Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives

As you might have noticed from my other reviews, I am a pretty big fan of the Friday the 13th series, despite logic and good taste (typically) being on my side. Now, the last Friday didn't actually feature Jason Voorhies as the film's killer; instead, it was some random joe and it was implied that Tommy (who, played by Corey Feldman in Part IV, killed Jason as a tween) became a killer at the end of the movie.  Fast forward a bit and you arrive in the future when this movie takes place (by my math, I'd say that this 1986 movie takes place in roughly 1992, judging on Tommy's approximate age).

Tommy (Thom Matthews) is still a head case, but he and a friend escape their psych ward or whatever and head to Jason's grave.  The plan is to dig up Jason's corpse and burn it, because "Jason belongs in Hell.  [Tommy's] going to make sure he gets there."  Keep in mind that Jason has been dead and buried for at least five years at this point.  And that's another thing...who the hell buried Jason freaking Voorhies in a cemetery with a marked grave?  Certainly not his mother, and I'm pretty sure the state would have cremated his poor ass.  I guess Crystal Lake has a mysterious benefactor who wanted to preserve the memories of senseless slaughter.  Anyway, Tommy digs up the grave and finds the worm-eaten corpse; he must have been wearing coveralls in between scenes, because he's pretty clean when it comes time to kill Jason's corpse deader.  How is he going to re-kill Jason?  With a metal spike that he tore from the cemetery fence, of course.  He dug up a corpse and apparently planned on using whatever tools he had on hand to send the damn thing to hell.  Again.  Well, as he was digging, a lightning storm started.  No rain, just lightning.  Tommy stabs Jason and the metal spike is hit not once, but twice in a row by lightning, which causes Jason to open his eyes, regenerate his body tissue, and punch the heart out of Tommy's friend before Tommy escapes to safety.  Thank goodness Tommy brought Jason's mask with him; Jason reborn now has moderately not disgusting clothes and his favorite hockey mask.
Jason was buried wearing his very best...jumpsuit?
Maybe you can guess where the film goes from here.  Maybe not.  Tommy runs to town (where Crystal Lake has changed its name to "Forest Green") and goes to the police.  Shockingly, they don't believe a mental patient who claims that someone who has been dead for years has come back to life and is murdering people.  Stupid cops.  They lock Tommy up and, sure enough, Jason lumbers back to town and starts with the murderdeathkills.  The big difference in this movie is that Jason seems drawn to the lake where he drowned as a boy, and the camp by the lake actually has children in it this time.  Who will save the children?!?

I would like to take a moment and point out that Jason wanted to return to the lake where he drowned as a boy.  Granted, this is the first film with Super Zombie Jason, a being that is obviously superhuman and basically death-proof, but...isn't the whole point of Friday the 13th Part II that Jason didn't drown in the lake?  He was living as a hobo with a bag over his head for all those years, which explains how a dead child could turn into a killer linebacker.  Am I nitpicking?  Absolutely.  Do I really care about the continuity in this series?  Absolutely not.
It's hard to tell whether Alice or Jason isn't worthy here.
Let's take a moment to look at the cast in this movie.  It's not the strongest in the series.  You might recognize Thom Mathews as yet another Friday alum who went on to co-star in Return of the Living Dead.  Seriously, that movie is like the Kevin Bacon of this series, which is odd when you consider that Kevin Bacon was in the first movie.  One of the ill-fated paintballers went on to have a supporting role in the Heroes television series.  Ron Palillo, who played Horshack on Welcome Back, Kotter, had a small part.  Probably the most successful actor in this film is Tony Goldwyn, at least in part because IMDb doesn't list this movie in his "Known For" credits.  Despite the lack of A, B, or even C-list talent, the acting in Jason Lives isn't as awful as you might think.  Well, okay, it's pretty bad.  But it's the right amount of bad.  Director Tom McLoughlin apparently knew that this was a pretty ridiculous movie, so he directed it as such.  No, the acting and directing aren't very good, but they're not half bad for a movie that is obviously at odds with both logic and the film series it is continuing.
"Huh.  That's never happened before."
Jason Lives is all too ready to give up on being a scary movie, but it is still pretty entertaining.  One of the reasons for this is some intentional humor.  The opening credits spoof James Bond with Jason walking across the screen, framed by a hockey mask eye hole, only to stop and slash at the camera.  That's kind of funny.  A lot of the kills are pretty humorous, too.  One victim gets his head smashed into a tree, leaving a bloody smiley face behind.  At another point, Jason cuts off three heads with one machete swing.  One victim even tries to avoid Jason entirely because she has supposedly seen enough horror movies to know not to mess with dudes in masks.  This movie also shows off the playful side of Jason; he likes to hide and surprise some victims, and takes a certain amount of pride in (sometimes) arranging his victims in unusual ways.

Obviously, being the sixth entry in a horror franchise, the movie is not without its flaws.  Remember Part V?   You know, the one where Tommy was going to assume the killer role in the series?  Yeah, it turns out that nobody liked that idea, so the filmmakers kind of just pretend that movie never happened.  There is nothing but awful logic and reasoning used by the characters throughout the film, and I'm pretty sure that Jason's resurrection is medically unlikely.  Despite a decent number of kills (sixteen) and victims that were uniformly annoying, this Friday manages to skimp on one of the series' staples: gratuitous nudity.  If you're willing to overlook the stupidity of the characters and the story, this is a reasonably entertaining cheap slasher film, but if things like "plot" and "continuity" bother you...this one is a headache.

When you look at this film as part of the series, it stands out for a few important reasons.  It is the final installment of the "Tommy Trilogy," so the next film doesn't have the baggage of explaining how a character keeps not dying in this franchise.  It is also the first appearance of Super Zombie Jason.  No longer a mere unstoppable mortal killer, this Jason is impervious to bullets and can take an outboard motor to the face with few consequences.  This is also the first movie that made a big deal about returning Jason to Crystal Lake, a theme that would pop up in at least one other movie.  Perhaps the most important element this movie adds to the series is a sense of humor.  The Friday the 13th series became a typical slasher series almost immediately and, as such, was never really that scary after the first couple.  While this isn't a hilarious movie, it does have humor and the humor adds to the overall film.  Some of my favorite moments in later Fridays involve humor (the sleeping bag scene from Jason X stands out in my memory), and this is the movie that made it okay to laugh with (as well as at) these movies.  While it certainly isn't a great film, I thought it was pretty enjoyable.

Here is Alice Cooper's mind-bogglingly cheesy video for "He's Back (The Man Behind the Mask)," which served as the theme song to this movie. I think my favorite part of the movie is the squares shaking their hands, as if to say, "No thank you, Mr. Cooper, I have been hard-rock-synthesizered enough for one night."


  1. Man, that Neil Diamond song is terrible. (That was Neil Diamond, right?)

  2. I'm pretty sure that Alice's idea for the song was to make the scariest thing he could think of, and it was a blend of Neil Diamond and the classic ch-ch-ch ah-ah-ah sound effect.