My revisiting the Friday The 13th sequels continues. The sixth and seventh installments fit nicely together as not only do they connect, as most of the Friday films do, but, both were efforts to breath new life into the series whose popularity was starting to wane. Part 6 brings back Jason, but has a lighter tone and a more supernatural edge to it and part 7 tries to shake things up by pitting the homicidal juggernaut against a Carrie-like telekinetic girl. While both wandered from the straight-forward horror tone of most of the previous entries, they did provide an entertainment factor of their own…
FRIDAY THE 13th PART 6: JASON LIVES (1986)
Friday The 13th Part 6 set out to fix the wrong direction taken by Part 5 and brought back Jason to the series. But it also brought the lightest tone of the series so far with many scenes played for laughs and a more supernatural element, as Jason is now basically a zombie being brought back from the dead…and quite by accident. But despite the far less serious tone, Jason Lives is actually a fun entry that might disappoint hardcore fans, but was entertaining on it’s own.
The story picks up with Tommy Jarvis (now Thom Mathews) still haunted by Jason and deciding that destroying his corpse (which is interesting as Part 5 claimed he was cremated) would put his fear to rest. He journeys to the grave site with bud Allen (Welcome Back Kotter’s Ron Palillo) who helps him dig up the killer’s body. In an angry fit, Tommy rips off part of the fence and stabs the corpse repeatedly leaving the metal fence post in Jason’s heart. But, a storm is brewing and the post is struck by lightening and like Mary Shelley’s monster, Jason rises from the grave and murders Allen. Uh oh! Now having revived the very fiend he set out to destroy, Tommy runs to Sheriff Garris (David Kagen) of Forest Green…actually a renamed Crystal Lake trying to escape it’s infamy…to warn about Jason’s return and, is thrown in jail by the sheriff who thinks he’s crazy. The sheriff’s daughter Megan (an adorable Jennifer Cooke) takes a shine to Tommy and this brings good news and bad news for the distraught young man…the good news is Megan believes him and wants to help him, the bad news is, she is head counselor at the new Forest Green campsite and a certain revived someone is on his way home, leaving a trail of bodies as he goes. Can Tommy escape the hard-nosed sheriff and save the camp filled with nubile counselors who just welcomed a pack of young children?…or, will they all be lambs to the slaughter?
As written and directed by Tom McLoughlin, Jason Lives may not be the intense return to gory horror that this series began as, but is actually a lot of fun despite being fairly void of tension and scares. There are a lot of clever touches and McLoughlin adds a supernatural element as Tommy feels the only way to stop Jason is return his body to the watery grave he originally came from, not to mention that he was revived as a zombie by lightening right out of an old-fashioned horror flick. There are a lot of chases and while the kills are bloody, they are fairly tame compared to some of the earlier installments. Most of the proceedings are done with a humorous touch or for outright laughs, but it is never insulting, nor does it make a joke out of the material. McLoughlin is having fun and giving the series a lighter entry, which is welcome as it does freshen things up a bit, though surely disappointing the real hardcore fan base. The director still manages to have some intensity and excitement and, to be honest, it may not be the horror we wanted, but it is a good time.
The cast are especially lively and seem to be having a ball with their roles. Mathews plays it straight as the hero trying to convince others they are in danger from a boogeyman most think is an urban legend. Cooke is adorable and hot as the sexy but strong-willed sheriff’s daughter, who isn’t afraid to rebel against her dad and break a few laws herself to piss him off. Kagen overdoes it a bit as the jerk of a sheriff, but the character is a jerk, so it works. The supporting cast, including 80s film hottie Darcy DeMoss, all give the characters some spunk and liveliness which obviously helps you to like them and gives their fates impact. The added mix of having little kids in the camp this time also adds a new element to play with, as one little girl keeps seeing ‘a monster’ at her cabin window…and of course they all think it’s a figment of her imagination. Ha!… joke’s on them!
All in all, this is an entertaining entry that has fun with the traditions of the series and of the horror genre in general from it’s mock James Bond credits sequence featuring Jason, to poor Tommy taking the blame for the killer’s foul deeds and somehow trying to return Jason to wince he came. It’s not perfect, obviously the lighter tone keeps one from taking the proceedings too seriously and thus it neuters the threat and fear factor quite a bit and even with some new touches, we have seen most of it all before. But it is still a refreshingly fun entry and it has a good time with and not pokes fun at the series. It also made Friday The 13th feel like Friday The 13th again and even Harry Manfredini has a little fun adding touches of Berloiz’s Symphonie Fantastique to his classic score giving this colorful entry a slightly more gothic feel. A great horror?…no. A good time…definitely. I also like this entry a lot because it is the most ’80s’ of the series with a number of heavy metal songs on the soundtrack…including three by legendary rocker Alice Cooper…and the clothes and hairstyles were at the height of 80s ridiculousness. Fun!
MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: Jason was actually played by two different people in this film. First by Dan Bradley, then when producers decided they didn’t quite like how he looked in the part, he was replaced by C.J. Graham. Scenes featuring both men are in the completed film. Also, director Tom McLoughlin got to ‘kill’ his own wife Nancy in the movie as she plays one of Jason’s first victims.
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FRIDAY THE 13th PART 7: THE NEW BLOOD (1988)
With series box office and interest still on the decline, Friday The 13th Part 7 tried to shake things up, and in doing so, threw all attempts at keeping the series even remotely grounded out the window, by having Jason go up against a young girl with telekinetic powers. It was basically Jason v.s. Carrie and, to be honest, I liked the audacity of it and since Jason was already an invincible zombie, a psychically powerful, cute blonde wasn’t exactly going to make it any less far-fetched.
The story has troubled teen Tina Shepard (Lar Park Lincoln) returning to a house on Crystal Lake (or is it still Forrest Green?) with her mother (Susan Blu) and her shady psychiatrist (Terry Kiser). Tina has a telekinetic ability that arises when emotionally distressed and years earlier during an argument between her parents, she lashed out at her father who was drunk and hit her mother and causes the dock he’s on to collapse, drowning her dad in the depths of the lake. To this day she is traumatized by guilt, but it is her powerful mind that the scheming Dr. Crews (Kiser) is after, not a cure to her woes. Across from their house is another filled with rowdy teens, there for a surprise party, including handsome Nick (Kevin Spirtas) who takes a liking to Tina. But after one of her sessions with the doctor, a distraught Tina rushes to the docks and tries to raise her father from the depths, but unfortunately raises Mr. Voorhees instead, who is still chained at the lake bottom, put there by Tommy Jarvis in Part 6. Oops! Now freed from his watery grave Jason begins to stalk and kill the party goers and pursue Tina and the members of her house, but this final girl has some weapons of her own and the slaughter can only lead to a showdown pitting telekinetic powers against undying rage…and garden tools. Who will win…if anyone?
This was one of my favorites of the series when I first saw it, although I found it wasn’t quite as fun as I had remembered it upon my recent revisit. This entry is directed by make-up FX man John Carl Buechler (the original Troll) and while he does a competent job, this particular flick, with it’s outlandish premise, could have used a more lively and colorful touch such as graced the previous Friday flick. Buechler returns to a dead serious tone and takes the material equally serious, but this is a film about a zombie serial killer battling a telekinetic teenager after all and begged for someone to take the story and run with it, Roger Corman style. I appreciate Buechler trying to give the series some of it’s dramatic strength back, but the story just doesn’t really live up to it potential with the deadpan approach. The climactic showdown between Tina and Jason is the only time the film has a bit of fun with it’s premise, but even that could have been a bit more creative…though it does have a few amusingly absurd moments. Despite that Buechler’s team did the make-up FX, the kills are very routine and we, for the most part, only see the aftereffects of Jason’s handiwork. Also, Jason’s ability to find completely random power tools is getting out of hand at this point and also betrays the more serious tone of the film. That and the formula is just basically getting tiresome at this point, too, another reason they just should have had a good time with the story instead of trying to recapture past gory glory.
The cast are OK. Lincoln is a brooding and troubled teen and does that fine. Kizer is a bit hammy as her psychiatrist with a personal agenda, but as the secondary villain, it works well. At least Kizer got the tone of the material and had a little fun with it. Spirtas is a handsome and adequate hero, but doesn’t have a real strong presence to make him really endearing and the rest of the secondary characters/victims are equally attractive and adequate as Jason fodder. And speaking of our iconic killer, fan favorite Kane Hodder would make the first of four appearances as Jason and cement his status as the quintessential Jason performer and Buechler’s look would become the favorite of Jason’s incarnations with it’s thick chains around the fiend’s neck evoking the Frankenstein monster. I still like this entry to a good degree, but it just wasn’t quite as fun as it certainly could have been and not as much a good time as I remembered it. Still one of the better entries, but not as high on the list as it was in 1988 when I first saw it.
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