Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Friday the 13th Part VIII -- Jason Takes Manhattan

By the eighth film in Paramount’s increasingly less profitable FRIDAY THE 13TH series, the decision was made to change the setting and take Jason someplace he’d never been before. Unfortunately, Paramount’s tight pursestrings and director Rob Hedden’s derivative screenplay combine to make 1989’s FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN the worst of the 11-film (to date) series. "Jason takes Manhattan"--that's a joke. It takes about 70 minutes for the action to come anywhere near New York City, and when it finally does, the back alleys and backlots of Toronto fill in for the Big Apple. A few shots of menacing masked madman Jason Voorhees roaming Times Square are impressive, but too few too late to save the last FRIDAY THE 13TH thriller to be produced at Paramount. This movie literally has only thirty good seconds in it, and if you’ve seen it, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

Somehow, through some truly idiotic plot machinations, Jason (Kane Hodder is back) finds himself escaping his watery grave at the bottom of Crystal Lake and on a cruise ship bound for New York City. Well, it isn't really a cruise ship, it's actually a rusty old freighter, and the only passengers aboard are a (unusually small) group of high-school graduates and their very uptight teacher (familiar TV guest star Peter Mark Richman). Our heroine is Rennie (Jensen Daggett), who has an unnatural fear of the water, thanks to being tossed into Crystal Lake as a child and pulled under by a ten-year-old Jason. Never mind that, according to the FRIDAY THE 13TH chronology, Jason was ten years old thirty years before this movie could have taken place (although, admittedly, all eight Paramount features play pretty loosely with continuity). The usual slash-and-hack antics ensue until a handful of survivors manage to row (!) their way past the Statue of Liberty, only to meet up with Jason again in the sewers armed with a barrel of toxic waste!

While PART VIII is truly too stupid for words, I believe that it would probably have a better reputation if it hadn't overpromised and underdelivered. If you make a film called JASON TAKES MANHATTAN and design the trailers and one-sheets in such a way that audiences expect Jason to, well, "take" Manhattan, you'd better not spend an hour on a cheap-looking ship and another half-hour on unconvincing Canadian sets. The New York City setting is the only thing that sets this entry apart from the others; the script, acting and gore effects are routine at best. Not even the score is worth listening for, since Fred Mollin replaced Harry Manfredini's familiar "ch-ch-ch-ch ha-ha-ha-ha" with a bland synth score. If nothing else, PART VIII is notable as actress Kelly Hu’s film debut; you may remember her from X-MEN 2 and THE SCORPION KING.

Not surprisingly, this was the end of the line for Jason Voorhees as far as Paramount was concerned. After eight features in nine years, it would be another four before New Line Cinema, Jason’s new owner, continued the series with the most unusual FRIDAY THE 13TH movie yet.

It does have an amusing teaser trailer, though, like I said, the movie never delivers on its promise.

No comments: