I try and do a couple of these every time there’s a Friday the 13th. Here’s the list so far:
This time around we’re doing one of my favorites of the series – coming in second only to Part 4: The Final Chapter – and one of my bottom three. I think which is which will probably be apparent, but you can read my ranking of all the Friday the 13th films here, and the SAW community ranking here.
Thanks to the largesse of Screenager liquidsoap89, I have the Shout! Factory Blu-ray set of all the Friday the 13th movies. After years of VHS and low-quality DVD’s it’s a damn impressive upgrade with a ton of extras. Well worth the scratch, though you can find collections for cheaper nowadays. For streaming, you can find both 5 and 6 on Max and Apple TV for subs as well as for rent and purchase at the usual online vendors.
Friday the 13th Part 5: A New Beginning
“Lighten up, Demon, you’ll feel a lot better after you shit.”
Look, I’m trying to find something (anything) to enjoy in all these films as I watch them, because otherwise it becomes an exercise in self harm. So, in that spirit, it’s… mostly in focus?
Actually, let’s give the film a little credit – they did try and do something different with this installment. The opening sequence – in which Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldmen) watches two jackasses dig up Jason for… uh, reasons – is actually pretty cool. (So cool they’d make a whole movie out of the concept next time around.) When Jason comes to life and digs the worms out of his eyes (doesn’t literally happen – but should have) you start thinking there might be something to this New Beginning idea.
Unfortunately, that’s the last time you actually see Jason. And it’s a dream sequence.
The basic setup is that adult Tommy (John Shepherd) is being sent to a halfway house for wayward teens (not a camp, it’s different, see?!). Local neighbors Ethel and her son, Junior, are none too happy about the way the kids sneak on to their property and fornicate. The local sheriff tries to make peace, but he has his hands full with…
Geez, am I really going to try and write out this plot? Let’s sum up – one of the kids goes nuts and hacks up another, setting off a series of killings that seem at least inspired by Jason. Tommy isn’t certain if it’s actually Jason, someone else or – due to his random way of losing it and kicking the shit out of people – himself. People are picked off one by one until a final confrontation with a guy who isn’t Jason – or even believably threatening – and a ‘twist’ ending with Tommy, a mask and a knife.
Things I liked about the movie. The kid, ‘Reckless Reggie,’ has a brother named Demon (yes, that’s his name). It’s always nice to see actors from Return of the Living Dead in a Friday the 13th movie and Miguel A. Nunez Jr is pretty entertaining (Demon sure has a lot of fast food in his van). I really hated the ‘comic relief’ neighbors, so I liked when they were finally killed off. (For years I thought Ethel was played by the same actress that plays the first victim in the first Friday the 13th movie.) Violet’s got some serious dance moves. Reggie has a pretty snazzy red jumpsuit. Umm…
I know Duke likes this entry, but for me – as a Friday the 13th movie it’s seriously lacking in… anything that makes it feel like a Friday the 13th movie, beyond teenagers getting killed. If it was another in a long line of imitators instead of a part of the franchise it might have been better received. Maybe. I still hate Parts 3 and 8 more, though. This is at least TRYING. And they do kill a lot more people.
The Bottom Line
The movie is clearly a setup for an adult Tommy Jarvis to become the new Jason. I imagine they had plans for a series of movies with that character that were sharply derailed by the reception Part 5 got at the box office. You can ignore critics (and really, if you’re a slasher film you kinda have to), but you cannot ignore the bottom line.
Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives!
“Some folks sure got a strange idea of entertainment.”
Part 6 was the first (and for a long time, only) Friday the 13th film I got to see in the theater. I don’t even remember the circumstances, just bits and pieces of the film itself – particularly seeing Horshack (Welcome Back Kotter‘s Ron Palillo) in the opening sequence and the part where Jason climbs onto the top of the burning RV. I do remember loving it. For the longest time Part 6 was my favorite of the series, mostly because it’s the most shamelessly fun entry.
I’m torn as to whether Part 6 ignores the entirety of Part 5 or just the particulars of the disposal of Jason’s corpse (it’s mentioned he’s been cremated) and the ending with Tommy and the mask. I’ll go with it all being in continuity with the discrepancies being down to Tommy’s illness.
Jason Lives starts things off in grand style with Return of the Living Dead‘s Thom Matthews taking over the Tommy Jarvis role. He heads to the cemetery where Jason is buried (hauling along his poor, doomed buddy Hawes) looking for some kind of closure. Instead he ends up inadvertently bringing Jason back to life in the time-honored method of the corpse struck by lightning. “He’s back,” to quote from the Alice Cooper song on the soundtrack, “the man behind the mask!”
Jason’s not really a man anymore, though. He’s a supernatural creature, a rotting corpse with a desire to kill and a homing instinct that drives him back towards Camp Crystal La… er, I’m sorry, Camp Forest Green. On the way he’ll kill a future president (Scandal‘s Tony Goldwyn) and slaughter members of a corporate paintball retreat. These scenes help reinforce the self-referential comedy aspects of the film (“I’ve seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly.”) and the supernatural strength of the revived Jason, who seems just as surprised as anyone when he tears a man’s arm off.
Meanwhile, Tommy – having escaped from Jason (not Hawes, who ends up dumped in Jason’s grave) heads to the sheriff’s office to tell them what’s happened. The authorities don’t believe him however, especially when they figure out who he actually is, and end up running him out of town – though not before he meets the sheriff’s daughter, Megan, and her friends, the new counselors up at Camp Bloo… Camp Forest Green.
Speaking of the camp – for the first time ever in a Friday the 13th movie the children’s camp actually has children show up! Much fun (and significant tension) is had with Jason stalking around the building as kids sleep inside. Once things go (inevitably) wrong and Jason is murdering counselors and cops with equal enthusiasm the kids are forced to hide beneath their beds. “So,” says one, “what DID you want to be when you grew up?”
Tommy escapes with Megan’s help. They arrive at camp too late to save any of the adults, but just in time to save the kids. Tommy’s plan to chain Jason to the bottom of the lake in some half-hearted supernatural ritual almost doesn’t work. Luckily Megan knows how to use an outboard motor AND do CPR. Leading to yet another “it’s over, it’s finally over” statement – this time from someone who should really know better.
The Bottom Line
I know some Friday the 13th fans who absolutely cannot stand this movie, because they feel it’s making fun of something they love, ridiculing it. To me, though, it manages to have its cake and eat it too. It works because it’s still a Friday the 13th movie – with teenagers, Jason, murders etc. – and it’s also an action comedy that pokes fun at the ridiculous elements of its own mythology. It’s a meta-comedy horror film years before Scream was a thing. It’s just plain fun – something that’s going to be sorely missing in the films that are to follow.