Friday, July 06, 2007

Friday The 13th: A New Beginning

One year after Paramount released the “final chapter” of its lucrative FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise, the man in the hockey mask returned in FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING. Sort of. To properly discuss this movie, I’ll have to spoil the movie’s big twist, so if you don’t want to know how this terrible thriller ends, look away now.

At the end of the previous film, madman Jason Voorhees appeared to be very clearly dead, hacked to bits and definitely unable to continue in additional movies. So how did scripters Martin Kitrosser (who helped kill Jason in the fourth movie), David Cohen, and Danny Steinmann (who also directed the film) bring him back to life? They didn’t. A NEW BEGINNING is the only FRIDAY THE 13TH movie (to date, anyway) not to feature Jason at all.

The killer, who roams around wearing Jason’s mask and slicing people up with a machete, is not Jason, but actually an ambulance attendant driven mad after his son was murdered. The big revelation comes during a rainy climax severely fumbled by Steinmann, in which the mask comes off and a large question mark forms above the audience’s heads while they try to remember the face of a bit player who had one short close-up over an hour earlier. The mystery is not satisfying, mainly because it doesn’t play fair by letting the audience know it is one.

Tommy Jarvis, 12 years old and played by Corey Feldman in THE FINAL CHAPTER (and a cameo here), is now a teenager (John Shepherd) suffering from psychological trauma as a result of the horror he experienced. He experiences bad dreams and hallucinations, and finds it difficult to relate to other human beings, choosing instead to remain a loner with just his homemade monster masks to keep him company.

Tommy’s nightmares continue at his new home, a halfway house for troubled teens that happens to be located close to Crystal Lake, where Jason Voorhees was believed to have drowned nearly thirty years earlier. Hours after Tommy's arrival, the killings begin again. Bodies are torn, ripped, slashed, and hacked apart by a mysterious killer with Jason's unique M.O.

A NEW BEGINNING is among the weakest films of the franchise, despite one of the series' highest body counts and boob counts. Steinmann (SAVAGE STREETS) delivers a lot of killings all right, but they're neither creative nor gory (thanks, MPAA), and they’re leavened by embarrassing lowbrow humor that doesn’t work at all. Instead of Tom Savini, who provided THE FINAL CHAPTER with one of the series' wettest entries, special makeup effects artist Martin Becker was retained to sprinkle a bit of Karo syrup across the throats of the actors. Blood and gore are not necessarily essential for a good horror movie, but let's face it — we're not watching a FRIDAY THE 13TH movie for anything else.

Steinmann's direction offers little suspense or thrills, and is further weighted down by some of the franchise's worst performances, particularly Carol Locatell and Ron Sloan as a hillbilly family who never saw a hunk of scenery they didn't like to chomp on. Harry Manfredini is back as composer, although his formula is starting to wear thin after five movies. Stuntman Tom Morga (STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE) portrays “Jason” beneath the mask, and Dick Wieand (PATERNITY) plays the killer unmasked.

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