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Friday the 13th: Jason Lives…As A Comedy!


Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (Paramount, 1986)
Written and directed by Tom McLoughlin 

After the mild reaping that Friday the 13th: A New Beginning brought in at the box office, the F13 producers decided to go back to the drawing board for the next effort. They could have just stopped making them, I guess, but that would have just been silly. A New Beginning wasn’t exactly a failure; it ended up pulling in around 21 million, but compared to The Final Chapter (which was supposed to be the last film), it wasn’t the success they were hoping for.

The first noticeable change, if you can’t tell from the title that reeks of desperation, is that Jason Voorhees is back, front and center, as our killer. Not only does he return, but he’s a freaking super powered zombie. After Tommy Jarvis, now played by Thom Matthews, and his buddy decide to dig up Jason’s grave to make sure he’s really dead, Tommy stabs him with a spear to kill him again and a well directed lighting bolt resurrects him.

Jason is now bigger and badder than ever. He still uses weapons on his victims; he even stumbles across a machete eventually. However, now he will also punch his fist through people’s stomachs, bend them in half, and rip their heads off with his bare hands. It’s interesting to note that up until this point, the F13 franchise had not taken the approach to sequels that each one should be bigger than the one before, hopefully masking the irrelevance of making the thing other than financial security. But it took Jason and company five films before they decided to dip to this tactic. I am by no means implying that the previous sequels were any more intelligent, but only pointing out they were essentially simple retreads of the original film whereas Jason Lives is at least striving to be a little different.

The second change that occurs, if you pay that much attention to the credits, is that Jason Lives marks the first time a single writer/director is involved, Tom McLoughlin. One could say, with an enormous hesitation, that Jason Lives is done by the work of an auteur. This would be yet another reason this film stands out amongst all the sequels for good and bad reasons. As I already pointed out, I hesitate to give McLoughlin that distinguished label, especially considering it usually factors in to the filmmaker’s entire body of work (McLoughlin has mostly just done television work besides this film), but there is a distinct voice heard in this sequel, which makes it worth pointing out.

Third, there are actually, honest to god, camp counselors back in the picture. The crazy folk of Crystal Lake have renamed the campgrounds Forrest Green and are reopening the site. This aspect, alone, at least gives us a vindication for Jason’s killing spree. We also for the first and only time, have kids at the camp, which provides for most of the better moments in the film. However, I also must point out how annoying it is that not a single one of the kids actually dies.

Finally, and this is the aspect of the film that makes me cringe at even mentioning it, but Jason Lives is supposed to be…well, you see, it’s supposed to be…oh my god! Jason Lives IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY! That’s right. This is your kinder and nicer Friday the 13th film. So, we have a reanimated corpse wandering around tearing people apart if they get in his way, but not without a chuckle here and there to make the whole experience strange and discomforting.

The comedic aspects don’t bother me so much in theory; Scream among many other horror films in the past have managed to be humorous and frightening at the same time. However, Jason Lives manages to be neither to a scary degree. For instance, in one sequence Jason wanders upon a trio of co-workers having one of those survival weekends that only seems to happen in the movies; they’re playing paintball to be able to get along better. He slams one of them up against a tree, and after the guy slides down the tree there is a happy face imprinted on the bark. Ha, ha, ha!

This also might be one of the first self-referential horror films. When two camp counselors (Tony Goldwyn and Nancy McLoughlin) drive upon to Jason standing in the middle of the road, McLoughlin makes the comment: “I’ve seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly.” Ha, ha, ha! Seriously, stop, you are killing me!

The film even goes so far as to make fun of itself by having the camp counselors making up a card game based on the previous F13 films; what the hell?

In the film’s defense, Jason Lives moves along at a steady pace; I was not bored at any moment for the first time in the entire series. The kids are kind of fun, and I have to give the film credit for having an honest to god smart police officer (David Kagen) in it; that doesn’t ever happen in slasher films.

Still, all of the teenage characters are as cardboard as they have ever been in the series, and the acting might actually be worse than A New Beginning, the film where an actress was cast because her last name was Voorhees, so that’s quite an accomplishment. And while the zombified version of Jason is a little more fun at the beginning, you realize quickly enough that they will have to come up with an extremely interesting way to stop him since he’s so indestructible, and guess what? They don’t.

Jason Lives shows more than ever that this series has dipped in the well once to often, if not more, and yet there are still four more films in the series. Next up, Jason vs. Carrie; maybe it will be a funny version of Carrie.

Follows: Friday the 13th: A New Beginning

Next: Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood


Sam Loomis

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