a Primal Root review
Space is a giant vacuum of suck for any slasher franchise to deal with. It’s the fish out of water scenario that doesn’t work for characters so deeply rooted in their mythology. Jason Voorhees never stood a chance in space because no one takes the guy seriously. Now Manhattan circa 1989? How in the world could this forest dwelling zombified mentally ill-equiped boogieman make it on his own in the Big Apple? Believe it or not, surprisingly well…that is, when he FINALLY arrives.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan was the final Friday the 13th film produced by Paramount Pictures. The series had an excellent 8 entry run that proved remarkably profitable for the company who kind of viewed the franchise as an (albeit profitable) black sheep. By the end of the 80’s creative teams kept trying to come up with new gimmicks that would make Jason and his exploits interesting again. Part VI: Jason Lives added a bit of a humor element, PArt VII: The New Blood added and telekinetic teenage spaz girl to battle Jason…what else could they try? Why not a trip to Manhattan?
Honestly, the idea is a winning one. How awesome would it be if the film really was just Jason stomping around Manhattan’s seedy, dark alleyways splattering thugs and punks all over the pavement. Shoving hot dog vedors into their carts and rolling them down the stairs. Crashing the stock exchange and hacking away at day traders. Throwing some schmuck off the top of the empire state building…really, the possibilities are endless.
Sadly, the major detractor of the film was the fact they don’t get to the Taking of Manhattan till the last 20-30 minutes of the film. And then when J-Cool gets there he doesn’t so much take the place as just borrow it for a little bit and then hand it back only slightly soiled.
Instead, for most of the film’s running time, we are treated to Jason taking an aquatic journey (after commandeering a teenage couple’s boat) on an old, dilapidated cruise ship named Lazarus which is filled with high school teeny boppers and school faculty members on a graduation trip to New York. No, it’s not what we were promised by the title but I still get a lot of kicks out of Jason Takes a Boat Ride.
Unlike the previous two entries I’ve reviewed for the 13 Days of Friday the 13th, Part VIII falls squarely in the ‘So Bad, it’s Good’ category, as does just about every entry in the series. The flick itself doesn’t make a lick of sense. For one, when did Jason learn how to man a boat? After killing off two kids on one of their Daddy’s boat he takes it for a spin. But not just in circles and then scuttling it onto dry land, but he actually maneuvers it all the way down some river connected to the lake which then feeds into the Atlantic Ocean.
Not only this, but Jason climbs off this boat and onto the decrepit cruise ship Lazarus to join a group of recent high school graduates and faculty members on a trip to Manhattan. What is Jason’s motivation to commandeer a boat and take a trip to that Atlantic? What prompted this? Did he need a change of scenery? A vacation?
It’s a film that doesn’t make a lick of sense. Jason can teleport in this movie. You read that right, the guy can be one place and the, without moving, pop up somewhere else. This is not some kind of editing mistake, this was done on purpose. I guess they were trying to establish that Jason was kind fo like a ghost or something. A bit misguided, but it is something different. Even if it is kind of…wacky.
Then there’s the matter of our final girl’s little Jason hallucinations. Where do these come from?Does Rennie has a history of tripping out? If so, it’s never established in any way, shape, or form so it kind of comes out of nowhere. Could it tie into the Jason as a ghost concept? Is the ship now haunted because Jason is on board?
And why in the hell does Jason activate the fire alarm after killing the A.V. geek? Did Jason decide to play fair this time around or something? Did he set A.V. Nerd on fire, see that it was growing out of control and then fear for the rest of the teenagers’ safety? Come on, movie! What are you doing?
In these moments, I wish the filmmakers could have spent a bit more time trying to clarify just what the crap was going on. These scenes are quirky and kind of humorous because of how outlandish they are and I’ve grown to find them rather endearing. I can’t help but smile when Jason knocks Julius’ head off, then goes through the trouble of collecting it and placing it inside a police cruiser as if it were a decoration.
Once Jason and the survivors of the Lazarus disaster make it to Manhattan it’s kind of touch and go. One can’t help but feel a bit of a rush watching Jason react to seeing Times Square for the first time or knocking a young man’s head off from the top of a tenement building and into a dumpster down below. There are some fun moments to be had here it’s just a shame we don’t get to spend more time with Jason in Manhattan tearing apart some local color.
And that ending where the sewers of New York flood out with a raging rapids of toxic waste every single night at the stroke of midnight and Jason gets completely soaked and…transforms into a pudgy little white kid in a pair of swimming trunks? Not even a rotten, nasty, dead kid…a regular looking little boy who looks like he’s taking a nap. Is this purely symbolic or are we supposed to buy this melting into a child scenario they just shat onto the screen?
There are some fun performances here. The stand-outs are V.C. Dupree as boxer Julius who turns in a funny, over the top, badass performance. Veteran Actor Peter Mark Richman as Principal McCullom is one of the greatest assholes to ever grace the series–he gives Dr. Cuise from Part VII a run for his money. Kane Hodder returns for his second portrayal of our favorite undead mama’s boy, and brings out all the rage and single mindedness of the character. Whether you love or hate what Kane does with the character you cannot deny he gives all his when behind that mask. And, of course, there is the young Ms. Kelly Hu as the brainy, geeky, asian girl. Yeah, she went on to bigger and better things. Well, certainly bigger, I guess. (Scorpion King, X-Men 2)
It’s no wonder this entry is possibly the most universally hated by Friday the 13th’s most die hard fans. It doesn’t really deliver on the promise of the title, it’s pretty much bloodless, there’s only one bare female breast and it’s side boob, the plot holes are big enough for Killdozer to drive through, and the lead character’s performances are as stiff as my dick.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan is no masterpiece, that’s for goddamn sure, but it is still a stupid good time if you watch it in the right frame of mind. If you read the title to this one and then take the premise seriously you will no doubt be disappointed. The best way to approach Part VIII is with a good group fo friends, a case of brews and a good sense of humor. It’s one of the worst films in the series for sure, but it is still a whole lot of fun.
Trash Cinema Gold!