Sequels aren’t the same as they used to be. Nowadays the story has to change and expand, with greater threats to challenge the characters, like the superhero movies do at the moment. Either that or the sequels act like chapters of a greater story (even if they’re not always sure where they are going like the Saw franchise). Back in the 80s when there were Halloweens, Child’s Plays and Nightmares everywhere, all sequels needed to do was repeat what had happened before with maybe a slight twist on the formula. They weren’t trying to be bigger and better, just more of the same. Producers theorised, sadly correctly, that “the kids” would show up year after year just to see Freddy or Jason kill a bunch of similar, but hotter (or goofier) kids, preferably with their tits out.
But sequels were also about the law of finishing returns. Nowadays when Saw or Batman Begins does well at the box office their respective sequels do even better. When the Friday the 13th films came out, with a few exceptions, they made less and less money as time went on. I’d like to say they became more creatively bankrupt to but you know these films: they weren’t exactly high art in the first place.
And that is important to remember. You have to see the Friday films in the context of when they were released. When each of the sequels were made they were not designed to be analysed thirty years later by some guy in a Soho basement, but to be shared and yelled at in a cinema full of American teenagers. The one dimensional characters were there to be hollered or ogled at, and people cheered when Jason dispatched them. The films were the cinematic equivalent of a ghost train at a fair, a piece of entertainment designed to thrill the audience, then be forgotten about once they have left the foyer.
But then that is not how cinema works. As my dad is fond of telling me, film is like a time capsule, capturing these actors and creatives in a moment from the past, available for us to see forever.
So as I review these Friday the 13th films I have mixed feelings about them. On the one hand I am maybe a bit harsh on something that was designed as throwaway trash but on the other hand, the makers knew what they were doing (although that’s not always that apparent) so they should at least try to make something half decent. That’s what makes some of the entries so abhorrent: a lack of effort is a terrible waste of time and an insult to their intended audience. Even trash can be good trash, as long as some one is trying.
Friday the 13th Part 7 shows that someone WAS trying, at least for part of the movie. In possibly an acknowledgment that they really couldn’t just do the same film over and over again, this time there is a girl with telekinetic powers who revives and must do battle with Mr Voorhees. Yes its Carrie Vs Jason and why not? I’ve heard of worse ideas, like sending Jason to Manhattan, or space, but those are discussions for another time.
The opening scene sees the young Carrie, I mean Tina, overhearing her parents arguing in their holiday cabin (next to Camp Crystal Lake of all places) and being furious with her father (“You hit mom… again!”). She runs off and tries to row away in a small boat. Of course being about five this seems like a foolish idea and her wife-beating father comes out to stop the little brat from drowning. However she’s so angry that it’s him who ends up at the bottom of the lake after she telekenises the shit out of the jetty he’s standing on. This opening suggests two things about how the franchise is going. One, that they are continuing with the better production values that they started in Part 6 and two, that the good child actors are a thing of the past.
Anyway, things jump on a few years and the now grown up and better acting Tina (Lar Park-Lincoln) comes back to the the cabin with her mom and a creepy psychologist. He thinks he can cure her of her guilt and telekinesis by shouting at her a lot whilst exploiting her vulnerable position for the sake of science and his massive ego. Terry Kiser really goes for it as this massive tosser throughout the film, culminating in (SPOILER) him holding Tina’s mum as a human shield so she gets spiked by Jason instead of himself. It’s okay though, moments later Jason cuts him open with a really long circular saw. Obviously after this role Hollywood came knocking at Kiser’s door, he went on to star as the corpse Bernie in the two Weekend at Bernie’s films.
Tina, who is basically being psychologically bullied by this dick, runs screaming back to Crystal Lake and tries to bring her dad back from the bottom of the sea, instead she unleashes Jason instead who, as is his want, goes on the usual killing spree. It seems bizarre that no one would have fished her dad’s corpse out of the lake after 15 years or so but I suppose they’re just used to bodies stacking up round these here parts.
All this side of the plot is okay, borderline interesting, however every time the film threatens to be okay we cut to a bunch of teens, staying in the cabin next door, getting it on to cheap to use rock music. This bunch are an even more tedious gang than normal. There’s the hunky guy who likes Tina, a sci fi nerd who wants to create his own space opera film franchise although has no decent ideas at all (“Star Mummy” is the best he can come up with) and a rich bitch type who wears far too many pastel colours. This posh girl is mostly preoccupied with the pearl necklace her dad gave her. Let’s just move on shall we?
This dull bunch do get down to a fair amount of sex, three couples go for it at the same time. Obviously they are all doomed. Posh girl starts to make out with the desperately grateful nerd to make hunk man jealous which she fails miserably to do. Once she realises hunk man (they have names but who cares) isn’t falling for her wily ways she rejects the nerd. Then this exchange happens:
Jane: Eddie, where are you going?
Eddie: To take a cold shower. I got a date with a soap on a rope.
Now what the hell does that even mean? Okay, as he’s having no sex with daddy-loving Jane, of course virginal Eddie will need to have a cold shower or a wank to get over his frustration but what is he doing with the soap? Is he going to use it for lubrication purposes? If so why does he need the shower to be cold? If not then where does the soap go? It’s so weird. Maybe I’m over analyising the dialogue here. I’m definately putting more thought into it than the writers did.
This is some of the most boring teenage interaction ever committed to film, apart from the pearl necklace stuff obviously. At the same time Jason himself seems bigger and more imposing this time round, and a couple of points almost, you know, scarey. I looked it up, this is the first time Kane Hodder played Jason and he brings a real physicality to the role. His huge frame towers over his victims and he stomps about the forest with a grim determination previously unseen in a mentally handicapped zombie. That strength of his is used to good affect as he crushes skulls and, a particular highlight, drags a female camper out of a tent and bashes her to death against a tree, sleeping bag and all.
It reminds me, strangely, of Attack of the Clones. There, the action and adventure was noticably upped, however the romance plot was SO bad that you still ended up hating the thing. In Friday the 13th Part 7 The New Blood they have improved the story (well, actually HAD a story) and made Jason better (he spends a good chunk of the film without his mask and looks pretty cool… well, cool to the teenage me). However the main stuff, the usual teen-with-tits-in-peril stuff is sooo boring that its not that easy to get through the thing. There’s a very tedious “is some one there? Oh, its the cat” scene which goes on forever, and I don’t remember a cat being introduced earlier in the film. Even the Carrie stuff is a little dull at points.
On the positive side the film is almost the reverse of Part 6. Whereas that was pretty good until the boring ending, this is pretty boring until the exciting climax. Maybe they should have just dumped the teenagers altogether and just got on with Tina throwing kitchen cutlery at Jason with her mind for an hour and a half. There is a moment where Tina sends a plant pot with a head in it at old hockey face. More of that would have been perfect.
After the return to form of Part 6, or maybe it was just an arrival at form, The New Blood maybe foresaw future sequel trends and tried to do something a bit more interesting. Its almost successful too, but the important thing they tried to do something… anything to liven this fucker up a bit.
Next would come Jason Takes Manhattan where the effort seemed to start and end with the title.