DreadWorld RetroReview: Friday the 13th Part VIII - Jason Takes Manhattan

In the infantile days of this website, or maybe it was the dying days of the old 13th Floor (remember that?), we did something we lovingly called "A Friday Full of Fridays." We spent an entire Friday the 13th watching all 8 Columbia Pictures Friday the 13th Films. We watched. We wrote. We ranked. It was a whole thing. I would post links to the series we wrote, but in true DreadWorld fashion, we are far too lazy to look anything up, that's why we have a search field over on the left. You do the work for once.

That being said, with another Friday the 13th passing, we decided to screen Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan at chez DreadWorld. Watching led to to thoughts, thoughts led to ideas, ideas led to some pretty cogent opinions on the 8th and one of the most controversial of the Paramount Friday films. So here we go, a quick look at Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, via a run down cruise ship and Vancouver.

When last we saw Jason Voorhees he was being dragged down to the bottom of Crystal Lake by Tina's father, because somehow Tina's psychic powers include resurrecting the dead. Jason was vanquished and peace returned to the tiny town of Crystal Lake (or Forest Green depending on which continuity you wanted to use). That is until two teenagers drop anchor in Crystal Lake and start getting down. Mid-coitus said anchor clips a power line that's run at the bottom of the lake. Unfortunately for the folks of the surrounding area, the power lines were also laid across the un-dead body of Jason Voorhees. Jason, brought back to life by the electrical charge from the broken power lines kills the two teenagers on the boat an starts another, this time nautically themed, reign of terror.

Which is bad news for the graduating class of Lakeview High, as they have decided to take a cruise from Crystal Lake to New York City as their class trip. Jason being alive isn't the only bad news for these kids though, as it seems they've rented the worlds worst cruise ship. This ship comes equipped with such state of the art equipment as a blanket on the floor to hold boxing matches on in an otherwise empty room, a 24/7 Dance club where no one ever is, and that's about it. However the cruise ship does have one thing going for it - it can levitate. How else would a multi-ton cruise ship go from, by definition, a land locked lake, to the open waters of the ocean in order to get to New York City?

Our lovely (and I stress that) damsel in distress for this episode of Friday the 13th is Rennie (Jensen Daggett) a bookish, shy, girly with impeccable skin who just happens to be scared to death of water. She is joined by the usual cast of cannon fodder characters. Kudos to writer/director Rob Hedden, at least he goes out of his way to give the nameless/faceless at least one distinguishable characteristic. much like mid-90's WWF everyone seems to have a job. One guys is a boxer, one girl is a heavy metal guitarist, one is an A/V nerd, one is a slut, one is Asian. Joining the usual sacrificial teenagers on the journey is Rennies uncle, the tremendously slimy Charles McCulloch, who constantly reminds Rennie that she is scared of the water. Of course she's scared because he threw her in Crystal Lake as a child where she was attacked by child Jason (don't question the continuity....just don't).

It doesn't take long for Jason to start dispatching the people on the cruise ship. There are some decent kills, heavy metal chick gets her guitar through her head, the slut gets her head smashed into the bathroom mirror while she's showering. While Jason is killing, he keeps having close calls with Rennie, who spends her time having flashbacks of young Jason and his plastic mongoloid face. Jason kills the ships captain and the important characters abandon ship...and start rowing. After having to endure Charles' endless taunting about their rowing skills, a fate worse than being killed by Jason, they finally stumble upon New York...er rather...what someone who had never been to New York thought New York looked like.

Pet peeve...and there are many with this film, levitating cruise ships and all, but my biggest one is the way New York City is portrayed. While I didn't grow up on the city per say, I've spent enough time there, even before Guiliani had all the homeless rounded up and killed in the late 90's, to know that at no point in it's history did New York City ever look like this. Take one scene as an example. Rennie and Co. disembark their row boat and within 5 minutes they've been shot at, mugged, and Rennie has been kidnapped, she's then forced to shoot some sort of slow acting day glow heroin. I know New York has had a rough reputation...but this version VancouvYork is a bit of a stretch.

Jason winds up hunting down and killing everyone but Rennie and her maybe boyfriend, Sean. The highlights of Jasons time in New York include: punching boxer Julius' head right off his body, scaring a bunch of punks (who are listening to rap music for some reason) in Times Square, and having a face off with a hockey mask on a billboard. He chases Rennie and Sean into the sewers of New York, which for some reason flood with toxic waste at midnight every night, where the toxic waste food kills him and reverts his body back to the mongoloid little boy. No, it doesn't make any sense - don't hurt your brain thinking about it.

With all it's warts Friday VIII is actually pretty fun. After John Carl Beuchler's serious effort in Part VII, Rob Hedden tried to recapture some of that series re-invigorating tongue-in-cheekness that Tom McLouglin brought to part VI. Jason Takes Manhattan is no Jason Lives however, not by a long shot. While there are certainly amusing moments, it takes a long time to get to the punchlines (Julius' and Jason's "boxing match"). The script is a mess, it leaves all logic and convention behind.  I know Hedden was hampered by the films budget and the inability to actual shoot in New York. However, he makes Swiss cheese of the entire series' continuity, and for a series that has been plagued with continuity problems from it's second installment, that's saying something. And that's all before you even take into consideration the amazing cheat of getting small cruise ship from a land locked lake, to an open body of water.

Friday the 13th VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan isn't the worst of the Columbia Friday Films, but it's certainly near the bottom. A few jokes and strong, gorgeous, leading lady can't elevate the film above "barely passable." You should definitely check the film out if you are a fan of the Friday series, but be aware this film is everything every horror hater points to when they are making their arguments against the genre.

**1/4 stars out of *****

That's it for me. As always, thanks for reading and "enjoy every sandwich."

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