by Jack Sommersby
It was the first of this enormously popular series to gross under $20 million at the U.S. box office, which is a shame because it definitely defies our low expectations.The original Friday the 13th was far from classic cinema and bereft of the stylishness of John Carpenterâ€™s fine Halloween from two years prior, but it was adequately put together and elicited its fair share of scares from of its ultra-limited story premise. In it, one Pamela Voorhees, whose young son Jason drowned at Camp Crystal Lake due to the teen counselors, who were supposed to be keeping an eye on him, negligently involved in some hanky-panky at the time, wreaked considerable bloody havoc on a group of newly-arrived counselors some twenty years later, with only the heroine, Alice, who wound up decapitating the madwoman, surviving. The mediocre first sequel quickly dispatched Alice, only rather than Pamela as the culprit it was the horribly-mutated, not-so-dead Jason, who wore a potato sack with eye slits and, like mommy, used a variety of sharp instruments to carry out his revenge-seeking deeds. Then there was the enjoyable follow-up, filmed in 3-D, where the virtually-indestructible, superhuman-strength Jason donned a white hockey mask and proceeded to systematically slaughter another assortment of nubile, libidinous teens. No use going into detail as to the next two entries in the series, which were so atrociously put together so as to make an industrial-training video seem like Oscar-caliber stuff by comparison, which makes Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, slyly functioning as a black comedy, all the more welcome. This time around Jasonâ€™s corpse is resurrected from his recently-opened coffin by a bolt of lightning, and from here he makes his way to the renamed Camp Forest Green to carry out where he last left off. This, of course, results in another gruesome series of murders, and while the suspense factor is really no great shakes, the movie is undeniably fun and worth more than a few intentional chuckles. Writer/director Tom McLoughlin, who also pulled double duty on the interesting but underwhelming horror movie One Dark Night, is clearly having a ball sending up the genre, and not just in general but specifically of this series, as if he were saying â€śIâ€™m not asking you to take this stuff even remotely seriously anymore, so just play along while I rib the hell out of things.â€ť While thereâ€™s a dire absence of sex and nudity (how we long for Part Iâ€™s erotic Kevin Bacon/Jeannine Taylorâ€™s love scene, as well as Part IIâ€™s luscious shots of skinny-dipping Kirsten Bakerâ€™s magnificent tush), at least half of the killings are imaginatively rendered, especially concerning one where a sheriffâ€™s backbone is easily severed as if it were a mere wishbone. (Plus, thereâ€™s a terrific bit where Jason figures into a James Bond-like opening-credits sequence thatâ€™ll have you in stitches.) Granted, the overall whole lacks a crucial through-line that would fluidly segue one scene to another (the eighty-seven-minute running time doesnâ€™t feel a minute shorter), and perhaps the proceedings wouldâ€™ve benefited had Jason himself (or, itself) been allowed to be funny, but above-average cinematography make this the best-looking of the series, with the dialogue providing the occasional kick, like when Jason makes his presence known in a cabin full of youngsters hiding under their beds, and one says to another, â€śSo what were you going to be when you grew up?â€ť And while the majority of the cast fail to make much of an impression, thereâ€™s the ethereal Jennifer Cooke of the short-lived television series V, who succeeds in demonstrating sheâ€™s not just a pretty face. With both considerable appeal and steely determination, sheâ€™s not exactly right up there with a Sigourney Weaver (Alien) or Linda Hamilton (The Terminator), but she possesses more than enough girth to make her a talent worth keeping an eye on.The special-edition DVD offers up an insightful audio commentary by the director and cast, not to mention a handsome anamorphic transfer.
"The Best of the Series"
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originally posted: 08/30/15 10:11:39