6 Days of Friday: Day 4

Welcome back horror-movie fanatics!  It’s time for Day 4 of “6 Days of Friday,” where we will be looking at Part VII: The New Blood and Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan.  So without further delay, let’s dive in and see how the newly-zombified Jason holds up over the course of his next two killing sprees…

Friday the 13th, Part VII: The New Blood (1988) —————————————————– 2.5/5 Stars

Synopsis: 10 years after accidentally drowning her abusive father in Crystal Lake with her emerging telekinetic powers (yes, you read that correctly), Tina returns to her family’s old house with her mother and therapist in an attempt to overcome her festering guilt.  While a random group of teens set up for a party at the house next door, a frustrated Tina attempts to use her powers to bring her father back from the depths – except she unwittingly resurrects none other than Jason Voorhees, who had been chained at the bottom of the lake since the events of Part VI.  The killer returns with a vengeance to find plenty of new teens fresh for the slaughter, and Tina may be the only one strong enough to stop him!

Part VII: The New Blood is certainly one of the most hilarious Friday the 13th movies, but also one of the worst if you begin to look beyond its capacity for unintentional humour to see the garbage that sits underneath.  After resurrecting Jason by way of an an overtly supernatural plot device in Part VI, it appears as though the filmmakers felt it necessary to take another big step away from reality by giving the leading girl Tina some unexplainable superhuman powers which allow her to move objects with her mind.  Perhaps this was their genius attempt to introduce a character who could rival Jason’s invincible nature, or maybe they simply stopped caring and wanted to try something out of left field; either way, it remains the single most ridiculous plot idea in the entire franchise up until this point, and sets this film apart from the others as “the one where the girl has superpowers”.

But if there is one redeeming quality about Part VII, it would most definitely be the introduction of actor Kane Hodder – a fan-favourite who would portray the killer in all subsequent Friday films up until the 2009 remake, and who remains the only actor to ever reprise the role.  His look in this film encompasses the definitive “zombie” era Jason, covered in dirt and seaweed, and with grayish-black skin that is half-dissolved to reveal his skeleton in several places. While the film’s supreme lack of gore and blood is a huge disappointment (for some reason it was censored far more severely than previous films), it does thankfully sport one of the best kills in the series’ history, involving a sleeping bag.  It also contains one of the funniest climactic showdowns ever, as Tina uses her telekinetic powers to keep Jason at a distance and throw random objects at him or collapse structures onto him.  Seeing more of a vulnerable side to Jason made the whole thing much more hilarious and enjoyable for me, despite how silly the concept is.  Add in one really great shot of a house exploding, and you’ve got a film that is decidedly dim-witted yet not without its time and place.

Friday the 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) ————————————– 1/5 Stars

Synopsis: A small boat carrying two horny teens accidentally gets its anchor tangled in some powerlines at the bottom of the lake, causing an electrical surge which once again awakens the corpse of Jason Voorhees!  At the same time, another cruise ship carrying the senior class of Lakeview High passes through Crystal Lake on its way to New York (….?) for the school’s graduating trip.  The undead murderer quickly finds his way on-board the ship where he begins carving up teens en route to the Big Apple.  Once the boat finally reaches its destination, the few surviving characters attempt to stop the zombie goalie before he turns the streets of Manhattan red with blood!

Jason Takes Manhattan is unquestionably one of the all-time worst Friday films, and marks a new low for the series as far as taking advantage of the viewer.  Perhaps more so than any of the other Fridays up to this point, Part VIII was a complete cash grab, using its exaggerated title and some clever marketing to build massive hype despite the fact that Jason doesn’t actually get to Manhattan until the last act of the film (and it’s not even really Manhattan at all, filmed mostly in the alleyways of Vancouver).  With the exception of a few shots depicting Jason in Times Square, this film is a raging letdown.  It also doesn’t help that the writing is horrid and the plotting nearly non-existent, with more entertainment coming from laughter than from anything remotely resembling fear.

Once again, Jason is depicted as a zombie-like monster who has a tenacity for coming back to life at the slightest jolt of electricity.  Despite the change of scenery from the woods to the confined spaces of a boat, the film doesn’t really have anything new to offer except for a highlight-reel kill near the end where Jason engages in a fist-fight with a teen boxer, takes dozens of blows, and then punches the teen’s head clean off with a single strike!  Aside from that moment, this is pretty standard trash, complete with a few unnecessary hallucination scenes, a dull batch of actors, and way too much stalling before they finally get to their destination.  There’s also a really lame climax where the protagonist Rennie attacks Jason with toxic waste, which somehow transforms him back into a child (?).  This nonsensical and anticlimactic ending is the nail in the coffin of a truly disappointing 8th chapter, especially considering this marks the end of another era in the Friday universe.

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So there we have it, with Jason Takes Manhattan we have rounded out Paramount’s 8-film run at the helm of the Friday the 13th franchise.  From this point on, the character of Jason became the property of New Line Cinema, and the films began to change quite drastically once again. Tune in tomorrow to find out if it was for better or worse as we examine Jason Goes to Hell and Jason X!

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~ by Mark D'Amico on October 27, 2011.

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