Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)

Her psychiatrist Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser) and her mother Amanda (Susan Blu) bring Tina Shepard (Lar Park-Lincoln) to Crystal Lake (now called Crystal Lake again after the unfortunate Pleasant Green episode, it seems) help her get over the psychological consequences of a tragic event of ten years ago. When she was a girl, Tina killed her father with her uncontrolled telekinetic powers; his body must still be down under the lake somewhere. It is pretty obvious to anyone but Tina’s mum though that Crews isn’t all that interested in helping Tina as much as he is in invoking her telekinetic powers again and again and again. And since her telekinetic powers mostly work when she’s under strong emotional pressure, Crews is more or less concerned with the exact opposite of helping his charge.

When Crews provokes a particularly big telekinetic sulk, Tina goes to the lake and mentally drags a body to the surface she believes to be her dead father. It is – surprise? - instead Jason (now embodied by fan favourite – and for once the fans are right, because he really gives Jason a personality, not just a body - Kane Hodder), who must have been gnawed at by fishes for a few years since last we saw him, and looks a bit over-ripe by now. Obviously, Jason is quickly back to his old ways again, and in an incredible stroke of luck, there’s a cabin full of teenagers right next to Tina’s!

Not surprisingly, neither Crews nor her mother believe Tina when she tells them what happened, and they don’t exactly become less sceptic once the young woman begins having visions of Jason’s murders. It is only a matter of time until our telekinetic heroine and Jason will face off, and this time, being an undead killing machine might actually make one the underdog in a fight.

The New Blood continues the attempts to provide the increasingly rotten corpse of the Friday series with some fresh new meat, or ideas if you’re less food obsessed, and not making the same damn movie again and again. For my tastes, John Carl Buechler’s entry into the series is one of the strongest and most enjoyable ones, seemingly born out of the idea that, seeing as how the Friday the 13th films take place in a horror comic book version of reality, you might just add other pieces from comic books too, so what about a mutant? “Jason versus Carrie” has a certain ring to it, too, doesn’t it?

Well, at least that’s how I imagine the thought process behind the film’s main concept to have gone. There might also have been something about the sweet, sweet scent of money involved, but no matter, because Buechler’s film is – and that’s the first time I would say that about a Friday movie since part 2 – not just good for a Friday the 13th film but actually a good horror film. A film with an actual plot that mostly (as long as you don’t think about Dr Crews’s motivations and behaviour for too long, or at all) makes sense if you buy into its basic concepts of undead serial killers and emotional telekinetic. Also a film graced with a director who actually knows how to stage a stalk and slash sequence in a suspenseful, though not necessarily a logical, manner, and who actually manages the melodramatics surrounding Tina quite well too. As I’ve said before, melodrama and horror, like melodrama and action, are genres that work very well together if the right people are involved in front of and behind the camera, the genres of heightened emotional and physical states being so obvious siblings I’m always surprised when films don’t use the opportunity to cross these genres.

I’m a big admirer of Park-Lincoln’s performance here too, the way she just throws herself into the sulking, the screeching hysterics and the determined braveness of the final girl sequence. It’s probably not great acting from a perspective more interested in technique than mine, but it is one that turns Tina into the first Final Girl of the Friday films since Part II’s Chris I found myself really rooting for. Turns out, rooting for a slasher film’s actual heroine instead of the killer makes a film much more effective and suspenseful. Who’d have thunk? (Not the directors and writers of many other slashers, that’s for sure).

And again, like with the – inferior yet still fun – Part VI, New Blood can really delight through a lot of minor details, like Hodder’s initial “what the fuck!?” body language when Tina first attacks him telekinetically, or the way Jason becomes increasingly angry the more often Tina thwarts him, or the inspired final dispatch of our beloved killer that doesn’t make much logical sense but really closes the story in its melodramatic guise nicely, and pretty much comes out of nowhere too. But then, I’m a sucker for a happy ending.

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