Monday, April 28, 2014

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning

 that I believed that that was the final chapter (as the title references).  Sometimes I enjoy part five for what it'd tried to do, going off in another direction and away from the Jason Voorhees narrative, much like John Carpenter tried to do with Halloween III within that franchise.  But other times, I just get angry that they thought that Friday the 13th fans would accept this entry and think everything was hunky-dory.  But that's where 1985's Friday the 13th: A New Beginning goes and we have to accept it.  For all the problems that it has, Danny Steinmann had done a good enough job directing it with what he had to work with.

Before I get too far into my critique of this film and give away too much, let me synopsize the story.

The film opens, optimistically, with the return of Corey Feldman as Tommy Jarvis, walking up to the cemetery where Jason is buried in a crude grave.  The rain is pouring down as he spies a couple of teenaged boys coming up, whooping it up as they arrive with some shovels.  Tommy hides in the brush and watches as the boys dig up the grave, only to have Jason rise up out of his coffin and kill the boys.  He then turns towards Tommy and starts making his way in the direction of him, closer and closer, until Tommy screams.  The adult Tommy (John Shepherd) wakes up from the nightmare in the back of a state institution van as he's
brought to Pinehurst Halfway House, where he's met by Pam Roberts (Melanie Kinnaman) and Matthew Letter (Richard Young), who run the house.  He's quiet and reserved, not talking to anyone and keeping to himself, but seems to be set off easily when provoked.  One day, one of the members of the halfway house, Joey (Dominick Brascia), is brutally attacked and killed by another member, Victor Faden (Mark Venturini), with an ax.  Soon after Victor's taken away, people start getting murdered.  Is it Tommy?  Did Victor escape and go on a killing spree?  Or are the visions of Jason that Tommy experiences real?  One thing for sure, someone is going around dressed like Jason Voorhees, complete with hockey mask, and killing people off.

Now, I've got to say, this movie affected me quite a bit.  Not because it was scary or gory or fascinating in any manner, but because it made me not want to go to another Friday the 13th movie for a long time.  I did feel cheated after leaving the theater way back when and didn't return until part eight showed up in movie houses in 1989.  I had seen the downfall, right away, that the franchise was going into and didn't think there'd ever be a future with someone other than Jason being the masked killer.  Of course, I was right about the downfall, but wrong about the change in killer.  We all know that Jason comes back, but the box office returns were never the same.

For what it's worth, however, this is not a bad movie by Friday the 13th standards.  In fact, there are some great kills, inventive and terrifying, and the film has almost the same feel as the first four.

Okay, so here are a few questions or concerns I had about this movie.

First off, within the film, the "Jason" introduced has a different hockey mask than what was featured in the previous three films.  Maybe it was because an identical mask couldn't be found by whomever was copying Jason's modus operandi, but Tommy was able to get an identical one at the end of the film, so what gives?  I guess I can accept that the filmmakers wanted to give the killer his own identity and make it different than the previous Jason.?  I don't know.  But one glaring issue I have is that the movie poster presents a completely different mask than the one in previous movies and the one in this movie!

Another thing that sticks out is the gratuitous nudity within the film, which is included in a few scenes.  One scene is understandable as it shows how two of the kids in the halfway house, Tina and Eddie (Debi Sue Voorhees and John Robert Dixon), are constantly having sex (I guess that's the problem that led them to a halfway house? Nymphomania?) and go out to a remote location to do so, making the scene seem normal.  But later on, after Robin (Juliette Cummins) laughs at Jake (Jerry Pavlon) as he tells her he wants to be with her, she heads to bed, feeling bad for what she had done, and strips to her undies, going to bed bare-breasted.  I know people out there choose to sleep in the nude, but in a halfway house?  It seemed a little too gratuitous.  And let's not forget the "it's showtime!" scene when Lana (Rebecca Wood) opens up her blouse in the mirror to expose her breasts.  Even though I'm a guy, I think it's a little much and doesn't belong.

Lastly, why feature a little outspoken kid to be the sort of sidekick survivor?  I guess the filmmakers felt they needed some street-smart adolescent like Reggie (Shavar Ross) to spice things up.  Or maybe because of his star power he had on "Diff'rent Strokes" at the time as Dudley?  Who knows?

The movie is definitely and unquestionably 80s in a lot of scenes, but in others, I wonder what the wardrobe staff was thinking.  Like, for instance, why the hell were those two guys, Pete and Vinnie (Corey Parker and Anthony Barrile) dressed like Marlon Brando from the film, The Wild One?  Were they going to meet up with Demon (Miguel A. Núñez Jr.) and head off to a leather fashion party?  Even back then, when I usually ignored things that didn't make sense, I wondered about their choice of attire.

Overall, this movie could've gotten some respect if it just laid off the comedy-or their futile try at it.  The whole scene with the leather-clad Vinnie singing that stupid made-up song as he's trying to start the car is so lame, it makes me feel sorry for the actor.  Also, who can forget the neighboring hicks, Ethel and Junior (Carol Locatell and Ron Sloan), that live adjacent to the halfway house?  What about the paramedic, Duke (Caskey Swaim), who jokes when looking at the hacked up body of Joey?  All of these scenes fell flat and were not funny at all.  The only scenes that crack me up involve the institute worker, Billy (Bob DeSimone).  The first is when he arrives at the halfway house and tries to get Tommy to get out of the van is pretty funny, especially the little tongue waggling he gives Pam behind her back.  The other is when he's waiting for Lana and the little routine he goes through to coke himself up...I can't help but laugh every time.

My final "bit" on Friday the 13th: A New Beginning is that the movie had good intentions and you can see that when watching it.  In comparison to the films before it, they belong together in cinematography and direction, but the omission of Jason Voorhees from the story is a definite detriment to the film.  If they'd only gone with the resurrection aspect of Jason, like they did in part six, this movie would've been a whole lot better.  But I do remember what a cheat it was when I first saw part six, thinking it was impossible because Tommy must hacked him to pieces in part four.  But this one was a good try and it's still a blast to watch.

Thanks for reading and I welcome any comments!

You can also tweet to me on Twitter: @CinemaBits.

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