6 Days of Friday: Day 3
Welcome back to 6 Days of Friday! Today we’re looking at Parts V and VI of the famed slasher series, which both marked an enormous departure from the tone and quality of the previous films in their attempts to start fresh and take the franchise in a new direction. Did they succeed, or do they both just crash and burn? Read on to find out!
Friday the 13th, Part V: A New Beginning (1985) —————————————————-1/5 Stars
Synopsis: Four years after The Final Chapter, an adolescent Tommy Jarvis struggles to live a normal life in the wake of his violent murder of Jason as a child. After moving from institution to institution with the hockey-mask killer haunting his every dream, Tommy ends up at a secluded halfway house for troubled teens which is located (you guessed it) in the woods. Soon after he arrives, a teen is killed by another with an axe, marking the beginning of a violent killing spree perpetrated by a mysterious killer who appears to be copying the M.O. of Jason himself!
This is unquestionably one of the worst entries in a film series that is not exactly the most impressive to begin with. After (supposedly) killing off Jason for good in The Final Chapter, the Friday producers decided they wanted to start fresh with a new killer while still holding true to the massive popularity surrounding Jason Voorhees as a character. This “new beginning” for the franchise marks an attempt to “pass the torch” so to speak, resulting in a plot that centres around a copycat killer who mimics the look of Jason while wreaking havoc on a group of teens in a similar fashion to the famed horror icon. I suppose by examining the title of the next film (Jason Lives!) one can deduce that this bold move didn’t go over too well with the fans…
But still, even though we don’t get to see the handiwork of the real Jason Voorhees this time around, it doesn’t actually influence the overall impact of the film since the “stand-in” looks and acts exactly like the true Jason anyways. No, the real problem with this film is the atrocious direction, acting, and writing. To avoid giving myself a headache, I will simply state that there’s just nothing worth watching here, with the exception of a minor increase in gore and nudity (which is the reason for the one star I’ve awarded). The group of teens who anchor the film are all incredibly irritating, to the point where I was waiting for every single character to get killed off simply so that I wouldn’t have to watch them anymore. This is especially the case with the guy playing the troubled adolescent Tommy Jarvis, whose complete lack of acting skills leads me to wonder how he ever scored this lead role in the first place. Maybe he just blew the casting director away with his sour “I’ve got issues” face, which he sports for the entirety of the film’s runtime. Or maybe it was his killer martial arts skills. Who knows. What’s really important here is that this is one of the few Friday films you should outright avoid at all costs, because it will only turn you off to the rest of the series, and to be perfectly honest, there’s just too much great comedy on the way that you’d miss out on…
Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives! (1986) ——————————————————– 4/5 Stars
Synopsis: Six years after having killed Jason Voorhees at the age of 12, an obsessed Tommy Jarvis is compelled to dig up the grave of the killer to once again see his body. In the process, he inadvertently brings Jason back from the dead thanks to an unfortunately-timed lightning storm. While Jason works his way back to Crystal Lake and murders any unlucky travelers whose cars break down in his path, Tommy tries to warn the locals of the danger they are facing – but the town Sheriff won’t listen!
After their abysmal attempt at a New Beginning, the Friday producers realized they needed to bring the real Jason back right away to keep the series alive (and keep their millions of dollars flowing in). Part VI: Jason Lives! is the hilarious product of this, and becomes the film which effectively redesigned Jason as a character into an unstoppable zombie killer who was brought back from the dead via supernatural means. This became the new model for the character in all subsequent films up until the 2009 reboot; and despite the fact that several of those films were quite silly or downright awful (without a shred of the serious horror that drove the original films), Jason Lives! is the exception from this period, remaining one of the most fun and entertaining entries in the entire Friday series.
This film works well in the sense that it never takes itself too seriously yet somehow remains surprisingly self-aware, offering enough tongue-in-cheek jokes to keep things light and fun amidst the violent killings. The tendency to border on comedy at times certainly helps the pacing of the film, while its tone and wittiness could be seen as a precursor to later films of a more self-reflexive nature like Wes Craven’s Scream. Tommy Jarvis is brought back in a great way by actor Thom Mathews (Return of the Living Dead), who constantly plays up the ridiculousness of his situation and has some great comedic timing. Pretty much everything on the Friday checklist pops up here at some point, and the climax offers a new and refreshing take on how to (re) kill Jason, even if Tommy’s specific plan is pretty weak. It will never be considered one of the most frightening entries, bit this is still one of the most entertaining and rewatchable Friday films, and remains a crucial turning point in the series that should not be missed.
Now that Jason and the Friday franchise have both been zapped back to life, aren’t you just busting to find out what is going to happen in Part VII: The New Blood, and Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan? Tune in tomorrow to find out what’s in store for the big guy!