One Last Night at Camp Blood: Jason X

And here we arrive at the final proper entry in the F13 series. I decided not to include Freddie VS Jason or the F13 remake because they weren’t direct sequels. For those interested however, I thought F VS J was a lot of fun with some great over the top gore, and the F13 remake was awful, and shit all over the original. And if nothing else, all the sequels have made me appreciate the original F13 all the more (Kevin Bacon’s penis aside).

I suppose there were better ways to end the franchise than launch Jason into space, but when you get to the tenth entry, good ideas are hard to come by. That said, Jason X is far more entertaining than it has any right to be. Please, don’t mistake entertaining for good, as that would be a mistake-but in comparison to Jason Goes to Hell, this is a Fellini quality film. After all, David Cronenberg makes a cameo in it, so that counts for something (to me anyway). And as I should have said from the very beginning of this series, These are my opinions only. If you like what I didn’t, that’s great! Movies are subjective and all I can do is give my reaction to them. Many times they seem contradictory, but that’s part of being human. Anyway, let’s lift off!

It’s 2008, and there’s two things that may surprise you. The U.S. Government has captured Jason and holding him in a dank, damp cellar, at a compound in Crystal Lake. Why there would be a government installation there is anyone’s guess, but David Cronenberg is the head of it, so it’s all cool. Scientist Rown wants tofreeze dry Jason, however Cronenberg and company have other plans to study him and adapt his cell regeneration if possible. When they enter the area Jason is kept, they discover Jason has gotten loose and killed the guard on duty. Pretty soon, everyone but Rowan is dead.

She leads him on a chase and eventually traps him in a cryofreezing unit. Before she can escape, Jason punctures the until and manages to stab her, so they’re both frozen like some Birdseye veggies.

Almost 450 years later 3 students and their professor are on an expedition to the Crystal Lake building. Despite the fact no one lives on earth any longer, it having become too polluted, they still do some excavation. They find Rowan and Jason, and are excited by the find. After they bring them back to their ship they begin the process of thawing out and reviving Rowan (Jason being a lost cause they surmise). She’s brought back using nanotechnology, and also has her wounds healed as well. Jason is left in the morgue where he’s about to undergo an autopsy.

This leads up to the first kill on the ship, and probably the best of them all. Mr. V comes to life and sticks the techs head in some cryo freeze unit until her entire head is frozen, and then wham! Smashed against the counter. How Jason knows what it is and what it does though, is anyone’s guess. Apparently he’s not as stupid as we assume (fair to say, Jason’s smarter than most of the screenwriters).

There’s a minor subplot about the professor not wanting Jason dead because he’d be worth a lot of money, and he needs that dough. A security team is sent out to neutralize him, and as it goes, they’re all killed save the leader who shows up later at a most convenient time.

 

The more Rowan warns about Jason’s danger the less people seem to listen and the more chances they take. Even as they’re picked off one by one, no one really listens to Rowan. In space no one sees you do stupid things. The Android with the ragtag bunch of survivors gets retrofitted with some kickass power and that’s exactly what she does, kicks Jason ass. Then she does what I’ve finally waited for someone to do in every sequel-shoot him in the legs. Cut them off, kneecap him, something to at least slow him down.

They leave the Jason chunks where they are, and somehow the nano bugs come and not only put Jason back together but make the parts of him missing, metal-so he’s indestructible. The uber Jason while a ridiculous concept looks bad ass, so it’s only natural he die in a bad ass way, hurtling towards the earth and burning up on entry, only for the remains to land by, you guessed it, Crystal Lake.

Look, I’m not going to pretend Jason X is anything great, as it’s not. In fact, it’s pretty ridiculous, however it has one thing going for it the previous two didn’t: truth in advertising. We barely saw any of Manhattan and none of Hell. 95% of the movie is actually in space. Side note, simply being able to get a job that allows you to go to space doesn’t mean you’re smart enough to not get killed. Jason has always been an equal opportunity killer. Jason X doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is, a goofy roller coaster ride that doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s a good looking film, with some-not all-better than average acting, and a self referential script. If anything, it reminds me of the straight to VHS scifi movies I saw in the 80’s.

Why do I like this and not Jason Goes to Hell? Because X respects the source material, while Hell really shit all over it. You can take a franchise in different directions without retconning it the way Hell did. Yes the whole government installation and Jason being captured is ridiculous, as is his being made into an uber predator; but I was able to buy that more than anything in the previous film.

Jason X gets 6.5 machetes from me. Half a machete taken away for sending him to space.

 

And there we go, all ten movies in the F13 series. I was surprised by some, disappointed by others, and found some scary. All in all it’s one of the more consistent franchises of horror. Nothing ever came close to the first movie in terms of scares or surprise, though I think 2 came the closest. I also think it’s the one series that gets the least respect. Sure everyone loves Jason-the character, but the movies still have a less than positive reputation. Even 37 years after the original they get no respect. And maybe, just maybe, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Three Long Nights at Camp Blood: Friday the 13th Jason Takes Manhattan.

Let me just get this out in the open right now. I really enjoyed Jason Takes Manhattan. I didn’t mean to, had planned on hating it, but damn if there isn’t something about it that I like. When folks talk about the least favorite F13 movie Manhattan usually tops the list, however I think it deserves a reevaluation, as there’s some really good stuff in there (as well as bad, which I’ll address). Kane Hodder returns as Jason, and dare I say it, he looks like he’s having a lot of fun this time around.  I admit when I first heard they were making this movie, I rolled my eyes and assumed they were really scraping the bottom of the barrel. Perhaps they were, and to many, they’d see it that way, but as I watched it again, it was like seeing a whole new film.

The movie opens with a voice over with shots of NYC in the background. All of those scenes are a foreshadowing of things to come and people we’ll see again, if not for very long. After the credits we then see two teens screwing around on a houseboat on Crystal Lake. It’s a stormy night (of course!), and when Jim drops the anchor, it gets wedged against underwater cables which break, and the electricity from them brings Jason back to life. Again. This time however he’s pretty waterlogged and squishy looking, but as strong as ever. So here we have the first two kills in the first 10 minutes of the movie, a good setup for the rest to come. There’s nearly 2 dozen kills in this one, and while some are done offscreen, many are pretty memorable.

Anyway, we then see a group of twenty something high school graduates boarding a yacht bound for NYC (When I say twenty something, I mean age, not the amount of teens). The logistics of this trip are probably best not thought about, just assume it was possible, and leave it at that. It’s probably one of the smallest graduating classes I’ve ever seen. Regardless all the typical stereotypes are represented, including this year’s addition, Rocker Chick. Of course Jason sneaks aboard, I mean what would a cruise be without a machete wielding maniac?

We also get to meet the main players: there’s Rennie the femme fatale, Sean who plays her wannabe boyfriend, Rennie’s asshole Uncle Charles who also happens to be a teacher and chaperone, and finally we have Mrs. Van Deusen another teacher, who I’m sure was called Van Douchen many times behind her back. Oh and there’s the geek with the video camera, but he’s not all that interesting to talk about, so I won’t. And almost forgot, we have the stuck up bitch as well, a definite holdover from the last movie.

Jason wastes no time in getting to work, and the first victim on the ship is Rocker Chick who is bludgeoned with her own guitar. To be honest, I can’t blame Jason for this one, her music was awful. His next victim is also one of my all time favorite kills in the entire series, not because it was especially graphic or unusual, it was just such a wtf moment. After some boxing workouts , one of the fighters hoes into the steam room and puts a towel over his face, as you do in these situations. Jason pops in, takes one of the hot rocks and jams it into the guy’s stomach giving him the first jeweled navel. I’m not sure what it is about this kill, but I love it.

There’s a subplot of sorts with Rennie having either visions or hallucinations of Jason being drowned as a child. It’s later revealed that her asshole Uncle had tried to teach her to swim by throwing her into the lake, where Jason tried to drag her down with him. Poor Jason, never much of a ladies man, was he? I only mention it now, because I’ll more than likely forget about it later on. The thing is, when we see Jason for the first time as a kid, he looks perfectly normal. As the movie progresses we see him get more and more deformed. I’m not sure what the reason for that is; maybe being under the water did that? Who knows-it’s one of the many mysteries this movie offers with no real answer.

The next mystery is how exactly did Jason get to NYC. After killing everyone but the four main characters plus the token black guy, the yacht had been pretty much destroyed by fire. The heroes (for lack of a better word), end up rowing a life raft all the way to the Statue of Liberty. They get off the small dinghy, and we then see Jason rise from the water and crawl up onto the dock. Again, it’s one of those try not to think about it too much things.

Rennie no sooner on the dock than she gets kidnapped by a couple of goons who inject her with Heroin and planning on a little rape action later on. Pissed they were cutting in on his action, Jason kills them both, allowing her to escape, no worse the wear from the drug she was shot up with. Apparently no one has ever taken heroin before, let alone shot up (the way we see one of the thugs doing it is laughable), because she would pretty much be on the nod for awhile. Regardless she catches up with her Uncle, her bf and other teacher. Julius is killed by Jason with one punch to the head, literally knocking it off. We then see it fly off the roof they were on, and land in a garbage bin.

The culmination of all this mayhem lies in the sewers, where toxic waste runs through every night. Now why the puddles of it and the chemical smell doesn’t do anything to them, is yet another mystery. However, Jason is caught in a flood of the stuff, and when it runs its course, we see Jason, not as the disfigured man, but the normal child-as if he’d been stuck in a shell and was now free. Yeah, you guessed it, that’s yet another mystery.

Jason takes Manhattan tries to play it straight for the most part, certainly more than some of the others. If the canon gets a little twisted, and things don’t make a lot of sense, it doesn’t matter because it’s a lot of fun. It’s one of the longest of the F13 movies, but it moves at a fast pace. It also looks fantastic, belying the small budget they had. As the writer and director, Rob Heddon did a good job, and it’s just sad the movie didn’t get the credit it deserves. It’s certainly the most underrated.

I give Friday the 13th Part VII: Jason Takes Manhattan 6.5 machetes.

10 Long Nights at Camp Blood: Friday the 13th

It’s a movie that one of its stars called, “a piece of shit”. Gene Siskel loathed it so much he referred to the director, Sean Cunningham as “one of the most despicable creatures ever to infest the movie business.”  The late Chicago critic even went so far as to publish the address of the chairman of the board for Gulf+Western, which owned Paramount at the time, to express contempt for the movie. It also of course sparked one of the most notorious episodes of Siskel and Ebert’s Sneak Previews. In fact, if you can bare the pomposity, they do have some interesting points to make, and offer some food for thought.

            The brunt of their wrath was aimed at this year’s franchise review, Friday the 13th. I find it odd as the hero of the movie is a woman, and manages to kill the murderer, though the same can’t be said I suppose, for the other victims in the movie. Still, compared to what’s come afterwards, including many of the F13 sequels, the original seem very tame by today’s standards. Aside from the violence, the most gratuitous thing in the movie is Kevin Bacon’s schlong bouncing around in a Speedo.

The Snake Plisken award goes to…

            Much has been written about the history of this particular franchise, so there won’t be a lot of that mentioned. I’m simply going to talk about the movies, how much I enjoyed them (or didn’t), and make snarky comments along the way. Having said that, I will mention that F13 was a direct result of the success of Carpenter’s Halloween (a better made movie perhaps, but a much slower pace). Sean Cunningham had previously worked with Wes Craven on the classic Last House on the Left, so if anyone was made to make a Halloween knock off, it was Cunningham.

            Friday the 13th starts off in 1958 at Camp Crystal Lake. The counselors are sitting by the fireplace singing songs (as teens are wont to do), and before you can say Tom Dooley, a couple sneak off for some good old fashioned 1950’s nookie. The duo find a secluded spot, only to have a case of coitus interruptus as both are slashed to death (talk about a boner killer).  We then flash forward 20 years and see groups of teens in their early to mid twenties making their way to the camp.

Camp food really does give you pains.

            We’re introduced to Annie as she backpacks her way to the camp. As she stops in town for directions, and eventually a lift from a truck driver, she’s accosted by Ralph, the town crazy, who tells her the camp has a “death curse”. Even the trucker who gives her a lift part way tells her it’s not a good idea and to stay away. Annie has other plans, and when she’s dropped off at a crossroads, she’s picked up by another driver who is unseen. After the turn off to the camp is passed, Annie starts screaming to be let out, and ultimately jumps from the moving jeep where she’s pursued by the driver, and then has her throat cut. Always listen to the town lunatic!

Harvey, is that you?

            Another group, including Kevin Bacon and his penis, arrive at Crystal Lake and are immediately put to work by the owner, Steve. We know Steve is in charge because he’s the only one sporting a porn ‘stache. Being that he’s in charge, he leaves the other counselors to ignore his orders while he goes into town to get supplies. He says he’ll be back after lunch, but…well, we’ll get to him after a bit.

They don’t call it a pussy tickler for nothin’ y’know!

            Once Steve leaves they all strip to their swimming gear and take a dive into the lake, where Kevin Bacon’s penis seems to be having a lot more fun than anyone else. All throughout the movie, including this scene, there are camera shots that look as if they could be someone watching. Indeed, that is the case much of the time, but Cunningham mixes up the shots to such a degree that you never quite know if it’s the killer’s POV or not. It creates an uneasy atmosphere, and one of the reasons why the film works so well, when others do not.

I Saw What You Did Last Summer

            A thunderstorm approaches, and we have our first kill of the counselors, which surprisingly, takes place off screen. Ned, the jokester of the group goes wandering off into a cabin after he thinks he sees something, never to take a breath again. Kevin Bacon and his girlfriend (I could look up their names, but it doesn’t matter they won’t be around long), sneak off for some god old fashioned 1970’s nookie, with Ned’s corpse in the top bunk. Sadly it’s here we say goodbye to Bacon and his penis, as he gets an arrow through the throat.

When deep throating goes awry.

            Rather than go through all the kills, we know everyone dies, including Steve who doesn’t manage to make his way back to camp until after dinner! No one likes a liar Steve. The only counselor left is Alice and she does an admirable job facing off against the villain, who it turns out is the mother of the child who drowned there 20 years earlier. I know! I was just as shocked as anyone else!  This also makes me take what Siskel and Ebert said about F13, with a grain of salt as it not only had a female hero, it had a female villain (in a bit of a twist on the Norman Bates character).

A boy’s best friend is his mother…huh, dejavu.

            With all of the movies that have come out since F13’s release in 1980, it’s easy to forget, as I had, that the end was mostly a fist fight. It seems rather antiquated now, but I was surprised because I had forgotten that. And then we have the now classic ending, which Tom Savini suggested, and was directly inspired by the ending of Carrie. That’s right it’s when Jason jumps out of the lake and grabs Alice, thereby giving Ari Lehman a lifetime job at comic conventions. Never has 5 seconds of screen time produced so much. I’d always thought they should have left it there, but we then see Alice in the hospital and she’s told there was no boy that they found. We then cut to the lake and see Jason’s fart bubbles rippling to the surface.

Alright, who farted?

            I was 15 when this came out, and while I loved horror movies, I wasn’t that enthused about the graphic violence I heard people talk about. However, when I finally saw it a few years later on VHS, I was rather amazed by the effects. Watching it now, I’m really rather surprised at how it holds up. There’s a timeless quality about it, which makes it seem as if it could have happened just last week. Cunningham did a great job with the direction, and even if I don’t like jump scares, that’s exactly what these movies are for. Light on atmosphere, heavy on the scares no matter how they’re gotten.

C’mon, you promised me a handy! You always say you have q splitting headache!

            There are also some beautiful shots as well, and a couple I plan on making the background on my laptop. The effects, with the exception of Bacon’s kill, which looks even more fake in higher definition, are Savini doing what he does best. The acting is nothing to write home about, and the dialogue isn’t going to remind anyone of David Mamet (“How do you call a snake?”), but they all work together and make for a fun, scary ride.

It has a death curse! Like my breath!

            If Halloween paved the way for F13, then this franchise really opened the floodgates for the slasher genre, and unfairly or not, will be remembered as the juggernaut of all slasher movies.

Two out of three falls, what do you say?

            Friday the 13th gets 8/10 machetes from me.