Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)

Posted: February 28, 2016 in Movie Review
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Friday the 13th Part 8 (1989)

Director: Rob Hedden

Starring: Jensen Daggett, Kane Hodder, Peter Mark Richman, Scott Reeves, Barbara Bingham, V.C. Dupree, Kelly Hu

Upon release, certain critics called “Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan” the best film of the franchise. I can’t for the life of me figure out why. Let’s start with the title: “Jason Takes Manhattan.” Catchy, isn’t it? There’s one problem… Jason and his would-be victims don’t even reach New York until just over an hour into the 100 minute film. That leaves about forty minutes where we’re actually in the Big Apple. Most of the film actually takes place on a cruise ship where, consequently, most of the murders take place. Speaking of the murders…. they’re as ridiculous as ever. Not Nintendo Power Glove from “Freddy’s Dead” ridiculous, but still outside the laws of physics.

Before any of the action even begins, during the film’s main title sequence, we’re treated to the song “The Darkest Side of the Night” by Metropolis. It’s admittedly contageous, in a very cheesy 80’s sort of way, but it doesn’t really belong in a “Friday the 13th” film. Harry Manfredini’s more familiar, “Psycho”-like score is sorely missed here. After the first couple of murders, we’re introduced to our main characters: Rennie (Jensen Daggett), her love interest Sean (Scott Reeves), and her overbearing legal guardian Charles (Peter Mark Richman), a.k.a. Asshole. There are several other secondary characters, most of which are done away with in the first 30-40 minutes…. so why bother listing them, right? I’d praise anyone able to remember all their names without first looking them up online.

When this series first started, most of the kills were pretty standard hack, slice and stab. They weren’t that hard to imagine being carried out in the real world. That made those scenes, although explicitly gory, still somewhat creepy. As the sequels kept coming, the writers felt they had to come up with new ideas to keep the audience’s attention, leading to moments of increasingly extreme silliness. Two of the murders… an impalement on the boat and Charles’s drowning in a sewage barrel… involve giving Jason an extra ability he never had before: teleportation. Don’t believe me? Just watch the two scenes I’ve cited! Jason is clearly seen well behind Miles (Gordon Currie) on the boat before pulling him off the ladder and impaling him. He is also seen trailing behind Charles in New York. As the Asshole enters a building and runs up some stairs to the second floor, Jason somehow not only catches up with him but actually beats him to the second floor and tosses him out the window, eventually to dunk him in the barrel of toxic waste. Speaking of which, when were there ever open barrels of toxic waste just lying around on the streets of New York?

Secondly, and this is very nitpicky… Jason had to get a brand new hockey mask from his first victim, the previous mask (from Parts 3 through VII) having been ripped in half by Tina (the telekinetic girl)’s powers in Part VII. Strange thing is that the new mask has the same exact chunk taken out of it that the original mask lost when Jason took an axe to the head in Part 3. Thirdly and perhaps most important of all is Young Jason’s appearance. Except for a flashback that provides one of those aforementioned unnecessary character developments, Young Jason does not appear as his usual mongoloid self. In fact, for the first time at any age level since his initial unmasking in Part 2, Young Jason is seen with a full head of hair! Oh, and speaking of the flashback, it seems to hint that Jason remained in Crystal Lake until his mother was killed. Yeah…. I don’t think so.

Finally, I come to perhaps the most confusing part of the film: the ending. Having chased Rennie and Sean into the sewers of New York, Jason is finally subdued by a flood of toxic waste. The thing is, once his body dissolves away, suddenly the naked form of a familiar-looking child is left behind. One can only wonder how in the hell they could have possibly tried to pick up the series from there. One of the only wise decisions that New Line Cinema made after acquiring the property was to ignore this ending entirely.

Now that I’ve ranted about everything I found wrong with “Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan,” is there anything left that was right with this film? Sure there is. One, this movie is WAY better than “Jason Goes to Hell: the Final Friday,” its immediate successor which I’ve seen once many years ago and will never, ever watch again. Two… and I know I’m repeating myself… “The Darkest Side of the Night,” while mostly inappropriate as a part of this film’s soundtrack, IS listenable in a cheesy 80’s sort of way. Lastly, this movie contains the funniest moment of the whole series. While chasing Rennie and Sean through the streets of New York, Jason kicks a boom box out of his way, breaking it and pissing off the punk kids who were playing music on it (Jason must really hate rap music!). The leader pulls a knife to challenge Jason but, instead of killing the insolent little prick, Jason simply lifts up his mask. The camera is shooting over Jason’s shoulder, so all we get is the reaction shot from the punks who run away in terror, allowing Jason to continue his pursuit of our heroes.

Evidently, this was where Paramount Pictures had seen enough. After the pitiful box office numbers were in for “Friday the 13th Part VIII,” the franchise changed hands over to New Line Cinema. It would also be the last film in the series until the 2009 reboot to bear the name “Friday the 13th.” It’s just as well. Completists will no doubt want to check this one out. Part VIII has a certain so bad, it’s good flavor to it. Realistically, the last really good “Friday the 13th” was Part VI. If you’re not a die-hard fan, then you’re better off quitting while the series is still on top of its game.

  1. Sylvia williams says:

    Teleportation,eh? Well, why not!

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