Horror-Wood Blog-a-thon: Friday the 13th Part 5 to 8
In order to discuss the franchise of a film, some deeper detail has to be made on certain character and story elements. In short, spoiler alert!
The golden era for Friday the 13th in my opinion happened between films 1 to 4. With the exception of the third being decent, it seemed like things finally came full circle and the saga would be at an end. In the finale to The Final Chapter, Tommy Jarvis kills Jason and is put in a hospital possibly for mental care. The original idea was to switch the franchise over to him and have his character be the center. An interesting idea having a horror film junkie become a psycho but unfortunately that idea was set adrift.
Sure enough, viewers got A New Beginning which was meant to be a jump-start to giving the series a new turn. However, this change I feel was not for the better. After the fifth film, I feel things got really over the top and campy here. Possibly way too campy considering how serious the first two films were. In short, think the third movie but times 500. That’s how overly campy, silly and ridiculous it gets from here on out. And A New Beginning is pure proof.
Tommy Jarvis is sent to a halfway house with a group of trouble teens and played by John Shepherd. Cory Feldman was busy with the Goonies but at least makes a quick appearance in a flashback early on. The Tommy in this movie is nothing special. He just goes through the emotions of trauma much like Norman Bates in Psycho 2. But here, there are times when he has acts of pointless proportions like a fight scene during breakfast that was triggered by nothing and an encounter with some hicks that had no existence of being there. He just don’t do much for like everyone else.
The teens at the Halfway House are just your average stock young adults ranging from the strong temperamental girl to one who is more interested in sex than ever. There is nothing that stands out about them and feel like rehashed cliches. We know they are going to get axed. Get it over with. But what’s stranger is how all these killings happened. An overweight teen gets into an argument with a wood-chopping muscle head and in the anger, the chopper kills him. But what’s weird is what they argument was over; a bar of chocolate. It doesn’t make any sense. Jason also appears but its not really Jason. Its just someone dressed up as him and going around killing people for no reason at least till he kills off some Halfway teens. I sort of like the idea but this has major setback. The “real” Jason was close to unstoppable while this “new” Jason gets beaten up a bit. This is a normal human being and things like getting his hand sliced or hit by a tractor seem like it would do more damage than it should.
And don’t get me started with the hicks next door. They act like they are taken from a completely different movie and it shows. Their scenes go on for so long that it gets annoying to the point you wish the Beverly Hillbillies were in this. A New Beginning was a wrong step in my opinion. I hated on first watch because of how bizarre and strange it was. But after a few viewings, I see it more like a dark comedy but I still can’t recommend it enough just because of how strangely stupid it is. There are times when the comedy feels unintentional and times when it feels like they are trying too hard.
Luckily, we got Jason Lives because of this. It was time to return the series to its rightful owner and they did so in the strangest way. The corpse of Jason is hit by a bolt of lightening and sure enough, he’s back on a rampage. Tommy is played by Thom Matthews this time and does a great job here. He really conveys the fact that a monster is on the loose and won’t stop till Jason’s reign is ended. Instead of the creepy and traumatic motif, he’s made out to be more heroic which I feel was a good choice.
Now, let’s talk about Jason for a second. It seems the idea of making him a zombie is a weird one but I feel it fits. After an entry with such a strange pace, its nice to have something that is self-aware but fun at the same time. So why not have the hockey masked killer as a living corpse? Its a loony idea but it works in its favor seeing how unstoppable he is. Director Tom McLoughlin brings a tongue-in-cheek tone that almost feels like the monster movies of the past while a bit of “Our Gang” in the humor. It gets neither overly funny or overly gruesome. The pacing is perfect. Its an entry were you can leave your brain at the door and just enjoy it.
I’d say its one of my favorite Friday the 13th sequels but its no Final Chapter. Jason Lives has sort of a Gremlins feel in how cartoony and chaotic it can get but in a good way. One example is when Jason infiltrates a paintball game with some executives and slams a victim into a tree. When the body moves, he leaves a blood stain on a wooden carved smiley face on the tree he landed. There’s even the opening where it zooms in on Jason’s eye and he randomly appears to slash at the screen al a James Bond. I can’t say this entry is for everyone. If you are looking for something more serious, this might not be it but if you go in to expect pure popcorn entertainment, then you chose the right film.
But of course, that wouldn’t be the end as we would get The New Blood. Originally, it was planed to be a Freddy vs. Jason film but an agreement between Paramount (who owns Jason) and New Line Cinema (who owns Freddy Kruger) couldn’t be reached. So instead, we get something that is more like Carrie vs. Jason without the character Carrie. And right here is the first problem I have with this movie. Already, there are two styles going on at once here with a psychological thriller and a slasher movie. The two try to blend but it doesn’t come out right.
Tina is a typical girl with telekinesis powers that somehow awakens Jason. It also doesn’t help he happens to be right next to a camping site where a birthday party is going on for a group of teens. Right here is where things really go downhill. Even from the start when we see Tina’s powers and effective they are, it feels too dramatic for Friday the 13th. I can understand them trying different things but the series was at least fun while having a roller coaster feel. Here, there’s too much serious material to take it enjoyable and too much quirk laced into the jerky teens that make fun of Tina that don’t come off as funny. Right away, the kid who is having his birthday gets killed too early in the movie and it almost feels depressing in a way. Who in their mind would deserve to get a machete to the chest and on his birthday of all days? It just feels disturbed to me. Not to mention, the party-goer’s reaction goes from waiting for him to just forgetting about it and either skinny dip in the lake or have sex. Man, some friends they were. I would have though better like maybe called the folks or even the police.
There’s an overall mean spirited feeling here even considering how Tina’s counselor Dr. Crews is trying to sell her off as a meat ticket to fame than rather learn to coupe with her powers. Dr. Crews is one great jerk considering his plan to use Tina and how self-centered he acts out to be. He is not a character you love to hate but more deeply hate. Even the violence and gore feels robbed at times seeing this entry had a lot of horrifying cuts that later gave a “TV movie edit” feel to it missing out on the impact and effect. Even when a really snobby character dies, it feels unsatisfactory because of how we don’t see the impact of the kill. We only see the aftermath. I shouldn’t blame the MPAA seeing nearly every Friday the 13th movie has been a center of controversy on censorship. The first film has 10 seconds of graphic footage restored back in while others are either missing or exist as a workprint quality. Shame they weren’t thinking of DVD back then.
Overall, there’s too much ridding against New Blood for me. I guess it really comes down to personal taste and I know some people that do like this entry. But for me, its too dark and depressing for me to enjoy. Sure there’s a cool finale where Tina uses his powers to kill Jason leading to some great stunt work but that is about the only thing really worth seeing. Everything else is just too sad and too serious for an entry like this.
Now we come to Jason Takes Manhattan. The last of the films made by Paramount Pictures before they sold the rights to New Line Cinema. This one had a lot of potential. Seeing Jason running around New York City would have been a treat and opened for a possibility of ideas like seeing him hanging with the street urchins or even slashing disgruntled taxi cabbies. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, Jason never really goes to New York. At first the crew thought maybe they could have the first half let Jason attack somewhere else and let the final half be about New York. But then it changed to having a good portion of Jason spending time killing teens on this boat and the last 30 minutes of the movie spend time in New York. But what’s more misleading is that they couldn’t get the right-away to film in New York so a good bulk of the city scenes were filmed in Vancouver. And it doesn’t help it that a lot of the city scenes doesn’t feel crowded or busy. Its too open of a place to be considered New York.
The real title of this movie should have been Jason Takes a Vacation to make it less misleading because most of the time we spend are just on a luxurious yacht with a bunch of graduated teenagers. One of them supposedly has a connection to Jason, but at this point I could really care less. Its the same old batch of generic cliches we have seen over the previous couple of movies. The only good thing I can say is that it tries to be less serious like its previous sequel The New Blood but fails due to how cheap looking it appears. Even right down to the cinematography and music, it feels like this would have fit better on home video than the big screen. I will admit, I did enjoy some it. The opening credits are a montage of shots of the city to Metropolis’s “The Darkest Side of the Night.” At least the song and tone of the opening has an eerie vibe that doesn’t match the rest of the movie. In short, its underwhelming but at least a scene or two is enjoyable.
Overall, I’m surprised to see how well the Friday the 13th franchise carried itself over the years from its first sequel but it feels repetitive by movies 5 to 8. We know the stock characters, we know they are going to have a crazy old man ranting about the return of Jason and its just a predicable guessing game of who will drop first than wanting each character to live. With the exception of Jason Lives, the final four very much drove this franchise into the ground but I can’t say they didn’t try. They did some new stuff and if it didn’t work, it didn’t. But when it did, it did. And I am aware there are four more movies in this franchise I didn’t touch, but I wanted to focus on the main meat before taking on the others next year. This was the prime the series while New Line just kept arsing around so they could get their promised crossover with Freddy from A Nightmare on Elm Street and it shows. In terms of the Friday the 13th franchise, I recommend checking out 1 to 4 and then skipping over to 6. My personal favorites have to be The Final Chapter and Jason Lives. They were a huge turning point for the Jason saga that will never be topped or loose flavor.
Posted on October 13, 2014, in Horror-Wood 2014 and tagged A New Beginning, Franchise, Friday the 13th, Jason Lives, Jason Takes Manhattan, Jason Vorhees, Paramount Pictures, saga, sequels, series, The Final Chapter, The New Blood. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.