1988 – A disturbed young woman with telekinetic powers accidentally frees Jason Voorhees from his watery prison, sparking yet another murderous rampage.
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD
You give the people what they want, and the people want Jason.
Like Madonna at the age of 50, the Friday the 13th series decided to reinvent itself for a hip new generation. Gone are the days of Jason remaining unseen for half the movie or being hidden behind constant POV shots. Now the big guy is on-screen constantly, and while this might drain the suspense and horror from the film, Part VII makes up for it with sheer entertainment.
Tent spikes! Machetes! Boobs! Spines punched out Mortal Kombat-style! Party horns to the eye! More boobs! Axes! Tree trimmers! Jason is like a flamboyant stage magician, daring us to question whether he can use any object for purposes of butchery. This is the perfect entry in the series to show a 13-year-old kid. “Want to stay up late, watch a ‘scary movie’ and see your first pair(s) of breasts? Well buckle up!”
Fragile, virginal Tina (Lar Park-Lincoln) is headed to her family’s old home at Crystal Lake with her mother (Susan Blu, a.k.a. Arcee from Transformers the Movie) at the urging of her obviously evil psychologist, Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser). Years ago (shortly after the end of Part VI), Tina’s latent telekinetic powers resulted in the accidental death of her father, and she’s been in the nuthouse trying to get over it. Crews secretly schemes to heighten her stress and anxiety, which causes her abilities to manifest more strongly. Why? Uh… it’s sort of a “Step 1: patient has telekinesis; Step 2: ?; Step 3: PROFIT” plan. After a traumatic therapy session, Tina’s wild powers accidentally release Jason from his chains at the bottom of the lake. Whoops! There’s also a rowdy band of teens next door, waiting to throw a surprise party for their friend. Double whoops!
That’s all the set-up we need. You don’t have to be concerned about whether any of these people will survive because you know most of them won’t. Oh, there’s a hunky nice guy named Nick (Kevin Spirtas) and an over-the-top hostile bitch named Melissa (Susan Jennifer Sullivan), but beyond that the characters are just “the stoner” and “the nerd” and “the quarreling black couple.” Why are they quarreling? Who cares! They’re just here to die. And die they will. Horribly.
Every murder is a set-piece. In one scene Jason slashes through a tent with his machete – but he’s gonna save that machete for later because he can simply batter his victim to death inside her sleeping bag:
When I saw Kane Hodder at an event in college, he noted that this was one of his favorite kills. Jason will often dispatch a victim in one location, then plant their corpse somewhere else for later, but here he makes that trick an art form. In one sequence he kills a guy in the kitchen, decapitates him off-screen, and plants the head on the window seat of an empty room upstairs – just knowing that someone is going to wander in there and discover it. Then he cuts another guy’s head off and puts it in a potted plant! For no reason! Who does this? WHO DOES THIS?!?
Jason does this.
The performances are mixed. While the supporting characters are a forgettable dump, the main cast is strong. Hodder gives Jason an aura of enormous size, strength, and fury. When people flee him, he stomps after them like an irate father after his recalcitrant son – the kid can run, but inevitably he’ll be caught and he’s only making his punishment worse. Susan Jennifer Sullivan makes Melissa THE archetypal horror movie “bad girl” – petty manipulative, spoiled, and unrelentingly antagonistic to Tina. I first saw this movie over a decade ago, and I still remembered Melissa’s character. Looking at these images, there’s no doubt which character deserves our sympathy and which one’s death we should be rooting for. Lar Park-Lincoln manages to convey kindness and vulnerability with each look, while her rival radiates an empty, icy contempt:
Tina’s showdown with Jason is, of course, the centerpiece of the film. Chris from Part 3 (Dana Kimmell) might be my favorite “final girl,” but Tina is Jason’s worthiest opponent. The final duel between the two elevates Part VII from horror movie to super hero origin story, as Tina finally takes control of her powers and unleashes them on her antagonist. It’s the most action-packed climax in the series, and it helps make The New Blood the last true standout for the franchise. Sure, there are entries that are scarier and have more emotional resonance, but if you want to have fun – this is the one to see.