Monday, December 28, 2015

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives - 1986

In Friday the 13th part 4, a kid named Tommy Jarvis supposedly kills Jason Voorhees, the hockey masked serial killer.  It's why Part 4 was subtitled as "The Final Chapter".  But because no horror movie series can ever be called "over" part 5 came out simply titled "A New Beginning" and Jason was back at it.

Since Part 2, these movies had been on a routine formula, people for some reason come to Camp Crystal Lake, and Jason kills them.  They thought they could put a small twist into the plot by having Jason die and actually be replaced.  Originally, the idea was to have Jason be replaced by Tommy Jarvis, who would somehow get the same curse that Jason did, and he'd presumably start killing people, don a hockey mask (or maybe change it to an umpire mask or whatever) and the series could go on.  But poor box office results on Part 5 meant that people didn't want the plot going that way, and Part 6 decided it needed to firmly say "No, Tommy isn't replacing Jason".  And now we're all caught up.

We open with Camp Crystal Lake, again, camp counselors and kids out there, again, but no Jason in the woods.  Jason is "dead" as of the last film, and now, Tommy Jarvis is worried about Jason not being 100% for real dead.  He wants to go to Jason's grave, just to double check there's a body in there.  So he digs him up, and impales him with a huge metal spear.  This is of course on a typical stormy night, and lightning hits the spear, thus reviving Jason.  Jason is off to Camp Crystal Lake to do his thing, in the meantime Tommy is arrested for generally being a jackass.  He escapes eventually and is off to stop Jason.

This movie was one of the top inspirations for what eventually went on to become the movie Scream, and it's easy to see why.  At 1986, this was the sixth movie in the franchise, at a rate of almost one a year since 1980.  That was what the Scream idea was all about, this horror craze that was made by Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street.  Since Nightmare had a more bizarre and not straight-forward approach to it, it's always been my opinion that Scream was more directly referencing Friday the 13th, Halloween, Sleepaway Camp, and all the non-legacy slashers that were coming out around this time.  Turns out I was pretty much right.

This film is great: good budget, well shot, and with a record breaking 18 kills in this movie, it's awesomely entertaining.  Jason is badass and given plenty of great scenes to scare you in, and the deaths are really cool for the most part.  This is one of the first in the franchise that went above and beyond, reaching into a super-human, almost silly approach to the horror subject- but still keeping it horror.  I mean, just the idea of bringing him back with lightning was a notable change.  It's not like the other Friday the 13th series had been grounded in reality and realism, but none had gone that far off the deep end with wacky ideas.  That self-aware approach and the escalation of kills became exactly what horror movies became about later on in the 80's:  hyper-violence, almost silly suspension of reality, and the killer being the true star of the movie.

Tommy Jarvis is the only recurring character in the Friday series that doesn't ever die.  It was a interesting idea to write him out of the series after this, and in my opinion a smart idea.  3 different actors had played him, and he was more than disposable after this movie, but he was also not a very strong character, and we as an audience weren't exactly begging for him to come back after this.  Still, I have to wonder what would've happened if Friday the 13th had kept Tommy around in the future movies, always pursing Jason and somehow besting him.  I think that would be pretty cool, actually.  But in a way it's better to have him disappear after this, it sort of makes him a unaware survivor.  Since he never truly discovers that Jason comes back after this movie.

As of today, there is a Friday the 13th film "in development" on IMDb as well as a Nightmare on Elm Street.  They both had less-than-huge reboots in 2009 (13th) and 2010 (Elm St).  I have to think these new projects will not be sequels, because the time has been too long....  It's also interesting that none of the directors associated with the entire series of Friday the 13th have other big movies they're known for.

I've seen every Friday the 13th movie when I was a younger of course, and then again about 4 years ago, in order for the most part.  This one stands out in the series.  This is one where I remember, as a kid, my older brother had seen it, and he would frighten me by telling me about it.  I was so intrigued by the idea of chaining Jason to the bottom of a lake as well, wondering how in the world they did that.  It was definitely well done, it's linear, the plot is very well done, and the movie isn't hard to follow at all.  It's a great example of how, 6 movies in, a series can still have stand out sequels.  There had been some weak links in the chain along the way, as there always are, but somehow this one just worked.  I enjoyed it a lot, I give it 4 stars.

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