FRIDAY THE 13th PART 8: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989)
Jason Takes Manhattan tried to shake things up even more in this slowly fading series by taking Jason out of Crystal Lake, but, as they say, you can take the serial killer out of the woods, but you can’t take the woods out of the serial killer. This is one of the worst of the series in my book and definitely the worst of the original Paramount series before New Line took over in 1993. The film opens with two horny teens in a boat on Crystal Lake. While they do what horny teens do, their anchor pulls and rips an underwater electrical cable which, when striking the chained and submerged Jason (from Part 7), revives him once again. After slaughtering the two teens, he apparently pilots the craft (quite a skilled zombie, isn’t he?) to what appears to be Nova Scotia or someplace and relocates himself on a larger party cruise ship filled with teens on a graduation trip to NYC. Obviously, Jason starts slaughtering the youths as the ship sails through a massive storm…didn’t the organizers of this trip check the weather reports?…and then pursues the survivors into Manhattan for the last act. Yes, Jason only takes Manhattan in the last half hour of the movie. Will they escape from the hockey mask wearing killer or will Jason finally get to live his dream of appearing on Broadway?… do we care anymore?
As written and directed by Rob Hedden (who?) this is simply an awful movie and as one of the longest in the series, a chore to sit through. The tone of the film is deadly serious and taking Jason out of his usual setting works against it, removing the series feel rather than freshening it up. The kills are bit more vicious, but since the characters are really dull and lifeless, you really don’t care about their fates. The plot is riddled with far more holes then acceptable in this kinda film. Jason not only seems to have intimate knowledge of the layout and working of a ship he’s never seen or been on before, but also seems to have the power to appear anywhere he wants at will…even in Manhattan. He always appears where the characters run to, despite never having been far from Crystal Lake all his life.
The cast are especially bland too. Leading lady Jensen Daggett as Rennie is cute, but doesn’t endear to us and her character’s fear of water is given a connection to Jason that makes no sense and ultimately has no bearing on the plot. Scott Reeves is lifeless as the son of the boat captain and Rennie’s love interest and the characters have no chemistry and it doesn’t click. Renown TV actor Peter Mark Richman is one of the chaperones and Rennie’s jerk of an uncle and his character is completely generic as the stereotypical ‘adult jerk’ and the actor does the best he can with a thinly written role, but to no avail. Jason is again portrayed by Kane Hodder who is doing this heavy breathing thing which makes no sense, as, at this point, Jason has been dead for sometime and has no need to breath…especially not like he has asthma. Is being away from Crystal Lake causing a panic attack? The rest of the cast, including a young Kelly Hu, are totally bland and forgettable. The most interesting of Jason’s victims is guitar playing metal chick, J.J. (Saffron Henderson), but she is the first to go. Good move.
Add to all this a ridiculously cartoonish…and as a Jersey boy who loves his NYC, a bit offensive…portrayal of New York City as a dirty cesspool filled with degenerates, drug addicts, gang members and toxic waste, and the film is a dull, lifeless affair that makes boring use out of it’s only new touch, which is setting a Friday The 13th movie on a boat and then Manhattan…which doesn’t work anyway. Why would Jason voluntarily leave the familiarity of the only place he knows as home? The segment in Manhattan just seems made up as it goes along…did we need to stop the film dead for an attempted rape of Rennie by stereotypical drug addict/gang members?…and even the ending is just plain dumb and if it had remained the last film, would have been a completely unsatisfying way to put the iconic Jason to rest. A really awful and dull entry with very little to recommend even to hard core fans of the series. Jason would stay at rest until 4 years later when New Line Cinema would purchase the rights and try their hand at breathing new life into a dead series. The series hit rock bottom with this one.
NOTE: as the following entries in the series would be made and released in the 90s and 2000s, the remaining Friday The 13th films will be covered under the Horror You Might Have Missed banner as, at least at this point, my cut-off for classifying things as nostalgia is the 80s.
1 hockey mask.