Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Series Report Card: Friday the 13th (1985-1989)

5. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
Infamously disliked by fans of the series for the fact that Jason doesn’t actually appear in the movie. That’s a major flaw with the film but if the problems ended there, I might’ve been able to forgive it. Sadly, that’s just the beginning.The acting is really bad. I mean, it approaches Troma Films level here. The characters that do have personality are shrill and annoying. You can’t wait for them to die. Normally, that wouldn’t be too big of an issue. However, the gore is disappointing as well. There are a couple interesting death scenes, like the leather strap against the tree or the outhouse sequence, but a great deal of the effects feel cheap and uninspired. The whole movie is plagued with that feeling of cheapness. You can tell that none of the people involved in making this were particularly interested in the material. Even the nudity is disappointing as there is really only one scene and the breasts are small and sad. It’s a lazy, boring entry in the series and definitely the worse. [Grade: F]

6. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives!
The sense of self-parody has never been stronger then it is in this one. While there has been some humor in the franchise for some time now, this is the first time I would consider the film an all-out “horror-comedy.” I’d say it was pretty successful on that level, too, as there are at least two laugh-out-load moments.

The best thing I can say about this one is it definitely has the most energy of any of the films. There are no shots of campers just mindlessly wandering around. Something is happening in every frame of the film. No time is wasted in getting us to where we want to be. Jason is resurrected as a super
strong killer zombie so the deaths scenes are a little more crazy though I think I prefer the style of the earlier films more. The script is sharp and the acting is better then expected too, as Thom Mathews, David Kagen, and Jennifer Cooke all give good performances. Alice Cooper contributes several original songs which is pretty much a perfect combination, if you ask me.

On the negative side, C. J. Graham is too tall and skinny to be a truly effective Jason and some of the humor is too “wink-wink” and is a bit distracting. Still, “Jason Lives!” is highly entertaining and one of the best film in the series.
[Grade: B+]

7. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
A personal favorite of mine. Though you felt a little bit of it with the last film, this is the first time that the core concept was really experimented with. For the first time, Jason actually faces up against a worthy advisory. There are even times when you feel that the telekinetic Tina actually has the upper hand. This gives the film a freshness and creativity that distinguishes it from the others.Though the gore was heavily compromised by the MPAA, if you can get a hold of an uncut version, it is truly something to behold. The best non-Savini effects the series has seen. Fan-favorite Kane Hodder makes his premier behind the mask. Hodder has always been a solid Jason, though I think the character make-up is far more impressive then anything else. The director wanted to show all the damage Ol’ Hockey Head has suffered over the years. He looks great. A very fun addition to the franchise with a lot of action and the right amount of humor. [Grade: A-]

8. Friday the 13 Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
Continuing from Part 7 with it’s willingness to break the mold, “Jason Takes Manhattan” toys with the concept a bit by placing Jason in a different location.

Sadly, it just doesn’t work. First off, most people will point out that only the last act of the film actually takes place in Manhattan. Not too big of a grip for me since the writer/director has made it known that this was more due to budgetary restraints then anything else, but when a film doesn’t come through on its promise, it always hurts its grade some.

There are really two big problems here. First, it has some of the worst gore effects of the series. The gangsters getting needled and the impalement by radio antenna are decent but many of the deaths seem to be purposely courting the MPAA. In one scene, a guy gets his throat slashed and doesn’t even bleed. That doesn’t make any sense! Much of the effects are too fake looking. The blood looks too bright and corn-syrup-y and in an early scene, the intestine is obviously rubber tubing.
The second biggest issue is how Jason is handled. One of the worst slasher film clichés is the teleporting killer, one who always manages to be in the right place to dispatch his victims, even if logic completely works against it. This cheap trick is used here and is laughably bad. In the last film, Kane Hodder was only shot from low angles which gave the illusion of Jason being a huge brute. None of that is employed here and Jason looks awfully small in several shots. And on top of all that, the unmasked make-up is pretty lousy. To add insult to injury, the film also features lousy acting, annoying characters, and goofy hallucinations on behalf of the Final Girl. Despite everything, the movie at least tries. You get the feeling that budgetary set-backs and a lack of foresight is what really hurt this film. With a little bit more money and a little bit more talent, it could’ve been half-way decent. But good intentions only amount to so much in the end. [Grade: D]

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