Jason Voorhees

FRIDAY THE 13th PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD

Friday the 13th Part 7 buzzsaw

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!

"...Surprise."

“…I didn’t bring a present.”

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:

Friday the 13th Part 7 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:

Friday the 13th Part 7 girls

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.

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JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13th PART VI

Friday the 13th Part 6 Jason gunbarrel

1986 – A grown-up Tommy Jarvis accidentally revives the long-dead body of Jason Voorhees with a stray bolt of lightning, transforming him into an unstoppable undead killing machine. Then things get a little ridiculous. 

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD

By this point in my little marathon, the constant death and tension was starting get a little wearying. I was progressing toward the end of my bottle of wine. I wanted to cap off the evening with something fun.

But sheesh, I didn’t expect this much fun! Little Tommy Jarvis, the annoying kid from The Final Chapter, visits Jason’s grave with a you-know-he’s-going-to-die-because-he-keeps-saying-what-a-bad-idea-this-is friend. I won’t go into detail, but there’s a bunch of worms and maggots, a bolt of lightning, somebody’s heart gets punched out, and Jason’s ready for action again.

This time around, we’re dealing with pure horror-comedy. The movie establishes the tone right from the get-go, with a jump cut into Jason’s eye followed by a James Bond gun barrel homage (which might stand as the single greatest moment in the entire series). Most of the murder scenes are downright absurd, and the characters are either impossible jerks, sex-crazed loons, or downright incompetents.

I couldn’t care less about anybody in this entry, which was a relief. We encounter most of our victims just moments before they get slaughtered, and Jason offs people indiscriminately – some idiots playing paintball here, a gravedigger there, and a random picnicker who is a dead ringer for Chris Walken:

Post-"Deer Hunter," Pre-"A View to a Kill"

Post-“Deer Hunter,” Pre-“A View to a Kill”

Tommy, meanwhile, runs afoul of the local Sheriff (who is the fairly lame “you no-good kids” type), but finds favor with the Sheriff’s daughter Megan (who is a counselor at the newly-reopened camp). For supposedly being our hero, Tommy is pretty lackluster. Not only does his accidental re-animation of Jason result in the deaths of 18 people, but most of his screen-time involves him standing in a jail cell and whining about how nobody understands.

When Tommy, Megan, the cops, and Jason all converge on the camp, things pick up again. If the rest of the movie hadn’t been so cartoonish, I might have found some pathos in the Sheriff sacrificing himself to save his daughter… but nah. Still didn’t really care. The interesting twist this time around is that there are actual kids at the camp, which leads to one of the movie’s most memorable scenes:

Friday the 13th part 6 girl

After offing the adult counselors, Jason wanders into the cabin where all the little girls are asleep… except one, who starts frantically saying her prayers as the killer looms over her. Then he hears the cops arrive and slips away while the girl’s eyes are still closed. This is a fascinating moment – what was Jason thinking? What would he have done if the police hadn’t shown up? A lot of people say that Jason wouldn’t kill children, but I don’t know… I personally don’t think he has too many qualms.

The change in tone between the first three movies I watched and Jason Lives is incredible; at this point, we can basically throw out my whole “these movies are about young love” theory and start playing a zany trombone sound after every kill scene. “A knife-wielding lunatic could get you at any moment,” the series seems to be telling us, “so why not find the humor in it?” Jason Lives has an almost lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek tone – even Jason seems to be in on the “joke” at times. Over the course of just a few hours, the scream has been replaced by a smirk and the slash by slapstick.

But, I admit… I locked my bedroom door when I went to sleep. Just in case. The big guy in the mask is still a little bit scary, even if we like to pretend he isn’t.

Friday the 13th Part 6 Jason

FRIDAY THE 13th: THE FINAL CHAPTER

Friday the 13th Part 4 Gordon

1984 – A merry band of sex-starved teenagers rents a cabin for the weekend. Jason Voorhees wakes up in the morgue. A single-parent household can’t find their dog. Heartbreak ensues. 

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD

Young love is beautiful because it’s so fleeting. I’m sure everyone can remember their first dizzying foray into love, that unfamiliar rush of excitement. But along with those pleasant memories come some sad ones, because unless you’re one of a lucky few, that first love didn’t last. Sometimes you break up over a little fight, a minor disagreement. In the world of Friday the 13th, you break up because you get impaled through the groin with a harpoon. Same words, different language.

As I mentioned in my review of Friday the 13th Part 2, these movies have a lot to tell us about life, youth, love, and loss. So what lessons can The Final Chapter teach us?

Lesson #1: You can only really count on your (human) family. The Jarvis family is a tight-knit group. Mom, Trish, and the loathsome Tommy (Corey Feldman) are always doing group hugs and taking idyllic strolls together. Then there’s their dog, Gordon. Gordon is never around, and everyone is constantly looking for him. The mom gets killed going out to look for him, for Pete’s sake. If I was this family, I’d just stop looking for Gordon.

Toward the end of the movie, when Trish is creeping through a dark, corpse-filled house and needs a friend the most, what does Gordon do? He runs upstairs, freaks out, hurls himself through the window, and heads for the hills never to be seen again. Probably the least loyal dog in film history.

Lesson #2: Tell the people you love that you love them, before it’s too late. This one might seem a little trite, but consider the sad tale of Doug and Sara. Sara is a little bit shy and has never been with a guy. She makes up her mind to spend the night with Doug, and it seems like these two genuinely nice people are about to experience something wonderful. “I think I’m in heaven,” Doug says as Sara goes to get ready. “I think I’m in love,” she replies… but poor Doug doesn’t hear her. By the time Sara gets back, Jason has crushed Doug’s head against the shower wall.

Lesson #3: Stay with the people you love and don’t let go. Poor George McFly (a.k.a. Jimmy, played by the inimitable Crispin Glover)! The whole movie he’s shy and anxious, getting mocked for his lack of sexual prowess by his insensitive buddy. Then he manages to bed one of a set of twins, and she tells him he’s incredible. This is possibly the greatest night of his life. He decides to slip downstairs and have a celebratory drink of wine with the boys. Unfortunately can’t find the corkscrew; Jason has it. Exit Jimmy. Neither of the twins survives, either.

Lesson #4: Things don’t always end the way you want. Meet Rob, the tough young stud who is smitten with Trish. He’s the brother of Sandra from Part 2 (remember her? Neither did I… she’s the chesty girl who got speared in bed with her boyfriend) and is looking for revenge. The whole movie we think Rob’s going to have a dramatic showdown with Jason. Then he wanders into the dark basement and dies screaming pathetically: “Oh God he’s killing me! He’s killing me! Run, Trish, run! He’s killing me!” Man. What a let-down.

Jason doesn't knock.

Jason doesn’t knock.

Everybody seems to love this installment, but I wasn’t so high on it. There’s one sequence of kills that barely makes sense: Jason kills one twin at the “party house.” Then he goes across the street and kills Mrs. Jarvis. He comes back and kills Jimmy in the kitchen, then climbs up onto the porch roof (?) to throw the other twin out the window. Back downstairs to kill Ted! Back upstairs to kill Doug! Back downstairs (and outside) to kill Sara! I know Jason is always able to pop up where he’s least expected, but come on. Some of these characters were in adjacent rooms and didn’t hear a thing. This wasn’t a very big house. I just didn’t buy it.

Note the hideous couch and quilt.

Note the hideous couch and quilt.

It would have been an interesting twist to have a little kid as the main character in a Friday the 13th movie, but by the end I felt like I barely got to know little Tommy. Actually he seems to be a bit of a pervert, always spying on naked girls. Trish was a pretty forgettable final girl, although she gets an impressive moment when she waves a machete at Jason and snarls, “You son of a bitch, I’m gonna give you something to remember us by.” Really, I’m thinking Crispin Glover’s character should have been the “final guy.” He was by far the most interesting person in the movie.

One highlight for me: the brief glimpse we get of Chris from Part 3 being comforted by her parents in the hospital. Don’t cry, Chris: Jason won’t ever be coming back…

OR WILL HE?

FRIDAY THE 13th PART 3

Friday the 13th Part 3 Jason

1982 – The day after the events of Part 2, a group of friends journeys to a lakefront cabin, unaware that killer Jason Voorhees is still alive and seeking shelter in the area.

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD

This is “the one where Jason gets his hockey mask.” Also “the one in 3-D” and therefore “the one where random stuff gets thrown at the camera.” I had seen this movie (or at least parts of it) years ago on television. Maybe something of my more vulnerable childhood was sparked by watching it again, because I found this installment to be the most frightening.

There’s an eerie sense of unrelenting menace. Jason moves around in broad daylight, peering into homes, hiding among the laundry. You may not be sure where he is, but you know he’s always around. A barn door slowly swinging on its hinges on a sunny afternoon was never so unsettling. The late Richard Brooker, who portrays Jason in this film, does a superb job, combining moments of inhuman motionlessness with explosions of violent action.

This hippie is toast.

This hippie is toast.

The movie starts out with a flashback to Part 2, and it’s slightly re-shot to indicate that the bizarre ending really was a dream. Viewed through the lens of Part 3, I’m going to say that Muffin and Paul really did survive, and Jason attacking Ginny through the window was just one of the series’ trademark “scary dream endings.”

There are two really outstanding characters this time around. The first is our final girl, Chris. She’s returning to her family’s cabin for the first time since a deformed, knife-wielding man (gee, who could that be?) attacked her in the nearby woods. She’s vulnerable and painfully straight-laced for the first part of the film – but when she squares off against Jason, she really comes to life. She batters him with a bookshelf, stabs him, hits him with a log, bashes him with a shovel, and hangs him. Jason just keeps getting up, but Chris keeps fighting back, just as indefatigable as her antagonist. When she grabs an ax to finish him off for good, I wanted to shout at the screen like an obnoxious black woman in a movie theater.

Fuck him up, girl FUCK HIM UP!

“Fuck him up, girl, FUCK HIM UP!”

This girl is amazing – Dana Kimmell is outstanding in the role. When Jason lifts his mask and grins, revealing himself to be the same man who menaced her years before, her horrified “You!” rings completely true. I love the backstory they gave the character, even if it doesn’t make much sense.

The other great character is the iconic slasher movie prankster, Shelly. The way the writers flesh this guy out is especially touching: Shelly is an aspiring actor who loves creating false scares for his friends, much to their annoyance… but he’s also shy and insecure while trying to impress his spunky “date,” Vera.  When she gently turns away his advances, he sadly describes himself as “a nothing.” “I never said you’re a nothing!” she protests. “You didn’t have to say it,” he replies, “I can tell.” Jeez, don’t kill this poor guy! His life is hard enough already!

There’s one moment that has always haunted me from Part 3: after the final showdown, Chris gets into a boat and pushes herself out onto the lake. She wakes up the next morning and gets a few more false scares, courtesy of a log (come on, now) and a duck. Then she looks up and SWEET MOTHER OF MOSES:

Friday the 13th Part 3 Jason window

Chris just can’t catch a break! It turns out to be yet another dream, but the scene absolutely terrified me as a kid – the idea that this lunatic could just be hanging out inside, happen to look out the window, and spot you. Then, just to add insult to injury, Mrs. Voorhees pops out of the water and drags Chris in. Is it any wonder she comes completely unhinged and starts laughing as the police drive her away?

Despite some antiquated 3-D gimmicks, Part 3 holds up very well. It’s got the best final girl, the best Jason so far, and some of the more inventive kills (the scene where Jason crushes Rick’s head with his bare hands, popping his eyeball out… sheer genius). They could have ended the series right here, with those last lingering shots of Jason’s body in the barn and the still, murky lake… but for the sake of my Friday night, I’m glad they didn’t. On to the poorly-named and downright depressing “The Final Chapter”!

FRIDAY THE 13th PART 2

Friday the 13th Part 2 Ginny

1981 – Five years after the events of the first Friday the 13th, the counselors at a new camp near the ruins of Camp Crystal Lake are stalked by a mysterious masked figure.

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD

This past week featured our second Friday the 13th of 2015, so I decided to spend it in the most depressing and cliched way possible: sitting at home alone, eating a microwave dinner, and drinking a bottle of wine while watching 80s slasher movies.

Slashers, and the Friday the 13th franchise in particular, get a bad rep. You’ve heard the now-familiar criticisms: they’re poorly acted, they’re voyeuristic, they’re misogynistic, they glorify death and violence. Well maybe it was my dreary mood and maybe it was the bottle of wine and maybe it was the Stouffer’s Three Cheese and Ham Panini, but I had a totally different reading of these films. They aren’t about death and violence. They’re about life, youth, love, and how fragile these precious gifts can be.

Take, for example, Friday the 13th Part 2 (I skipped the first one because I’ve seen it before). Alice (Adrienne King), the prototypical “final girl” and survivor of the first movie, walks around her apartment for a while, talks to her mom on the phone, gets scared by a cat, and then takes an ice pick to the temple after finding the head of Mrs. Voorhees in her refrigerator.

Damn. If that’s not a downer, I don’t know what is. This movie takes everything we “know” about the genre and subverts it. Ted, the “annoying prankster” character who is always dead meat, ends up getting drunk at a bar and probably sleeping with a waitress. For him, the pursuit of sex actually saves his life. Ginny, our heroine, gets drunk at the same bar – and aren’t we supposed to “know” that alcohol and drugs equal death in a movie like this? But her drunken ruminations actually lead her to an idea that, later, helps her defeat the killer and survive.

The script is filled with little moments of tragedy that just touched me to no end. Take the relationship between wheelchair-bound Mark and generic brunette Vickie. The two of them flirt, play a few video games, and seem to establish a real rapport. Despite his crippling motorcycle injury and a negative prognosis from his doctors, Mark is determined to walk again. “I don’t intend to be in this thing the rest of my life,” he tells Vickie. Unfortunately, he does spend the rest of his life in the chair – and his life lasts less than 5 minutes before he takes a machete to the face. Meanwhile, we see poor Vickie preparing herself for a night of romance with her new beau. Returning to the cabin, she is knifed to death.

Damn, I’m depressed.

One aspect that I really liked is that, when a character is killed, the screen fades to white. There’s a positive, uplifting feel to it. A fade to black would indicate an ending, a termination. But a fade to white seems to show us that there’s a release, perhaps even a peace. I may have been reading too far into things. I was drinking white wine.

Hockey mask or potato sack? The debate rages on.

Hockey mask or potato sack? The debate rages on.

You’ll notice I haven’t even mentioned the killer, Jason Voorhees. There’s a reason for that: he’s really the least important part of the movie. He’s just a force of nature, unreasonable, implacable. His killing spree is as random as a car accident and just as tragic.

Regarding the ending – what the hell? Ginny and head counselor Paul battle Jason in his creepy shed and drive a machete into him. They return to their cabin and get a false scare from Muffin, the little dog we thought had been killed earlier. Whew! What a relief (by the way, has any other horror movie ever featured a false scare via cat AND dog?). Then WHAM! Jason comes smashing through the window, machete still lodged in his body, grabs Ginny, and… She wakes up the next morning on a stretcher calling “Paul? Where’s Paul?” and gets driven away. The end.

This really bothered me. Is it a dream? What happens to Paul? If he’s alive, why isn’t he there with Ginny as she’s going into the ambulance? If he’s dead, why didn’t Jason kill Ginny too? I actually have a few theories, but none of them is completely satisfying. I’ll elaborate more when we discuss the next film.