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Friday the 13th The New Blood A Relative Classic of the F13 Series

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (Paramount, 1988)
Directed by John Carl Buechler
Written by Manuel Fidello and Daryl Haney

Although it’s never been mentioned in anything I’ve read about the F13 series, something tells me, Friday the 13th Part VI and it’s diminishing returns (It was the first film in the franchise to make less than 20 million which is an interesting note all by itself) had Paramount thinking twice about furthering their investment in the adventures of Jason Voorhees. It’s an educated guess, mind you, but this was the first time since early on in the series that they let a year pass in between films.

I can also deduct that since 1984, horror was no longer king at the box office. Eventually enough people complained about the gore and violence that someone was listening, or at least got filmmakers to convert to the rising popularity of the testosterone fueled action films. Names like Stallone and Schwarzenegger were making millions off comic book violence, so who the hell was this Jason Voorhees character, and why should we care?

However, in 1987, horror started making money again. The third film in the ever growing popular Nightmare on Elm Street franchise grossed around 50 million. Groundbreaking films like Hellraiser and Evil Dead 2 were scaring up a lot of interest. We were also finally getting to see some of those foreign horror filmmakers finally make their way to American big screens thanks to the rise of home video. Dario Argento’s Opera and Michelle Soavi’s Stage Fright were looked on by the art house crowd as innovative. Suddenly horror was cool again.

So, guess what? Paramount thought maybe now was a good time to dust off the hockey mask and machete and get back into business. They even gave F13 VII some prime real estate by releasing it right before Memorial Day in 1988. This would also be the same year that Child’s Play would invade our theaters just in time for Thanksgiving. Happy Holidays for all.

Two things I remember about this film are it had a psychic girl fighting Jason in it, and I got to go see it in the theater on my birthday. I’m pretty sure I hadn’t seen it since, and as I cued up the DVD, having long forgotten why I started this critical experiment in the first place, I was ready to be just as annoyed as I have been with the past few entries.

Maybe it’s my low expectations talking, but I kind of enjoyed The New Blood. Granted, I am rating my enjoyment on other films in the series; I’m for instance not comparing this to say, The Godfather or even The Rock. However, I will take enjoyment however I can get it while watching an F13 film.

From the beginning, it’s obvious that Paramount decided to get back to basics, because the film opens up with, you guessed it, a recap. It’s a recap narrated by an uncredited Walt Gorney (aka Crazy Ralph from the first two films), and it’s actually handled respectfully. It highlights many sequences from the previous films, leaving out the shit pile that is A New Beginning thankfully.

After the recap, we see a poorly composited shot of Jason Voorhees at the bottom of Crystal Lake. He’s drifting right under the Shepard summer home. Little Tina runs out of the house and down to the dock where she gets in a boat and rows out a little bit into the lake. Her mean father (John Otrin) comes after her (There has obviously just been a fight of some sort). Bad dad assures Tina he loves her and everything is okay. Tina is not buying it; she gets a crazy look on her face and what looks like a torpedo shoots out of the water and collapses the deck that her dad is standing on drowning him in the process. We get a sad look on Tina’s face and now we cut to a few years later.

Tina, all grown up, and played by the delectable Lar Park-Lincoln, is arriving back at the summer home with her mother (Susan Blu) and her psychiatrist (Terry Crews). Crews is of course best known as the dead guy in the Weekend at Bernie’s series, so if you want to call him a star, be my guest; I choose to reserve judgment. Crews is bringing Tina back to help her work out her issues with using telekinetic powers to kill her dad. But much like Tommy having to come back for psychiatric care in A New Beginning, I have to wonder if the psychiatrists in the F13 films aren’t crazier than the patients.

Oh, and it gets better. The house next to Tina’s is being rented for the weekend by some crazy and horny teens. No way! I will not go into great detail in describing them, but they are just as interesting as all of the teenage characters from the previous films; maybe even a tad better, but that’s probably because the film itself is a little more enjoyable than most.

Anyways, Tina goes out to the dock that night and decides she will try to use her psychic abilities to raise her father (Who was apparently never fished out of the lake), and instead raises some dude in a hockey mask who apparently has killed some people in the past.

The rest of the film goes as most F13 films go; Jason starts picking off the teens (the shrink and mom bite it eventually as well) until we’re left with Jason and Tina. And this final girl sequence, much like the one in Part II is why I enjoyed the film so much. While the idea of Jason vs. a Carrie knock-off is as stupid as it sounds, the fact that they were at least trying to breathe some energy into the lifeless franchise gives them a few more points this go around. I’m in a forgiving mood I guess.

Another reason the film works better than it should is that finally the producers found someone who could actually inject some life into the character of Jason, and that would be former stuntman, Kane Hodder. Hodder would become the first actor to play the character more than once (He stayed around for the next three films), and it’s easy to see why. Hodder makes Jason menacing. It’s in the way he walks, cocks his head, stalks his prey, etc. I’ve read interviews in the past with Hodder, and he talks about how he approached the role. I always found it self serving and stupid since I hadn’t seen the films in so long, but at least for The New Blood, I have to congratulate him. He actually turns Jason into something a little more than just a lifeless corpse swinging a machete.

The F/X work is also top notch in this installment. When Tina de-masks Jason, he looks pretty intense. You’ve got the years of mildew and mold that would have come from being down at the bottom of the lake, and it looks like every injury he has suffered in the previous films is there on display.

Do not get me wrong, this still isn’t a very good film. The teenage characters are worthless as usual; a couple of them are less annoying, but none of them can act. That’s also true for Lincoln; she’s not exactly what you would call a strong lead. I can’t imagine it’s easy for anyone to act like their moving something with their mind and not look constipated, but Spacek did a fine job in Carrie, and anyone else who tries will be compared to her. So, Lincoln is no one’s Sissy Spacek, but for an F13 film, she’s not too bad.

The New Blood has had its troubles with the MPAA written about many times in the past, and it’s not hard to tell while watching. There are very strange cuts from all of the death scenes, especially when Terry Crews meets the wrong end of a weed eater, and while I’m not all about the gore by any means, I can see why the fans are annoyed. And when you consider what recent films at the time like Hellraiser and Evil Dead II got away with, it is strange that The New Blood was cut up so badly. It’s most infamous sequence where Jason takes a sleeping bag with a woman wrapped up in it and bangs it against a tree was originally shown in the theater with about three slams. When it was released on video, however, it was shortened to one, which actually does make the scene more silly than intense, as it should have been. That sounds like a juvenile complaint, but if you watch the film, you’ll know what I mean.

Like I’ve said in the past, good is a relative term when talking about an F13 film, but it’s the best since Part II, which is looking like a classic more and more everyday. So, make of that what you will. Next up, we will see Jason take on Manhattan, which apparently looked an awful lot like Canada in 1989. Should be fun.

Follows: Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI

Next: Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

Sam Loomis

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