“FRIDAY THE 13TH”: A SERIES RETROSPECTIVE (PART 3)

Oh how quickly we wander from the path: “Parts 6″ through “8″
This is when the “Friday…” movies started to suck balls. Still, as bad as these entries were they look like a work of a genius compared to the New Line shit. I also noticed that this is when the screenwriters began to not-so-subtly rip off other movies. “Part 6″ is essentially “Frankenstein.” You got the grave digging, the bolt of lightning, the resurrection, and Tommy Jarvis serving as a kind of Doctor Frankenstein. All that’s missing is the townspeople grabbing torches and going after Jason at the end. One thing of note is that I read the novel adaptation by Simon Hawke and it’s so damn good that it made me wonder why they didn’t shoot THAT instead. It followed the mythos a hell of a lot better than this dreck and it edged on being as well written as the first “Nightmare on Elm Street.”

This was also the first movie to have zero character development. People show up, get killed, rinse and repeat. It’s boring. I don’t care how creative the kills are. It’d be nice to have some piddling form of characterization. There is also the birth of another major problem; the series stopped believing in itself, completely. “Part 6″ is just a big joke to the director and actors. Yes the events of such a film are illogical and impossible, but you have to pretend that it could happen anyway. Otherwise your little flick is just gonna bounce off the psyche of the audience. Sure, people may like it and have fun watching anyway, but they’re not going to remember it and they’re certainly not going to care enough to buy it on DVD.

In the end, this is the best of the bad, and only because Alice Cooper wrote a neat song called “He’s Back” for the soundtrack.

“Part 7″ is “Carrie” meets Jason, even Director John Carl Buechler said as much. On the plus side, the effects are really good. The Jason corpse body mold looks nice and detailed and there’s a genuinely creepy moment while Jason exits the water and we gaze on the ribs poking out of his back through the tattered rags of what’s left of his shirt. On the downside though, is almost everything else. The movie just doesn’t work as a horror film. It’s too goofy and derivative. It’s got sporadic energy but never really does anything with it, ever. There’s tons of blood, but it’s meaningless. It’s not horrible or anything, Buechler does an okay job, but it just doesn’t have any memorable moments.

“Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan” was the last movie made by Paramount and I guess they wanted to go out in craptacular style. If this movie wasn’t written by a committee of marketing guys at Paramount I’ll eat Chris Gore’s only pair of socks after he’s been at Cannes for a week. It is THE worst of the Paramount films by a country mile and whoever thought that ripping off the plot of “King Kong” (in a very loose way) would be a good idea was very, very wrong. The story starts off in Crystal Lake as the teen’s board a boat heading for Manhattan. Jason, of course, sneaks on board and dispatches the crew leaving it to drift towards the Big Apple for most of the movie; only arriving at it’s destination in the last 20 minutes of the movie.

One of the major problems is that, taken outside his element, Jason really isn’t all that scary. In the woods he’s an evil specter of legend, in the city he’s just a particularly rowdy hockey enthusiast. Not to mention that in late ’80s NYC Jason would have been mugged nine times and had his mask, machete and shoes stolen within minutes of coming off the boat. New Yorkers don’t play around man and they’ve seen a lot worse than some hick serial killer.

The Apocrypha: “Jason Goes To Hell,” “Jason X” and “Freddy vs Jason”
Now we’re really sinking low. Sweet Jesus. If “Parts 6″ to “8″ hit rock bottom, the New Line versions of the “Friday…” films (Save the last one) were excavating down into the muck. Two of the three movies are so bad that they barely register as “film.” Maybe it’s just me, but if I was some studio guy signing off a couple of million on a movie I’d ask that the screenwriter who did the sequel maybe you know… WATCH the movies he was writing the sequels for. These pieces of crap are completely ignorant of any films that came before them and seem to have been written on cocktail napkins over the weekend by drunken Swedish scat film enthusiasts who don’t speak a word of fucking English.

“Jason Goes To Hell” strays so far from the “Friday…” mythos that you have to wonder if they didn’t just grab the first screenplay in a pile of rejects and simply rework it into a Jason film. It rips off “The Thing,” “Jaws” and a host of other movies that any sane person should be watching instead of this. I won’t list them here because it’s too depressing to even think about. Jason can possess people now and takes over the character’s bodies, making him absent throughout the film. The body count is huge but the film spends so little time with any of the characters that the deaths are totally unmemorable. Ironically, the directing has some panache to it, so all is not totally wasted. There’s also a heavy Freddy Krueger feel to the movie where you get the feeling that the same people who ruined the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series are now ruining “Friday the 13th.”

The next sequel, “Jason X,” rips off “Alien.” That is all. There’s really nothing interesting here and it’s worth watching only for the fact that David Cronenberg makes a cameo, that there’s some very cute semi-nudity from actress Melyssa Ade and ONE funny line.

I shall save you the time and trouble and quote said line here: It’s in the third act when Space Marine Sgt. Brodski is asked by his boss to bring back Jason alive despite having killed several of the crew and being seemingly unstoppable; Brodski turns to his team and goes: “Alright, you heard him. They want him alive!” Everyone groans. “That means that we blow the bastard back to Hell, then bring back one of his legs and tell him we tried.”

Fuck that made me laugh. Peter Mensah delivers this line so perfectly that the man deserves some kind of award for excellence. Bravo Sir, Bravo.

Everything else about “Jason X” however? SHIT. Simple as that. Unwatchable, badly written, badly directed derivative drivel that would make porno movie directors look away in shame. It’s so horrid that you have to see it to believe it; otherwise I just don’t have the vocabulary to pass on to you how stupid, pointless and boring… OH GOD WAS IT BORING! I tell you, I’ve sat through a lot of crap in my life and from my reviews you can tell that I’m the type of person who tries to see the best in a movie, but one thing I will not accept or forgive is a film that doesn’t make the least bit of effort whatsofuckingever in entertaining me or any sane audience who might pay to see it. A little cleavage and one clever line isn’t gonna win me over. You could have had the lead actress sit naked on my fucking head like a hat for the whole movie and after the sloppy grin had faded from my face I’d still give this piece of dung minus zero stars.

So let us never speak of this “Jason X” film again.

Last, but not least, is “Freddy vs Jason.” Not technically a “Friday…” movie, which makes it extra non-canonical, “FvsJ” was well made enough to make me smile and remember the good ol’ days when guys like Sean S. Cunningham and Steve Miner gave two shits about making a movie that they wouldn’t cringe while watching a couple of years later. Of course “FvsJ” had BETTER be good since they’ve been working on this sucker since 1991 and there are so many versions of the screenplay by so many different people floating around that I might have written a draft for all I know. This brings up a point however… as good as the film was, couldn’t they do better? We’re not talking about a 12 day or even 12 month development here, but 12 freakin’ YEARS. Even Stanley Kubrick didn’t take so damn long to produce a movie from pitch to screen.

But I dare to dream. I should just be glad that it was a lot better than either the Freddy or Jason franchises’ last few installments. Jason hasn’t looked this good since about “Part 6,” and apart from making him a pussy around water it’s surprisingly knowledgeable of the true “Friday…” films. The only downside to the whole thing is that they didn’t capitalize on making Jason a sort of antihero who “helps” the teens after they save him from drowning, whereupon he’d beat Freddy’s ass back to kingdom come in the last act as a way of showing thanks. Sadly, this does not happen and for a movie that has VERSUS in the title, Freddy and the J do very little actual fighting.

Anyway, If they’re gonna end the series (which we all know they WON’T) this would be a high note. I was amused, however, to realize that the reasons the film worked so well was the same reason why the original movies worked. Jason was a secondary character and the film focused on the victims and tried, albeit badly, to flesh them out. Even Freddy took a little bit of a backseat. I know in my heart of hearts that this wasn’t a result of a smart screenwriter but because Robert Englund just couldn’t stand the makeup anymore and they had gotten rid of Kane Hodder and his demands for the big bucks. Couple that with a bunch of actors who were just popular enough to demand, you know… LINES, and that’s the real reason why the film was structured the way it was. Still, I don’t care, this is a GOOD film and after years of waiting for a sequel that didn’t make me wish I was deaf, blind and brain damaged, I feel satisfied.




Posted on February 29, 2008 in Features by
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