trilogies, only as tetralogies. Not by my reckoning of the franchise timeline. And even then it doesn’t come out even because you’re jettisoning Jason X. I count what I count! PLUS, FIVE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER. Damn it, math is hard. I have to move on because all these numbers are blowing my mind.
One thing that’s a bit puzzling is the presence of the Jason as Myth in
Crystal Lake Forest Green. After all, 2 through 4 went down what, ten years ago? That’s a pretty short timespan for culling a murderous episode from a town’s history (how very NoES) to the point that no one believes it ever happened. How is it that all of the kids were raised on the Jason as Myth and Camp Blood Legend, yet don’t remember any of the news reports of that era? And how do they not even remember that the town was called Crystal Lake only a decade previous? I guess that could be more support for the Telekinetic Tommy Jarvis Dream Theory, since dreams have their own logic and that logic only needs to meet minimum requirements to keep the story rolling. Like how Jason’s grave is different in both ANB and Jason Lives–though I will grant you the former as clearly being a dream gravesite–and especially how Jason in Jason Lives is granted a plot in a fancypants cemetery, while Pamela Voorhees is relegated to a plot on the side of the road in The Final Chapter. Dream logic! Or gaping holes in continuity! You decide!
Bill: What? Of course the trilogies overlap. But don’t yell at me about them! That’s not my idea! I just mentioned them as that’s how I’ve seen the series broken down by other people. I like my Ascending/Apex/Descending idea better, mostly because it gives ANB more of the respect and importance that it deserves in the franchise. Five is the magic number, as in PART 5!
I touched on the timing of that Jason as Myth thing a bit before. It really doesn’t add up.
Fisty: No, it doesn’t. Let me put it to you like this: Jason as Myth is not the same as the Telekinetic Tommy Jarvis Dream Theory (or TTJDT), but is the STORY of Jason that emerges following the events of The Final Chapter, after Jason the Feral Murderous Man-Child is killed by Tommy Jarvis the Civilized Murderous Man-Child (Wait–is Jason Enkidu? Can we really afford another digression?). Once he”s dead, whether it’s his legend being used by Roy or his reanimated bad self slaughtering the innocents, it is Jason-as-Myth, the Jason of legend and folklore, from the mouths of babes. Ten years is not adequate time for Jason the Fact to be erased and replaced by the legend.
Bill: So, if I go by your Jason as Myth theory, does that mean everything from A New Beginning on are just Jason’s legend, stories told around the campfire? Are the further sequels just the increasingly exaggerated re-tellings of Paul’s campfire story from The Final Chapter from after the real Wild-Child Jason’s death? (Hey, whatever happened to Paul?) Wow. That’s like Frank Miller framing 300 as an oral, fireside tale so he can trick out the history however he chooses. And I think it works even better than my TTJDT (Telekinetic Tommy Jarvis Dream Theory).
Honestly, I don’t really think it was a dream or anything like that, just bad continuity. The series has always been pretty shitty at keeping the story straight. That doesn’t really bother me. This movie is probably the worst of the bunch in that regard and it’s full of silliness, like the face smoosh I mentioned earlier. I don’t care. I still adore it. It’s a good thing we spent so long talking about the franchise as a whole because really, I could never review Jason Lives with any kind of objectivity. My attachment to it is even greater than my attachment to The Final Chapter. This movie started getting heavy rotation on cable at just around the time I moved beyond needing someone to watch a scary movie with me. I had seen all the other movies in the series, but I’d watched them with my sisters or my mom or my brothers. I was finally old enough to sit and watch them by myself and BAM! Jason Lives is on every other night. So I watched it every other night. And it’s so damn fun. And so funny! This was also about the time I started buying Gorezone and Fangoria, a very special time in my life.
Fisty: I would love to take this all the way back to Paul. (What happened to him!?) But why do you keep shooting down your own crackpot theories?!
Bill: Because I keep having new ones! Just wait until I suss out my ideas on this new Crystal Lake as a Static Pool in the River of Time/Jason as Nexus of All Realities theory I’m developing.
Fisty: Well, I care not for other crackpot theories on the F13 timeline, and before we spend the entire review arguing over it (seriously, you cannot separate 1 from 2! CANNOT!), we need to move on.
Jason Lives is fun because it’s so self-aware. McLoughlin knows he’s making a movie for horror fans, and that they have certain expectations, so he lives up to them while playing with them. From nods to Universal horror, to breaking the fourth wall, to metareferences like Lizabeth’s “I’ve seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly,” the film is peppered with meta. Everyone–except perhaps the principals of Tommy, Megan, the Sheriff, and perhaps Jason–is aware of being in a slasher.
McLoughlin takes the humor over the top, bringing the film into parodic territory. The silly face smoosh you mentioned is just one of those ridiculous moments, like the smiley face kill. Personally, they take it a little too far; I don’t think kills have to be silly in order to be funny, and these are points against Jason Lives in my book. But McLoughlin recovers with the other jokes; I was especially fond of the campers themselves (is this the only F13 to actually feature kids at camp?). The comics and Sartre and No Future boys are probably my favorites. “What did you want to be when you grew up?” They’re no Reggies, but they’re cool little dudes.
Bill: “I think we’re dead meat.” I love those two! And that comic the one sleeping kid has is actually an issue of Heroes for Hire featuring Power Man and Iron Fist, two of the coolest superheroes ever, inspired by Blaxploitation and Kung-Fu movies, respectively. The kids in this (and I think they are the first kids we’ve seen since the first movie) have better taste in reading material than the counselors do. Sissy is reading some lame Men at Play magazine? That’s not nearly as cool as Debbie and her issue of Fango from Part 3. Still, I like Sissy. I liked all of Megan’s group. Cort, especially, got some laughs out of me. Oh, and Nikki … there may not be any noodz in Jason Lives, not even during the sex scene, but a quick google titty search of Darcy DeMoss will be very rewarding. Sadly there’s nothing out there for Jennifer Cooke or Renée Jones. And I liked Farthead Martin, too, even if he isn’t quite as cool as Crazy Ralph.
I didn’t mind the smiley face kill. So the guy’s face just happened to land on a smiley face. So what? At least it didn’t leave a face-shaped impression in the tree. Stupid RV death, ugh. Besides, while there are a few silly kills, you do get some good ones, like the back-crack and a full-on, Zito-style window smash. (Two windows broken and two people defenestrated in Jason Lives, and one exploded door. Perhaps it should be titled Zito Lives?) And Lizabeth’s death (that’s the girl with the VW) is, I think, one of the most upsetting in the franchise. The way she futilely offers Jason her money and credit cards to spare her just makes me really sad. I did miss Jason’s creative body arrangements from the previous films. He did have the presence of mind to stick one head in a parked car, but that’s nothing compared to his old pop-up corpse shenanigans. Though, I suppose, in this movie, no body he left behind could be as gross and gnarly as his own. Ugh, there’s a scene in this sequel that might be, to me, the grossest thing in the franchise. Jason himself gets hit with a boat propeller and the result is that the water looks like bloody, chunky, rotten Jason stew and it always skeeves me out. I’m getting sick just thinking about it and I don’t get sick easily. Maybe I’m weird. Fisty, is that as gross to you? Anyway, I guess that makes up for the lack of gouged eyes and stacked bodies.
Fisty: All lakes are gross to me; I just don’t trust water that doesn’t flow. It’s the island girl in me, I guess.
I can’t believe you didn’t mention “The Man Behind the Mask,” though! For what, the first time ever a Friday the 13th movie has a decent soundtrack!? And it’s ALICE COOPER!? Hells to the yeah!
Jason Lives is one of the last hurrahs of the slasher genre before its final, inevitable decline. Though the peak was past, films like Jason Lives and the same year’s April Fool’s Day played with the audience’s familiarity with the genre. Though its parodic elements may turn off some fans, its reputation as a fan favorite stems from the humor just as much as it does the slick direction and photography, and a talented cast, things that also made it one of the slashers most accessible to non-fans. The climax of an ailing franchise, Jason Lives effectively (though briefly) rejuvenated a dying genre. And it’s just plain fun.