Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

By the time we reached the eighth installment of the franchise, the producers were faced with steadily declining box office (although the series was still profitable) and running out of ideas about what to do with the series. The formula of campers getting murdered in the woods seemed exhausted. So, the producers thought, why not send the big guy to the big city? Thus Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan.

When last we saw our hero, he was once again resting comfortably at the bottom of Crystal Lake. His sleep is disturbed when the anchor of a boat being used by two teens to make out (what were the chances?) snags an underwater power cable. This is a very fragile cable, and one whose insulation is more conductive than the cable itself, surprisingly. The anchor tears into the cable, the electricity is transferred to the slumbering Jason (we’ve already established that electricity revivifies him, strengthening the idea he is the modern Frankenstein’s Monster), he wakes up, kills the kids, and relaxes while he drifts with the currents.

The boat finally reaches ground at a dock where the local high school is about to go on a cruise. Seeing the usual collection of school kids (the local high school must have a higher mortality rate than Sunnydale), Jason stows away and starts to pick the kids and crew off in his usual fashion. Included on the boat are a young Kelly Hu, who would have put up more of a fight if she had her adamantium claws,* and Jason’s typical nemesis, a girl with psychic powers, although this girl’s power doesn’t really seem to be useful or relevant.

After most everyone on board is killed, the survivors, including Jason of course, reach New York City. Just how a boat can sail from Crystal Lake to New York is never explained. There, Jason runs into street gangs, the indifference of New Yorkers, and the lights of Time Square. He meets his end this time in the sewer, in the most bewildering climax to any of the films. Sewage washed over him which…reverts him to a child? WTF? I suppose he could have been taken out a long time ago if someone had thrown a full chamber pot at him.

Although the subtitle is Jason Takes Manhattan, most of the action actually takes place on the boat, which is a good thing, because those sequences are much stronger than the ones after he reaches the city.

The best thing about this one, in my opinion, is Kane Hodder really nails his portrayal of Jason Voorhees. It’s here where he starts the performances that have made him the definitive Jason. Faced with having to bring a character to life which wears an expressionless mask, Hodder projects menace by his pattern of deep breaths and the sudden, sharp motions of his head. For an example of how hard this is, see the Halloween series, where Michael Myers never really overcomes the limitations of his mask.

As a trivial note, the man Hodder throws into the mirror in the diner scene is played by Ken Kirzinger, who would take Hodder’s place (amid great controversy) in Freddy Vs. Jason.

*This is an X-Men 2 reference.


Craig Clarke said...

This is one of your best reviews. The adamantium reference combined with an actual knowledge of electricity really made it for me.

KentAllard said...

I like to think I'm responsible for bringing the science to the kids.

Craig Clarke said...

You're like Bill Nye, the Slasher Guy.

KentAllard said...

Every one has to carve their own niche.