DOC’S TRIP TO CAMP CRYSTAL LAKE – PART 3: Films 9-12

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WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AND EXPLICITLY GORY PICTURES!

Jason Voorhees is about to kill his latest victim when she, actually an undercover FBI agent, leads him into a trap where he’s gunned down and then blown to bits. His remains are sent to a morgue, where the coroner sees that Jason’s heart is still beating. He eats it, causing him to be possessed by the evil spirit of Jason, which is now able to jump from body to body and can only be killed a member of his family. He could also return properly to life if he manages to possess one of them. He heads for a town where resides his half-sister Diana Kimble, her daughter Jessica and Stephanie, Jessica’s baby daughter, but bounty hunter Creighton Duke is on Jason’s trail….

Many who read these reviews will probably think that I’m too easy on these films. I will say unequivocally though, that Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday really is pretty rubbish. It’s a stupid, idiotically conceived movie that just doesn’t work at all. Director Adam Marcus and screenwriter Dean Lorey were given carte blanche to take Jason in a new and different direction, though instead they took Jason in such a ‘new’ and ‘different ‘direction that it was almost unrecognisable as a Friday The 13th film.  Probably taking a cue from The Hidden [though both claim they’d never that prior to doing this film] and maybe Shivers, they came up with the idea of Jason’s essence being able to move from body to body. I guess this may have worked if they’d made some attempt to tie this in with the earlier films, but they evidently didn’t care and arrogantly hoped that fans would just buy it. I guess it may also have worked if the film was actually fun – after all Jason Takes Manhattan was almost as ridiculous. And, despite probably being more consistently brutal than the previous films, this installment is also very weak in its execution despite trying to be something of a spoof in parts – in fact I’d forgotten how ‘humorous’ this film is.

Paramount, tiring of the flagging franchise, sold the rights to New Line, but Sean H.Cunningham wanted to finish it. Talk of Freddy Vs Jason reared its head again, and New Line were initially very interested as the badly performing Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare had possibly given the series some closure, until Wes Craven began work on Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. One early concept was Jason Goes To L.A. in which two rival gangs had to band together to defeat Jason, while Marcus’s first treatment had Jason’s brother revive Jason and then be possessed by him. Jay Huguely’s final draft was awful and New Line needed to see the script within a couple of days or else they’d cancel the project, so Cunningham wouldn’t let Lorey leave  room until they had a filmable script. It was shot in and around Los Angeles. When Marcus tried to force Keegan to do her shower scene nude and in boiling hot water that made her cry from the pain, she walked off the set and Cunningham had to direct the last few days. His experimenting with shooting at twenty two frames per second rather than twenty four caused hassles in post production, and the initial 130 minute cut was extremely slow so was drastically cut down though a US TV version showed some of the cut material including Vicki having a boyfriend. But now the film ran for only 75 minutes, so new footage was shot including three kills. The MPAA ordered almost three minutes to be cut, but the filmmakers were not especially bothered this time, because by now many films were coming out uncut on video and laserdisc, Jason Goes To Hell being one of them. In the UK the BBFC only cut the severing of the girl and the wrist breaking. Cinema takings disappointed and in the UK it went straight to video.

Every time I watch Jason Goes To Hell I say to myself “Blimey, it’s not that bad is it”?, because the opening sequence of Elizabeth the FBI agent alone in the house, with Jason obviously about to appear, is very tense and recaptures the feel of the early films – though we almost had an opening in which a young Jason had sex with his mother! Then Jason is shot and spectacularly blown to pieces, the gruesome sight giving the ending of The Fury a run for its money, but I just can’t understand why no continuity with the previous entry was attempted. Then we go to a morgue, where the coroner is examining Jason’s remains and views his still-beating heart. Now I’m assuming that the reason he eats the heart is because he’s hypnotised by it, but neither the script nor the acting sell that idea. He commences the usual heading for Camp Crystal Lake, killing three campers along the way who hoped to: “smoke a little dope, have pre-marital sex and not get slaughtered”. There’s a fair bit of this self-aware, self-mocking type stuff and as usual I find it mostly tedious and detracting from the story, though I know others disagree. I have to say I do like the diner selling Jason mask burgers and Jason finger chips, while its manager and two staff members seem to have escaped from A New Beginning. It seems like Jason’s looking to find his half-sister Diana Kimble so he can be reborn properly, but he murders her. Steven Freeman, the estranged husband of Diana’s daughter Jessica, turns up to supposedly kill Jason but when his body disappears he’s instead blamed for the murder and thrown into a cell where he meets Creighton Duke who hasn’t long appeared on TV and offered a news presenter 500 000 dollars for killing Jason.

It’s basically one character after another going on a rampage, until he/she passes the ‘essence’ to another person by getting it to pass from his/her throat to another, and then it’s that person’s turn. The movie becomes boringly repetitive very quickly, and though some would say that about all of these films, this one just has little tension or even excitement. The Terminator seems to have been an influence, but even that had some terror. The sequences are often poorly staged and, even as things start to center around the remaining members of the Voorhees family, there’s little sense of build up. Several random things happen – possibly as a result of the heavy cutting, possibly not – including one guy turning into The Incredible Melting Man [actually very good effects here] and a tiny monster running around. Tyen, just when the movie seems to at least be getting fun if still in a crap way, we briefly have Jason as his ‘normal’ self, hockey mask and all – and you can almost hear the fans cheering. But then it soon ends, with a mediocre fight to the finish, a quite interesting if over the top death scene for Jason replete with monstrous arms pulling him into the ground, and an admittedly cool final shot of Freddy’s glove grabbing Jason’s discarded mask, setting things up for Freddy Vs Jason.

This may be the goriest of the entire series until Freddy Vs Jason. Aside from loads of bloody impalings and shootings [albeit often with grey blood rather than red], there’s tons of gloop, a pulverised head, a face in a fat fryer, a wrist breaking, and a truly bloody kill where a girl is severed in half whilst having sex, said sex scene also being more sexually explicit than normal. Interesting how the couple mention using a condom but then can’t be bothered. K.N.B. do their usual sterling work regarding the effects aside from some poor early CGI, and Jason himself looks great when you finally see him – I love the way his skin now seems to be growing around the mask. There’s an appearance from The Evil Dead’s Book of the Dead which later got Cunningham in trouble as he never asked or paid for the rights! For this one they decided to have few teenage characters and populate the film more with adults, but they tend to be written at bad soap opera level, and rarely do anything that makes sense. Sheer dumbness is all over the place, such as Creighton, in an especially pointless scene, breaking two of Stephen’s fingers in return for giving him information. Stephen then manages to escape from the cell he’s in by almost strangling a guard and taking his keys, despite the fact that he would be in so much pain he probably wouldn’t be able to do anything. Later on Creighton cries out to Jason “you remember me, huh?” which makes no sense either. Actually the original cut told us that Jason killed Crieghton’s girlfriend but that information, along with a great deal of background for some of the other characters, was removed.

The script is haphazard, the camerawork out of focus at times, and the acting – with the exception of Steven Williams as Creighton Duke who really seems to be having fun with his character and appears to be improvising at times – is embarrassingly bad. The worst is John D. LeMay as Stephen, who mixes robotic delivery while doing strange things with his mouth as if he constantly has an ulcer. There’s one scene where Jason has just impaled somebody with a poker in front of him and is coming for him, and he says, quite calmly, “o shit”, as if he’d just remembered he’d left his shopping in the car. Kane Hodder returns as Jason though he’s hardly in it. Harry Manfredini contributes some fairly exciting music for the opening and end credits, and a few okay cues during the film, but must have been given a tiny budget for the score, as it’s all on one really weedy-sounding synthesiser. Jason Goes to Hell is something of a travesty, it screws around with the series a great deal, but that might have been bearable if it had been done well. It’s not, it’s just a pretty inept movie that hardly does anything right.

RANKING OF SERIES SO FAR

1/ Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter

2/ Friday The 13th Part 2

3/ Friday The 13th

4/ Friday The 13th Part 5: A New Beginning

5/ Friday The 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan

6/ Friday The 13th Part 7: The New Blood

7/ Jason Lives: Friday The 13th Part 6

8/ Friday The 13th Part 3

9/ Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday

 

In 2010, Jason Voorhees, captured by the US government, is being held at the Crystal Lake Research Facility. Scientist Rowan La Fontaine, a scientist, tries to put him under cryogenic suspension as nothing will kill him, but her superiors want to do more research and try to remove him. Jason awakes and kills the soldiers but is then lured into the pod and frozen – but Rowan is accidentally frozen with him. In 2455, Earth has become too polluted to support life and humanity inhabits a new planet, Earth 2. Some students find the frozen Jason and Rowan, and take them onto their ship. They reanimate Rowan, but Jason also comes back to life….

Jason X sounds like it’s going to be awful, and I distinctly remember expecting the worst when it came out, especially since it had sat on the shelf for two years, and since it had a ‘15’ rating here in the UK – though the latter was just because the BBFC were getting more lenient, not that the film lacked much in the way of gory mayhem. But Jason in space? What a stupid idea, especially for a low budget series. Against the odds though, this is a most enjoyable effort which succeeds in bringing most of the tried and tested Friday The 13th film elements into a new and different environment, cleverly mixing the new with the old, and having a great deal of fun in the process. It’s a light, bright film for much of the time, but unlike Jason Goes To Hell manages a bit of suspense and certainly a few scares and, while it possesses some of the knowingness that for me hampered but for many also helped Jason Lives, this doesn’t dominate proceedings. And for a comparatively cheap effort it looks surprisingly good for the most part.

So Freddy Vs Jason was going to be the next movie, but once again there were problems. Sean H. Cunningham created his own production company Crystal Lake Entertainment for the purpose of making it, but nobody could agree on anything. It was the idea of Jim Isaac, a special effects expert who wanted to direct, to make another Jason film in the meantime. The aim was to put Jason in a different environment, and ideas ranged from having him in the ‘hood’ to underwater to in the snow [what a great one that could be visually if done right, before it was decided on outer space – which means that chronologically it takes place after Freddy Vs Jason. Todd Farmer’s script was extensively rewritten by a whole bunch of people including Cunningham, removing or toning down potentially expensive sequences, while various gory scenes came out then sometimes went back in. Wacky ideas like a sex-fuelled zero gravity party were lost. The script changes even carried on through shooting which mostly took place in Ontario, Canada. The film was then transferred to high-definition video to make the extensive CGI required easier. As it was about to be released, head of New Line Micheal De Luca who’d been one of the few at the studio championing the film left the company and it wasn’t released until two years, when the MPAA only asked for the removal of a few seconds. It became the lowest grossing installment of the whole franchise. Some put this down to piracy, with more and more copies of Jason X floating around the internet during the two years it was officially unavailable, so that eventually almost any fan with internet access could see it. I do remember it having surprisingly good reviews in the UK.

Digital shots of what seems to be a destroyed earth then inside Jason’s head provide us with an atypical opening credit sequence, it ending with us coming out of Jason’s eye to reveal a doctor reflected in it! We soon get the slaughter of some soldiers and a great cameo from David Cronenberg, who, of course, also becomes a victim of Jason, impaled through the chest by a pole. When we switch to the future and the frozen Jason and Rowan are found, even Jason’s falling body is enough to sever an arm – though in this future that’s no big deal as the technology exists to put it back on again in minutes.”You’re going to be safe here” Rowan is told, but of course Jason’s body is also on the ship Grendel which has just taken off. Professor Braithwaite Lowe calls his financial backer Dieter Perez to tell him how money can be made from these over-445 year old people, but Perez isn’t impressed as revived humans are now commonplace – and that’s all of a subplot that may have been lost in the editing. The film already resembles Alien a bit – there’s even a character called Dallas – except that while the ship in that movie was dark and forbidding, this movie’s ship is bright and colourful, with lots of neon lighting.

Of course Jason is soon up and about, his first major set piece having him enter into a virtual reality game in which he kills the avatars of two players trying to kill monsters, then finds the real people conveniently sitting on the floor in front of him. It’s amusing but as with much of this film the humour doesn’t feel forced, and you still get pure horror moments like when Jason’s face looms out of the dark behind somebody. Another bit where someone appearing beside someone else turns out to be just a decapitated head held by Jason is as neat a ‘scare in which you may also chuckle at’ as you can find. With 22 kills, it becomes a bit mechanical but moves at probably the fastest pace yet and climaxes with some decent action scenes involving an android [more on her later] battling Jason, and depressurisation. Towards the end, for reasons not worth mentioning, Jason gets turned into ‘Uber-Jason’, a cyborg variant of himself but even more powerful. Some fans understandably dislike this, but the series had already become so fantastical by this point that I find it hard to get too annoyed, and – while I don’t tend to like it when films mock the series they’re part of – I can never not laugh when Jason is projected into a hologram of Camp Crystal Lake and is greeted by two female campers who “love pre-marital sex” – but when we cut back to him we see him bashing one against the other in a variation on a kill from The New Blood.

Jason X certainly succeeds with its many kills which range from your typical impalings and decapitations to more inventive stuff. One man is cut in half, sliced right down the middle, while another falls onto a giant drill, and a woman has her face shoved into a sink of hydrochloric acid, then smashed into pulp on the surface. A few murders do suffer from bad CGI [digital blood first rears its ugly head in the series], and there is a terrible looking bit where the Grendel partly crashes into another ship replete a digital explosion that would have looked bad even when the film came out, but otherwise the effects and sets are pretty good considering the film’s budget, and the weaponry certainly looks impressive. Isaac said “we wanted to take a $13 million dollar budget and make it look like a $50 million dollar movie”, and I feel that he and his team succeeded for the most part. Most of the characters aren’t too interesting and even a little boring, with one major exception – the android KM-13. She’s introduced to us as little more than a sex robot with fake nipples that tinkle to the floor like dropped coins, but later on gets new circuits that transform her into a acrobatic, leather-clad dominatrix with two machine guns and an attitude to match. Lisa Ryder, playing probably the most rounded character in the film, is amazingly good in the part. The relationship between her and student Tsunaron is rather sweet, you feel for them even when he’s reduced to carrying around her head.

Jason Isaac directs with tight efficiency if not much actual style, while the performances are definitely better than those in Jason Goes To Hell if still not great. Lexa Doig as Rowan seems to take events rather too much in her stride, though I’m not ashamed to say that Doig being to me perhaps the prettiest heroine of the series is some compensation. Nearly all the cast members seem to have been chosen for their looks, it’s as if some of Hugo Drax’s “perfect specimens” survived after Moonraker after all. Composer Harry Manfredini, equipped with a somewhat better sounding synthesiser than the previous installment, composes a score which is probably his most diverse yet, full of varying motifs and subtly adjusting his sound and style to suit the films setting, though since A New Beginning he’d moved further and further away from the sound and style of the earlier pictures anyway. Isaac wanted a more techno-orientated score which in an odd way may have worked too. There’s certainly some stupid stuff in Jason X, like the machete that can somehow pierce through a steel door, but considering it’s the tenth movie in a franchise that had just had its worst entry ever, it’s far better than anyone has a right to expect, certainly breathing quite a bit of life back into the series.

RANKING OF SERIES SO FAR

1/ Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter

2/ Friday The 13th Part 2

3/ Friday The 13th

4/ Jason X

5/ Friday The 13th Part 5: A New Beginning

6/ Friday The 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan

7/ Friday The 13th Part 7: The New Blood

8/ Jason Lives: Friday The 13th Part 6

9/ Friday The 13th Part 3

10/ Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday

 

Freddy Krueger is trapped in Hell, powerless and unable to escape because the children in Springwood have been given a drug called Hypnocil which stops them having dreams. Determined to change this, Freddy finds Jason Voorhees in Hell, and, disguised as Jason’s mother, tells him to kill some of the teens in Springwood so that Freddy will be blamed, become stronger and escape. This starts to go wrong when Jason kills too many people and the public starts to become more afraid of him than Freddy….

Freddy Vs Jason, which eventually got made a whopping 16 years after it was first mooted, is a film I loved at the cinema but it became probably the series entry that went down in my estimation most with successive viewings. Of course probably every fan has a different idea of what the film should be like in their own head, but in the end it’s actually quite a difficult thing to get right [think about it], something which I don’t feel they succeeded in doing – though I feel that this is largely due too much going on in too little time. So much has clearly been cut to the bone with not enough scenes playing out naturally and some elements of the story now being very rushed, though by compensation this is easily the best looking film of the whole series, and possibly the best shot. And the final duel is most definitely worth the wait – we’re not tal Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man‘s measly two minutes here!

There were eighteen scripts written, ranging from having a cult of Freddy-obsessed teenagers called the Fredheads to Freddy summoning Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, and John Wayne Gacey to aid him. Freddy raping Jason’s mother and fathering Freddy, and Freddy raping the young Jason at the camp were both considered.  Many of the more interesting ideas were removed when Mark Swift and Damian Shannon wrote the final draft, though David Goyer was still brought in to tighten it, also streamlining the third act, which was originally going to center on a construction site being built on Camp Crystal Lake and introduce a new set of victims. The ending caused the most problems. Ideas, some of which would have cost far too much, ranged from the duo being dragged into Hell by the souls of the damned and being watched by the Devil to the combatants having chains rip into them and Pinhead appearing to say “now, what seems to be the problem”? Peter Jackson and Rob Zombie both turned down the offer to direct, The heroin-addicted Brad Renfro had to be replaced as Will a week before shooting by Jason Ritter who’d previously been turned down for the part, while Betsy Palmer was asked to play Mrs Voorhees again but her agent asked for too much money. Again, this one was shot in Canada, mostly Toronto and Vancouver, and director Ronny Yu kept the cast on edge with his constantly changing temperament. About fifteen minutes were cut from the initial edit, and then a few more after test screenings, whilst the original ending had the two surviving characters Lori and Will having sex and Will turning into Freddy. Aided by a huge marketing push and the MPAA not wanting a thing cut, it was a big hit and the most commercially successful of the series unless you take into account admissions, in which case the first Friday The 13th still reigns supreme.

A few bars of Freddy’s theme and Jason’s “ki ki ki” motif get things off to a nice start, after which Freddy narrates his background over clips from some of his movies as well shots of him before he was burnt to death which also hint at a paedophilic aspect, something which was considered for the first A Nightmare On Elm Street but discarded and later used in the weak remake. Freddy lasciviously licking one of loads of photographs he has of little girls, and later on the sight of a girl with no eyes saying “Freddy likes children, especially little girls”, are enough to suggest this really dark aspect to Freddy without having it upfront and weakening the fun factor. A zoom into Jason’s mask takes us to Jason as his “mum” revives him and gets him to kill again, but Freddy really isn’t very bright here – anyone knowledgeable about Jason should know that he tends to go above and beyond the call of duty when killing is involved. Our heroine is Lori who’s still in love with her ex-boyfriend Will who supposedly ran off, though he’s actually one of many who once dreamed of Freddy and is being administered the dream-suppressing drug Hypnocil [first heard from in Dream Warriors] while the town covers it all up. But then there’s also the matter of Lori’s dad supposedly having killed her mum and, while Freddy isn’t strong enough to kill people for real even though he can haunt their dreams, Jason certainly is and doesn’t waste time doing what he does best.

All this just doesn’t have enough time to breath and too much time is spent on dream sequences which only sometimes have some of the inventiveness familiar from Freddy’s earlier adventures, like the Freddy caterpillar with a bong seen while stoned. It also doesn’t help that Jason is sidelined for much of the movie, and the great concept of Jason causing mayhem at a rave isn’t made the most of – its still an okay scene, but wouldn’t it have been much better if Jason had started his hacking and impaling while the attendees were still dancing? It’s not long then before the two stars come to blows, with Freddy stronger when he’s inside Jason’s head but the opposite being the case in the real world. Again, I feel that the dream stuff, despite a flashback to Camp Crystal Lake to Jason’s drowning and the nasty sight of Freddy stabbing Jason in child form – plus some use of colour filters – could have been more imaginative, and then there’s that random switch to that construction site that originally played a bigger part in the story. But the lengthy fight never outstays its welcome and benefits enormously from Yu’s experience in Hong Kong action cinema, with fantastic wire work and great touches throughout such as Jason being bounced about a room like a pinball, while it really does get brutal. Freddy gouges Jason’s eyes out, Jason chips off Freddy’s arm – it’s a bloodbath. And the conclusion is quite satisfactory to me, though some no doubt debate as to who actually won.

Unsurprisingly, the amount of gore in Freddy Vs Jason is considerable, because as well as Jason’s kills you also get a bit of Freddy mayhem such as a wince-inducing moment where he slits off a nose. The Jason deaths are, aside from a guy being stabbed and then folded up in the bed he’s on and a ripping-in-half, the usual impalings and stabbings, and some suffer from being done by CGI that mostly compares badly to the makeup effects in the earlier films. The fact that none of this had to be cut must have annoyed makers of the 80’s Jason films no end! Something that annoyed me was that the Freddy makeup was oddly poor-looking here, while watching Ken Kirzenger’s stiff, unnatural performance as Jason makes it both baffling and just plain wrong that New Line decided to replace Kane Hodder. The film contains quite a few references to earlier Freddy flicks though doesn’t do this with Jason much and even makes out that he’s now terrified of water. Most of the teens are almost funny in their unoriginality – the dope head, the virgin, the some obsessed with looking nice, the geek, etc – though I’m wondering if this was intentional – while some of the dialogue is atrocious.“Freddy was killed by fire, Jason was killed by water, maybe we can use that”? says Lori in one especially cringe-worthy scene around a table. Freddy has some good one-liners though which are sometimes suitably tasteless. “How sweet, dark meat” he sees upon spying Kelly Rowland from Destiny’s Child, though her calling him a faggot probably wouldn’t pass in today’s snowflake world. Her character Monica is given a nice moment in which she realises too late that Charlie, the awkward guy who has a thing for her and is now willing to sacrifice his life for her, is actually really worth something.

Yu gives the film a stylish look which is sometimes quite ambitious and the action is edited in that great Hong Kong way which is fast and furious, but you can still see exactly what’s going on, unlike in many movies today. There are some superb shots, such as Jason walking out of fog, but we’re never given a chance to dwell on such moments and really appreciate them. There’s the usual fair share of lousy acting – just check out the father/son scene on the porch – and Monica Keen is not a good lead at all. And even some non-Americans will pick up on the mistake in locations when they go from Springfield which is in California to Camp Crystal Lake which is in New Jersey, leading us to believe that it only takes a couple of hours to drive across the US! It’s nice to hear a fully orchestral music score again in the series, and the bursts of heavy metal guitar during the fight are great, but mostly Graeme Revell’s work provides good backing but is unmemorable. Freddy Vs Jason is probably about as good as a movie with that title could realistically be – which to me isn’t much despite the joy of seeing the two bogeyman battle each other.

RANKING OF SERIES SO FAR

1/ Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter

2/ Friday The 13th Part 2

3/ Friday The 13th

4/ Jason X

5/ Friday The 13th Part 5: A New Beginning

6/ Friday The 13th Part 3

7/ Friday The 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan

8/ Jason Lives: Friday The 13th Part 6

9/ Friday The 13th Part 7: The New Blood

10/ Freddy Vs Jason

11/ Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday

 

1980: young Jason Voorhees sees his mother decapitated by the last of a group of people she’s been killing off. 2009: five young backpackers allow their curiosity to get the better of them and find themselves at the abandoned Camp Crystal Lake, where Jason possibly still lives. Somebody brutally murders them. Meanwhile Trent invites six of his friends to party in his cabin by the lake, but their fun is disrupted by lone traveller Clay, who’s looking for his missing sister Whitney, and then by Jason himself….

My heart tends to sink every time a horror remake is announced, something which doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon. Perhaps my feelings are irrational – after all, stories like Dracula and Frankenstein have been retold many times, and if the original movie isn’t too great, then a remake could maybe even improve on it. Nonetheless, I had a bad feeling about the 2009 ‘reboot’ of Friday The 13th, despite all the talk about it returning to the spirit and style of the early films in the series before Jason went to Manhattan, fought Carrie and Freddy, became an evil ‘entity’ and a cyborg. Watching it at the cinema, my negativity consumed me and all I could do afterwards was slag it off and make unfavourable comparisons to the originals. Upon second and third viewings, it improves slightly – there are loads of far worse slashers out there – especially if you take it as an alternate sequel to the original movie – albeit one that borrows from and even references some of the other earlier films, The Final Chapter perhaps being the chief inspiration. But despite what they said, the result has none of that vintage Friday The 13th feel, partly due to the employment of hyper-fast editing editing and ‘shakycam’ during the murders so you can’t often see what the hell’s going on, while they also muck around with Jason too much and much of the fun factor is lost.

Though financed by both Paramount and New Line, it was made by Platinum Dunes which was set up by Micheal Bay, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form to primarily remake horror films, and I always feel I want to hate the company, though their remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre I was rather impressed with [the less said about the others the better] and they’ve moved away from remakes for some time now. Initially it was going to be an origin story [a bit of that remained], and Tommy Jarvis was going to feature, but writers Damian Shannon and Mark Swift [Freddy Vs Jason] were instructed to base their script mostly on the first four movies. Budget constraints meant that some scenes, including the climax and Chelsea stranded on the lake and eventually drowning due to tiredness, were scaled back, altered or cut. Production went smoothly for once and the film went on to have the biggest opening weekend for any horror movie, though personally I don’t go by these kinds of calculations much because seat prices rise year after year. Admissions soon dropped off very sharpl though. The film wasn’t hampered by MPAA cuts, but even during its opening weekend director Marcus Nispel said he already had a longer version which was going to come out on DVD. This has some longer kills, plus some other extra scenes such as a lengthy sequence of the imprisoned Whitney escaping through a tunnel, but I reckon, with the possible exception of two sex scenes, it would have still got through the MPAA intact considering what they let through nowadays, and it just seems more like they were holding back this cut [which is a little better] to make more money from the DVD release. Plans put in place for a sequel were however ditched.

We open with the boy Jason seeing his mother, who has been killing the counsellors who supposedly let him drown, killed, which gets part of the plot from the first movie out of the way. Immediately the tone and look is different, from the black and white colouring to the fast cutting, but the scene does work. Then we move onto the first set of victims [obviously it was thought that modern audiences would get impatient if they didn’t get to see Jason do his stuff really early on] and a lackluster version of the good old campfire tale scene. Still, as the teens slowly wonder about in the forest, in a barn etc, and are dispatched, we are treated to some decent stalking sequences, and it’s great to see Jason back in the creepy old sack cloth from Part 2 again. Sadly when Jason actually attacks, one struggles to make sense of what’s happening, At least in the earlier films you could clearly make out the gory scenes instead of getting a split flash of some CGI effect while the cameraman seems to go into a seizure. There’s an intense scene where Jason is holding a girl upside down with her face in a fire, and her rescuer gets his foot in a trap [really gruesome bit, this], but it’s considerably weakened by the filming – and should Jason really be trying to kill somebody in such a slow way? He likes to murder, not torture. And what’s with him capturing the survivor because she looks like his mother? If a machete-wielding Jason has you on the ground, surely that means you’re dead no matter what? Anyway, after a whopping twenty five minutes have passed, we get the opening titles!

What follows is basically a lengthy rehash of what has come before, with a very slow mid-section and a fast-paced final third with loads of kills. There’s probably the longest and most explicit sex scene in the series, which is presumably what caused Michael Bay to walk out of a screening complaining there was too much sex, though it was considerably cut down in the theatrical version. It’s between Trent, who’s invited the others to what is his father’s cabin, and his girlfriend Bree. Jason has already killed a local and two other teens, but also in the area to Trent’s annoyance is Clay Miller, looking for his missing sister who’s the girl we saw kidnapped. The first four films are riffed on continually: a confrontation in a shop, Jason crashing through a window to grab someone, the heroine impersonating Jason’s mother, even a spike going into a neck that brings back memories of Kevin Bacon – but all it did was make me wish I was watching those again, especially as it seems like Nispel was going for a similar feel to his The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, replete with a brownish, almost sepia look to some scenes and some similar settings. More effort should have been made to make his Friday The 13th different. In any case, the final struggle is okay I suppose, and they resisted the temptation to have Jason constantly being ‘killed’ and then returning to life again, but that’s one of the many things I missed about this version, I love it when you think he’ s dispatched and then….oh shit! The ‘Jason coming out of the water’ending is poorly done too – I doubt many viewers jump.

The kills, aside from the afore-mentioned burning, are mostly standard, with familiar weapons like arrows, machetes and knives doing the damage, but as I said many of them suffer from the hyperactive filming style, especially a multiple stabbing by garden rake, as the victim lies on the floor and is impaled in various places from beneath – but you can’t really see where he was being stabbed. Chewie’s death is seen properly, but his metal rod into the neck demise is lingered on just a bit too long so it exploits Chewie’s suffering. The kills in these films should be fun, not unpleasant [though of course there’s certainly a place for the latter in the genre too]. Too many of the build-up sequences occur in so much darkness that again you can’t see much, and this Jason is just too different from the Jason we know from before. His new agility works okay but I find it far scarier that the earlier Jason usually didn’t run, just strode, and yet he would still always get you. And what’s with that ridiculous maze of underground tunnels? They tried to make Jason more believable by giving clues as to actually how he survives but mostly botched it. And the teens are less likable than normal, with their attitude and massively increased profanity. The way they often talk to themselves quickly becomes irritating, while there’s so much drug taking that one half expects Cheech and Chong to show up.

The acting by the cast is possibly worse than that in most of the earlier films, with even heroine Danielle Pannabaker as Genna very weak and the Final Chapter-derived, potentially interesting character of the revenge-seeking Clay thrown away by Jared Padelecki’s dull acting. At least Aaron Yoo’s wacky performance of the clown Tommy is entertaining. Derek Myers does an okay job as the swifter, more intelligent Jason, and cinematographer Daniel Myers does give him some great shots and entrances. There’s an especially good scene set in a shed which is lit by a Psycho-style swinging lamp when Jason just appears suddenly from behind his victim’s back. Sadly Steve Jablonsky’s score is mostly discordant noise which actually weakens, rather than improves, key scenes. Overall this remake is a bit of a hack job, especially considering that none of the other films are exactly horror classics – but some of them do work very well within their limits and get the job done – though to be honest I don’t know how good a modern Friday The 13th could really be. It seems like it should be easy to pull off – get some teens together and have them killed off in creative ways. I’m sure that myself and my fellow HCF Friday The 13th fans Ross Hughes and David Smith could turn out a script quite quickly. However, it seems that they want to try to bring rather more to the table now and I’m not sure that’s necessary. I still like to think that the next movie will be better than this one. Maybe next time – whenever they actually get round to it – which I have a feeling may not be too far away now if the return of another iconic bogeyman to our screens is a hit.

RANKING OF SERIES SO FAR

1/ Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter

2/ Friday The 13th Part 2

3/ Friday The 13th

4/ Jason X

5/  Friday The 13th Part 5: A New Beginning

6/ Friday The 13th Part 3

7/ Friday The 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan

8/ Jason Lives: Friday The 13th Part 6

9/ Friday The 13th Part 7: The New Blood

10/ Freddy Vs Jason

11/ Friday The 13th 2009

12/ Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday

 

 

 

Dr Lenera
About Dr Lenera 2338 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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