It turned out that Friday the 13th Part 5 A New Beginning didn’t even have (SPOLIER) the deranged/boring killer Jason Voorhees in it all but some copy cat lunatic in a different Hockey mask. So the audience did what anyone would do when you expect to see the star of a show only to find that he’d been replaced by an amateur. They stayed at home. The franchise producers realising that not only had they made a huge mistake by not having Jason but that they’d made an incredibly dull film too. Things had to be fixed and there was only two ways to do it. Firstly, Jason HAD to live, and secondly, they made a comedy.
Part 5 ended with poor mentally damaged Tommy becoming the new Jason ( The New Beginning I presume) for no reason anyone could think of. Part 6 ignores this ending but repeats the beginning of Part 5 instead, with Jason being dug up from his grave again. However this time it is Tommy and a mate doing the digging to prove that Jason really is dead. This turns out to be a mistake, especially for the mate, as due to a series of errors on Tommy’s part, mostly digging up Jason in the first place, the killer is struck by a bolt of lightening and before you can say Frankenstein’s monster old Voorhees is holding the mate’s heart in his hand and stomping off into the night.
It’s now that we realise this film is a comedy as the camera zooms into Jason’s eye and we see him walking across the screen and throw a knife at the camera. Blood pours down over the shot like the beginning of a James Bond movie and we are into the titles. I quite liked that. It’s a pity they didn’t keep that up for the rest of the series but apparently behind the scenes tensions between the director, Tom McLoughlin who wanted to have a bit of a laugh, and the producers, who wanted to do the same old dreary shit, resulted in something which only partially works.
The first thing that you will notice about Part 6 is that it is a much better looking film than the last few instalments, actually better than all of them. There’s some great use of lighting and smoke to create a pretty EC Comics feel to it, as well as some strong imagery of Jason in various poses (that makes him sound like an Action Man figure which in a weird way I suppose he is). For example, there’s a lovely shot of Jason standing atop a flipped over RV, smoke and fire rising up behind him like he’s climbed out of hell itself. Also the film moves at a cracking pace with lots of dynamic car chases and explosions and other general stuff to disguise the the fact that this is the same old nonsense with very little story to hold it up.
This is because once Jason is up and running there is very little for him to do besides wander about looking for unsuspecting teenagers to kill. McLoughlin at least tries to be inventive here, even if he is hampered by, I presume a very tough Motion Picture Association of America who didn’t want gore in their horror films at the time. A sherif getting snapped in half backwards is probably the highlight, but there’s also fun to be had as a chap is thrown face first into a tree that has a smiley face carved into it. As the victim drops to the floor we just see the smiley face, now covered in blood. Also Jason is still holding the poor guy’s arm that was torn off when he was thrown. Jason looks down at it and this is probably the only time in his life that Jason has gotten a laugh. He’s not known for his sense of humour.
The actors seem to be of a better quality than previous entries, well you couldn’t get any worse than the last one, even if they’re acting isn’t up to much. It’s like they’re all slumming it just for the paycheck or something, who knows? Thom Mathews is now playing Tommy. He was having a bit of a horror run after doing two Return of the living Deads and then this. He’s alright here but isn’t given much to do other than running around for an hour and a half telling everyone they are all doomed before coming up with some crackpot idea as to how to kill Jason once and for all. Yeah, right.
The script does have some good one liners in it for a change which are almost knowing in a pre- Scream type fashion. One guy on seeing Jason stomping towards him declares “I’ve seen enough horror movies to know that no one good wears a mask”. Someone else points out what the audience are probably thinking: “if this is as exciting as it gets we’re in big trouble.” Later on when all the camp’s children look like they’re up for the chop one boy says to another “what were you gonna be when you grew up?”
There is also has some terrible dialogue too: An old man moans “does he think I’m some kind of fart head?” which continues the tradition in Friday the 13th movies of bad language that no one would say in real life.
And apart from the exceptions above the comedy isn’t actually very funny. I’m not sure if it was meant to be goofy or just endearing but watching a girl trying to balance her a chair on its rear two legs isn’t very exciting filmmaking.
However it is clear that Tom McLoughlin has made an effort to make as good as film as possible under the circumstances. He packs it with detail like the not very original idea of naming people and things after horror icons: there’s a place near Crystal Lake called Carpenter Town, a shop called Karloff’s Car Maintenance. But there is also lots of dreadful 80’s heavy metal. What was it with people thinking that hard rock and horror worked so well together? I can see that the horror look is there in bands but heavy metal music playing during a horror movie doesn’t add tension or fear to a scene. In fact I would have thought the only people who would find anything frightening in metal would be a bunch of middle aged, middle America conservatives, like the producers of the Friday the 13th films… oh. It makes sense now.
Despite all the energy and humour the film isn’t able to sustain its interesting dynamic til the end. The climax is slow and boring on a boat involving Tommy trying to put a chain around Jason’s neck for ten minutes. Still, it is better than most of the sequels which isn’t saying much. But at least on the positive side Jason Lives!