Saturday, October 13, 2012

Jason X

31 Days of Horror, post 11
Saturday the 13th isn't quite as good as Friday the 13th, but this was the most appropriate day I could fit in a Friday the 13th movie review (P.S.: it's my final one!  I've got a complete set now!).  On the surface, the notion of Jason Voorhies in space sounds like a desperate gambit, destined for failure.  And it is.  The only reason this movie ever happened was because Freddy vs. Jason was stuck in development hell, and the production company didn't want to risk their property falling out of the public's awareness.  It was set in the future --- and space --- so as to not interfere with the franchise continuity, just in case FvJ opted to make use of that history (SPOILER: it didn't).  Still...this is the tenth Friday the 13th film, and it is one of the few, the proud, the incredibly stupid --- the horror sequel set in space.  Maybe the sheer audacity of doing something this dumb will redeem Jason X.


Jason X is an important film, not only because it is the tenth entry in a film series --- how many films can boast that claim? (four, actually) --- but also because it teaches us important lessons.  The film opens in the Crystal Lake Research Facility, because research facilities are typically built in the same area as remote Summer camps.  There, we meet Rowan (Lexa Doig), a scientist heading a team that is researching Jason Voorhies (Kane Hodder).  Everyone knows about how Jason was captured by the government; they "executed him for the first time" in 2008, remember?  He just won't stay dead, though.  In 2010, Rowan plans to freeze Jason for further study, but David Cronenberg wants to do something stupid that inevitably leads to Jason getting free and having himself a blood orgy.
"Blood Orgy" would make a pretty solid Cronenberg title
The details don't matter.  The important thing is that Rowan and Jason wind up being cryogenically frozen.  In the year 2455, a group of students is on...um...a class trip?  An archaeology expedition?  A weak excuse to move the plot forward?  Whatever.  They find the two Popsicles and bring them on board their spaceship.  Rowan is thawed out first, and her immediate thoughts returned to keeping Jason dead-ish.  Her worries are immediately dismissed because she's only the person they found with their unknown subject.  Some unknown stimulus does the impossible and brings Jason back from the dead.
The "unknown stimulus" is cadaver table romance?
Being a ruthless zombie murderer that has feels no pain still makes for a fairly efficient killer, even in the distant future.  However, it's only a matter of time until future technology outclasses this machete-wielding maniac.  Of course, that's assuming that Jason can't keep up with the times.
Goalie masks: still fashionable, even in 450 years

The acting in Jason X is better off not being mentioned.  Let's just say that it's campy at best and amateurish at worst and leave it at that.
It's possible this guy doesn't even list this movie on his resume

James Issacs directed Jason X.  He didn't try to make the characters too likable, or make the spaceship look good.  His focus was on violence and campy humor.  How successful was he?


Well, one fantastic kill can't carry an entire horror movie (...Or can it?  Let me know if you have a good example), but that is easily one of my all-time favorite death scenes in this franchise.  The rest of the violence isn't as creative or graphic, but Jason was certainly prolific; I counted twenty-four kills, with several more implied off-screen.  That's a pretty high body count, but that doesn't guarantee entertainment.  To increase the likelihood of Jason X being fun to watch, the writer (Todd Farmer) and director teamed up to make this the campiest and silliest Friday the 13th yet.  Was it actually funny?  Well...here and there.
"We love premarital sex!"
There are a few gags that worked quite well.  My personal favorite was the premarital sex girls/sleeping bag death scene.  It was predictable, but still great.  I also liked some of the more knowing dialogue; I don't usually like it when a movie has characters that comment on the action, but the potentially annoying observations were surprisingly solid in Jason X.  James Isaacs and Todd Farmer deserve some credit for making this as watchable as it is.  Even with all the parts that made me chuckle, there were a lot more moments that were just eye-rollingly lame.  Take this scene, for example:


It's humorously violent, it has characters making commentary, and is filled with over-the-top ridiculousness.  When done correctly, that should make for an awesome scene.  This one...it's not bad.  I might even go so far as to call it "pretty good."  But it doesn't quite work.  There's some absolutely silly moves from the lady, some mediocre one-liner comments, and Jason looking confused while he gets blown to hell.  It's fun, but it feels a bit forced.

There is a problem with the way I approached Jason X.  Since this is the tenth freakin' Friday, and it is set in space, I instinctively treated it with kid gloves; since I went in with such gloriously low expectations, minor accomplishments like occasionally competent dialogue seem far more valuable than they really are.  It's like applauding a toddler for pooping in a toilet --- we expect that of most people, but the bar is set pretty low for these kids because we know they're crapped themselves so many times before. 
Look!  Jason's distracted by my amazing simile!
If you go into Jason X with absolutely no preconceptions, this will be a pretty bad movie.  If you walk into it knowing that it's going to be truly idiotic and violent, though, it's shining moments will seem like pure gold.  Is it any good?  Surprisingly, it's only slightly more than half-bad.
If you're looking to laugh, though, there is enough Lefty Gold to power several drinking games.


Of course, some of the best moments in Jason X are not related directly to the story at all.  Here's a handy list to help you pick out some of the choicer moments of conceptual humor:
- Jason still has his gross old clothes and mask.  Think about that for a moment.  Jason had been captured by the government for several years and they tried every way they could imagine to kill him.  And yet, the scientists never replaced his shitty clothes or hockey mask.  For that matter, the fact that Jason is able to easily get his hands on a giant-ass machete just goes to show that the Crystal Lake Research Facility is probably not the high-end, respectable place that the name implies.

- Students in space are always ready for sexy time.  I have no problem with characters in horror movies acting sex-crazed, since that's one of the characteristics of slasher movies.  I was surprised by how much skin was showing while these students were working on corpses.
Midriff- and shoulder-baring sweaters are actually part of the dissection uniform
- Hockey is on its last legs.  According to Jason X, which we can all agree is a historical document, hockey will be outlawed in 2024.  Sorry, Canada, you only have twelve more years to live for.
- Machetes are medical tools in the future.  'Nuff said.

3 comments:

  1. I never realized that was Cronenberg. Huh. What I always find amusing is that I have not run into one person (including myself) who reads the Roman numeral in the title, instead opting to pronounce the letter. It is rather apt, as this one went with an alternate reality of sorts. Still, it is one of the most amusing episodes in the franchise. The lengths they go in the story to get Jason in space are puzzling. I feel that should have been wrapped up a quicker and cleaner. But hey, that is part of the movie's charm.

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  2. Good call on the title nobulljive. It's also curious that they called this film Jason X and not Friday the 13th X. One could hope there are an additional 9 "Jason" prequels in the works.

    I saw this film on opening night, and as was the case with Willard, I found no shortage of people that hated this movie. Anyone that finds fault with a movie about Jason in space, when the film they went to see was about Jason in space is an asshole.

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  3. Yes, excellent call on the title roman numeral. It never even occurred to me to call it "Jason Ten," even though I am well aware that it is the tenth Friday.

    I don't think they spent too much time getting Jason into space. It was, what, ten minutes? Sure, they could have just cut to finding his frozen body, because why the hell not, it's Jason in Space. The only way I would support that choice is if they never tried to explain how he got there in the first place, because I don't need extensive exposition in my Jason movies.

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