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That Friday Feeling: A Study on the Friday the 13th Feature Films – Part 2

“THOSE DAMN ENCHILADAS!”

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V – A NEW BEGINNING

New beginnings eh? Who doesn’t love those. A chance for revitalization and purpose reborn. The problem with new beginnings is they often slip back into old habits and turn out to be a load of false starts and empty promises…
So, picking up after the final (definitely not final) chapter, we find a panicked, Tommy – Feldman – Jarvis watching from behind the trees as a pair of douchebags dig up the grave of Jason f@#king Vorhees. Yes, don’t believe the hype kids, this guy is totally killable. Like many people, Jason wished to be buried with some of his favourite personal items, so when he does awaken, he has his trusty machete and screw driver at hand to nix these two numpties. But just as you’re beginning to question the competence of the Crystal lake funerary services, the whole scene is revealed to be a big fat dream, and sadly, the best scene in the whole film. 

Released in 1985, this flick tries to deliver on the set up at the end of Part IV, as an older, disturbed Tommy – not Feldman – Jarvis makes his way to a kind of halfway house for young adults with mental health problems. In this case those mental health problems are characterised by an inability to eat chocolate properly and pent up rage exorcized via the chopping of wood. More concerning is the utter lack of support and supervision offered to these young adults. That and the fact that due to the time jump this film should be set in the early 90s and consequently have a much better soundtrack. Imagine Jason stalking the highway with Alice in Chains’ Them Bones playing behind him.

But young adults being what they are, emotions are highly charged. But there’s no foreplay or shower fun for these kids. They’re nuts, so the one who uses tree surgery to destress, takes his anger out on the one who can’t eat chocolate correctly by hacking him to pieces. Everyone is shocked and appalled, especially some utterly random paramedic who looks at the dismembered body and is specifically mentioned by name – Roy.
Everyone is very sad, but life goes on, and that means sneaking off to the woods for sex, a car breaking down in the dead of night, and a mother and son pair of farm types whose relationship makes Jason & Pam’s seem almost functional. Amid this is a killer, his face unseen, along with any of the signature kill effects we’ve come to expect from this franchise. At first it appears to be the consequence of a tiny budget, but this movie was subject to numerous cuts in order to adhere to increasing censorship. Society (hate those losers) was cottoning on to what their kids were watching, so they just cut the gore. Alas, horror loving pre-teens of this era weren’t saved, just disappointed. So most of the victims are killed off camera or with sudden cutaways, interceded with a lovely musical moment featuring party fiend rocker Spider from Return of the Living Dead, ingeniously repackaged here as party fiend rocker Demon.

Woven through all of this is karate master Tommy Jarvis, restrained by PTSD, and just maybe, the man behind the mask this time. Hallucinations of Jason are rife, and whispers of his return are debated and dismissed, not least of all by the local police force. The problem is that Tommy’s tease as the next Jason never feels like it’s got the balls to commit. It’s never a true threat to come true, or a plausible red herring. And when the killer is revealed as Roy you think… who the f$£k is Roy!!!! And then you remember, he was the shook-up paramedic, further revealed to be the father of the severed annoyance from earlier.

An internet consultation on this film revealed a GQ article that declares this ‘the bloodiest and most deranged’ of all Friday the 13th movies, an arguably half right assertion that betrays its click bait headline by going on to talk about how shite the film is. It has its apologists and its die-hard fans, and that’s fine, but for me this film is the first real let down in the franchise for trying to be what it’s not and never having the courage to truly follow through on its ideas. And when we get the final scene in which Tommy does go full Jason on us, it’s a bait and switch too far.  Sorry Tommy lad, that mask just don’t fit you no more.

“I’VE SEEN ENOUGH HORROR MOVIES TO KNOW ANY WEIRDO WEARING A MASK IS NEVER FRIENDLY”

 FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI – JASON LIVES

1986 was a simpler time. Phones were something you had in your hallway, a spoiler belonged in your car, and it was accepted science that the dead could be reanimated with a basic combination of corpse, fencing, and well-timed lightning.

Tommy Jarvis played here by the love child of Morrissey and Doctor Who’s Matt Smith, has escaped from a mental institution and high tailed it to the cemetery foolish enough to intern Jason Vorhees. No mention is made of his previous incarnation as Jason’s heir apparent. This Tommy has come to Forest Green (formerly Camp Crystal Lake) to cremate Jason, proving to himself that he’s dead and hopefully halting his PTSD in its tracks. But Tommy is still unhinged; he’s taken the bloody mask with him (top marks to the therapists who let him keep it and carry it around for several years) and after a moment of panic stabs a suitably loose piece of the cemetery fence into Jason’s body. A freak lighting storm suddenly facilitates the resurrection of our favourite Mama’s boy and the rampage is free to resume. While it’s been hinted at before, Jason is now 100% supernatural. Fact and science in perfect harmony. Don’t wrestle with it, just enjoy it. This movie wants us to forget the last. There’s no mention of the Jason imposter and Tommy may as well have jumped from the final chapter to this instalment, albeit via some weird time dilation and dubious therapy.

This film is instant fun. Jason is still the efficient, kill crazy brute we’ve come to adore, but he has a kind of nonchalance about him. After offing Tommy’s pal with a punch to the heart, he then advances to the guy who killed Patrick Swayze in Ghost, his girlfriend, and a bunch of corporate paint ballers. Along the way he quite literally tools up, becoming a Jason that is less ‘on the fly’ than we’ve seen thus far. We get lots of shots of him striding purposefully through the woods, his gait part wrestling entrance, part ‘can’t believe I lost my car keys and have to walk all the way home.’

Meanwhile, graveyard pest Tommy Jarvis is locked up by the Sheriff, played here by the love child of Tim Curry and Tom Selleck’s moustache, and his daughter Megan just happens to be the signature blonde among this year’s crop of camp cadavers in waiting. For the first time in any of these movies we actually see some activities taking place at camp involving the presence of actual kids. But this ain’t no nunnery, and there’s ample time for frolics, chicanery and some sex while dancing/dancing during sex that even Crispin Glover would have a hard time with. Naturally any pants off dance off culminates in death by murdering, and as the preposterously named Cort (more on victim name choices much much later) and his lady are deaded, we’re treated to the real money shot in this sequence, Jason Vorhees atop a flaming camper van. Now that’s metal kidz!

The discovery of their bodies leads Sheriff Magnum Pennywise to, quite naturally, place blame upon the squirrely young Jarvis, and he heads off to camp to get his man. Jason, now assumed to be little more than an urban myth, is already there. He’s packing all kinds of man tools and needs some youth to work them out on. The film stops short of any actual child victims, most logically because there’s no need, but I did wonder if perhaps somewhere in the central characters through line, was a sense that all children are innocent until corrupted by the sins of sex and camping. Sheriff Frank N. Quigley gets whopper deaded, just as Megan and Tommy arrive in the nick of time. A host of kids watch on as Tommy enacts his genius plan, luring Jason into the lake in order to return him to the watery tomb from whence he sprang. Evidently emotional recall is something Jason does remarkably well, and he forgoes a game of hide the machete with Megan in favour of a lake tussle with Tommy. But metaphysical might and the spur of vengeance are not enough, and between them Tommy and Megan are able to thwart Jason with the boat motor and chain the poor bastard to the bottom of Crystal lake. Home time for the J-bird.

Much like A New Beginning, Jason Lives tends to pull its punches with the death scenes, but one thing it’s never less than, is fun. From the James Bond style credit sequence, to the nods to horror icons, right up to the little girl tucked up in bed with the works of Jean Paul Sartre, everyone involved in this movie is having a good time. The result is one of the best movies in the franchise. The film makers have embraced the preposterousness of their protagonist and offered up a zombie workhorse, killing as much for our entertainment as his own and making us laugh along the way without ever losing sight of the horror. Jason Lives… you bet your ass he does! Why would you want it any other way?

“THERE’S A LEGEND ROUND HERE. A KILLER BURIED, BUT NOT DEAD. A CURSE ON CRYSTAL LAKE. A DEATH CURSE. JASON VOORHEES’S CURSE”

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII – THE NEW BLOOD

This is a franchise that loves to open each instalment with a good recap, but for the first time we get an actual voice over as we skip through the exploits of Tommy Jarvis and his irrepressible nemesis, now chained to the bottom of Crystal Lake. Jason, whether dormant, dead or just plain chillin’, is unaware of the plight of young Tina Shepherd who has fled her lakeside home due to her father’s alcohol fuelled abuse toward her mother. As is often the case with latent telekinesis, it takes trauma to unlock it. Her psychic powers not only plunge her father into a watery grave but serve to free our boy from his aqueous shackles.

Years later and teenage Tina is on her way to Scanners Camp at her old house, where devious psychiatrist Dr. Crews has set up a set of tests for Tina to endure in the hope of unlocking her potential to, I don’t know, make things float and wot not. Forgetting for a moment the fact that this shit-house is played by the most hilarious corpse of the 1980s (Weekend at Bernie’s very own Bernie) there is the disturbing issue of the timeline to address. It’s so utterly all over the shop that I place this movie at around 2036. I’d stop to work it out properly but even more inexplicable is Tina’s mother’s hair. Evidently most of the budget went on hairspray so I’m not expecting much in the way of A star kills.
Meanwhile, a bunch of sex crazed whacky teens are waiting for their chum Michael to arrive, so they can throw him a surprise birthday bash. (*spoiler – Michael ain’t coming. Michael’s deeeeaaaaad)

Tina ends up mixing with these mismatched buffoons, in particular double denim Proto-form Henry Cavill. There’s the potential for romance here but uber bitch Melissa is intent on stirring things up by being a gosh darn flirt. All the while Jason makes his approach to camp, Dr. Crews is pushing Tina to her limits and she’s having visions of some lunatic in a hockey mask killing our plucky party peeps. Naturally he does just that, via some face crushing, axe smashing, and sickle thrashing. Tina & Proto-Tom Brady go off in search of her mother, who has met her demise in the form of a human shield, cannily wielded by Dr. Crews to evade Mr. Vorhees. His scheming comes to a swift end as Jason slices him up good with a pole chainsaw (no I’ve never heard of them either, but that’s what they’re called!)

With most of the teens now dead, it’s down to Tina and Levi’s to fend off Jason, if only Melissa would stop being a bitch long enough for them to think straight. Then, as if by some divine providence, Melissa ignores all their warnings about the madman outside and opens the front door. What follows is possibly my favourite kill in the entire series and certainly the best gif ever. Jason literally back hands her, but with an axe, and launches her across the room with dismissive disdain on a Trumpian level. The ensuing fight goes full into supernatural, almost comic book stylings. Tina unleashes her power to firstly use Jason’s mask to try and crush his face, then to set the house ablaze and bring it down around him. Not quite getting the results she’d hoped for, she quite logically conjures her dead dad’s ghost who, sweet irony, drags Jason back to the bottom of the lake and chains him up once more. There is no re-emergence, no twist, just a hand pulling Jason’s mask from the wreckage. Drowned but not forgotten… again.

Two things about this chapter – the injection of supernatural powers beset all the slasher franchises of the time, from Freddy’s kid to the Myers Cult of Thorn. Problem was, they never really fit in with their central killers’ original storylines, at least not for me. But with Jason it seems to land because his outrageousness has been a slow burn. Earned, not forced. And lastly, at the time of writing I discovered that Mandy director Panos Cosmatos instructed Nic Cage to watch The New Blood, specifically to study Kane Hodder’s portrayal of Jason. If that isn’t the coolest thing you’ve heard all day, allow your mind to wander, as mine did, to a reality where Nic Cage stars in a Friday the 13th reboot, not as Jason, but as Pamela Vorhees. You’re welcome.

“JASON IS HERE… IN NEW YORK!!!”

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII – JASON TAKES MANHATTAN

Jason Takes Manhattan, or Jason Goes A-Cruisin’ opens badly. Harry Manfredini’s soundtrack is gone, replaced by the ubiquitous eighties rock ballad, the lyrics to which spell out what we’re looking at. I’ve a hunch that this tableau of debauchery is setting Pamela’s boy up as some sort of social cleanser, but we’ll see. Cut to Crystal Lake, formerly Camp Blood, Forest whatever and back to Crystal Lake where there are sexy shenanigans happening… on a yacht! Who sails a yacht down a haunted lake? Coitus crazed juveniles that’s who!  We get our vague recap in the form of a tall tale about Jason’s origin, shown via a crude flashback of a drowning child free of deformity.

This curly mopped stripling drops anchor then returns in full Jason garb to frighten the piss out of his beau. Down at the bottom of the lake, we find Jason cannily sandwiched between a wall and giant electrical cable where the anchor somehow manages to displace the cable and blammo, science does its thang, and he’s back to it.

Lucky for our erstwhile camp scourge this kid got a mask just like his old one. Even cleaved a chunk out the top. As he ascends, we find the classic ‘Ki Ki Ki, Ma Ma Ma’ replaced with a crude ‘Ja Ja, Son Son.’ Fair enough really because after seven films I’d almost forgotten his f***ing name!

Jason despatches the boyfriend then heads out on deck to catch the evasive girlfriend, who is literally the most helpless woman in horror movie history.

Cut to a ship called the Lazarus, which is not only an apt biblical reference but a freakin’ party boat heading straight to the Big Apple! This soon to be corpse riddled cruise liner is replete with guitar solos, a student named Rennie who is beset by some manner of preternatural condition, as well as some cocaine and a dickhead head teacher/Rennie’s Uncle, played by a guy who’ll have you thinking ‘what’s he from?’ until Google tells you ‘Everything!’

After some boxing, seduction and homemade Headbangers Ball videos, Rennie falls overboard and is seemingly accosted by the vision of the drowning boy Jason. This kid looks so uninspiring that not even the most ardent collector wants an action figure of this little prick. He’s not MY Jason! But in the next scene the visions pick up and suddenly he’s deformed. An unexpected side effect of drowning or a director who misunderstood the originals? Who knows, but we do get a Crazy Ralph type character who works as a deck hand and warns of all kinds of crap that’s about to go down. Due to – you guessed it – budgetary constraints, most of this flick is confined to the ship, so we get some
mildly innovative kills like a flying V guitar to the face, hot coal c-section, and a quite visceral utility of a shattered mirror gives us Jason’s Norman Bates (ish) moment. Soon after Rennie is visited by Jason’s writhing child spirit, begging to be put down, desperate for the peaceful slumber of a true death, freed from matriarchal torment, timely electrical currents and the restorative power of lakes.

Jason ain’t dicking around anymore and sets his sights on Rennie, Uncle Teacher and whatever shambles she calls friends are still clinging on to life. But ships being what they are, our heroes seize a little boat and row to New York City, where they’re instantly mugged, and Rennie is kidnapped by the kind of miscreants we met in the credits. Jason arrives forthwith and wastes no times laying the smackdown on the city that never sleeps… or has any police judging by this film. He wastes the junkie kidnappers with an almost heroic swagger, then gets into a round of Mortal Kombat with the boxer friend. It’s a death you’ll see coming but find yourself compelled to applaud. Remembering the source of her trauma, we flashback to a remarkable act of cruelty perpetrated by Uncle Bastard. Seems that years ago he took Rennie out on Crystal lake for a game of sink or swim, Vorhees style. But he’s quickly drowned in a vat of goop, so balls to that guy.

A hot pursuit through a subway cart ends with Jason tackled onto the track and killed by… electrical current? What the Flip? Well, you know what they say, that which revives you ultimately does you in… or something. Our heroes emerge in Times Square swiftly pursued by JV (thank heavens, for a minute there I was doubting all I know about modern science) so Rennie and The Guy peg it to the sewer (as you do) where a timely encounter with a drainage attendant reveals a sudden flow of toxic waste is due to churn right down this way, any second now. Rennie takes the goo for a test drive by hurling a vat of it in Jason’s face.

Naturally, it melts half his face off and he is henceforth drowned in the oncoming deluge of white-hot crud. But not before reforming into a baffling image of the boy Jason, minus deformity. Seriously, wasn’t he a child monster to begin with? And so, we end with our couple on the streets of New York, and another dog I couldn’t be arsed to mention earlier (see Part 2). While this film is an undoubted mess, it does have its charm, mainly down to Kane Hodder’s reprisal of Jason as a no bullshit beast, mainly concerned with ruining teen fun. And if that means murdering ever single person he sees, then who am I to argue. I’m just sad he didn’t get to see more of the sights.

NEXT – HELL, X, FREDDY AND REBOOT

One comment

  1. This made me laugh, mostly ’cause I agree with every word. New beginning was more hilarious than actually scary, especially with Reggie’s (Shavar Ross) ultimate scream. I was disappointed, but thank God for the next. That pulled me out of a depressing state

     

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