4.19.2008

Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)

Director – Tom McLoughlin

Starring-
Thom Mathews - Tommy Jarvis
Jennifer Cooke - Megan Garris
David Kagen - Sheriff Mike Garris
C.J. Graham - Jason Voorhees
Kerry Noogan - Paula
Renee Jones - Sissy
Tom Fridley - Cort

Year - 1986

Score - 3.5 Howls Outta 4



After watching Friday The 13th Part V: A New Beginning, I can't believe that the franchise continued to go on after that debacle. I'm sure many fans were upset at the fact that Jason in that movie was fake [I never really cared about that, I just thought the movie sucked], so Paramount rapidly did something to rethink their direction on the series. They were originally gonna have main character Tommy Jarvis continue his road as Jason's successor, but the backlash changed that and they decided to do the next best [or worst, depending on your opinion] thing: bring Jason back. Yes, he was dead. But in horror, no one stays dead, especially if you're a horror icon. That's where Jason Lives comes in. It puts Jason back to what he knows and does best, while doing something different at the same time: instead of trying to be scary, why not make fun of yourself and add humor? Something like this could backfire in a slasher film. Fortunately for Jason Lives, it works and it works really well.


PLOT
Sometime after the events of A New Beginning [if that movie is still considered part of this franchise's timeline], our hero Tommy Jarvis (now 25 and played by the awesome Thom Mathews from Return of the Living Dead I & II) and his friend Allen (Ron Palillo aka Horshack of Welcome Back Kotter) decide to take a trip to the cementary. Apparently, Tommy's continued tries at therapy at the mental institution has not gotten rid of the nightmares associated with his murder of Jason back when he was a child. So he decides to make sure Jason never ever comes back. Finding Jason's grave, Tommy drives a metal stake through his chest in anger. Apparently Tommy has never seen Frankenstein because lightning strikes the rod, filling Jason's corpse with electrical energy. Within seconds, Jason kills Allen and exits the grave to confront Tommy. Jason lets Tommy escape for now, however, as he puts on his trademark hockey mask to continue his killing spree. Tommy, now realising his nightmares have become a reality, heads straight for the local sheriff's office. It's not a great move on Tommy's part, as Sheriff Garris (David Kagen) knows his past history and refuses to believe him about Jason being reborn. This leads to Tommy being put behind bars as the police figure out what's up with Tommy's story.

Meanwhile, Camp Crystal Lake [now called Camp Forest Green in hopes that it will erase the horrible memory of the bloody history of Jason's and his mother's rampage] reopens for a weekend with a lot of children hoping for some fun and games while at camp [be careful what you wish for, kiddies]. While awaiting in a cell at the police station, Tommy gains an ally - the sheriff's spunky and sexy daughter Megan (Jennifer Cooke), who finds Tommy attractive. As usual, Jason returns home and begins adding to his body count. The sheriff believes that Tommy has gone totally mental and is doing the murders himself in the name of Jason. With Megan's help, Tommy escapes prison as the both of them try to clear Tommy's name and save everyone at Camp Forest Green before it's too late. Who lives? Who dies? Is that Alice Cooper I'm hearing on the soundtrack? Kickass!

REVIEW
This is my FAVORITE Friday The 13th movie. It's trash, but really likable trash that does the right things right. Writer and director Tom McLoughlin realizes how slasher movies become less and less scarier, especially when they reach a sixth part, causing him to add intentional humor to the situation. Some of it is obviously cheesy, but I always laugh at how the characters react to what's happening to them. When you get a young camper asking his friend, "So, what were you gonna be when you grew up?", it makes you chuckle. Plus the classic "When you see the red dot, you bang" always gets a smile outta me. Ridiculous lines of dialogue, but ridiculously good lines of dialogue.

I also thought the direction by McLoughlin was really excellent here. The picture quality was beautiful and it was actually very atmospheric and kinda creepy. I loved every establishing shot used, especially the ones of the woods with the fog just roaming through. That's not a place where I would want to go camping. Plus we get overhead shots of Tommy and Megan at separate times, showing them how vulnerable and isolated they are. Contrast that to the underhead shot of Jason standing over an overturned trailer surrounded by fire [making him look powerful and in charge] and you have a good filmmaker who's serious about his craft. While never scary, McLoughlin films the movie in a quick, yet tension-filled pace. You know bad things will happen to these people, but you never know when. It just builds up like a jack-in-the-box until POP! Goodbye character. Good job there.

This is also probably the only F13 film where I actually cared whether the characters lived or died for the most part. I actually sympathetized with most of them! How novel in a slasher film! It helps when the acting is decently good from everyone involved. Thom Mathews always does a good job in any movie he's in, so here's no exception. Unlike John Shepherd, who had played Tommy in A New Beginning, Mathews has that leading man quality about him that makes you like him the moment he opens his mouth. While not as insane as his other protrayal, you still see traces of paranoia in the character as he's really haunted by Jason and is desperate to overcome his fear of him. Plus, how cool is it that a MAN actually survives and beats Jason? It's usually the woman in these films. It's about time a dude got some props. Jennifer Cooke as Megan was also really good here. I liked her, as she was smart, hot as hell, full of attitude, and just plain bad [in a good way]. It's nice to see a woman in these films who doesn't break apart completely when she sees blood. Megan definitely held up her own and then some. Why can't I find a woman like that? Plus she had some good chemistry with Mathews, which helped the film. David Kagen as the Sheriff was the asshole-ish character of the film, yet he wasn't dislikable. While he refused to believe Tommy's story about Jason, you could tell he was just doing what any normal person would have done. Plus he cared about his daughter Megan and her counselor friends, as well as the children at the camp. He got killed trying to save her, so he died a hero. He was the usual overprotective father and law enforcer...nothing anyone can't relate to. And CJ Graham as Jason did a great job as the killer. He looked intimidating [though Kane Hodder would perfect that in the next film], did the whole Michael Myers power walk instead of run, and had some great murder scenes and finale. I liked the performance alot. Everyone else were okay too and I didn't really hate anyone in this film [okay maybe that dumb paintball scene...wasn't really necessary but whatever], but the characters here were actually thought out for once and I commend that tons.

The music was good here too for a change. Along with the usual "Ch Ch Ch Ha Ha Ha", we got some Alice Cooper tunes! And pretty good ones at that! It gave the film a fresher and hipper feel that lacked in the previous installments, and I dug it. This was the MTV Friday The 13th film, and this was when MTV was actually good. It reminded me alot of Nightmare On Elm Street films with the hip rock music, and here, it worked fine.

Also loved the homages to other films. Aside from the Frankenstein-ish rebirth of Jason Voorhees, we get scenes of Jason where he pops up unexpectedly onto the corner of the screen like Halloween [with music intact]. Also, Cunningham Road that Megan alludes to refers back to the creator of Friday The 13th, Sean Cunningham. The little girl camper, Nancy, was named after Nancy Thompson from Nightmare of Elm Street. Tommy calls Megan at a gas station named Karloff [as in Boris - the original Frankenstein monster]. And who can forget the James Bond-like opening credits of the film where Jason walks onto the screen and slashes it, letting out a rain of blood? Some may see it as hokey and unoriginal, but I actually enjoyed them.

And is the body count high in this one or what? 18 people get killed I believe [which is probably a F13 record]. We get beheadings, a triple whammy of Jason slicing the trio of paintballers in half, crushing of a skull with bare hands, knife through the skull, and the Sheriff bending over backwards [literally]. Just pretty creative kills here, as Jason seems to enjoy his new zombie strength in this one. Good times.

I do have questions though:
1) How did Jason supposedly get so nimble after his death? He never falls like a klutz anymore, has superhuman strength, knows when to dodge, and can throw knives as if he's been practicing on a dartboard down in Hell? Will I become a great marksman after I'm resurrected too? Someone let me know, please!
2) We know Jason drowned in the water because he couldn't swim. So how come he went inside of that water and knew how to swim like a champ during the final scene? Someone gave him swimming lessons? I thought Jason was AFRAID of water? Who knew zombies made the best swimmers?
3) Whatever happened to Tommy's sister, Trish? She's never mentioned again. That one has always bothered me. She did survive the fourth part, didn't she? I guess the producers just forgot about her.
4) Jason, what's up with those yellow gloves? Do we absorb powers and memories like X-Men's Rogue? Yeah, it makes you look more like a scarecrow than an actual being of terror, sorry. Maybe next time see a fashion consultant, pal.


THE FINAL HOWL
I thought Jason Lives was not just a great Friday The 13th movie, but just a damn great movie period. Yeah, it's not scary anymore and Jason becomes an anti-hero after this film [which becomes a problem for the later sequels], but I'm not gonna lie and say that I wasn't entertained for 90 minutes. That's all that matters in the end really. From beginning to end, I was hooked on this sequel and never bored once. You had great directing, great music, good actors for once, decent humor and tension, and a Jason you don't want to fuck with: the perfect Friday The 13th movie. This film was better than it had any right to be for a fifth sequel - all of this is due to director/writer Tom McLoughlin knowing exactly what he was making and doing his best with it. He goes above and beyond the call of anyone making a Friday The 13th film, delivering a truly good film in the history of slasher films. I would have been satisfied if this were the last Jason flick, but when money talks [which this film pretty much did], evil never dies. Not a perfect slasher film or as classic as the original Friday The 13th, but in my opinion, it comes decently close. Jason Lives indeed.

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