DECEMBER 5, 2008
With the remake on the way (and seriously – if you don’t think it looks awesome, you can sod right the fuck off!), I wanted to revisit all the old F13 movies, some of which I haven’t seen in years. Parts 3 and Final Chapter were already (non canon) reviewed thanks to revival screenings, and with 1 and 2 due to be re-released in special editions (1 will be uncut, and on Blu-ray!), I figured I would start with Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning and go in order up until Freddy vs Jason (ugh), then go back for the first 2 when they come out in a few weeks. Makes sense, no? No.
Anyway, V was one of the first ones I saw as a kid, so the whole “it’s not really Jason” thing didn’t really bug me all that much. I had only seen part 4, so as far as I could tell, maybe every movie had a different guy in the mask. I remember being more annoyed that Corey Feldman was only in the first scene, before being replaced by a mute guy who looked a lot older than 15. But otherwise, it offered boobs, lots of deaths (this one has the highest body count* of all the Friday the 13th** movies), a kid to “identify with”, more boobs, and what was one of my favorite kills in the series (and remained so for a while – the guy driving the motorcycle straight into Jason’s waiting machete). Being, what, 7? I didn’t really put more thought into my critiques of a movie.
Then when I watched them all again around 1998, I hated it. Other than VII (which I never liked and never WILL like), it was my least favorite. The reason was simple – it was a really lazy entry, often being exactly what ignorant critics would accuse the films of being. Nearly half of the body count stems from characters who were introduced literally moments before their death (the two punk kids, the waitress, Reggie’s brother and his girlfriend, etc), not to mention the inanely introduced drifter guy, who I guess we are supposed to think is a suspect but gets killed in his second scene.
On that note, I don’t even know why there would be a need for red herrings: A. we are never given any indication that it’s anyone BUT the real Jason doing the killings, and B. even if you knew the real Jason was dead and buried, why would you suspect anyone BUT Roy the ambulance driver, who is so obviously the killer it’s almost amazing that the guy went out of his way to put on a bald-head appliance to sell his Jason “look” (but yet donned a mask with some ridiculous blue stripes – worst mask in the series!***). Also – if they wanted it to be a mystery, why is the most likely suspect – Vic the psycho wood cutter – never spoken of again in the movie? And why doesn’t Roy kill him, the only one he should actually have a beef with???
And it didn’t help that the film was sandwiched between 2 of the series’ best entries (almost any fan would have Final Chapter and/or Jason Lives in the upper part of the requisite “best to worst” list****). Then again, like (fellow Paramount franchise) Star Trek, it seems that the even numbered films are always better than the odd numbered ones (and yes, I consider Takes Manhattan to be better than New Blood at least, but that’s another review), so I guess it shouldn’t be much of a surprise. I appreciated that they were trying to move beyond the summer camp setting by having it in a mental institute (Pinehurst, in an early incarnation before Father Petrelli took over), but after about 20 minutes that whole concept seems forgotten, since the doctor is gone and the “hospital” is still just another cabin in the woods.
So now, in 2008, how do I feel? I like it a lot more than I did last time, and I have the New Bev to thank. With Brian and Eric’ Grindhouse nights, and Phil’s increasingly prolific Saturday Midnight screenings, I have a much deeper appreciation for the attitude that this film has. In fact, I would rather watch this one at the Bev than even 2 or 6, which are superior films but wouldn’t be as fun to see with my 300 fellow Bev-pals. It almost feels like an exploitation film at times (not much of a surprise; director Danny Steinmann’s previous film was Savage Streets), something I enjoy much more now than I did 10 years ago. There’s a LOT of dialogue, character actions, and even entire scenes that seem lifted out of the type of schlock-y crap I laugh at on a bi-weekly basis down at the Bev: the horny hospital worker who sings an ode to cocaine, the waitress who shows herself her own tits for no reason, the drifter guy (who is under the employ of a pair of rednecks straight out of Mother’s Day)... they all seem teleported in from a Cameron Mitchell movie. Even Tommy, our alleged hero, is a mute jerk who isn’t satisfied with just punching a guy who pulls a prank on him. No, he picks the guy up and flips him over before pummeling him into oblivion, a move I suspect he learned at the Burbank Karate Club.
And the dialogue! Oh my. My favorite line in a movie, ever, has to be the head counselor’s solemn eulogy concerning Joey, who was viciously axed to death by a fellow patient a few hours before: “Look, I know how you all feel. This thing is not easy, for any of us. So let’s just have breakfast.” Then there’s the odd line at the end about Roy “keeping it a secret for all these years.” (which is about the closest we get to character development for the guy). And who can forget Miguel A. Nunez Jr’s lament over his excessive enchilada consumption?
That said, it’s still far from perfect. I don’t like any of the kids (the only time in the series where that was the case, there is usually at least one who I don’t want to see offed, but not here), and Tommy is just fucking annoying. Plus, the low budget seems to be a handicap for once; this movie has the most goofs and cheap-o film shortcuts of the entire series. Like at the end, when Reggie is driving the tractor: he has a hood on, but when they go to a longshot, the hood is covering his entire face in order to hide the real actor that was driving. And while some of the deaths are cool, none have any of the great prosthetic and appliance work of the previous films.
But the biggest half-assery is saved for the end, during the traditional hospital scene (which includes a super hot nurse – who is she?!?!?). The cop shows up with some newspaper clippings that Roy was carrying around with him, concerning Jason. Thanks to upscaled images and a much bigger TV than I had before, I noticed that the articles had absolutely nothing to do with Jason at all beyond the headline (it’s just vague jibberish). They obviously had to make the prop, but they couldn’t take 10 seconds to write “Mass murderer Jason Voorhees got half his goddamn head hacked off by a 10 year old boy who then went crazy; his mother is still missing” or something?
But in a way, that’s also part of the charm, and more of a reason to see it in a theater so it can be laughed and cheered at by a crowd of drunks such as myself. I don’t think more than 2-3 minutes ever goes by in the film without something else that would make me howl. And even if not, the body count is so high that you’re never more than 5 minutes away from another random death.
Like most of the movies on Paramount’s half-assed insult of a box set, there are no extras whatsoever for the film. While not as drastic as VII or VIII, the MPAA was obviously pretty harsh on this one at times, but none of that is restored, nor is there any sort of commentary or retrospective. Luckily, we have two books on the franchise, though Peter Bracke’s "Crystal Lake Memories" is the only one you need. The other, while cheaper, is biased and poorly researched, and each subsequent sequel gets less and less coverage; the chapters on the last four films combined take up less book space than the entry for the first film. Still, it would have been nice to have some sort of visual element for each film. Hopefully, the remake will be a hit (as long as it’s as good as it looks), and the re-releases of the first three films will sell enough to warrant re-issues of the other Paramount entries (the New Line ones are all special editions already).
What say you?
*Not counting all the anonymous folks who must have drowned in VIII when the boat sank.
**That would be parts I through VIII. The “Jason ____” movies, from New Line, all had high body counts to try to hide the fact that they fucking suck.
***Trivia – Jason was mostly played by Tom Morga in this film. He also played Myers in Halloween 4 for a great deal of the time, and the mask in THAT film is considered the worst in the series as well. Poor Morga.
**** As of this writing: 6, 4, 2, 1, 3, 5, 8, 7, X, Hell, FVJ. Might change after I revisit them all over the next couple weeks. Also, 3 is only better than 5 when viewed in 3D.