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Friday the 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan, Key to the City

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (Paramount, 1989)
Written and directed by Rob Hedden

1989 marked a little over ten years since the slasher boom had started. Granted, most of these movies stopped making money back in 1984, and the genre should have been dead. However, there was so little investment in simple gore effects and horrendous acting, so there were still a handful of these films made over the next five years.

However, I would argue that 1989 was the end of the first wave of slasher films. Scream would of course start the second wave seven years later. In 1989, the three biggest slasher franchises, after some financial success from their last installments, would rush three big stinkers into production and shit them upon us in this wonderful year. Nightmare on Elm Street 5 and Halloween 5 both tanked at the box office, but nothing quite left as noticeable a taste of pure bile in our figurative mouths as Jason Takes Manhattan did.

The poster, which I consider to be a stroke of genius, pissed off New Yorkers to no end, but according to everything you read about this film, the fans were the ones who got really steamed. While easily amused by stupid teenagers wandering around in the woods and getting killed in all sorts of fun and grotesque ways, the broad minded gimmick that F13 VIII represented was just taking things way too far.

You can read asides such as the title is misleading because the majority of the film takes place on a boat headed toward Manhattan (A boat that somehow gets from Crystal Lake to the Ocean, and then to Manhattan). And once in Manhattan (which with the exception of one shot of New York, looks a hell of a lot like Toronto), there were cries of annoyance at the fact that Jason seemed no more terrifying than your average New Yorker. Maybe the Projectionist can squander up an opinion on that.

Then of course there is the amusing ending where we discover that every night the sewer system of New York is flooded with toxic waste, and Jason somehow turns into a little boy and is last seen in the fetal position crying. Oh, I shit you not!

But for all of these complaints, I offer up the fact that compared to most of the other films in the franchise, Jason Takes Manhattan is not so much bad as it is dreadfully boring.

The film starts off with Jason, yet again, resting on the bottom of Crystal Lake. A couple of horny teenagers throw the anchor off their boat so they can get down to business. The anchor runs along some electrical lines and shocks Jason back to life. He comes up for air, offs the two teens, and waits till morning to catch a ride with the high school class headed to Manhattan.

And for the next hour we get to watch the majority of these typical F13 characters get sliced and diced. I will give the film credit for trying to be a little more original with the killings. One guy gets stoned to death with a sauna rock for instance. And since we haven’t had too many actor’s skeletons pop up in the last few films, I should point out that a young Kelly Hu can be seen in this film at least until she gets knocked off.

We eventually get to Manhattan/Toronto, and we still have a few stragglers left. Jason follows them into the city and kills all but two of them, along with a couple of the most unconvincing drug dealers I’ve ever seen in a film. We then get the aforementioned sewer scene.

Kane Hodder is back behind the mask, and he, much like the previous film, is the one bright spot. He’s not as good here as he was in The New Blood; maybe the uniqueness has worn off a bit. Still, he is easily the most imposing of all the actors that have adorned the visage. He’s a hoot to watch in the film’s best death sequence where he takes on a young boxer on the top of a building in Toronto…err, I mean Manhattan.

However, despite the redundancy that all of these films can be accused of Part VIII is as well executed as the majority of them. It’s a shit ton better than III and A New Beginning. But it might very well be the first of the bunch that is simply slow and dull. A New Beginning was at least so bat shit bizarre it remained somewhat interesting.

Paramount dumped quite a bit of money into this picture as well. In some circles, it is recorded as the most expensive slasher film of the time. It cost five million, and when you consider Scream cost only 14 million seven years later with inflation and all, that is quite a bit of money. Scream at least had recognizable actors in it and a couple of people we might even consider stars (Courteney Cox and Drew Barrymore). The most notable name in Jason Takes Manhattan was Warren Munson, who was apparently in a couple episodes of Dynasty and Cheers.

As far as Paramount was concerned, this was the final nail in the coffin, and they sold off the rights a couple of years later to New Line Cinema, but that’s for the next review. As for this one, I have little else to say. When you consider what Godzilla had already done to major cities, Jason just didn’t seem that threatening. It was a stupid idea that resulted in a stupid movie. If you can find the teaser on You Tube though, I suggest you check it out; it captures a better sense of dread and ambience in thirty seconds than the film could muster up in an hour and a half. Maybe they should have let the preview guy direct the picture; maybe he did.

Next up, Jason goes to hell, and hopefully he’s not on a boat that’s headed to hell for the first hour. Wait! That might actually be interesting.

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

Next: Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday

Sam Loomis

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