Friday, June 13, 2014

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday





As a Friday film: *
As a standalone film: ** ½ 


I wasn’t quite eighteen years old when Jason Goes to Hell was in theaters. My cousin wasn’t either, but he bragged to me about getting in despite that. I thought I might be able to do the same. I wasn’t as lucky. He also bragged to me about taking a girl I really liked to the movie and making out with her during it. I hated his guts for that, but jealousy wasn’t about to get me into the Friday movie…I had to settle on Coneheads instead.

I recall New Line Cinema getting the rights to Jason with a ton of expectation and joy, but besides the mostly reviled sci-fi “robo-zombie” updating of the Friday franchise “Jason in Space” called Jason X, the “battle of slasher icons” B-movie slasher fluff Freddy vs. Jason, and this (and the blah remake), the studio never quite achieved much with Jason Voorhies. There were lots of changes to the way Jason looked and aspects were somewhat retained from the Paramount 8 but not enough to really attach or bind the latter films to those beloved in the 80s. I think there’s just this 80s nostalgia that couldn’t be replicated in the other films. I always liked that the Paramount 8 went from 1980 to 1989, staying in the decade, while the other films afterward never quite had the same feel and charm. When I was a teenager, Friday marathons were commonplace. Sleepovers, summer weeks when the parents were at work, and late nights into the early morning; Friday movies were a part of my growing up. I can smile and know that my generation had a lot of these, also. Are they good films? Not really, but for me the Paramount 8 just never seem to get old to me. I just can’t really explain it. Those that don’t get it or understand what the fuss is all about…I can see why they roll their eyes and hold such discontent. But I myself, for the most part, can’t seem to abandon them. I guess part of me will never grow up.


Oh, yeah. Jason Voorhies. He just keeps coming back, doesn’t he? You just can’t keep an evil psychopath down, can you? Ignoring the finale of the previous film where Jason turns into a boy after the toxic waste in the sewers of New York killed him, Jason Goes to Hell has Kane Hodder returning once again with hockey mask and brains sticking out of head, a raggedy suit and machete on his person. Seemingly very similar to what the regular Friday fan is used to, a hot babe is preparing for a shower and good night’s sleep but Jason is on the prowl somewhere. Eventually he emerges, but she’s quite the athlete, and her ability to keep out of his grasp, naked in a tightened towel, concludes that this isn’t the usual prey Jason is accustomed to slaying easily. The trap by federal agents with loaded machine guns and bombs isn’t the norm Friday fans are usually expecting…particularly seeing Jason blown to smithereens before even the ten minute mark and opening credits!

Steven Williams as Creighton Duke seems to know a lot about Jason, but the history to be unveiled to Friday fans is quite different than what any of us could have expected. This bounty hunter will accept a hefty sum and gladly vanquish (or so he thinks) Jason if someone’s willing to fork over the cash.

I have no idea where eating a beating oversized heart (exploded from the torso of Jason) came from in the screenplay’s construction but seeing the mortician just become bewitched by it, taking to it with a ferocity quite monstrous, with a bloody face, prying away the foodstuffs as if having starved for days is as bizarre and unintentionally hilarious as the franchise could possibly produce. It’s absurd in the extreme and doesn’t make a lick of sense. What it does is provide Jason with a way to live on…just in the body of others. Jason Goes to Hell, thanks to this scene alone, lets us know that this won't be the typical Crystal Lake slasher flick.


I have to say that I think Jason Goes to Hell has indeed one of the better sex scenes of the franchise. It does play out as your basic softcore scene without the elevator music, with the couple really seeming to enjoy the fruits of each other’s company during the sexual act without a condom. I like that Jason in the body of the mortician doesn’t capitalize on their vulnerability until the female is on the throes of her orgasm. KNB go the extra mile here to show a sign rod not only burst through her body but split it into two pieces as the stud reacts in horror. This one kill scene is really all there is, as the guy is never shown during obliteration and their accompanying gal pal was attacked by a machete, though it is quick and without much elaboration. Again, one of my cinematic fetishes is the embellishment of a woman in the ongoing moments of pleasure, and how she reacts to the burgeoning orgasm as it nears. I thought the actress here does that well. KNB makes sure she dies well, too.


Many would consider the dangling, barely-hanging Crystal Lake sign a harbinger of doom. Well, the trio camping were (or so they believe) taking advantage of Jason's demise, suffering for such misfortune. Wrong place, wrong time. That has always been the point...kids are at this place to have fun and the notoriety of Crystal Lake seems not to hang over them. Jason is like this campfire boogeyman that couldn't possibly hurt them...oh, but he does. He does.
  

The film incorporates along with the body snatching plot the method of “soul transfer” through the passing of this leech-like creature that seems (I guess) to contain Jason’s essence. Also included is the reflection of Jason in the mirror when transferred into whatever mortal body he inhabits. These aspects are so patently unique and positively surreal, I didn’t know whether or not to applaud such widely varied tactics to freshen the stale “Jason kills a bunch of young adults at Crystal Lake” plot or sit in disbelief at the absurdities of it all. Then there’s the “Jason needs to transfer into a family member in order to be reborn” motive for his reasoning to chase after relatives that follow the Voorhies bloodline that further takes the Friday franchise into the Twilight Zone.

Director Adam Marcus and company decided to use the kitchen sink effect in their efforts to totally take the franchise in a direction significantly removed from the norm…it’s to the nth degree and beyond. There’s the scene where KNB just get to show out with an awesome (but rather unnecessary and nonsensical) body melt where the deputy “invaded” has transferred the “Jason creature” (I can’t help but think of Cronenberg’s Shivers while watching this) to a popular true crime show host (who is dating Jason’s niece just so he can shoot footage in the ole Voorhies home, even going so far as to steal dead mommy’s corpse from the morgue for extra shock value!!!); the deputy, once this transfer happens, just melts into a body of acidified goo.

There’s even the Necronomicon from The Evil Dead making an appearance. The Jason creature crawling into the vagina of Erin Gray (she’s Jason’s sis, taking a knife stab to the back thanks to him) of Buck Rogers fame so Kane Hodder’s version of Voorhies can re-emerge. Even this makes little sense…so the creature can crawl into the vagina of his sister and suddenly, because of this, return in the very same form prior to his bombing into bits and pieces. It is just another balmy plot development that happens for no other reason than to give Friday fans their killer back after leaving from the mouths of human “hosts” he’s been taking the control of throughout the damn film. All this and there’s this magic knife that must be used by Jason’s kin to put an end to him. And puzzling especially is how Jason just throws hero John D LeMay around like a rag doll, preferring to use him as a punching bag…the Jason most of us know doesn’t pummel, he annihilates.

I think if judged as a standalone film using Jason as a means to tell a specific story alien to the 8 films that came before it, Jason Goes to Hell might work as a piece of brainless gore candy. Beautiful women, some nice in-jokes, some fun faces, KNB getting to show their talents in the make-up gore department (Nicotero getting to work on a Friday the 13th film meant to be the last as his mentor, Tom Savini, was the first makeup master to show his stuff in the franchise is rather cool), Steven Williams in a neat performance as an enemy of Jason’s, Kane Hodder getting to return as a different looking Jason than what we saw in previous films (he doesn’t look as statuesque as he did in, say, Part 7) for a few minutes while also playing a human victim is a nice bit of wink-wink humor, and a rather good sex scene in a tent might compensate for the lack of Jason in all his hockey-masked glory. I personally thought this had composer Harry Manfredini’s best work, as it does earmark the franchise with a familiarity yet he gives enough score that doesn’t seem as similar, with melodies that separate this film from the basic outlining we recognize as characters set up to perish meet their doom in quick order.

But, to me, this just isn’t a Friday film. I think that the Paramount series (while it became watered down, scrutinized by Right to Censor, tamed and tired) just had a certain element of non-surprise and a expectancy of scenes that develop in a fashion established in the first film (characters unexpectedly face peril as a killer in their midst unbeknownst to them surprises them as if Death itself is symbolized by Jason), with the survivors (final girls mostly, with Tommy the “final guy” in 4, 5, and 6) typically telegraphed carefully so we know who they are and will be. While Jason Goes to Hell is a daring departure, it defies logic at every turn. As a standalone film, I admit to finding it entertaining. But, like Jason X and Freddy vs. Jason, it stands outside the Paramount 8…probably not what Adam Marcus and his team intended.

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