Thursday, October 16, 2014

Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986)

Tommy Jarvis (now Thom Mathews), one of the unluckiest surviving characters in slasher movie history, still hasn’t gotten over his Jason Voorhees fixation, so he decides to do the obvious thing to solve his mental health issues once and for all. He breaks into the graveyard where Jason is buried, digs him out and plans to burn his body. Alas, our hero decides to stake Jason with a nice pointy graveyard accoutrement before that, which obviously results in said pointy accoutrement being hit by lighting bolts which in their turn do of course revive Jason as a now finally officially undead creature.

Tommy escapes Jason, but the hockey fan is quite content with continuing his work, that is, he proceeds to kill whoever crosses his path in ridiculous and violent ways. Tommy for his part continues along the path of his own very special logic that has worked out so well for him, and goes to the local sheriff (David Kagen) to tell him all about how he accidentally revived a dead spree killer with lightning. Needless to say, the sheriff believes Tommy is nuts, and once he encounters the first of many dead bodies to follow, also believes that Tommy is the one going around slaughtering people, which, hey, does sound vaguely more reasonable than Tommy’s story.

Fortunately for Tommy, the sheriff’s daughter Megan (Jennifer Cooke) has fallen in instant lust with him and is willing to do just about anything to help him, including arranging jail breaks and committing acts of traffic endangerment. Quite economically, Megan is also a camp counsellor, so she’s perfectly positioned to know a lot of the people Jason is surely going to kill while Tommy applies all the knowledge he gained from an occultist how to book to stop the now even more dangerous killer.

Even though it continues with the shoddy production values of part five, Jason Lives has clear – and not completely unfulfilled – ambitions at being an actual movie again. It still suffers from an over-inflated body count, with early impact-less and generally not very interesting scenes of random people getting killed off in the least empty woods ever encountered that reminded me of Don’t Go In the Woods…Alone, which is not a good thing for a film that wants to be taken seriously.

However, particularly once the plot has gotten rolling and the film seems to have gotten the need to kill somebody off every two minutes out of its system a little, director Tom McLoughlin also manages to produce some rather effective scenes, based on actual suspense, with the kills actually a comparatively sensible part of what’s going on around them (at least sensible for a world where people act like the characters here do and where the method of Jason’s revival seems perfectly reasonable), and staged not only with an interest in getting characters killed but also with an eye for a bit of mood and style.

I also really enjoyed McLoughlin’s attempts at varying at least a few of the eternal rules of the slasher movie – and especially of this franchise – a bit, with the film not culminating in a classic final girl sequence but first with Tommy repeatedly trying and failing to be heroic and Megan then jumping into the breach and surviving despite lacking all of the shy virginity all Final Girls are supposed to have. The latter is a particularly pleasant development after Megan has already descended into hysterics (for understandable reasons), usually the point where the Male Hero™ takes things into his own hands, and suggests that McLoughlin has put a bit more thought into this than many of his predecessors.

There are some other aspects of the film that suggest a degree of thoughtfulness, like the nice flourish that sees the local populace renaming Crystal Lake into “Forest Green” because they don’t want to be connected with the Voorhees murders anymore. This sort of thing doesn’t sound like much, but in the long and sometimes painful run of the Friday the 13th series, it makes the difference between another tired piece of crap and an entertaining and not completely stupid (yet generally dumb) slasher movie.

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