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Review written by: Alex Sandell
"Oh, get over it, Jason! You won't
even look at me, anymore! Is this
still about my mentioning, in
casual conversation, that you might
want to think about getting a new
My name is Alex Sandell, and I'm a fan of Friday the 13th. I realize my credibility as a critic is blown all to hell whenever I blurt this out, but anyone familiar with my writing knows that I have had a soft spot for Jason Voorhees ever since I saw the original Friday the 13th at -- I'm not kidding -- thirteen years old.
Five long years ago, I wrote an entire update dedicated to the Friday the 13th series for The Juicy Cerebellum. It was one of the first movie updates I ever did for this page. It was filled with all the gooey details regarding how much nudity and gore happened to be splashed into each celluloid slasher that bore the Friday the 13th banner. I gave four out of nine of the films a perfect ten; allegorically stamping a gigantic group of scarlet letters across my previously unsullied forehead that read, "FANBOY." I'd like to give each of you the opportunity to click here, spend a few minutes perusing the thing, and get an idea as to the origins of my Friday fanboy roots before reading my more in-depth commentary on the history of the Friday the 13th series, and my review of this most recent Friday film, contained in the paragraphs below.
It's oddly disconcerting to think that a lot of the 17 and 18 year olds who were scared out of their wits by the original Friday the 13th film, way back in 1980, now have teenagers of their own who will be eagerly waiting in line for the 10th installment of the series, 22 years later. The films, each of them an odd ode to the rules of the religious right (don't do drugs, don't engage in premarital sex, don't ignore your elders, don't worry about disobeying the sixth commandment), are coming eerily close to turning into a family affair. With fathers, mothers, sons and daughters all attending these things at one time, or another, the question becomes; who the hell are they scaring, anymore?
All the way through the sixth installment people went to the Friday the 13th films to be scared. I clearly remember theaters full of teenage girls screaming their lungs out as their boyfriends tried to score a few points with them by being "brave." Still, something happened with part six, Jason Lives, and it was something that changed the series forever ... the movie was poking fun at itself as often as Jason was pushing machetes through his victims. It was as though the producers had abruptly gained a clear insight into the fact that a guy in a hockey mask walking around in the woods hacking up randy teens could only shock people so many times before it became a joke. So, with part six, out went most of the sheer terror and in came the pure schlock. The twist worked and the film was a success, breathing fresh life into the franchise after the dud that was A New Beginning, but you couldn't help but sense that Jason's rotting corpse was starting to crumble.
I have stated numerous times that I thought the series should have ended with part six, and I still, to this day, believe it would have been best for the franchise if it would have quit when that movie was released, way back in 1986. I will always argue that the first and second Friday the 13th films were actually fairly scary little slashers which were frowned upon unjustly by movie snobs unwilling to give them a chance. The third, fourth and fifth in the series all did a tremendous job at delivering blood-soaked thrills for an audience that seemingly couldn't get enough. The sixth went WAY over the top and gave us a couple of good, self-referential laughs and was a nice nod to the now aging Friday the 13th crowd. With Jason Lives, the Friday the 13th series could have went out with a wink and a smile, instead of the fizzle that it will inevitably leave us with.
After part six the producers began milking the franchise for all that it was worth, and starting with part seven, The New Blood, the series grew stale and fans started leaving in droves. I think the film attempted to be scary, but it failed miserably. Hell, we didn't even get the gruesome killings of yesteryear with the seventh installment. The heyday of the early 80's was over and the MPAA wasn't allowing for gallons of guts and gore in new slasher films as they did in the earlier Friday the 13th's. Nothing worked, the film was a complete drag, and the only thing "innovative" about it was some chick with telekinetic abilities that was supposed to finally be Jason's equal. Wasn't Tommy already his equal in three separate films?!? I guess the filmmakers hoped this semi-showdown between a faux-Carrie and Jason Voorhees would put the "magic" back into the series, but it was gone and was never to return. The film did mediocre box office and it looked like the series was doomed. "Doooooomed, if you make another" analysts claimed, "you're all doooooooooooomed!"
What do you do when the last film in your franchise flops and analysts are claiming that you'd be nuts to go on? You come up with a commonplace gimmick. Like Godzilla before him, Jason left familiar terrain behind and headed for New York City in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. The ads for the film showed nothing but Jason strolling the streets of New York in that determined way that he strolls. People were taken in by the idea and the film opened to okay, but not mind-blowing, numbers.
The opening proved to be a fluke, and the analysts proved themselves to be right, when the film disappointed nearly everyone who attended by taking place almost exclusively on a boat. When you're a producer thinking about a budget, throwing a cast of nobodies onto a set that resembles some sort of ship at sea, rather than putting them into a lot of expensive location shots, may seem like a spiffy idea, but when you're an audience member and you've been told that Jason is going to take Manhattan you want to see Jason taking Manhattan, not just a few shots of the city and a bunch of killings that were all filmed on soundstages.
Knowing that the audience had dried up to the size of my brother and I, it was announced that Jason Takes Manhattan was to be the final Friday the 13th film. Sure, the same promise had been made in Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter, but they melted Jason at the end of Manhattan, as if to say, "we really mean it this time." Nobody really bought it, outside of New Line Cinema, who purchased the whole Jason franchise from Paramount and decided to continue beating a dead corpse with a ninth installment.
New Line's real motivation behind purchasing Jason was to finally make the Freddy Vs. Jason film a reality. The studio was already the proud owner of Freddy, but they needed the wisecrackin' burn victim's better half. With the acquisition of the Friday the 13th series, they got him. Before creating the ultimate slasher showdown the studio bravely went where so many had gone before and made yet another "final" Friday the 13th film; this one was called, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. By this time a better name for the series would be April Fool's Day, because to believe this trash was actually ending, a person would have to be a fool.
The film had a pretty big opening, showing that there was a newfound interest in Jason from newcomers, and nostalgia-seekers, alike. The movie featured an exceedingly cool opening sequence that was a throwback to the very first Friday the 13th film. It went out of its way to scare you and people in the theater were jumping, girls were screaming, and some black dude yelled, "YEAH!" when an apparent female victim of Jason revealed a huge set of hooters and one hell of an ass. That woman still wins the "best naked girl in a Friday film" award. She literally sizzled. I wonder what she's doing now and if she's single? Mmm ... siiiiiiingle.
Anyway, during the first five or ten minutes of Jason Goes to Hell I felt as though I was in Heaven (hey, I'm easy). This was the Friday the 13th I had been waiting for! Finally, I thought, they're getting it right! They're back in the woods and Jason is a ruthless killing machine. Girls are naked and the power just went out. Pure horror ecstasy. Really. Then, as I was about to scream out to the entire theater that I had a gigantic boner, Jason got blown to pieces and some stupid plot about him becoming a worm that enters different people's bodies, allowing him to kill through them, is introduced. Jason was a bit-player in his own movie! It was a disgrace. Out and out blasphemy. Needless to say, no Friday the 13th fan worth their weight in Milk Duds was overly thrilled with this ridiculous premise and the movie fell hard and fast at the box office. It fell so hard and fast that Freddy Vs. Jason was never made and it took nearly a decade for another Friday the 13th film to be released, which brings me, finally, to Jason X.
If you're 17, and your dad happened to dig the original, you can rest assured that Jason X's Jason Voorhees isn't your father's Jason. If he did happen to be your father's Jason he'd be on earth, at Camp Crystal, and you'd actually be screaming, rather than laughing, hysterically over his actions. Jason in Space, otherwise known as Jason X, is anything but scary. The film doesn't even TRY to terrify you. I don't even think it tries to jolt you out of your seat. It does take a few dozen stabs at self-referential humor, but unlike part six, most of them don't work. The direction is lousy, the acting is poor, the plot is preposterous, but the film is mildly amusing if you're a diehard fan of Friday the 13th.
What did I like about Jason X? The body count. It was huge. I didn't actually keep track, but it's definitely up there with part five and eight's. The killings. They kept with Friday the 13th tradition and were extremely innovative. The inside jokes. Only a rabid fan of Friday the 13th would be able to get them. The nudity. There was some, and that's more than I can say for all of those idiotic Scream type films. Jason's look. Until he turns into Uber Jason, he looks better than he has since part three. Kudos must be given to the makeup artist for the gruesome hair sticking out in patches around the straps of the hockey mask. Kane Hodder. This man is back to play Jason for the fourth straight time and is still obviously in love with the character. It's unfortunate that he hasn't had a really good Friday film to showcase his talents because the guy is Jason. The nostalgia. I absolutely loved the trip back to the Camp Crystal of yore, via a holodeck sort of setup. This is the part of the film that got the biggest reaction from the people I was watching it with, proving, once again, that Friday fans want their slashings served up in the forest; not in Manhattan, outer-space, or wherever the hell else some gimmicky screenwriter and producer wants to stick them.
What did I hate about Jason X? The acting. This gang of pretty boy twits makes every actor that has come before them in a Friday the 13th film look like a thespian. The FX. This is the cheesiest CGI that I've had to the misfortune of looking at since Pinhead made his trip to space in Hellraiser IV. I'm sure the people behind the film would say that they did the best that they could with what they had, but I'd have to respond by saying that they could have done a hell of a lot more with some trees, a few cabins and a moonlit lake. Off-screen and CGI killings. That's about all you get. It's still significantly gorier than the mid to late 90's slasher films. Poorly paced murders. The majority of the hack and slash action is in the first half of the film. No continuity. At least the rest of the series, with exception made for part nine, attempted to pick up where the last one left off; Jason X is a random slasher flick that is only tied to the previous Friday the 13th films by a hockey mask and a machete. Uber/Super Jason. This "step forward" in Jason's "evolution" has been touted countless times in the ads and on the posters with a tagline claiming that, "evil gets an upgrade." What the tagline should actually read is, "evil gets an upgrade ... to idiocy." Jason looks like he stepped out of the WWF. Not to be outdone by Jason Goes to Hell's Jason the worm, Uber Jason becomes the lamest thing in any Friday the 13th film. The biggest Alien rip-off ever. I liked the Friday the 13th series better when it was a rip-off of Halloween. Took place in space. It's already been done by numerous other horror franchises such as Hellraiser, Leprechaun, and Critters.
Although it's a step in the right direction, this is yet another disappointment in the Friday the 13th series. It's now the fourth middling Friday film in a row, and even though I can't say that I didn't see it coming, I sure wish that I hadn't seen it at all. Well, that's not really true, but I wish that it had never been made so I would have never been tempted to see it. Okay, so that's not true, either. I guess I'm glad that Jason X was made, being that it was light years better than the last few. I have to admit that I had a pretty fun time watching it and it was cool seeing Jason again, but couldn't it have at least TRIED to be scary?
Even if the Friday films are becoming eerily close to turning into a family affair, I think that, if they worked hard enough at it, they could slash their way through entire generations, scaring mom, dad, son and daughter right out of their seats. Jason still has the goods and could definitely be a menacing threat of a figure, if given the proper venue. If they've read this far, even people who have never seen one of the films know where that venue is: in the woods, surrounding a few cabins and overlooking a moonlit lake.
Hopefully we'll get to see a REAL Friday the 13th movie cap off the series rather than this spacey cornball camp. Unfortunately, when I think of what this film will do at the box office after the Friday fans all come out to be disappointed by it on its opening weekend, I'd say that any chances of getting another Friday the 13th "are all gonna die!"
On a scale of 1-10?
10 (if you're a fan of absolute cheese) 5 (if you're a Friday fan who hates cheese) 1 (if you don't know Jason from Freddy and actually like your horror films to be horrifying)
Overall Alex rating: 6
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Text ©(Copyright) 2002 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].
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