Monday, July 09, 2007

Does Jason Meet His Match?

Paramount skipped a year in its FRIDAY THE 13TH series, presumably because no Fridays in 1987 landed on the 13th day of the month. So it wasn’t until May 13, 1988 that FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD hit theaters all over the U.S. This time, Jason Voorhees (stunt coordinator Kane Hodder, the most famous Jason of all) meets CARRIE, as the hockey-mask-wearing killing machine, last seen chained to a rock at the bottom of Crystal Lake, is once again resurrected from the dead to face a blond teen with telekinetic powers. As a child, Tina (Lar Park Lincoln, a regular on KNOTS LANDING at the time) accidentally killed her drunken wife-beater of a father just by wishing him dead. Years later, Tina is undergoing psychiatric therapy under the tutelage of Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser, the corpse in the WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S movies), whose brilliant idea of treatment is to take Tina and her mother (Susan Blu) back to the Crystal Lake cabin where her trauma first began. Wouldn't you know that the cabin next door is being rented out by a group of partying teens, who get high, have sex, argue and...well, you know what happens next, I reckon.

Continuity and plot logic are given short shrift in the screenplay by Daryl Haney (XTRO 3) and Manuel Fidello (presumably a pseudonym). FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI established that the community of Crystal Lake had changed its name in an effort to forget its bloody past. Plus, it seems unlikely that the corpses of Jason and Tina's father would still be floating around the bottom of the lake all these years later. That said, director John Carl Buechler, a special makeup effects artist by trade who contributed to Jason's new look, manages to add a new twist or two to the FRIDAY formula, primarily ditching Jason's familiar hockey mask during the climax and showing off a creepy new visage akin to the rotting cadaver Jason actually was by that time (remember he was dead and buried at the open of PART VI). The action is strictly formula stalk-and-slash; by the seventh entry, the basic plot still hadn't changed even an iota.

However, it’s the first film to introduce elements of science fiction, and the final battle between big, menacing Jason (as personified by Hodder, whom many fans consider to be the best Jason of them all) and tiny, vulnerable Tina is one of the series’ most exciting climaxes. I really like Jason’s icky look with the skin rotting away, although, predictably, it was ignored in later sequels. By this time, no one was paying any attention to continuity. Is there a Crystal Lake or not? And what year is it anyway? THE NEW BLOOD should be taking place several years in the future, though the music and fashions are strictly late-1980s.

None of the performances are noteworthy, although Lincoln as the requisite Final Girl gives Jason a bit of a "what for", thanks to her FIRESTARTER powers. THE NEW BLOOD offers slightly more gore and nudity than the previous film, although it, like many others in the series, was eviscerated by the MPAA much worse than Jason ever did any of his victims. With the next movie, Hodder became the first performer to play Jason in back-to-back films. He played Jason four times altogether, before director Ronny Yu replaced him in FREDDY VS. JASON. Also making his F13 debut is composer Fred Mollin, who took over from Harry Manfredini after six films, although some of Manfredini's cues from PART VI were used on the soundtrack.

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