Monday, April 11, 2011

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

Man, I haven't reviewed a horror movie in's nice to be back in the saddle!  After the hilariously titled Final Chapter, where the Friday the 13th franchise was supposed to end and where they killed the hell out of Jason Voorhies' face, the movie production company behind the series waited one entire year before putting out Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning.  That sure was some finality to the last movie, eh?  But with Jason Voorhies very, very dead, where can the story go?

Just in case you're unfamiliar with my favorite horror movie series, Friday the 13th is the story of Jason Voorhies (more or less).  He's a super-strong psychopath that lives around Camp Crystal Lake; his turn-ons are hockey masks, impalings, and blunt force trauma.  His turn-offs are getting large blades stuck in his noggin.  As I mentioned before, he was definitively killed in the fourth installment of the franchise by young Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman).

Five years after the events of The Final Chapter, Tommy Jarvis (John Shepherd) is a pretty messed-up kid.  He has made the rounds through a variety of mental institutes until his good behavior lands him at Pinehurst, which is a more of a halfway house than anything else.  Tommy's sister, who survived the last film, is never mentioned, but he still makes cool latex masks, so he has that going for him, which is nice.  He also hallucinates seeing Jason, which is less pleasant.  At Pinehurst, Tommy's first day is spiced up by the resident fat kid getting axe murdered by another patient for being annoying.  You might think the community would think twice about letting known mental patients wander around in their neighborhood, but apparently axe murdering doesn't cause that big of a stir.  After the fat kid dies, other people start disappearing, too.  First, it's a couple of 50s-style greasers, then a drifter, then two teens after they have some sexy time, and then some cokeheads...and this is all before anyone knows that there might be a problem.  Eventually, somebody actually sees the killer --- he's huge, muscular, wears coveralls and a hockey's Jason Voorhies!  AIEE!  But...why don't we ever see Tommy and Jason in the same scene?  Hmm...

A New Beginning often gets a bum rap from casual Friday fans, and it's pretty understandable.  Now, if you actually want to watch the fifth installment of a slasher franchise and be "surprised" by the story, I'll get this out of the way...SPOILER ALERT.  FOR THE REST OF THE REVIEW.  This Friday is notorious for being the one where Jason Voorhies isn't actually in the movie.  The killer turns out to be somebody else who is trying to...I don't know...frame Jason?  Whatever, it's not important.  That little twist has gotten some well deserved ire over the years, but if you walk into the movie knowing the twist, this is actually a pretty fun movie.

The acting and directing aren't exactly good, but they serve their purpose well enough.  This was writer/director Danny Steinmann's fourth and final film, although that fact has nothing to do with this film's reception.  For further info on Steinmann, check out a rare interview he gave to a fellow blogger here.  As the creative force behind this movie, Steinmann was famously given strict guidelines for the movie.  He had to turn Tommy Jarvis into Jason, and somebody had to die every at least every eight minutes.  With that in mind, I think this movie turned out pretty well.  It's not Shakespeare, or even High School Musical, or even but it is well aware of its status as a shitty slasher film and strives to be the best shitty slasher film it can be.  The cast is not particularly talented, but you kind of know that coming in to this movie.  Let's not talk about the quality of acting, and instead point out the few actors that went on to star in other things you may or may not have seen.  Come on, it'll be fun!  Normally, having professional actors in a movie is a given, but this was a first film (or first major film) for most of the cast, and few of them ever had better roles.  Mark Venturini and Miguel A. Nunez, Jr. went on to co-star in the also hilariously bad (and kind of awesome) Return of the Living Dead, but you might recognize Nunez from his most famously bad role:
Juwanna know how bad the acting is?
You might even recognize the mother redneck character as Carol Locatell, who got beat up by Pam Grier in Coffy.  Little Reggie (Shavar Ross) went on to be Weasel in Family Matters.  The cream of the crop is definitely the guy who played the doctor at Pinehurst, Richard Young; you don't know his name, but he was the guy with the fedora in the opening scene of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  I would also like to point out one actress who didn't go on to fame and fortune.  Debi Sue Voorhies is the super busty chick that has an extended nude scene before dying by garden shears to the face; not only is her honest to God last name really Voorhies, but she is the nudest and bustiest actress in the history of Friday the 13th, which is no small feat.  Jason Voorhies may never have actually been in this movie, but it's reassuring to know that I was watching a Voorhies anyway.
...and they didn't think to bring her back for the whole "By a Voorhies he was born, by a Voorhies he must die" bit in Jason Goes to Hell?  What a missed opportunity.
I'm not going to lie to you and say that this was a great film by any means, because it has its share of lameness.  The ending where Tommy is apparently adopting the Jason persona is kind of lame.  The whole reveal of who was actually posing as Jason throughout the movie was far, far worse (how did he bulk up when he dressed as Jason?), but pairing these scenes back-to-back was pretty hard to swallow.  Many of the deaths are unimaginative stabbings, but there are a lot of death scenes, so I'll cut them some slack.  The characters in the movie are all equally awful stereotypes, ranging from the mentally handicapped to greasers to someone who clearly snorted MTV for breakfast every morning.  I don't understand the presence or the accent of the redneck characters, but it doesn't matter, as long as they die, right?  The opening scene where Tommy dreams about stopping people from digging up Jason's remains was kind of lame, but it was nice to see Corey Feldman (on loan from The Goonies at the time), even if it was a stupid scene.  I also didn't like that they explicitly state that Jason's remains were cremated after the events in the last film; it's never mentioned again in this or any other movie, but it's weird to see just how serious they were to not have Jason in this series any more.

If this movie is so bad, why am I being so nice to it?  Because it delivers like no other bad horror movie can.  This film has the highest body count of any Friday the 13th, with a whopping twenty-two on-screen deaths.  Not all of them were great, but we get treated to a rare non-Voorhies-related killing when the mentally retarded guy gets hacked to death.  Besides, the killer belt and garden shear combo was pretty sweet.  And don't forget that Juwanna Man died in an outhouse.  That was awesome.  This film also has quite a bit of nudity, as it should, given its genre.  Is it gratuitous?  Absolutely.  What more can you ask for?
Why does Japan get all the cool movie posters?

Now, how does this fit in with the Friday the 13th series as a whole?  Not too well, actually.  After this movie, they abandoned the whole "not Jason" theme and brought him back as a zombie-ish thing; the rest of the series ignores this movie entirely.  This is the first time we see "Jason" outside of the Crystal Lake area.  It's not much of a legacy, but it's a start.  This is the second Friday with Tommy Jarvis, but he is far less likable this time around.  This is also the third consecutive movie where they kill off a fat person in a funny way.  This movie also stands out for having two mentally handicapped characters murdered; I thought killing a wheelchair-bound teen was hard core, but this movie doesn't mess around.  Oh, and if you've been following my effort at dating when these movies are supposed to take place, then you should agree that this film, made in 1985, is set in 1991.  And let me tell you, if anyone on set was taking that date into consideration, they did a shockingly poor job of predicting 90's fashion.  Does anyone care?  Of course not, it's ridiculous to track these things, but it does amuse me so.

If you approach A New Beginning from the perspective of a Friday fanatic, you're going to hate this movie for the cheap twist and Jason-free story.  Of course, if you're a true fan, the kills and nudity should balance that out.  As a film in its own right, it's not very good; it knows that, though, and does a good job entertaining despite obvious flaws.  This is, quite possibly, the stupidest Friday the 13th ever made --- and I know how daring that claim is.
However, being good and being fun to watch aren't always the same thing.  I was shocked at how much I enjoyed this ultra-violent and silly take on the Voorhies legend.  It earns a Lefty Gold rating of:

1 comment:

  1. What makes the shittiness at the end even shittier is that we are kept in "suspense" by not seeing the killer for most of the movie. I think that aspect (only seeing an arm or even less) takes away from the kills as well and dilutes the movie further. If we end up seeing the Jason imposter in the final act, why hide him throughout the movie?

    And a major flaw in your review is not mentioning that this episode has a quote to rival #4's "Jesus goddamn Christmas," with the "Crap my ass," line.