a Primal Root review
By 1986 Jason was dead. He was no more. The franchise ended on a high not with 1984’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and that was it. Right? Well, in 85 Paramount decided to try and relaunch the franchise. Not with a remake, but with a sequel. Part V: A New Beginning brought back all the elements of the Friday series with the exception of one ingredient: Jason Voorhees. This proved a major misstep as fans who wanted more of the same JAson fueled bloodbaths felt betrayed. Hence, this 1986 sequel which resurrects our deceased villain and declares loudly and proudly, that in fact, JASON LIVES!
Our film begins with our third incarnation of recurring character Tommy Jarvis ( The fellow who, as a young Corey Feldman, killed Jason in The Final Chapter and…didn’t do much in Part V besides cry, scream and kick the crap out of people) here played by Return of the Living Dead’s Thom Mathews heads out to JAson grave intend on digging his shrivled corpse up and setting it ablaze to ensure that Jason will never return. Along for the ride is Tommy’s pal Allen. Who did they suitably cast into this role? None other than Ron Palilo of Welcome Back, Kotter fame! *nudge, nudge*Get it?
It turns out as you might expect. Once Tommy unearths Jason Tommy has a flashback and goes nutso, grabs a long metal rod and stabs Jason’s crusty old cadaver with it. Before you know it the rod is struck by lightning twice (as if the Lord almighty wanted Jason brought to rise) and brings our anti-hero back to life. First order of business is killing off the comic relief side kick by ripping his heart out through his stomach…and then lettingh is arch nemisis Tommy run away.
In essence, Tommy has now brought his own worst fear to life in the process of doing the therapeutic thing and confronting it. So much for being proactive.
Tommy runs straight to the authorities with the bad news and they respond by tell him he’s completely bonkers and locking him up behind bars thereby giving Jason plenty of time to regain his murder mojo. And let m tell you, for being dead however long, Jason might be a better killer than ever. He now moves like The Terminator and is capable of complety crushing skulls with his bare hands. He was strong when he was alive..er, dead and resurrected the first time or whatever he was in the first few films but now he’s transformed into the hulking, unstoppable truly death proof man-tank he will remain for the rest of the series.
And wouldn’t you know it, Jason’s resurrection also marks the first day of the summer season over at Campy Crystal La…oops, I mean Camp Forest Green. See, they changed the name so everyone would forget the bloodshed that took place there however many years ago that was. Anyway, the camp is just opening for the summer, even though all the leaves are brown, the sky is grey, everyone is wearing thick, insulated jackets and we can se their breath at night.
There’s a whole new batch of counselor this year, seeing as everyone got slaughtered once upon a time, and they are lead by the Sheriff’s daughter Megan who is portrayed by Jennifer Cooke who would later by the founder of Celestial Seasonings. That’s right, the tea company. LEt me tell you, their peppermint tea is awesome come winter time.
Will Tommy escape from jail in time to save anyone? Will the Sheriff ever stop being an overly violent aggravated jerk for long enough to listen to Tommy? Will Megan force Tommy to put his face against her crotch? And will Jason be stopped before turning everyone at Camp Forest Green into a teeny bopper smoothie?
Jason Lives is a fun movie. It was an attempt to bring some new life to the series and they tried on the comedic shoes for the very first time. To be honest, it’s a little touch and go. Some jokes work, others don’t, and some just make you want to go out and kill paint ball players.
I’ve heard over the years that the creative team behind Jason Lives wanted to create as many jokes as they could where the audience owuld be responsible for the tag line. Like the scene where the lead counselors get murdered by Jason and the female counselor gets speared in the face and drowned in a mud puddle. He purposely captures a close up of her American Express card as it floats out of her lifeless had setting it up for some wise guy to shout, “DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT!” It’s one of the comedic approaches that I feel works in the film and is an innovative and smart way to go about it.
Then there are jokes like…extended scenes of co=workers on a company retreat playing paint ball that brought to life by an unfunny comedy troupe that happens to be friends with the director. This scene is painfully unfunny. It fails to be anything more than severely annoying. It’s the quivilant of hanging out with that one guy you knew back in high school who thought he was just hilarious and you laughed at his jokes just trying to be nice at first but then he wouldn’t leave you alone and all you could do was try to ignore him and hope he would get the hint. But he keeps trying, and smiling and winking and saying “Get it?Hu? Get it?” And finally your face just goes inferno red from having held back for so long and you just scream at him to SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LEAVE ME ALONE! YOU’RE NOT FUNNY! YOU’VE NEVER BEEN FUNNY! I CAN’T FUCKING STAND YOU! Please, just go away. Please, just stop…please…oh god…just go away…*sobs uncontrollably*
Like I said, it’s touch and go. It’s a half and half sort of movie for me. A yin and yang. There are some things in JASON LIVES! that work so damn well. The gothic element of the horror, the production design, the above average performances, the well developed characters, some fun deaths and even some of jokes work.
But there are the drawbacks of there are the drawbacks of so much time spent on those terribly unfunny sequences which hurt the film;s flow and it’s overall impact. They were trying out something new to the franchise so I can forgive a few missteps. However, comedy in the Friday the 13th series would never be handled this well again. Well, intentional comedy, that is.
JASON LIVES! is on a lot of fan favorites lists. It’s a snarky, fun and competently made entry in a series that never got a whole lot of respect from the mainstream or those that made them. Jason Lives, however, comes across as a film with a lot of heart. Watching it you can;t help but feel everyone involved was having a great time making this puppy and that there was a genuine affection for the whole franchise.
It’s one of the nicest entries in the series. It’s a lot lighter than many of the other sequels but also draws you back in with some relatively heavy moments including the deaths of someone’s father and one of the most brutal off screen deaths ever filmed, Jason’s liquefaction of young, super sweet and likable counselor, Pam.
JASON LIVES is unlike any other installment in the franchise. It has it’s highs and lows but as an original take on a long standing series it stands on it’s own two legs and wields that machete with pride. Damn good show, Jason.
-The Primal Root