JANUARY 23, 2009
It seems hard to believe (at least, to me) but I actually missed Jason X during its brief theatrical run in the spring of 2002. There were two reasons: One – I was broke, and two – I was working on my student film (which was why I was broke). And folks told me it kind of sucked, so even though I felt kind of sad about missing this nearly mythical film in theaters, I opted to wait until DVD. Sometimes I wonder if my opinion of the film would be different had I gone with a few friends on opening night, as I did for JGTH and Freddy Vs, both of which I liked in theaters only to get bored to tears when watching them at home.
The problem with this movie is that it’s just so damn lackluster. It was the longest wait ever for a Jason movie (and probably always will be – nine years?!?!), an entirely new setting, new technology to use... and Jason strangles or “breaks” like half of his victims (with another half dozen off screen). By my count, there are really only 3 exciting kills in the entire movie (cyro-face, sucked through the airtube, and guy being cut in half at the waist). The crew is really proud of the fact that this is the least MPAA-mangled film in the entire series, but watching it I had to wonder – what the fuck would the MPAA have a problem with? An explosion? Christ, Prom Night had more splatter. Even the air tube one is limited to a shot of some latex smeared on a metal grate.
And by now I don’t expect any real continuity, but Jason’s appearance is just unforgivable. We can see Kane Hodder’s very human face through the eyeholes, and his outfit doesn’t look right either. The mask is also pretty terrible; even the fake one in part 5 looked better. And while he may have lost his teleportation ability, he has seemingly gained incredible intelligence – he never once seems confused as to why there are virtual reality worlds around him, and he knows exactly how to handle cryogenics the moment he wakes up in the future.
There are also a great number of missed opportunities. The science guys at the beginning claim that they want to study Jason for his unique regenerative abilities, and then the future has this nano-technology that can regenerate damaged tissue almost instantly (one of Todd Farmer’s best ideas is to have this technology get used early on in a funny scene where the frozen Jason manages to cut a guy’s arm off – it foreshadows Jason’s using it later AND it’s pretty funny). Why not work in a line or scene where the future people discover that it was Jason himself that allowed this technology to get created in the first place? That would be awesome!
Also, they apparently didn’t learn from VIII that putting Jason on a ship is a bad idea, but why never give him a chance to do his thing before he is discovered? He wakes up at the 30 minute mark, and everyone is in “Jason is alive!” panic mode at 36 minutes. They go out of their way to introduce a bunch of teenagers for Jason to kill, but they never get to really do anything teenager-y before they are all running for their lives and such. And on that note – I assume we’re supposed to believe that Jason is re-awakened because he senses all of the sex going on, but Jim Isaac is too pedestrian a director to make this idea even clear, let alone as perversely hilarious as it should be. For a movie that’s supposed to be funny, a lot of the humor is totally botched.
I know I knock on Harry Manfredini a lot for recycling his scores, but this movie proves why he should do just that. He did an all new score for this one, and it’s fucking TERRIBLE. It sounds like DVD menu music, or something taken from a 99 cent “Sounds of Halloween” CD from the supermarket. And why he doesn’t reprise the main theme (at least not really, a brief clip of it is used during the “Virtual Crystal Lake” sequence) is beyond me.
But it does have its strong points as well. One is actress Melyssa Ade, for my money the cutest woman in the series since Amy Steel. Another is the body count - what the movie lacks in quality it makes up for in quantity; Jason kills like 25 individual people in this one, plus causes the death of hundreds more when he kills the ship’s pilot, which results in the ship plowing into a space city and blowing it up. Also, the character of Brodski is the badass opponent we’ve always wanted in one of these movies. Creighton Duke was cool, but Jason killed him like 2 seconds after they first squared off. Brodski survives like 3 certain death situations, plus is the one to actually kill him off at the end (as opposed to the Final Girl). I just wish Tony Todd had played him – the actor is fine, but he’s rather unknown, and it would have been cool to have a known badass play him. And it’s rather minor, but I love the guy who plans to buy Jason from the professor. He’s only in one scene, but there’s something slightly off about the guy that made me wish he was in the movie more.
The DVD has respectable extras, about the same as offered on the Hell disc. We get a commentary with Isaac, Farmer, and producer Noel Cunningham, in which Farmer seems to be the only one who was legitimately excited about making a Jason movie (he also alludes that the script was rewritten without him). There’s also a making of that is mostly about the special effects, and another sort of generic retrospective about the series as a whole (Paramount apparently refused to give them any clips though, so we get lame recreations). New Line also provided a handy “Jump to a death” feature, which is exactly what you think it is.
Oh well, for all its shortcomings, at the end of the day it’s at least fun. Once Jason wakes up there’s a kill every 3-4 minutes, and the cast seems more into it than the last few movies. And like 5, it’s one that benefits from a larger crowd (the most fun I ever had watching it was with 3 or 4 friends and some beer on a hot summer night). It just could have been a lot better given the resources (this is the biggest budgeted film in the series, and it sure as hell didn’t all go toward the CGI, which is often terrible), and it’s a bummer that the space setting barely even factors into Jason’s exploits. I was hoping for one of the better Jason movies, but it’s really on the lower end of the 11 entries. I’ve given up trying to put them in an exact order – but I would say 6, 4, and 2 are my favorites, 1, 5, 3, and 8 are the middle rungs, and 7, 9, and Vs are the weakest. X is either the best of that last group, or the worst of the middle one.
What say you?