Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

Happy Friday the 13th, everyone!  To celebrate, I decided to review one of my favorite bad movies of all time, Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan.  It doesn't take a bold person to claim that the seventh sequel of a low-budget horror movie is bad, but Jason Takes Manhattan is uniquely bad in a film series that is not particularly renowned for its high quality.  Needless to say, I have watched this movie at least thirty times, and am damned proud of it.

With a subtitle like Jason Takes Manhattan, you should know what's in store for you, as an audience: Jason Voorhies tearing it up in NYC spending a lot of time on a boat.  After the events of The New Blood, Jason Voorhies (Kane Hodder) was punished for killing the Weekend at Bernie's guy by having a rotting corpse psychically revived to drag him down to the bottom of Crystal Lake.  Really.  I'm guessing that a year goes by (which sets this 1989 film in 2003 by my math) before Jason is awakened by a boat anchor tearing open a hole in a power line (left conveniently uncovered at the bottom of the lake), after the anchor has dragged the power line into contact with Jason, of course.  Jason wakes up and is understandably cranky, so he kills a few naughty teens.
He then sails the boat (he can drive a boat?!?) back to the Crystal Lake marina (it has a marina?!?).  After that, he presumably jumps into the water and climbs up the anchor chain to sneak onto the Crystal Lake senior class's senior cruise ship.  Now, you may wonder why Jason bothered to sneak on board, since nobody could have stopped him walking up the gangplank.  My short answer is that Jason is quite a joker, but more on that later.  You may also wonder how a location that is known as a vacation/murder destination could get its own high school, but I have an answer for that, too: shh...!  The senior cruise sets sail to New York City.  Now you may wonder how Crystal Lake suddenly got a river attached to it, much less one that would connect it to New York; to you critics, I answer "the same way Crystal Lake suddenly became surrounded by mountains for the first time ever."  Now, Jason's only on the cruise for two reasons, to murder some asses and chew bubble gum --- but he's all out of gum!  The amazingly diverse class of Crystal Lake High (which includes a nerd, a rocker, some jocks, and a smart Asian(Kelly Hu))
Who happens to also be a mutant
is easy pickings for Mr. Voorhies, but Jason is just a little too efficient at ruining the ship.  He starts to flood the vessel, and five survivors and a dog make it to a life raft.  After a few minutes (or hours...or days...the movie doesn't really give any hints), the survivors manage to pass the Statue of Liberty into New York Harbor.  That's right, kids --- these survivors sailed into NYC from the East, which gives Crystal Lake the approximate location of here:
So then what happens?  Well, children, you'll have to watch to find out.  Spoiler Alert!  You get to see Jason's face, or at least what it would look like if it was sculpted in outdated yogurt.

What makes Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan bad enough to stand out from the crowd of bad Friday the 13th sequels?  For starters --- but just for starters --- the movie spends only a few scenes in New York City.  With a subtitle like this, you might expect to see Jason scaling the Empire State Building or dropping bodies in Yankee Stadium, but all you see of the Big Apple is the Statue of Liberty and a brief shot of Times Square.  That's it.  The rest is on the stupid cruise ship or filmed in Vancouver, which looks a lot more like Detroit than it does Manhattan.

Perhaps the stupidest (and thus, my most favorite) thing about this film is the fact that Jason reaches New York City and hunts down the Crystal Lake survivors.  Imagine that...a city full of sinners, especially with all the gang and drug activity in the late 80s, and Jason decides to spare the sewers of humanity in an effort to track down five people --- who have split up, mind you --- in the biggest city on the planet.
He doesn't even take a swing at these punks!

It is also worth noting that in Jason Takes Vancouver, we are given some of the least likable heroes in a series known for making you hate the heroes enough to root for the killer.  For starters, there is the charisma-free Suzi (Tiffany Paulsen), who is afraid of water, wears a "stylish" vest, and takes her dog with her on her senior cruise.
Above: Nancy Grace's inspiration
And she's the heroine!  There is a total bitch popular girl, some inoffensive middling students, and the two teachers chaperoning the trip.  The teachers are interesting; the lady (Barbara Bingham, who you might recognize from Cop Target...or more likely, not) is suspiciously close to the heroine --- she hugs and buys the girl presents --- and the other is the heroine's uncle/guardian Charles (Peter Mark Richman), who is as evil and wrong as often as he can possibly fit into this film's 100 minute running time.  So, we have a sexual predator and an asshole.  Great.  Charles not only refuses to believe in Jason (strike one), he repeatedly blames the creepy longshoreman for the murders with little to no proof (strike two), and he acts like a complete dick to the people who are rowing his sorry ass to safety (yer out!).  I expect to dislike most of the characters in a Friday the 13th movie, but this was ridiculous.  Never have I wished so hard for Jason to amuse me with his deadly talent than in this movie.

Luckily, Jason provides.  There are an impressive nineteen kills in this film.  My favorite kill in Jason Takes Vancouver has to be the boxing scene.  Not only does it have the unprecedented choice of a character trying to out-punch Jason without a weapon, even though he knew damn well that Jason is an unkillable zombie, but Jason takes the Rocky approach to boxing; he simply blocks his opponent's punches with his face until his enemy gets tired.  Then, Jason punches his head clean off. 
It's like Rocky vs. Apollo Creed, but prettier
There are some other sweet moments, like when Jason kills the rocker chick with her guitar or when he punches a sauna stone into a dude's chest, despite having just about every other way to kill that particular victim available.  There are a lot of kills, but many are pretty basic, unfortunately.

The movie isn't all bad, though.  For instance, this is the film where Kane Hodder famously (and I use that term loosely) refused to kick a dog, because Jason wouldn't do something like that.  Except for the time when he maybe did.
The true hero of Jason Takes Manhattan
This film also shows off some of Jason's talents.  Manhattan is the first film in which Jason can obviously and indisputably teleport.  Granted, nobody says anything along the lines of "Whoa, that goalie sure can teleport," but it's pretty obvious.  Take his murder of the rocker chick.
As hilarious as this kill is, it gets better when you slow it down and examine it.  Rocker chick is hanging out in a secluded area, rocking out with her guitar and a tape deck that is either A) letting her play guitar over a track that is (karaoke-like) free of guitar chords or B) playing the guitar for her, so she is simply performing an elaborate air guitar.  Jason being Jason, he shows up, looking for blood, at the top of the stairs above her.  Rocker chick freaks out, carefully sets her guitar down and turns off the tape deck.  She then runs downstairs, where she is met by Jason, who swings her guitar into her face, making sure she dies before she gets old.  That means that Jason teleported to grab the guitar and teleported again to get in front of her in time to swing the guitar like a baseball bat into her cranium.  There is no other explanation that doesn't involve circus-like acrobatics that are not shown on-screen.  Of course, there is also the kill where the victim starts climbing a ladder, the camera looks down at Jason on the ground, then back at the kid quickly ascending the ladder, and back at Jason on the ground, and then back to the kid quickly ascending the ladder and HOLY CRAP JASON JUST THREW HIM OFF THE LADDER!
Like this, but effective
It is also worth pointing out that this movie came out the same year as the truly awful Friday the 13th video game.
Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck yoooooooou dot dot
I can honestly say that I have stronger feelings about that game than about most international crises.  Which is sad, I'll admit, but's a wretched game.

I would also like to point out that the inept screenwriting, editing and direction of Rob Hedden kept him from directing another feature film for eighteen years.  I'm sure this film suffered some drastic budget cuts, since the Fridays had been losing steam for a while now, but this is a classic example of how not to make a movie look like it is a big budget film.  The acting is pitiable, the direction is nonexistent (if you want to be kind) and the editing makes little to no sense.  Is the heroine hallucinating, or does she have an unexplained psychic link to Jason?  Um...yes.  Do the Crystal Lakians manage to find the only police officer in New York who has a Canadian accent?  Of course.  Does Jason explode through every door he encounters?  Why not?  Friday the 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan is not a good film by any stretch of the imagination and is, in many ways, the low point in a series that never set the bar very high.  And yet I love all that this film does wrong.  Objectively, this movie definitely deserves a
 But how can you grade a movie like this objectively?  It brings me so much joy!  And it's kind of like grading the handicapped kid on the same scale that you would an astronaut.  This is one of my absolute favorite Lefty Gold movies, and it deserves my completely irrational rating of


  1. This movie gives so much to the viewer that one could write a 500-page book on it. One of my faves is the "cruise" ship. It was nice of them to unload whatever cargo that thing was hauling before they started shooting. But why even bother? They certainly did not put that much care in rest of the flick.

    This is absolutely one of the best funny-bad movies of all time.

  2. About the ship...I think my favorite part is the captain getting mad at his teenage son for not not being an awesome captain on his first try. Characterization!