The great horror tradition of declaring something final then realizing you can make more money if you keep making films!
A heck of a lot of machete action this week,
Friday The 13th Part III (1982, Steve Miner, United States Of America) ***
The moments that are clearly designed to be 3D are quite ridiculous and really stupid. There’s also a certain level of cheesiness to this film that I found off putting. I know, I know, it’s a Jason movie, it’s bound to be cheesy, but there was something different about the cheese in this one. The interesting thing about this entry is that Jason is in-between phases, he’s human and beginning to be seen as supernatural. This entry is still in love with the idea of Jason as a mentally damaged soul as well, and thus while he dons the historic hockey mask it has yet to gain the power it will in later films. But, this is an improvement over Friday The 13th Part 2, the characters are actually given some time so that when they die it feels like someone has been taken from the film and not like a random death has just occurred. A good entry in the franchise, but I could tell that the quandary of Jason as human versus supernatural was something the people behind the film never quite figured out how to handle.
Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter (1984, Joseph Zito, United States Of America) ****
Like Chris said above, this is a movie that can be rightfully seen as so bad it’s good. But, I don’t see it that way, not entirely at least. I think there is a clear B movie aesthetic at work here, and that is where the so bad it’s good vibe comes into play. This movie knows what it is and the audience it is targeting and it revels in that, throwing a lot of ridiculousness at the audience and knowing that they will eat it up because sometimes horror can be downright silly, and thus awesome.
However, there is something else at work in Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter, and that is the creation of a mythology. No longer is Jason human, he is full on supernatural now, and that shifts the focus of the film. The characters are bare bones and they are all certain types, but that’s all they need to be because the story of the film. The depth comes in who Jason kills and the order in which he kills them. He’s a killing machine now, it doesn’t matter who or what you are the entire world needs to die and he is the man to do it. There are different levels to all of this, and that is why some characters must die first and others can wait, and it’s awesome to watch the film build all of this up. Essentially this is a movie about a god, or a demon if that is better for you. Joseph Zito (what a movie for a guy who has never crossed my radar before or since) and company build him up, make him an unstoppable force and then allow him to be taken out, because all gods of classic mythology must meet their end at some point, it is the role of regular humans to rise up and take their place after all.
Yeah, yeah, I know, that’s an awful lot to take from a movie that is panned by most people, but I honestly believe every word of it. Every time I watch Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter I love it more and more. It really is the perfect blend of 80’s horror, slasher film and B movie. As much as I still like a lot of the franchise to come, it should have ended here, it was never going to get better, this is one of the best horror movies ever made.
Friday The 13th: A New Beginning (1985, Danny Steinmann, United States Of America) **
I remember not liking this when I first saw it and I still didn’t like it this time. In the series up until this point no matter what the killings have had a purpose, they have had some sort of reason. That’s not the case with this one, they try to hold it together with the awfully handled “paramedic’s child” angle, but the dude was killing people left and right who had nothing to do with that kid. It’s also very uninspired in the way it disposes of all the victims. I don’t dislike this film because Jason isn’t really in it, I dislike this film because it’s a badly made slasher film.
Jason Lives: Friday The 13th Part VI (1986, Tom McLoughlin, United States Of America) ***
This was really campy, but for the most part it worked. It was interesting to see the Tommy Jarvis story play out, but it was jarring to have the series jump so many years ahead while not actually jump ahead in time at all with the fact that the movie still clearly takes place in the 80s. But, like I said, it was campy fun. It was obvious what was going to happen, this movie had no meta layering to it, and it wasn’t what you would call good horror. But, it made its camp work for it and I had a blast seeing the full on supernatural Jason ripping peoples legs off and such.
Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988, John Carl Buechler, United States Of America) **1/2
First, Kane Hodder may not be in the best Jason films, but he is the best Jason. He’s the right kind of menacing, he really has the stalker gait down, and he just fits. At this point in the franchise Jason is so powerful and so beyond human that no doubt those involved felt the best way to proceed was to introduce an opposing force that could be just as powerful and just as out of this world. Problem with that is the character of Tina is really lame and a total Carrie rip off, and I don’t mean because of her powers but because of the way she acts. If her character and arc were not in this movie it would have been a good film. It calls back to the days of Friday The 13th Part 2 and Friday The 13th Part III, kids being carefree and paying the price for it. I still enjoyed this, but the well is clearly starting to dry up.
A lot of similar movies this week, for a very obvious reason. Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter is the best of the bunch and that’s why it takes home retro movie of the week honors. I’ll be back next week with five more retro capsule reviews!