Archive for November, 2015

Friday the 13th Part 7 (1988)

Director: John Carl Buechler

Starring: Lar Park Lincoln, Kevin Blair, Terry Kiser, Susan Blu, Susan Jennifer Sullivan, Elizabeth Kaitan, Kane Hodder

Apart from a means of explaining why its recurring villain doesn’t stay dead, Paramount Pictures’ “Friday the 13th” series had up to this point refrained from heavy reliance on the supernatural, unlike its nightmarish counterpart over at New Line Cinema. In fact, the enormous popularity of both had resulted in the idea of pitting villains Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger against one another. Sadly, Paramount and New Line could never see eye to eye on distribution rights, etc., and so that titanic clash would have to wait an additional fifteen years. In the meantime, Jason was left to continue his bloody rampage as a solo act. The difference this time is that his intended target is a young girl who seems ripped from the pages of a Stephen King novel.

The film centers around teenager Tina Shepherd (Lar Park Lincoln), who developed telekinetic powers as a child, just in time to inadvertently drown her alcoholic father at the bottom of Crystal Lake after collapsing the deck he was standing on. A decade after these events, the still guilt-ridden Tina has returned to Crystal Lake with her mother (Susan Blu) and psychiatrist, Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser). Upon arrival, there are a couple of very important things of which Tina is not aware. First, Dr. Crews’ real intentions are not to help Tina control her extraordinary abilities, but rather to unleash them by provoking emotional responses. Second and most important is the kill-crazy undead monster Jason Voorhees, immobilized underwater since the events of “Friday the 13th Part VI” when he was chained to a large rock which was then dropped into Crystal Lake. Jason is freed from his chains when Tina, distraught after one of her sessions with Dr. Crews, goes to the docks where her father died and mistakenly resurfaces Jason with her powers.

As there usually is in these movies, a group of kids roughly Tina’s age are partying next door, completely unaware of the danger that once again lurks in the woods. Chief among them are Nick (Kevin Blair), whom Tina takes a liking to, and Melissa (Susan Jennifer Sullivan), a real bitch who is mean to everyone she comes into contact with, Tina most of all. The rest aren’t important enough to warrant so much as a mention, and they all die in horrible (and, in many cases, absurd) fashion. Eventually, it’s whittled down to just Tina and Nick against Jason.

As only one male character (Tommy Jarvis from movies IV through VI) ever proved to be a match for Jason, it’s no surprise that Nick is ineffective against the re-animated serial killer. Tina is another story. There’s a reason why Part VII is often referred to as “Carrie vs. Jason.” Mrs. Voorhees’ baby boy had never come up against someone who could fight him with her mind. As such, Jason is barely able to get close enough to touch Tina. This one-sided battle of telekinesis over brute strength robs the film’s final struggle of any suspense. How is Tina supposed to be in any danger if Jason can barely touch her without getting knocked on his ass? Tina and Nick ultimately escape with their lives, while Jason’s fate is left up in the air. Unable to be killed, he is instead dragged back to the depths of Crystal Lake from whence he came, in a scene that flips the ending to Part 1 on its head.

At this point, the series was starting to look desperate. It was okay for Part VI to make the switch to black comedy and to resurrect Jason like a sort of Frankenstein’s Monster, because that was sort of in keeping with his origins in surviving/not surviving drowning as a child. Nothing will ever truly kill him permanently. However, there’s something about making the protagonist of a “Friday the 13th” film as much a product of the supernatural as Jason that doesn’t quite sit well. Added on top of this is the bad acting, worse than usual for the series. A possible exception might be Terry Kiser, who fittingly is more fun as a corpse in the comedy “Weekend at Bernie’s.” The lone saving grace are the special makeup effects. Jason, sporting all of the decay and the battle scars which he’s acquired since Part 2, looks fantastically hideous… even if actor/stuntman Kane Hodder makes him look a bit too bulky for someone who’s supposed to have been trapped at the bottom of a lake for several years. Alas, even the makeup effects take a huge hit from the MPAA, who edited this movie all to hell. Virtually all of the murder sequences had to be cut to some degree in order to avoid the dreaded X rating. Still, I suspect that the cut scenes, if left in, would not have changed thing for the better. Not as much as some would have you believe.

In the long run, “Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood” does take the series in a different direction, as the title would imply. But the truth is that ambition has never been a strong point of “Friday the 13th,” and this sequel helps demonstrate why. For all that “Jason Lives” did to be different, it never forgot the simplistic nature of the series. People go into the woods, Jason is in the woods, people party, Jason kills them. “The New Blood” tries too hard with Tina’s storyline, and it detracts from the tried and true formula. Perhaps if the humor from the previous film had been retained, it might have been excusable, but this was never the intention. In fact, “The New Blood” was to have been the goriest, most brutal of all of the “Friday the 13th” films before the censors got their hands on it. This is decidedly one instance where “new” is not necessarily better.