Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #290
Number of Views: Multiple
Release Date: March 22, 1985
Sub-Genre: Eighties Slasher
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $21,930,418
Running Time: 92 minutes
Director: Danny Steinmann
Producers: Frank Mancuso, Jr., Timothy Silver
Screenplay: Martin Kitrosser, David Cohen, Danny Steinmann
Story: Martin Kitrosser, David Cohen
Characters: Victor Miller
Special Effects: Larry S. Carr, Earl Ellis, Louis Lazzara, David B. Miller, Dave Nelson, Anton Rupprecht, William Scott Strong
Cinematography: Stephen L. Posey
Score: Harry Manfredini
Editing: Bruce Green
Studios: Georgetown Productions Inc., Paramount Pictures, Sean S. Cunningham Films, Terror Inc.
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Stars: Melanie Kinnaman, John Shepherd, Shavar Ross, Richard Young, Marco St. John, Juliette Cummins, Jerry Pavlon, Tiffany Helm, Carol Locatell, Vernon Washington, Miguel A. Núñez Jr., Jere Fields, John Robert Dixon, Caskey Swaim, Mark Venturini, Anthony Barrile, Dominick Brascia, Richard Lineback, Corey Feldman, Bob DeSimone, Debi Sue Voorhees, John Robert Dixon, Corey Parker, Dick Wieand
Suggested Audio Candy
Pseudo Echo “His Eyes”
Every final chapter needs a new beginning right? I’m sure Paramount Pictures fully intended Joseph Zito’s superior fourth entry into the long running franchise to be final but consider the facts… over $30m in box office receipts is hardly closure is it? The name of the game is reinvention and Danny Steinmann attempted exactly that, whilst affording Jason Voorhees the hiatus he sorely needed after Corey Feldman showed him that you don’t fuck with a Goonie. Hence A New Beginning, originally and hilariously titled Repetition, is the only sequel not to feature our favorite mommy’s boy and was intended by producers to groom Tommy as the juggernaut’s successor. Originally this entailed a return for Feldman although he was too busy hunting for buried off-shore treasure to offer his services other than a brief cameo shot in his backyard.
Danny Steinmann’s brief was relatively simple; deliver a scare or a kill every seven or eight minutes. To his credit he achieved just that; if there’s one criticism which can’t be leveled at A New Beginning, then that would be that it dragged. Instead it played out like a whodunnit which means plenty of folk disappearing for long periods only to turn up dead when no longer necessitated as herrings. At one point, you would be forgiven for expecting the Mystery Machine to turn up, Fred and Daphne to crack the case, and the words “I would’ve gotten away with it if it weren’t for you pesky kids” to be banded around by the mysterious museum curator before being led away in shackles. It was hardly Agatha Christie. Fuck, it was barely even Scooby Doo.
Feldman was replaced by John Shepherd who, ten years after his horrifying ordeal at the hands of Voorhees, remained severely haunted by visions of that fateful night. After years of being moved between various mental hospitals he finally found a nice secluded rural halfway house to battle his inner demons. The getaway in question wasn’t without its own bouquet of oddballs and kooks, all primed for the slaughter but the opening kill came out of left field and taught us the perils of offering candy bars to those wielding a woodsman’s ax. Hapless Joey received the sharp edge to his back fat for his troubles and the cat was firmly amongst the pigeons from thereon in. As his nonchalant killer was bundled into the back of the police car and Joey’s chopped liver bagged and tagged; somebody took exception and, within the customary seven or eight minutes, the bodies began to pile up in true Friday fashion.
Steinmann’s ambitious attempt at reinvention was largely maligned by fans desperately disgruntled by the lack of their icon although, to be fair, there was a guy in a hockey mask and he made no qualms about being utterly murderous so this criticism felt particularly harsh. Besides, there were plentiful other places to find fault anyhoots. Bearing in mind that this was before Jason had bought his round-trip ticket to Manhattan or jetted off to outer space, the series was still in fine health at this juncture. Zito’s spirited fourth offering left a flavorsome tang after three creditable entries had consolidated the franchise’s fortunes and made a mint in the process. There was plenty authentic about A New Beginning, despite taking a spring break from Camp Crystal Lake, Steinmann exhibited understanding of what made Jason so much of a pull in the first place and did his darnedest not to buck the trend.
It was left to the usual hodgepodge of rowdy delinquents to make up the numbers and they were an eclectic bunch for sure, although hardly the raging hell cats expected. There were nymphomaniac love cats Tina and Eddie and flame-haired cock-tease extraordinaire Robin. Violet was the exception, a wonderfully brooding Goth chick with crimped hair and enough punk chic to make Madonna look like a virgin. Ultimately she was fodder of course, but at least she looked ironic. The same couldn’t be said for poor stammering Jake; although he had every reason to be pissed at the world, with little-to-no chance of voicing a shriek of any conviction when the cleaver came plummeting towards his burrowed brow. If there’s one thing a group of wayward teens need when attempting to reform for their return to society, then a snot-nosed little brat it ain’t. That being said, Reggie was decidedly less aggravating than most so we let it slide.
To keep to his seven-eight minute mayhem brief Steinmann littered the screen with the usual gormless fodder, low-lives, and pond scum although the brief introduction of Reggie’s older brother/personal hero Demon (Miguel A. Núñez, Jr.) and his girlfriend Anita (Jere Fields) actually offered some characters to care about. Looking like an extra from Thriller, Demon was immensely affable and deserving of far more screen time than he was extended. One heartwarming scene later and it was a one-way trip to the rickety latrine as Demon had to suffer the indignity of being lanced while squeezing out a turtle head. If Reggie was already feeling something of a bad omen then it was only to get worse from there as his kindly grandfather and campus cook George was later tossed away like a soiled diaper with his eyeballs gouged out of their sockets. Curse the seven-eight minute rule!
Shepherd’s turn as Tommy was actually rather creditable despite his entire dialogue consisting of twenty-four words and a smattering of wails and grunts. He looked suitably forlorn and vulnerable but still had a vague edge to his character which hinted that the personal trauma he had suffered as a child was taking its toll on his psyche. If nothing else then at least there was some attempt at offering a little familiarity as Feldman had already given us a child protagonist we hadn’t wished to watch beaten to a bloody pulp and every Myers needs their Laurie Strode after all. Indeed, Jarvis returned again for the rip-roaring sixth installment although this time he remembered he owned a fully operational penis and metamorphosis number three commenced.
The real issue here was with a lack of palpable tension; it all felt a little staid and no amount of killing could make up for its lack of build up. It was kind of like making idle chit-chat with a shrew as you secure a wedge of cheddar in its trap and retreat to a safe distance; lambs to the slaughter with little finesse or genuine surprise. Sean S. Cunningham’s original memorandum had now become misplaced and thus began a stream of sequels content on winging it. Despite its numerous indiscretions, A New Beginning was far from the weakest entry in the lopsided series and offered just enough proof that the man behind the mask was worth turning out for.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: The MPAA had a field day with this one, ordering cuts to sixteen scenes before handing over that elusive R rating. The result is that many of the kills appear neutered down and grue is at something of a premium. That’s not to say that we don’t get to see throats cut, heads sliced off, flares swallowed, axes plummet, garden shears plunged into eye sockets and randy co-ed heads strapped to trees with leather belts but slapdash editing tells the true story as we’re invariably left wanting. Thankfully, titties don’t need trimming and they wobble about with great freedom and purpose. Where would we be without a little shoehorned-in promiscuous sex? Bored probably.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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