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Jason X (Friday the 13th Part 10)

Jason X (Friday the 13th Part 10)

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Happy Friday the 13th everyone! Given I have already covered parts VIII and V of the treasured horror film series that has so popularized the holiday, I figured that this would be an opportune time to take a look at one of the other much-maligned later entries into the franchise: specifically, the futuristic, sci-fi infused “Jason X.”

“Jason X” was written by Todd Farmer, and was his first major writing project. He has since gone on to write the “My Bloody Valentine” remake and the Nic Cage movie “Drive Angry,” which has a similar tongue-in-cheek tone to “Jason X.” The director of “Jason X,” James Isaac, doesn’t have many other directorial credits, but has worked in special effects on movies such as “Gremlins,” “Virtuosity,” and “eXistenZ.”

The cast of “Jason X” is headlined by Kane Hodder, who plays his famous role of Jason for the last time in the film. The rest of the cast is made up of various bit players and television actors, but lauded director David Cronenberg makes a brief cameo in the opening sequence of the film.

jasonx3“Jason X” is perhaps best known for being widely hated by critics and audiences alike. It currently hold a critic score of 20% and an audience score of 25% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is decidedly in the realm of the rotten. The film made just under 17 million at the box office on an estimated budget of 11 million, making it at least a profitable venture in spite of the poor reception.

“Jason X” was initially pitched because of developmental issues with getting the next planned movie in the series, “Freddy vs. Jason,” off of the ground. While that crossover was stuck in development hell, it was decided that another “Friday the 13th” movie should be made to keep the character of Jason in the public consciousness. And thus, the hockey-masked killer was sent into space.

In an attempt to keep the series fresh, “Jason X” is a film that tried a lot of new things. Unfortunately, most of them didn’t work out very well. The new, futuristic look for Jason wasn’t warmly received, and neither was the stilted attempt to make the movie a partial parody of the series. To make matters worse, “Jason X” was also one of the first major horror movies to rely heavily on CGI effects, which is something that still doesn’t sit well with horror purists. After all, this is a series that once claimed one of the kings of practical horror effects, Tom Savini. The writer and director tried to replicate some of the successful elements of “Alien” into the movie, but all of those attempts fall pretty flat and barely break out of being shallow, hollow pastiches. All of that said, at least the movie marked an attempt to try something new, and that is worth some credit. You can only terrorize campers at Crystal Lake so many times.

jasonx1While most of the attempts at humor in “Jason X” are really poorly executed, there is at least one segment that I thought was pretty great. At one point in the film, Jason is trapped in a holodeck. In an attempt to distract him, a simulation is produced of Camp Crystal Lake, complete with promiscuous, pot-smoking teenagers. Jason reacts by, of course, killing them, but does so in a way that nods to one of the most memorable deaths in the franchise up to that point:

That’s a pretty good way to nod at the history of the franchise, and poke at how over the top it had become. If only the whole film were so clever…

The acting and dialogue in “Jason X” is unarguably awful, but it is possible that this was done by design for the sake of self-parody. I think that might even be likely, but it unfortunately doesn’t make the movie any more entertaining, despite the best of intentions.

jasonx5It is interesting to note how much “Jason X” differs from the 2009 reboot of the franchise. Effectively, the reboot goes in the opposite direction stylistically, favoring a very dark and serious tone over any kind of camp. Interestingly, this approach also failed to resonate, earning scores just barely higher than “Jason X” from critics and audiences. This brings up an interesting question: what kind of “Friday the 13th” would satisfy audiences today? I suppose it would have to find a median between “Jason X” and “Friday the 13th” (2009), but I wonder if anyone will ever be able to find that balance. The entire reason that “Jason X” took so many chances is because the premise and the character of Jason have just been done to death, and there aren’t many places left to take it. I suppose we’ll see if Jason will ever be left dead indefinitely.

jasonx2“Jason X” surprisingly saw a number of sequels in the form of paperback books that were marketed for young adults. I never read any of them, but I have a hard time believing that Jason translates particularly well into the written word.

The good folks at MythBusters took on one of the more infamous scenes in the film, in which a character’s head is dunked into nitrogen and then smashed to pieces. In case you were curious, it was busted:

“Jason X” has the distinction of being the most lethal installment in the “Friday the 13th” franchise, clocking in with 28 deaths in total. Here they are, all handily compiled into a YouTube video:

So, how does “Jason X” hold up with the rest of the franchise? I know a lot of people who say it is the worst, but I don’t think that is quite fair. It definitely missed its mark with audiences, but the film itself isn’t poorly made. I think “Jason X” just took on too many (arguably poorly advised) risks that failed to pay off. The movie is at least watchable and has moments of entertainment when it comes down to it. “Jason X” certainly deserves to be considered as on the lowest tier of the franchise, along with V, VIII, and IX. However, I don’t think it can quite claim the bottom slot. I haven’t gone back to watch IX in a good while, but I’m leaning towards V being the worst in the franchise, and I think both of those films merit being ranked lower than “Jason X.”

jasonx4Personally, I would only recommend “Jason X” for “Friday the 13th” fans that want to burn through the entire franchise. I know that there are some people who appreciate “Jason X” as a good-bad flick, and I will admit that it has some good moments, but overall I don’t think that it is particularly noteworthy. It doesn’t quite deliver on its ambitions, and the result is an unfocused movie that isn’t quite sure what it is supposed to be.

 

IMDb Bottom 100: Friday the 13th (Parts V and VIII)

Happy Friday the 13th everybody! To celebrate the occasion, I have a double feature of two IMDb Bottom 100 alumni from the infamous “Friday the 13th” franchise. There’s also a Stanley Cup Final game tonight, so you should dig out your hockey masks either way.

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Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

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“Friday the 13th: Part V” is probably the most intensely reviled of all of the “Friday the 13th” movies. “Part V” has even been ignored in the continuity of the subsequent films in the franchise. There are a lot of reasons why this film ultimately failed so spectacularly, but the most famous reason is related to a key aspect of the previous movie, “Part IV: The Final Chapter”: Jason was killed in the end, and is actually still dead for once.

That’s right: Jason, the iconic hockey-masked star of the franchise, is not in “Part V”. Instead, the killings are being perpetrated by a copycat, whose identity is withheld until the end of the movie.

It plays out like a particularly dark episode of Scooby-Doo. In the end, the dude under the mask is “the one guy from earlier”

Most fans of the franchise felt quite cheated by the absence of Jason, particularly due to the heavy implications from the promotional materials that the super-zombie would be returning.

friday3The problems don’t end with just Jason’s absence and the deceptive marketing. Rumor has it that the MPAA ratings board was lax with their judgements on “The Final Chapter” due to their belief that it would, indeed, be the concluding movie in the franchise. When “A New Beginning” came up for review, evidently the ratings board was harsher than ever. In order to avoid a NC-17 (and the significant hindrance that brings to distribution and box office revenues), massive cuts had to be made to any graphic scenes. The results of this are a number of off-screen deaths, minimized gore effects, and an overall underwhelming “Friday the 13th” experience in the violence department, which did not go over well with franchise fans.

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This is as bloody as the movie gets

Alas, there are even more issues with “Part V”. The soundtrack elects to use “updated” 80s style pop music instead of the traditional horror music you might expect. The characters are mostly shallow caricatures and stereotypes (more-so than usual), and comic-relief comes in the form of unexpected and unnecessary poop jokes. There also isn’t a true protagonist, as Tommy (a character returning from “Part IV”) is absent from most of the movie, and acts as the primary red herring for the audience. Because of this lack of focus, the audience doesn’t get enough time with any characters to form emotional connections, and thus the story doesn’t have any sense of gravity. When a character dies, the audience needs to feel a sense of loss. In this movie, the lack of character depth means that effect doesn’t happen.

While “Friday the 13th: Part V” has plenty of problems and is a long way from being good, I feel like it doesn’t deserve all of the ire that it gets. It seems to me that it spurned the fan base, but mostly in a way that was outside of the film-makers control (the ratings cuts and the deceptive marketing). I personally think that using a Jason copycat is a pretty interesting concept that could have panned out better. It played with the established mythos of the franchise, which is a cool way to mix things up in a formula that was on the verge of going stale.

Still, this is widely regarded as the worst movie in the franchise, and I agree that it is certainly a heavy contender for that title. The other most common candidate for that claim (outside of the semi-parody “Jason X”) is…

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

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Much like “Part V”, “Part VIII” drew an immense amount of ire from franchise fans and general audiences alike for its deceptive marketing. The movie known as “Jason Takes Manhattan” in fact mostly takes place on a cruise ship, and is primarily filmed in Canada. That wouldn’t be such a huge deal if the film’s marketing didn’t look like this:

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To say the least, the marketing didn’t do the movie any favors with audiences.

Personally, I like the idea of relocating Jason to mix the movies up a bit. And honestly, a cruise ship works splendidly for the “Friday the 13th” formula: you have a large group of people who are isolated from society, and prone to all sorts of youthful shenanigans. I’m actually quite curious if this setting clicked with the writer more-so than having Jason wander the streets of the Big Apple, which is pretty far outside of his usual style. My guess is that the script needed a reason for Jason to be in New York, and the ship was intended initially as just a story mechanism, maybe with just a kill or two. I’m willing to wager that the urban setting caused a lot of problems for the Jason formula, so the writer ultimately relegated the NYC portion of the story to what is essentially an extended chase scene.

friday14 friday19Once again, there are a lot of issues with “Part VIII” that go beyond the deceptive marketing. The protagonist has a number of hallucinations of Jason as a child, which are never fully explained. She is also afraid of water due to a traumatic experience at Crystal Lake as a young child, which is implied to have been Jason attempting to drown her, despite that not being Jason’s M.O. Further, the New York sewers are conveniently filled with a toxic waste that melts skin, which is used to defeat Jason at the end of the movie. During that death sequence, Jason’s under-mask makeup is absolutely miserable when compared to previous films, and worse yet, he somehow reverts to his child-form after being thoroughly melted by the toxic sludge. Even worse yet, the child-form of Jason looks almost nothing like the previous depictions of his younger self. These are all generally small things, but the missed details stack up eventually. Also, a character has a fist-fight with Jason. I still can’t decide whether that was dumb or amazing.

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“So…we’re going with that?”
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You can guess how well this goes

In general, “Jason Takes Manhattan” is primarily a victim of fan rage at the deceptive marketing for the movie. The film is technically better than “A New Beginning” in my opinion, but a long way off from being good. Yet, once again, I feel like it gets far more loathing than it really deserves. With both of these movies, the filmmakers took risks to mix up a formula that was wearing thin. They didn’t wind up panning out, but I can’t help but appreciate the creative efforts in both of these movies. Personally, I think I like both of them more than “Part VII”, which features a telekinetic psychic who battles Jason with her superpowers. That movie, while probably more competent than either of these, is just damn stupid.

Unless you are dedicated to watching the entire “Friday the 13th” franchise, both “Part V” and “Part VIII” are totally skippable. If you are curious, I recommend just looking up the highlights from each. “Part VII”, however, is a bizarre love-hate experience that i can definitely recommend to bad movie fans.