Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #130
Number of Views: Multiple
Release Date: August 1, 1986
Sub-Genre: Eighties Slasher
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $19,472,057
Running Time: 87 minutes
Director: Tom McLoughlin
Producer: Don Behrns
Screenplay: Tom McLoughlin
Special Effects: Martin Becker, Brian Wade, Chris Swift
Cinematography: Jon Kranhouse
Score: Harry Manfredini
Editing: Bruce Green
Studio: Terror Films Inc
Distributor: Paramount Pictures, CIC Video
Stars: Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen, Renée Jones, Kerry Noonan, Darcy DeMoss, Tom Fridley, Alan Blumenfeld, Matthew Faison, Ann Ryerson, Tony Goldwyn, Nancy McLoughlin, Ron Palilo, Vincent Guastaferro, Michael Swan, Courtney Vickery, Whitney Rydbeck and C. J. Graham as Jason Voorhees
Suggested Audio Candy:
Alice Cooper He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask)
I have nothing but sympathy for Jason Voorhees. Granted, he has been responsible for the untimely deaths of hundreds of co-eds in the prime of their lives but we tend to conveniently forget how wretched his luck has been. For starters, he had a face that only a mother could possibly love and had no career prospects to speak of that didn’t involve the travelling circus. His first and only swimming lesson was an absolute washout and, due to the negligence of the counsellors tasked with keeping an eye on him, sank without trace before he could master the art of treading water. His was then made to witness his beloved momma having her top box subtracted by machete from his watery grave and, to add insult to injury, every bastard on the planet seems intent on interrupting his eternal rest. Is it any wonder he’s a tad narked?
After a trio of rude awakenings, Joseph Zito promised him this was to be the last time as he named his entry The Final Chapter and finally it appeared that Jason would be able to rest in peace. However, the studio had other ideas and, the very next year, requested his attendance once again. This time he wasn’t having it and, after turning them down flat, Danny Steinmann took matters into his own hands and churned out A New Beginning without its leading man. However, this is where the wagon wheels began to wobble as, in his attempt to tinker with the formula and introduce an element of whodunnit, he angered many of the Friday faithful and the franchise was placed in jeopardy. Nobody was more bemused than Voorhees and this forced him out of retirement before his good name could be tarnished any further.
Should this next outing fail, then collapse was inevitable as the series had been left in precarious territory and surely wouldn’t be able to withstand another backward step. Step up Tom McLoughlin whose debut feature One Dark Night had shown glimpses of promise but was still something of an unknown quantity. The first thing McLoughlin done was to bring back the character of Tommy Jarvis, a dicey pursuit given the cliff-hanger supplied by the ill-fated fifth installment.
The fact that he ignored the plot threads of its predecessor suggested that he too was uncomfortable with the previous revelations so once again (and for the third time in as many movies) he elected to reinvent Jason’s nemesis. Gone were the badly shaved head and schizophrenic leanings and, in their place, stood Thom Matthews. Horror buffs were already aware of this man thanks to Dan O’Bannon’s tongue-in-cheek 1985 zombie masterpiece The Return of The Living Dead so this appeared to be a shrewd move and suddenly the game was back on.
Of course, the next problem facing McLoughlin was figuring out a way to resurrect his hulking juggernaut yet again and he opted to take his cues from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and supply a dash of impromptu voltage. Still plagued by hallucinations, Tommy unwittingly decides to revisit his old adversary’s final resting place with his none too enthused friend Allen (Ron Palillo) in tow. After digging up Jason’s worse for wear remains, Tommy is overcome with rage and plunges a metal post through his chest, but this proves something of a dick move as it acts as a conductor as twin bolts of lightning strike and jump-start his rotten bones. No prizes for originality here although, by this point, this couldn’t have been farther from our wish lists. What was more important was the rampage that followed and this is where McLoughlin really starts to earn his stripes.
Fully aware that he has dropped a bollock after watching his buddy have his sternum punched through, Tommy hightails from the scene and heads off to alert the authorities of his blunder. Here he meets local sheriff Michael Garris (David Kagen) and doesn’t do the best job of endearing himself as his inability to relay his woes calmly and absent-minded attempt to grab whatever firepower is on hand earns him a night in the cells.
Enter the bemused sheriff’s teenage daughter Megan (Jennifer Cooke) and, believe me, the thought will cross your mind. You see, as well as taking pity on Tommy and believing his story, she also finds herself wishing to jump his bones and, after outwitting the gormless deputy, facilitates a prison break and agrees to be his chaperone. Turns out that daddy’s little cherub is anything but angelic.
This is a massive positive as Megan is far more edgy than the customary “Final Girl” caricature and provides a welcome breath of fresh air to proceedings. Clad in tight denim and driving a bona fide pussy wagon, this frisky Fräulein would ordinarily be a lamb to the slaughter but not here. Clearly raised on a cocktail of Russ Meyer flicks and Pantera, she simply sizzles with sexuality and, moreover, is absolutely no shrinking violet. While happy to provide a staunch ally for Tommy, she isn’t about to let him run shit either, and reminds him of such every time he tries to call the shots. The chemistry between Matthews and Cooke is undeniable and elevates Jason Lives to a level that may otherwise have been out of its jurisdiction.
Of course, no Friday worth its salt would be complete without a handful of disposable teens and Megan’s friends Paula (Kerry Noonan), Sissy (Renée Jones), Cort (Tom Fridley), Nikki (Darcy DeMoss), Darren (Tony Goldwyn), Lizbeth (Nancy McLoughlin) make up the numbers, along with the usual ill-fated ramblers positively primed for the pruning. McLoughlin even throws in a cabin full of pre-adolescents for good measure and whoever arranged this particular field trip was either misinformed or in the wrong profession.
Moreover, while he is content with playing for laughs on occasion (a brief outline of the perils of paintball offering prime example of his fondness for meta-humor), things never veer towards parody and he is disinterested with merely bowing to convention. Shootouts and car chases are a first for the franchise and inexplicably he manages to juggle numerous balls without once fumbling.
Alice Cooper Teenage Frankenstein
Standout moments are present and correct with the scene aboard a mobile RV providing one such dose of delight. With everyone’s favorite rock ‘n’ roller and thoroughly nice chap Alice Cooper’s Teenage Frankenstein as audio accompaniment, this culminates in a picture perfect moment as Jason straddles the capsized people-carrier defiantly, having mortally evacuated its care-free occupants (with panache I might add).
Meanwhile, the infamous “room of blood” supplies him ample opportunity to perfect his own unique brand of expressionist art as he rapidly notches up his kill count within its four walls and this becomes a running joke at everyone else’s expense as they enter, only to puke up their guts at the vile sight of his conclusive carnage. Indeed, you can take your pick with regards to high points and the climactic showdown ensures that things finish with a suitably watery flourish.
Jason Lives seems a fitting mantle for this amiable slither of slasher goodness as, aside from performing well theatrically, it was also praised fairly unanimously by critics and fans alike for adopting a fresh approach to revitalizing a formula long since considered past its prime. Alas, Jason’s revival was to prove decidedly short-lived as John Carl Buechler’s The New Blood saw him going through the motions once more, before purchasing his one-way ticket to Manhattan, engaging in a shamefully misguided stint in possession, and ultimately taking the lead of both the Cenobites and Critters courtesy of a spot of space travel. Indeed, McLoughlin’s entry marks the last truly memorable outing for the masked marauder and no amount of scrutiny can sour its undeniably sweet aftertaste. It’s just a shame that nobody else could take advantage of this new-found momentum.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Whilst not bereft of crowd-pleasing splatter, the most imaginative dispatches here are ironically the least bloodthirsty. These include a makeshift facial via high-speed head slam and a sound reminder that a career as a chiropractor is never on the cards. Elsewhere, still beating hearts are excised from their cavities, blades plunged into temples, limbs plucked from sockets, heads roll to the power of three, and one unlucky couple are given the şiş kebap treatment courtesy of a metal rod. Throw in the “room of blood” and our appetites for destruction are pretty much catered for. If there is a gripe to be levelled at McLoughlin, then the absence of obligatory T&A would surely be it. That said, the fact that Cooke can encourage southward blood rush without once slackening her bar straps more than makes up for any lack of bare flesh on this occasion.
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Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2013 (Revised Edition 2016)