To kick off the fest, it only made sense to start with the only part 8 I was willing to watch (sorry, Hellraiser: Hellworld) - Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. While not the wisest decision, Jason Takes Manhattan did at least start Horror Fest on a high spirited tone. It was only after we’d begun that I discovered two people had never seen a Friday the 13th film before, so the Cap’n did have the common decency to apologize for starting them off with such a bad entry point.
There aren’t a lot of seventh sequels out there, but one has to imagine that Jason Takes Manhattan would still take the cake for managing to disappoint fans of the Friday series. Paramount slashed the budget to the point that director Rob Hedden shot most of the film in Vancouver, had to change most of the major set pieces involving New York landmarks, and the “cruise ship” became more of the focus than what the title promised. The end result is more “Jason Takes a Cruise Ship and Eventually Gets to Times Square,” which is, let’s be fair, not the bill of goods we were sold in that fantastic teaser trailer.
And yet, Jason Takes Manhattan has some enjoyable moments to be gleaned from its overlong run time and mostly bloodless kills. If you wanted a slasher movie that thoroughly covered all of your favorite character tropes and encapsulates what people think of when you say “80s”, Manhattan has it. Rocker with a boombox hooked up to her electric guitar? Jason can use that to kill you. Guy who looks like River Phoenix that films everything with a camcorder? Check. Bitchy prom queen doing coke with The Scorpion King’s Kelly Hu that knocks our Final Girl into the ocean? Yup, got that too. Creepy uncle with a leathery face and a stuffy suit? Yessir. A disco? Wait… a disco? Well, sure, why not?
If left to just that, we might have a moderately entertaining movie, but thankfully Hedden managed to throw in a few curveballs to compensate for the watered down gore and lack of “Manhattan” in Jason Takes Manhattan. And I don’t even mean the scene with the punks or Jason in front of a giant hockey mask. Not even the toxic waste sewage flood that happens at midnight every night in New York. Obviously that has to happen or the C.H.U.D.s would pack up and leave.
No, the real enjoyment to be gleaned from Jason Takes Manhattan come from pointless subplots like Rennie (Jensen Daggett)’s stupid dog, who vanishes for most of the middle of the film only to show up in the lifeboat just in time to leave the cruise ship that Jason managed to blow up (? Burn up?), or the ridiculous way she (Rennie, not the dog) is connected to Jason. Beyond that, Daggett’s frumpy outfit (consisting of too-high jeans, poofy shirt and overlong vest) make Rennie look ten years older than she actually was during the making of the film and fifteen years older than the high school graduate she was supposed to be. Oh yeah, did I mention that the cruise ship Lazarus is taking high school seniors on their graduation cruise from New Jersey to New York. Don’t ask how Jason got from Camp Crystal Lake to the ocean; what’s important is that when they reach international waters, his murder spree is no longer illegal.
Also of note is the way that Jason wanders around the Lazarus, and by that I mean rather than moving around with some sense of purpose, Hedden simply has Kane Hodder open doors and poke his head in to see what’s going on before moving on. This may be the least effective Jason I’ve seen in any of the Friday the 13th films, because he doesn’t seem to know what he’s supposed to be doing, and we’re talking about the same Jason who punches a guy’s head off in a boxing match later in the film. Oh, *SPOILER*. He does kill a guy with a hot sauna stone, which manages to set said victim’s intestines on fire, which looks cool even if it doesn’t make sense. As it’s one of the few kills we see in any detail, you have to take what you can get. It does seem like Jason’s strict moral code now extends to people who lose while sparring, people who play the guitar, and people that own diners. I’ll chalk that up to being resurrected by underwater electrocution, though.
Special attention must be paid to Scott Reeves, playing Sean Robertson, the son of the Lazarus’ Captain. I understand he was a late replacement for another actor, but in nearly every scene Reeves can be observed looking off camera as though to be prompted for his next line before responding to another character. It prompted the running gag of someone saying “line?” as soon as anyone asked Reeves a question in Jason Takes Manhattan, and without fail he’d look past the other actor before saying anything. I could be nice and pretend that it was just a coincidence, but Jason Takes Manhattan isn’t deserving of that benefit of the doubt. While charming in its own stupid way, it’s not hard to understand why Paramount gave up on the series after eight films.
Up next: V/H/S 2!