Friday the 13th Part V - A New Beginning (1985)

Director: Danny Steinmann

Starring: Melanie Kinnaman, John Shepherd, Shavar Ross, Corey Feldman, Richard Young, Marco St. John, Juliette Cummins, Carol Locatell, Vernon Washington, John Robert Dixon, Tiffany Helm, Jerry Pavlon

Hard to believe it’s been 30 years since this one was first released. Time has certainly been kind to this particular “Friday” sequel. At the time, it was so despised that some critics, I’m sure, must have thought that the people who spent hard-earned money to see it would need to have their heads examined. Many fans probably agreed. While “A New Beginning” will never be seen as one of the better chapters in the long history of “Friday the 13th,” later entries would show just how much worse things could get. For that reason, among others, “Friday the 13th Part V” is looked upon with somewhat greater fondness than it once was.

Speaking of people who desperately need a psychiatrist, Tommy Jarvis is once again the main protagonist. As a child (when he was played by Corey Feldman in “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter” and in the first five minutes of this movie), Tommy killed Jason Voorhees in self-defense. In the five years since, Tommy (now played by John Shepherd) suffers from the effects of PTSD. Heavily withdrawn, partly due to the laundry list of drugs in his system, Tommy nevertheless has a very thin threshold for agitation. When pushed too far, he’ll quickly respond with disproportionate violence. No one else besides Jason has died at his hand, mind you… but they’re probably not too quick to look at themselves in the mirror afterwards, either.

At this time, Tommy is making the transition back into society by staying at a Halfway House. There are many other young men and women there who are roughly Tommy’s age, but if you’re looking for an explanation for what brought them there… fill in the blanks yourself. One of them, a big and strong-looking man named Vic, seems like the one person who wants to be there even less than Tommy. They’ve got this quick-tempered goon on wood-chopping duty. Smart. The matter is quickly brought to a head when the halfway house’s resident annoying fat pig named Joey won’t leave him alone. To everyone’s horror, Vic hacks Joey to pieces.

While they grieve, the others at the Halfway House also have to put a figurative leash on two of their members, Tina (Debi Sue Voorhees) and Eddie (John Robert Dixon), who keep sneaking off into the woods to have sex. This wouldn’t be a problem, except that a neighbor, Ethel (Carol Locatell), keeps threatening to shoot any loony she catches on her property. These are threats, of course. Ethel’s all talk. ALL talk. (Her idiot son won’t shut up, either.) It’s someone else who really does mean to dispatch the lot of them. Naturally, once the bodies do start piling up, the sheriff insists that it’s Jason Voorhees. The mayor says otherwise, citing Jason’s demise five years before as the reason why not.

The mayor is correct, and there are clues as to why. Firstly, there’s a secondary character who would remain in the background of most any other “Friday” film, but there are several scenes where the camera holds on him. Secondly, when ‘Jason’ is finally revealed, he looks different from the image of the real Jason which sometimes appears in Tommy’s mind. In particular, his hockey mask is cleaner, and doesn’t have the same decal stickers as the real Jason’s. Thirdly, when he is wounded, false Jason reacts to the pain like a normal human. The real Jason kept going even when his left hand had been split almost in half.

By the film’s climax, only three survivors remain: Tommy, Pam (Melanie Kinnaman) who helped run the Halfway House, and little Reggie (Shavar Ross), the grandson of the cook. Reggie was only just visiting, you see. He discovers three of the victims’ bodies in Tommy’s room, which is supposed to leave the viewer wondering whether Tommy has assumed the role of Jason (something which was teased at the end of “The Final Chapter”). He’s a pretty spunky kid. Not one to simply cower in the corner, Reggie actually does his fair share of damage to ‘Jason,’ as does Pam. Any chance of it being Tommy is put to rest when he shows up and nearly gets himself killed by standing there and gaping like a dumbass. The reveal of the true identity of ‘Jason,’ once it’s made, challenges you on whether or not you’ve been paying attention all this time. Until the connection is made to that murder of the chocolate bar-loving fat boy, I could not have picked ‘Jason’ out of a line-up the first time I saw “A New Beginning.” It’s not Vic, by the way. He’s in police custody. Besides, that’d be too easy.

The “Friday the 13th” series has always been a child of the 1980’s but it wasn’t until this sequel that the franchise had embraced the decade completely. The one place in which this is the most obvious lies with the character of Violet (Tiffany Helm). From the unusual way she wears her hair, to the music she listens to, Vi is totally an 80’s chick. Somewhat of a rebel, but an 80’s chick no less. She also does this incredibly choreographed robot dance to the tune of “His Eyes” by Pseudo Echo. I’m warning you: Listen to this song, and it’s catchy enough that it will stay with you. Kind of like Lion’s “Love Is a Lie” from the previous film was.

The biggest problem I see with “Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning” is not the fact that the killer is not Jason, nor is it that much of the action takes place at a Halfway House. What hinders “Part V” is its reliance on excess. The first four films all thrived on the mantra of keeping it simple. Meanwhile, “Part V” goes for broke in just about every way. There are way too many characters, which means a few deaths too many, and… call me crazy… too much frontal nudity. In a horror movie, the removal of clothing should be an event, but “Part V” damn near turns it into an Olympic sport! (In that case, give the gold medal to Debi Sue Voorhees… if for no other reason than because her last name is Voorhees!) This can be attributed, in part, to the director’s experience in the world of pornography (Steinmann directed the adult film “High Rise”). “Part V” has that same overabundance of nudity and cheesy dialogue one associates with porn. The kills themselves might be more welcome if the MPAA hadn’t stepped in and demanded edits as it always did with this series.

Although a better film than its reputation, the failed experiment that was “Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning” ensured the return of the real Jason Voorhees if the series was to continue on from this point. The sequels that follow largely ignore this one completely, only adding to the criticism. If it’s no longer important to the narrative, what’s the point in watching it, right? Well, when you’re watching the series all in one go, as I typically like to do, it tends not to matter. And that is, in the end, the best way to watch “Part V”; not as an individual film, but part of a greater whole.

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