Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
New York has a new problem.
Year of Release: 1989
Running Time: 100 minutes (1:40)
Director: Rob Hedden
Jensen Daggett ... Rennie Wickham
Scott Reeves ... Sean Robertson
Peter Mark Richman ... Charles McCulloch
Barbara Bingham ... Colleen Van Deusen
Vincent Craig Dupree ... Julius Gaw
Sharlene Martin ... Tamara Mason
Kelly Hu ... Eva Watanabe
Martin Cummins ... Wayne Webber
Gordon Currie ... Miles Wolfe
Saffron Henderson ... J.J. Jarrett
Ken Kirzinger ... New York Cook (uncredited)
Kane Hodder ... Jason Voorhees
The Big Apple's in big trouble, as indestructible psycho-fiend Jason Voorhees hits the road to New York City - and paints the town "red."
After a shocking return from beyond the grave, the diabolical Jason ships out aboard a teen-filled "love boat" bound for New York, which he soon transforms into the ultimate voyage of the damned. Then one of his terrified victims escapes into the nightmarish maze of Manhattan's subways and sewers, only to confront Jason one final time.
Friday the 13th Part VIII, remindin' us that cocaine lasts a whole lot longer when you snort it with a coffee straw. Course, the thing they don't tell you is that there's a much higher risk of gettin' your nose candy permanently trapped inside the straw if there's even the tiniest amount of clumpage. In the world of professional writin' we refer to this scenario as havin' been "chalk blocked," an watchin' some poor shmuck who's just sure he's only one hit away from a nobel prize in literature try extricatin' that powdered inspiration from the straw's cruel clutches is not a pretty sight.
An speakin' of people with unrealistic goals, I figured since everyone's been writin' in wantin' to know how things're goin' on Skunky Hernandez' reconstruction of the Grime Time Drive-In, I'd use this space to fill everybody in. Even though I got a much better story about Shankles gettin' an old antifreeze jug stuck on his head an scarin' the crap out of Apollo. It's fine though, I'll just save that one for the guys at Mack's Stacks of Manly Snacks since they're capable of appreciatin' a good anecdote. Anyhow, Skunky's cousins all made it down, even though their El Torino's belchin' out smoke so bad that it looks like the Love Machine from Cheech & Chong's Up in Smoke goin' down the highway. Last time I was out there they'd pretty well chainsawed down the sage brush bushes an dug out all the rocks with Skunky's backhoe, includin' this really big one that hadda be removed usin' a bit of Tijuana ingenuity that resulted in the top half of Skunky's chimney gettin' taken out when a chunk of it went sailin' through the air headed for Dead Fish Gulch. Once he'd gotten over that in his usual intellectual fashion (that primarily involves bird shot an curse words), he bought $10 worth of gas for about 15 high school kids in exchange for drivin' their pickups around his property instead of up an down the same six blocks over an over to get the ground leveled off. He wanted to cover the lot with gravel, but I told 'im that no self respectin' drive-in would ever do that, an that the best drive-ins were so dusty by August that one guy should be able to completely obscure the screen just by walkin' to the can. He also wanted to change the name of the place, but I talked 'im outta that too by explainin' to 'im that the name of any business aughta tell you what you're gettin', like that great restaurant just outside Farewell Bend called "Eat/Gas." Best meatloaf west of the Rockies in that place. So anyway, after offerin' 'im all that sound advice, he offered to put me on the payroll to work the projection booth, an since Skunky don't seem to realize there's nothin' to runnin' the projector when there's no actual film involved, I agreed to take his money, provided he build me a deck where I can stick a lawn chair an watch movies the way God intended. Even the *idea* of watchin' a movie at the drive-in with a roof over your head makes Drive-In Jesus cry. Still, as far as I'm concerned, it's all just talk at this point. An while his labor force has at least assembled the screen, I wanna watch 'em stand that sucker up an see how long it STAYS up once the cows start usin' the support legs to scratch their hinders. They're plannin' on proppin' it up tomorrow, so I'll prolly head out there to see if Skunky ends the day with the same number of cousins he starts with.
But gettin' back to the reason we're all here, it's Friday the 13th again, an some genius decided that the old Friday the 13th formula was gettin' stale after Part VII only made back 7x its budget in theaters. Now, I'm of the opinion that movin' Jason from his home turf to a place where he ain't even the scariest thing in the subway restroom when he hasta go tinkle was probably a mistake, but as we'll find out two Friday the 13ths from now, there're much worse places he could end up, so I'd like to show my appreciation for the seemingly endless greed of the Paramount executives by presentin' a few of the things I learned watchin' this. First, cruises were a lot more fun back before the Consumer Safety Commission made the architects install handrails on the ships. Watchin' the drunk yuppies an old ladies in wheelchairs go dumpin' over the edge musta provided some much needed entertainment between shuffleboard games. Second, losing your science scholarship pales in comparison to bein' stripped of the prom queen's crown. An third, blonde privilege means gettin' to go on the graduation cruise whether you've actually graduated or not.
But the thing I found most amusing about this one was that once all the Whiners Imposing Moral Piety groups'd gotten all the good stuff removed (as they'd been doing since about Part IV) they pretty much declared victory an went back to organizin' their Leisure Time Entertainment video libraries an called it good. But there's somethin' else goin' on in this flick that I consider far more dangerous than Jason preparin' a little teenager tartare, an that's teleportation capabilities in the hands of an invulnerable mental invalid. See, it's like we all learned in school; no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time. Nobody really knows what might happen if this law of physics gets violated like the English language at a Sarah Palin stump speech, but it sure's hell won't be anything good, I can promise you that. Like, remember in Star Wars when Harrison Ford explained why he can't just jump into light speed without gettin' his Rand McNally outta the glove box to get directions? He hadda make sure that he didn't plow into anything other'n Carrie Fisher en route to his destination, right? Well, what Jason's doin's even more dangerous, cause he can phase right through all the things that woulda stopped the Millennium Falcon, an Jason has no idea whether there's some drunk hobo makin' love to a hollowed out rat inside the abandoned warehouse he wants to appear in. But does he care? Course not, how can he? He's got 10-year-old rotten hamburger meat where his brains should be. He could easily end up molecularly fused to some pimp for the rest of his unnatural death, but he's way too busy tryin' to track down a few tourists who never even trespassed in his campground. Now, normally I wouldn't say this, but Jason is actin' completely irrational in this flick. Irrational, AND irresponsible. Ya know, in Star Trek they had doowhackies an techmajiggers that told 'em exactly where they could beam down to just for this reason. Now we've got a madman runnin' loose with no concern for the laws of physics, but does the God Squad kick up a fuss about THIS? Nope. No, they're still mad about Tiffany Paulsen's nipple makin' it into the movie. What's the point in even bein' a public watchdog if you're just gonna lay there lickin' your junk all day? Buncha hypocrites.
The movie begins on Crystal Lake where these two 27-year-olds who only just graduated from high school're out rockin' the boat. Only the girlfriend's got a hoo-ha looser'n the jowls on a depressed bulldog, an so the guy figures he'll ratchet 'er up a little by recountin' the events of the series up to now. Cause that's much more excitin' than SEEIN' Jason's greatest hits all compiled together at the beginnin' of the movie like usual. Anyway, then they start makin' the sign of the cross-eyed ditch beaver while their boat anchor's cuttin' through the camp's underwater power cable, an the next thing you know the juice is loose, the J-man gets his battery jumped, an the kids're reduced to notches on Jason's dead post. The next mornin', the rest of the graduatin' class're boardin' a tugboat to visit New York City an see what life's like after the world crushes your youthful enthusiasm, cept when Admiral Snackbar blows the "all aboard" whistle, Jason emerges from the secret Crystal Lake tunnel that connects to the ocean an decides NYC sounds like a nice break from dealin' with all the yard monsters currently usin' his lake for a toilet durin' swim class. Meanwhile, the Admiral's son (Sean) is down on the deck of the Yachtilus gettin' all moony-eyed over Rennie, until 'er uncle (Mr. Charles McCulloch) runs 'im off for thinkin' his pitiful 3.85 GPA qualifies 'im to get so much as a whiff of his niece's hair. Then we pan over to this Joan Jett lookalike who heads down into the engine room to bounce Lita Ford noises off the walls an practice 'er riffs for Headbanger's Ball, cept before she can even get ripped off an taken advantage of by record executives, Jason takes 'er axe away an chops 'er down like a redwood. Then he projects 'imself as a child into Rennie's room an scares the crap out of 'er with his drownin' baby routine, til 'er dog decides it don't wanna be ma'ams best friend no more an goes to find a cabin with less deformed apparitions in it. So now Rennie's gotta go lookin' for Old Yeller Belly, an while she's askin' the prom queen (Tamara) an the smart Asian girl (Eva) doin' lines of Ajax off a makeup kit if they've seen the dog, Jason's down in the steam room relievin' his stress levels by slammin' one of the lava rocks into some guy's gut bucket an givin' 'im the most painful case of kidney stones in recorded history. But back on deck, the same logic that failed Tamara in psych class is tellin' 'er that the best way to keep Rennie from tellin' Charles about 'er inevitable cocaine nose job is to bump 'er off the deck of The Love Boat, knowin' full well that she's more hydrophobic than the Wicked Witch of the West. Then Sean fishes 'er out after she flaps around like a wounded albatross for awhile an gets tugged under by the little Play-Doh faced child Jason, cept when she tries to get into the can to regain 'er composure the water comin' outta the faucet turns to blood an Jason the Younger starts comin' outta the mirror tryin' to strangle 'er.
I dunno where he learned this behavior, but it sure wasn't from Betsy Palmer. Betsy'd be appalled if she could see 'im actin' like this. But anyway, while that's goin' on, Tamara's down in 'er cabin glommin' onto Charles when he comes by to check out 'er biology final, an I dunno, I think Charles overreacts a little bit since the theme pertains to the human reproductive system, but the worst part is that she's got this geek film student (Wayne) filmin' the ocean motions to blackmail Charles. Charles is clearly not in charge, an he ain't happy about it. Then Wayne starts tryin' to date about 20,000 leagues out of his league an gets so embarrassed that he hasta go write about how all women're bitches on his Livejournal. Only once he's gone, Jason drops by to mash Tamara's face into the bathroom mirror an slice 'er up into unprocessed Spam with one of the mirror shards, much to the cheering of white knights everywhere. Course, by now Jason's gettin' a little winded cause there's just way too many mugga fuggin' skanks that need mugga fuggin' slain, so he decides to buy 'imself some time by openin' up the Admiral's neck an puttin' the ship off course. Worst case scenario they wash up on the shores of some deserted desert isle an we get to see Jason murder Alan Hale an Bob Denver, which is fine by me. Then Sean an Rennie find the Captain's organs seepin' out all over the bridge an call a meetin' of the mindless with all the student bodies who're still in one piece, at which point the tough guy (Julius) decides they aughta spread out an look for the deck hand (he's our Crazy Ralph stand-in) since that only backfires about as often as Ric Flair climbin' to the top turnbuckle. This's exactly what Jason wants, cause he don't wanna be disturbed while he's choke slammin' Eva in the dance hall, Black Hole slammin' Wayne onto a command console with extremely loose wirin', rippin' another guy outta the crow's nest an impalin' 'im on the TV antenna to see if it'll make the Fox News broadcasts make any sense, or throwin' Julius overboard like a drum of Russian nuclear waste. Then he heads over to Rennie's cabin, head butts the glass outta the window, an proceeds to strangle 'er like a wounded turkey til she stabs 'im in the eye with a pen. Jason's been stabbed a lotta times before, but this one really smarts on account of it bein' mightier'n the sword. Unfortunately, by now there's more water in the engine room than there is in the Atlantic, so Sean, Rennie, Charles, an the more or less irrelevant Mrs. Van Deusen decide to get the heck outta there an let Jason go down with the ship, only about that time Julius gets burped up by the ocean like Mario Van Peebles in Jaws 4 cause the producers realized he was pretty much the only likable protagonist in the entire movie.
Then they paddle through a buncha fog that's thicker'n a pot fulla Cream of Wheat since it's the only way to hide the fact that they're sittin' in two feet of water in a kiddie pool inside Paramount Studios, until they eventually reach New York Harbor. Naturally, they're immediately attacked by two greasy New York pizza-faced gangbangers who kidnap Rennie an shoot 'er fulla back alley anesthesia so New York'll seem like less of a hellhole. Jason's P.O.'d, cause he knows these guys can't afford to buy from authorized mafia dealers who can be trusted not to use Sevin dust as a preservative, an he's concerned that the drugs might kill 'er before he can. So you can see how Jason really has no choice but to ram the syringe through the first guy's torso an bust open an exhaust vent with the second guy's face. Then he wanders off an finds Julius tryin' to call the cops, an once he manages to pull 'imself up off the ground an out of a fit of hysterical laughter, he follows Julius onto the roof of a loft where he proceeds to employ the rope-a-dope strategy made famous by Muhammad Ali until Julius can't punch no more. This's about the point where Jason rears back an uncorks a roundhouse right that sends Julius' coconut soarin' through the air an into some poor bum's livin' room. Fortunately, his mind won't be completely wasted, as I'm sure the rats'll make short work of it. Meanwhile, the rest of the survivors have reunited an encountered a minor miracle in the form of an on-duty police officer, cept once they get inside his cruiser they find Julius' bobblin' head on the dashboard. Then Jason simultaneously disconnects the cop's head an his call for backup, only this time he teleports into the wrong part of town cause pretty quick Rennie jumps into the driver's seat, turns 'im into a New York road pizza, an proceeds to plow the car into a brick wall tryin' to run over the dancin' baby from Ally McBeal. This results in the gratuitous English teacher bein' roasted into a campfire weenie, an Rennie starin' at a flamin' mud puddle until she starts flashin' back to 'er childhood where Uncle Charles decided to teach 'er how to swim in Crystal Lake the same way a mama bird teaches 'er babies to fly. Course, she'd suppressed that memory until now. Now Rennie's P.O.'d, Sean's P.O.'d, an Jason, well, he just got taken out by a Dodge Diplomat, so you'd better believe he's P.O.'d. So P.O.'d, in fact, that he hasta spatula 'imself up off the pavement, peel off the 23 dead pigeons that got crushed when he landed on his back, an drown Charles in a barrel of hobo urine. Now it's just him, the two sickenin' love birds, an the 2,000+ scenarios that could possibly kill the lot of 'em on the streets of NYC, so I'm gonna end it here before I start makin' bad jokes about those godawful hot dogs that New Yorkers are so in love with.
Alrighty, well, does anyone seriously think this movie is 20% worse than the original Friday the 13th? Cause the IMDB scores it as a 4.5 to the original's 6.5. I really don't understand it myself, I mean, other than a change of venue and a poorly received practical joke on the audience at the conclusion of Part V, they've pretty much made the exact same movie eight times. I've gotta wonder how much of this is due to casual observers remembering how they felt watching the first movie, and how that feeling had been lost after nine years and seven sequels. Doesn't really mean that Part VIII is markedly better or worse than any of the others, it just means that for some, the idea has worn thin, and I don't believe that's a fair way to judge the movie. I've also seen people claim one of two erroneous plot holes in the script, which are either: how does the boat get from Crystal Lake to the ocean? or, how does Jason get from Crystal Lake to the ocean? Well, the fuggin' boat was never in Crystal Lake. It's not the same boat that appears in the opening sequence. And with regard to the second question, flimsy an explanation as it is, the Crazy Ralph stand-in explains that "he came down river and got on board." It's easy to miss, and you might contest the fact that Crystal Lake has a river connected to it since we've never seen one up to this point, but lots of lakes do, so it's perfectly plausible. No, the problems with the script come entirely from the fact that so much of the movie got hacked out to reduce the running time (which still ended up about 10 minutes longer than the other Friday movies). So on the one hand, it would have been more coherent had they left those scenes in, but on the other, it's already about 15 minutes too long for a Friday the 13th movie and we've got way too much plot gettin' in the way of the story here. I still say it's a little better than Part V, but that's probably the only one. At least among the sequels I've gotten around to at this point. It would also be the last entry produced by Paramount for 20 years, until the rights to the Jason character reverted back from New Line, after which they rebooted the series. It's kinda ridiculous to think that, *only* having made back three times its budget just in theaters (not counting the video release), meant that the franchise wasn't worth holding on to. After all, atrocious as it is, Freddy Vs. Jason raked in $82 million bucks for New Line at the box office, and it was far and away the worst thing Jason has ever been involved in, with the exception of Jason X. Although I suppose by contrast, the triple return on the investment for Part VIII may seem like peanuts when you figure the original Friday the 13th pulled in 68x its budget, but I still say they made a mistake by licensing the character to New Line. I also believe that Paramount (despite their general disdain for the series in the early years) would have come up with a much better treatment for Freddy vs. Jason had they been able to acquire the rights to Freddy, and that they would also have also done a better job with any subsequent sequels.
Of course that's all water over the Crystal Lake spillway at this point, so let's plunge an antenna through this thing and see if that improves its critical reception. The plot is a bit screwed up. Just not in the way some people claim it is. It's also pretty disjointed due to all the exposition scenes being taken out, and while it's debatable as to whether the movie would have been better with them, I kinda doubt it given how badly it would have bogged down the pacing. A Friday the 13th movie should be 88 minutes long, and never forget that the audience is there to see the guy in the hockey mask bash in the skulls of unlikable teenage miscreants. So don't try shoehornin' that sappy romantic subplot bullstuff in there on us. There's also all the stuff about Jensen Daggett's character supposedly bein' dragged down into Crystal Lake by Jason when she was a kid, and all the scenes where she sees the young Jason on the boat. This subplot doesn't really add anything, or particularly make sense, given that Jason obviously never drowned in the lake if he's been runnin' around skewering teenagers for the last decade, so points off there for tryin' to change the rules on us. And on that note, it's also got the worst ending in the entire series, and yes, that's including Jason X. Ya know, having actually thought about it, the plot is kinda awful in this one. The acting, however, is fairly decent. Because it's a Friday the 13th movie, you know that most of the characters are there solely to pad out the body count, and although they were never again able to match the great supporting cast from Part IV, these characters are acceptable. Vincent Dupree is likeable as the tough as nails Julius, Sharlene Martin plays an excellent bitch, and Peter Richman is pretty good as the hardass chaperone, McCulloch. There's also that Kane Hodder guy who's only one of the biggest icons in horror history doin' his thing as Jason, even though all his best work in the series has ended up on the editing room floor. Someday they've gotta make a sequel where Jason goes after the MPAA ratings board for gettin' all scissor happy with his handiwork.
Here's who matters and why (less Kane, cause he's kind of a big deal) : Todd Caldecott (Mirage 1990), Jensen Daggett (Asteroid 1997), Barbara Bingham (Beyond Darkness), Alex Diakun (The X Files: I Want to Believe, Valentine, Starlight, The Surgeon, Blood Link), Peter Mark Richman (Judgement Day, Dark Intruder), Warren Munson (Heavy Metal, Roswell, Ed and His Dead Mother, Amityville: The Evil Escapes, Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell), Fred Henderson (Final Destination 2, End of the World, It Waits), Gordon Currie (Puppet Master 4 & 5, Blood & Donuts, The Woods, The Dark Hours, The Fear 2, Laserhawk, The Terror Within II), Saffron Henderson (The Fly II), Martin Cummins (Painkiller Jane, The Omen IV), Sharlene Martin (Possession 1987), Kelly Hu (The Scorpion King, X-Men 2, Succubus: Hell Bent, Devil's Den), Michael Benyaer (Deadpool, Transformers 2), Roger Barnes (Deadlocked: Escape from Zone 14, I Still Dream of Jeannie), Vince Cupone (I Am Legend 2007, Spider-Man 2), David Longworth (The Reflecting Skin, Runaway, Deadpool, The Neverending Story III, Stay Tuned), Jasper Cole (The Purge 2, Hansel & Gretel 2013, Alien Nation), David Jacox (Futuresport, Timecop, Hyper Sapien: People from Another Star, Ken Kirzinger (Blackburn, Stan Helsing, The Day the Earth Stood Still 2008, Wrong Turn 2, Freddy Vs. Jason, Futuresport, The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space). In case you were wondering why I didn't compliment the performance of the male lead, it should become clear after explaining that he went on to play Steve Webber on General Hospital, AND Ryan McNeil on The Young and the Restless. Additional successful genre betrayals include Saffron Henderson prostituting her talents to voice Gohan on Dragon Ball Z, Kelly Hu for her portrayal of Rae Chang on Sunset Beach and for voicing Stacy on Phineas and Ferb, Sam Sarker for playin' Vic on Neon Rider, and Michael Benyaer who went on to voice Lawerence in The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. Martin Cummins also played Nick Boyle on Poltergeist: The Legacy, but he doesn't need to be ashamed of that.
The special effects, boy, let's not kid ourselves here; the MPAA wouldn't let a Friday the 13th do half the stuff that some less popular flicks got away with just because of the brand notoriety. If you thought the last two got hacked to pieces, this one'll *really* depress you. Absolutely pathetic for a Friday the 13th flick, but it isn't fair to blame the crew for that. There's only one decent kill in the whole movie, however, it is one of my favorites of the entire series, and that's the one where Jason upper cuts Julius' head clean off and we get to see it sail through the air and into a dumpster down below. The head doesn't look that great, given the way you can see the perfectly flat underside during each rotation, but that scene alone saves the entire movie from being completely depressing on the special effects front. I think they musta used up all their allotted MPAA "fun" points on that one shot, because beyond that nearly everything happens off camera. The Jason appliances are pretty good, although one of the mutilated arm gloves needed to be about an inch longer so you couldn't tell where it stopped. Or they could've just made Kane's shirt a little longer. And even if I could talk about the demise of Jason, I wouldn't want to, cause it looks absolutely terrible. The shooting locations are actually pretty good, despite the fact that I don't think taking Jason out of Crystal Lake is an especially good idea. I know a lot of people gripe about how much time is spent on the ship, but I didn't think it was that bad. It is, admittedly, better once they actually get to New York, but I'd argue that most of the really well known places the director wanted to use in the movie probably would have made it a little too cartoony. I just can't envision Jason fighting someone in Madison Square Garden being taken too seriously. But the scenes in the subway, the disgusting alleyways, the greasy spoon diner, and particularly the shot in Times Square where Jason kicks a 47 yard field goal with the prepubescent gangbangers' boom box are all excellent. Not quite up to the high standards of C.H.U.D., but still memorable. The soundtrack is alright, and despite the fact that Harry Manfredini's music is kinda the heart and soul of the Friday series, I don't think it would have worked in the New York setting. Paramount probably should have asked him to write one new track for the opening sequence at Crystal Lake, just to continue the long running tradition and get the movie off on the right foot, but I think they made the right decision by sticking with Fred Mollin, who co-composed the soundtrack for Part VII with Manfredini. In general, the soundtrack isn't the least bit iconic or even memorable the way the music from the first six movies are, but it gets the job done. Overall, it's not as good as any of the earlier entries on a technical level (save probably Part V), but I still like it alright, so cut it some slack and give it another chance, ya snobs.