I mostly skipped the Friday the 13th sequels after number three (it was in 3-D and I was still a teenage gore hound at the time). I eventually caught up with Jason X (mostly for David Cronenberg) and Freddy vs. Jason (mostly for Ronny Yu), but the rest? Feh. I do admit to a morbid fascination with the idea behind the Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988, directed by John Carl Buechler), but I never acted on it to watch the movie before now. The premise is a 1980s variant on the monster rallies of the 1940s. Instead of "Frankenstein vs. The Wolf-man," though, this film posits "Jason vs. Carrie." Team-ups like this are usually the sign of a decadent franchise, and boy, howdy is that the case here. For all that, it remains steadfastly chained to the formula of the previous films in the series.
The movie opens with Jason safely entombed in the waters of Crystal Lake, held in place by anchor chains. Living on the shores of the lake are Tina, a troubled ten year-old, and her bickering parents. One night, shocked at her father's abuse of her mother, Tina accidentally kills her father with her latent telekinetic powers. This leaves deep mental scars, which inhibit her from learning to control her gifts. Years later, Tina and her mother return to the scene of the crime where Tina senses a presence in the waters of the lake. She mistakes it for the body of her father and attempts to resurrect him with her powers. Unfortunately, what she senses is Jason Voorhees, who she looses upon the world again. Unfortunately for Tina, the cabin next door is host to a party of young people, who are like candy for Jason as he massacres his way through them. Tina, meanwhile, has her own bete noir in the person of her psychiatrist, Dr. Crews, who seems more intent on fostering her telekinesis than in helping her through her trauma. She eventually flees into the woods, setting her on a collision course with Jason...
In truth, I'm not sure I have much to say about this film. It's competent if substandard, with paper-thin characters and massacre gags that mostly seem recycled. Jason himself has been transformed in one of the previous movies from standard deformed murderer into unstoppable undead killing machine. He's an outright monster now, though he always was, I guess. This film loads up on the murder scenes, providing a LOT of kids for Jason to kill, including some who appear on screen for as brief as two or three minutes before being dispatched. There's not even time for these characters to commit any of the indiscretions that are a death sentence in the moral universe of the slasher movie. There is an element of class war here, given that most of the kids in this movie are the kinds of snotty bourgeoisie kids who look down on the locals, giving the film a hint of the rural massacre movie, but this is more a result of the mainstream slasher movies conception of teenagers rather than some directed class rage. These are movie teenagers, rather than the real thing, and it wasn't just slasher films that constructed their kids from this kind of cloth.
Dr. Crews is a new kind of character for the franchise: the sleazy self-promoter, the cuthroat survivor. He's an archetype introduced to the horror film a couple of years earlier by Paul Riser's character in Aliens, and Terry Kiser inhabits the role like a second skin. When he offers up Tina's mom to Jason to save his own skin, he's beyond the pale, arguably more of a monster than Jason. He's a character whose moral transgressions actually deserve to be punished and the film dutifully obliges.
The frequency of the murder scenes in this film precludes any attempt to build any kind of suspense. As a result, they become kind of monotonous. There is, however a base understanding that given that Jason has been turned into a superman at this point, providing a standard final girl just isn't going to cut it. Hence the telekinetic shenanigans, some of which have a slapstick quality to them. This film doesn't have much imagination when it comes to the gruesome possibilities of telekinesis, though. It could have made a closer study of The Fury, say, or Scanners. The finale of the film finds Jason stripped of his signature hockey mask. Incredibly, it also strips him of much of his personality. No small feat for a character that didn't have much personality to start with...
Current Challenge tally:
Total Viewings: 19
First Time Viewings: 12
Around the Web:
Jose at Riding the Nightmare climbs The Spiral Staircase, a film I've got queued up for Halloween.
Kevin at For It Is Man's Number gets Horns from Harry Potter.
Scott at Blasphemous Tomes is surprised by the found footage film, Afflicted.
Dr. AC conducts a retrospective of Rob Zombie's films (he likes them a lot more than I do) and takes on Kill List in his latest round-up.
Finally, Rod at the excellent Ferdy On Films serves up a thorough dissection of what makes The Texas Chain Saw Massacre tick.
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