Saturday, February 7, 2009

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning

When the producers of the Friday the 13th movies decided to continue after the fourth installment (Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter) they faced a quandary: Since Jason died at the end of the previous flick, how could they continue the series? Actually it wasn’t a quandary, since Jason is dead at the end of eight of his eleven appearances, and the stock solution for the problem is to open the next movie with “He gets up.” Still, the producers thought it was a problem, so they managed to come up with a terrible solution for it.

The movie begins in a rainy graveyard at night. While Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman) from the previous movie watches in fear from the bushes, two losers dig up Jason’s grave. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but Jason wakes up, kills the graverobbers, and prepares to resume his reign of terror. The movie is starting just like we thought it would. No, wait, it isn’t. It’s just a dream. Psych!

Back in reality, a now grown-up Tommy wakes up from his nightmare. It seems ol Tommy hasn’t been the same since his tete-a-tete with Jason, and he’s mostly been institutionalized since. He is going to a new home for mental patients, which apparently exists both in the South (judging by accents) and near Crystal Lake. The home has a novel approach to mental illness: Let dangerous psychotics roam around mostly unsupervised using dangerous tools until they kill each other off. Snicker if you must, but this movie was made in the 80s, and that pretty much describes the Reagan administration’s approach to mental illness.

One of the residents of the facility is Joey, a heavy, possibly retarded young man whose mental illness is an apparent compulsion to annoy the hell out of everyone, putting his chocolate stained hands on the newly washed laundry, and so on. After upsetting the girls with their laundry, he wanders over to where one of the patients, a psychopath with rage issues, is chopping wood with an axe. Joey begins to annoy the wood-chopping psycho, and before you can say “bad idea”, the axe is buried in Joey’s brain, and we have our first death. And Jason didn’t do it!

The head-axing either inspires him or makes him jealous, because there is soon a familiar, hockey-wearing figure chopping his way through the cast. Although…wasn’t the mask decorated in red instead of blue in the previous films? Where’s the axe cut in the top of the mask? Do we have massive continuity errors?

Nope. As it turns out, it isn’t Jason at all. Son of a bitch. Jason really is dead forever (Errrrrr). It turns out that one of the EMTs who responded to Annoying Kid getting whacked was secretly the kid’s father, and seeing his beloved son, who he had nothing to do with, killed caused him to go off the rails. He goes on a murder rampage and decides to kill everybody, even characters that had nothing to do with Beloved-but-ignored son’s death. And this is the biggest flaw of the movie, which is my least favorite of the series. Would you make a 007 movie without James Bond? Of course not. Then why make a Friday the 13th film without Jason. It just ain’t right.

A few notes:
A New Beginning features a staple of the series, the 50s-era greasers who get killed. Apparently Crystal Lake (or wherever this is supposed to be) has a time rift that allows refugees from The Wild One to enter our time to get sliced and diced by our beloved monster, and two of them bite it here.

There is a subplot of a hillbilly woman and her dim-witted son who lives next to the facility for the mentally disturbed kids, and hates them. Every time she was on the screen, I thought of Reba McIntyre.

One of the four black characters in the movie survives. If you’ve watched any slasher movies, you know an African-American character that doesn’t end up a victim has really beaten the odds.

Speaking of African-American characters, two of them figure in one of the most disturbing scenes in the movie. It seems the kid who lives at the camp has an itinerant brother named Demon. Demon has stolen Debarge’s wardrobe and wears enough Jheri Curl to solve the energy crisis. Demon offers everyone Mexican food, and then suffers the ills of bad tacos. He goes to the outhouse, and while noisily taking a dump, sings a duet with his girlfriend on the other side of the door. No kidding. When moments like this occur, people look at each other in amazement, but I was alone, so I just looked at myself.

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