Saturday, July 07, 2007

Jason Lives: Friday The 13th Part VI

After the disappointing narrative of the fifth FRIDAY THE 13TH movie, which promised a "new beginning", Paramount brought in writer/director Tom McLoughlin (ONE DARK NIGHT) to bring the series back to its basics and--most importantly--bring back its hockey-masked horror icon, machete-wielding Jason Voorhees.

The result was 1986’s JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI, which represented the series’ first foray into comedy. Up to this point, the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies had been fairly humorless, which makes sense considering that they’re about a homicidal maniac indiscriminately slaughtering teenagers. However, McLoughlin believed that the only way to make a FRIDAY THE 13TH movie that wasn’t like the others was to add humor to the mix. And JASON LIVES succeeds fairly well.

Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews, who became something of a horror icon after starring in this and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD), the emotionally disturbed young man played by Corey Feldman as a kid in the fourth movie and John Shepherd as a teen in the fifth, is still unable to put his memories of Jason's killing sprees behind him. He chooses to exorcise his demons by visiting the Voorhees grave on a dark and stormy night in a witty precredit sequence that stands as one of the most thrilling and frightening scenes of any FRIDAY THE 13TH movie. Tommy's plan doesn't quite work out the way he had hoped, as a bolt of lightning turns the maggot-ridden corpse of Jason into a pissed-off zombie, who leaps out of his coffin to resume mowing down the residents of Forest Green, the town formerly known as Crystal Lake.

While the frequent murders are just as bloodless as in A NEW BEGINNING, McLoughlin at least counterbalances the lack of gore (and nudity, for that matter) with a welcome sense of humor and a greater variety of gags, including the franchise's first car stunts. Jennifer Cooke is a terrific Final Girl, fun-loving and likable, and it's a shame that McLoughlin chose to focus more on the dour Tommy Jarvis character than her Megan, who's also the daughter of the local sheriff (David Kagan) who believes Tommy is to blame for the sudden rash of deadness going on around Forest Green.

Harry Manfredini certainly seems rejuvenated, lending the atmospheric opening sequence a dramatic score that prepares the audience for a spooky thrill ride. That the rest of the film, as interesting as it is, never quite lives up to its opening is not Manfredini's fault. Also, look for WELCOME BACK, KOTTER star Ron Palillo (!) as a Jason victim. Tony Goldwyn, later a popular movie actor (GHOST) and TV director (WITHOUT A TRACE), made his film debut here. And C.J. Graham is the zombified Jason.

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