THE WHOLE PICTURE: The Man Behind the Mask (Part 2 of 3)

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Franchises are a part of the cinematic landscape. Some series grow more complex and change throughout their run while others just keep doing what’s expected of them. Now, I am happy to announce another ongoing series of our own. Every so often on Moviocrity, I will be looking at each film in a given franchise. One by one they will be reviewed and hopefully give a clear view of how certain franchises survived and how others fell apart. You’ll be able to read all about it in a column I’m calling THE WHOLE PICTURE!


After the disaster that was FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V, Paramount knew that their fan base would erode if they weren’t given what they wanted. And what they wanted was Jason. So, the filmmakers rethought their initial strategy and brought Hockey Mask back for a few more installments under the Paramount banner, before the studio got skittish come the 1990s.

In the second installment of our three-part series, we take a look at Jason’s resurrection and the remaining films done at Paramount – the last films that would be done in adherence to the classic formula.

Also, don’t forget to read the first installment of this series, covering FRIDAY THE 13TH 1-5!

RATING SYSTEM AND CRITERIA

  • What was the film trying to accomplish and how well did it meet those goals? 
  • In addition to (or sometimes despite) that, how does the film hold up on sheer entertainment value?

The Best – Reserved for the absolute cream of the crop.
Highly Recommended – Very good. Far better than your typical film and one that I will remember for some time.
Recommended – Just what it says. This is a good film and earns a recommendation. Don’t think that because it’s not one of the top two categories that these films aren’t worth your time. The “recommended” tag is a winner and nothing to sneer at.
Barely Recommended – The middle of the road. Those films where I didn’t feel it was a complete waste of time, but it didn’t set my world on fire either. Not bad, but leaves me feeling bored and/or apathetic.
Disappointing – Close but no cigar. Does a few things right but is ultimately a whole lot of wasted potential. Not recommended.
Awful – A bad movie. Pure and simple. Not worth your time.
The Worst – The Britta Perry of ratings, though not as entertaining. The bottom of the barrel.

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES (1986). Director: Tom McLoughlin. Cinematographer: Jon Kranhouse.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES (1986). Director: Tom McLoughlin. Cinematographer: Jon Kranhouse.

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES (a.k.a. JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI) (1986) – Tommy Jarvis (now played by the more versatile Thom Matthews) has tried hard to bury the trauma he experienced at the hands of Jason Voorhees (in FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE cough FINAL CHAPTER) and then at the hands of his copycat (FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING). He’s able to talk and get through the day now, but it’s still pretty hard I guess. He heads out to Jason’s grave with his friend (Ron Palillo!) and a can of gasoline, saying “Jason belongs in Hell, and intend to see he gets there.” But when he tries to dispose of Jason, lightning strikes the grave, reanimating Jason so he can start his killing spree all over again, beginning with Tommy’s friend. Oops.

When Tommy returns to Crystal Lake, the sheriff doesn’t want to hear his stories. The town has recently changed its name to Forrest Green in an attempt to disassociate itself from Jason’s bloody legacy (a detail future films in the series would disregard entirely). No one wants to believe him, which of course just enables Jason to get a few more notches in on his machete.

The original plan was to turn Tommy into the new Jason, something teased at the end of PART V. But fan reaction to that film was universally negative, as well it should be. Producers knew a scab Jason just wouldn’t do. They needed to bring Hockey Mask back. Thankfully, that’s not the only drastic change that was made. Director Tom McLoughlin seemed to notice that even while the storylines got sillier, they were played straighter and straighter. And frankly, it wasn’t working. So, JASON LIVES knows how silly its premise is. The tongue is firmly in cheek here, which allows the viewers to feel they are laughing with the film, instead of at it. Heck, we even got a wonderful theme song from original shock rocker, Alice Cooper, thus cementing FRIDAY THE 13TH not as a cheap embarrassment but as a horror icon. When the groundskeeper looks right at the audience and says, “Some folks have a sick idea of entertainment,” more people cheered than felt slighted. Fans of this series and the horror genre in general know they’re wired a bit differently and this is something they – that is to say, we – celebrate.

JASON LIVES takes a number of interesting turns. It gives us a campier look at the cast of characters. It even puts children in danger for a change, something that’s been avoided so far despite the fact this is supposed to take place at a summer camp.

This entry is a breath of fresh air after the rather pathetic offerings ever since Jason first put on his hockey mask. Yeah, I said it. But if you think that’s a controversial opinion, wait until the next film in the series.  Recommended.

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD (1987). Director: John Carl Buechler. Cinematographer: Paul Elliott.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD (1988). Director: John Carl Buechler. Cinematographer: Paul Elliott.

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD (1988) – When Tina was a child, she reacted to her father’s abuse by releasing her psychic powers and sending him to the bottom of Crystal Lake. Now a teenager, Tina (Lar Park Lincoln) has spent years in therapy at the hands of the unethical Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser of WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S fame). Feeling they have reached an impasse in her therapy, Crews takes Tina and her mother back to Crystal Lake in order to make her confront her past trauma. But the doctor seems more interested in bringing out and exploiting Tina’s telekinetic powers than actually treating her mental state. One night, Tina wishes she could bring her father back. But her father is not the only one buried in Crystal Lake and instead of raising her father, Tina raises Jason Voorhees (Doesn’t anyone ever dredge that thing?).

The addition of a CARRIE-like element to the story was a brilliant move, offering a new spin in what is always in danger of becoming a tired formula. As a kid, I remember watching this installment and seeing wasted potential. In viewing FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII again however, I found new things to like and even love about the film. I now consider this to be one of the most enjoyable films in the series. John Carl Buechler seems to have taken a lesson from his tenure with Charles Band. Unlike some previous entries in the series which have had long, boring set-ups featuring characters we don’t care about, this film keeps things moving. Even the character pieces are enjoyable. NEW BLOOD isn’t as comedic as JASON LIVES but it has it’s own sense of whimsy.

Buechler has packed the film full of sex and violence, though not as much as he would have liked. In the previous column, I mentioned how virtually every FRIDAY THE 13TH film suffered more and more censorship at the hands of the MPAA, who always threatened Paramount with the stigma of an X-rating. It is unlikely that any film in the series suffered as much as PART VII. There is plenty of grue on display, but quite a lot was still left on the cutting room floor, which has contributed to the lackluster reception this entry has received from fans.

I urge these fans to reconsider. Buechler handles the film exquisitely and while it won’t be considered a classic, it’s far above average. It’s the most pure fun to be had in the entire series. The standard formula was electrified with a new sense of energy this time out.

Oh by the way, this is also the first appearance of the actor who would become the fan-favorite Jason, Kane Hodder. Looking at all these films back to back, the fans are right. There are clever and well-timed subtleties to the performance that proves it’s more than just a stunt job.  Highly Recommended.

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989). Director: Rob Hedden. Cinematographer: Bryan England.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989). Director: Rob Hedden. Cinematographer: Bryan England.

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989) – Party’s over. A jolt of electricity wakes Jason up and for the first time, he sets sail, eventually attaching himself to a ship taking a bunch of graduating seniors to New York City. You don’t have to be a great thinker to figure out that not all of these kids are going to make it. But one person destined to make it is our Final Girl, who has a fear of water, psychic visions of Jason drowning as a kid (He’s no longer deformed or mentally challenged, by the way. Something that proves that either director Rob Hedden didn’t know or more likely didn’t care about basic continuity.), an overbearing Martin Landau-like uncle and really big hair.

The title JASON TAKES MANHATTAN is somewhat of a misnomer. Most of this film, the longest in the series up to this point, takes place on the boat. Against the director’s wishes, Paramount refused to cough up the money needed to adequately utilize several NYC landmarks. Therefore, it’s only once we’ve been on the boat for over an hour that Jason does indeed show up in New York City. The unspoken joke being that no one notices a machete-wieilding rotting corpse wearing a hockey mask in the pre-Giuliani Big Apple.

The joke falls flat however. Because while JASON TAKES MANHATTAN features such crazy moments as a kid getting his head punched off and the idea that every night, Manhattan sewers are flooded with toxic waste, Hedden plays it far too straight. His direction is so by-the-numbers that a change of scenery and better production values cannot save this one from being another terrible entry in the series.

Kane Hodder returns as Jason and his presence does help. But let’s face it, the idea of Jason taking Manhattan for anything should be a lot more entertaining than this.  Awful.

Much like the Three Amigos before him, Jason would find that audiences weren’t too enthusiastic about his adventures in the big city. As a result, Paramount sold the franchise to New Line Cinema. But New Line seemed unsure of what to do with the property once they had it. This would lead to a longer gap between sequels and several instances of the series straying far from its roots. Stay tuned for Part 3 in our series, as we cover all the installments that have led us up to the present day!

This story has been updated from a previous version, published on Film Geek Central.

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