Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives [retro review]

“I’ve seen enough horror movies to know that no weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly.”

The Scoop: R 1986, directed by Tom McLoughlin and starring Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke and C. J. Graham.

Tagline: Nothing this evil ever dies.

Summary Capsule: Zombie Jason kills a lot of people, but in a sitcom kind of way.

Kyle’s Rating: Oh wait, I’d date this Megan girl!

Kyle’s Review: Jason returns, and he is pissed. Very pissed.

He’s also dead. Very dead.

See, it’s now 1997 and Tommy Jarvis (now played by Thom Matthews) and a fellow once-mentally-unbalanced-but-now-mostly-sane-again friend are out of the asylum, and have dug up Jason’s grave to “send him to hell where he belongs.” This whole exercise is presumably the thirteenth step in Tommy’s healing process or something. So our first glimpse of Jason is him rotting in his coffin, covered in cobwebs and maggots. Tommy wants to burn Jason’s body to ashes to be rid of him once and for all, but like so many picnic-planners he didn’t count on bad weather, and with a Frankenstein-flourish Jason is resurrected, rejuvenated and reunited with his hockey mask and lots of sharp pointy things. Let the gore gush commence!

Part 6 is hugely popular with fans because after the serious brutality of the last two installments, this film injects some much-needed craziness and zaniness into the mix. A character speaks directly to us and chastises us for our choice of entertainment, little kids in potential mortal danger talk about what they would have been if they had grown up, and several camera angles make it disturbingly clear that a female counselor is wearing a Maxi Pad. On the whole the atmosphere is relaxed and functions as a kinder and gentler film about a mass murdering zombie. The studio must have finally clued in that people were watching these things to grin and point as much as gasp and flinch, so they delivered.

We get humor, gore, a high body count, some new weapons for Jason, a long close-up of an American Express card, a better batch of 30 year-old actors playing teenagers, and a glimpse of Crystal Lake the city (now renamed Forrest Green to keep reporters out and tourists in!). We also get actual little kids attending the camp, a surprising first for a series based about camp counselors and camping and stuff. Yes, Part 6 delivers on all of these counts. And more!

The character of Tommy Jarvis returns as the only “kid” (how old is this guy supposed to be? 20? 30? 40? I just don’t know!) who knows Jason is real and on the killpath. In the years since Tommy has been in the psycho clink Crystal Lake has been renamed the aforementioned Forrest Green and it seems the town elders in the “know” about Jason, including the stick-up-the-butt sheriff, have decided to treat Jason Voorhees and his murderous past as an urban legend. You’d think the smarter Forrest Green teenagers would just check out old newspaper clipping for the truth, and why would an urban legend have his own tombstone? But I guess “smarter Forrest Green teenagers” is an oxymoron, eh?

Part 6 is fantastic. You’ve got unstoppable zombie Jason as the badass of the hour, and he is in it to win it and kill a lot of people as he goes along. Part 6 doesn’t get ultra-top credit because the entire cast isn’t as strong as Parts 2 and 3’s, but Matthews is a sturdy hero and the sheriff’s off-limits daughter Megan (Jennifer Cooke) is a great heroine/damsel-in-distress. It’s strange that 6 should be such good entertainment when it feels so much like a sitcom production. I’m serious about this, it’s like this was made-for-television or something, including the look of the film and the “acting” straight out of Crazy Charlie’s Discount School of Acting curriculum. I guess that’s why they toss in a big load of profanity at the beginning, so you’ll remember you’re watching a real movie here.

It isn’t an epic, and you’ll forget all about it three hours after the credits roll. But if you want to see a Friday the 13th movie and the cult anti-hero Jason in all his hockey mask glory, this is what you want. Murders that aren’t too brutal, inane dialogue you can tune out and get the gist of, and nothing that’ll keep you up at night. You don’t even need to have seen any of the other films to understand anything! So why resist any longer, go rent Part 6 and join the slasher bandwagon. JUST DO IT!

Justin’s Rating: Maxi Pads? Really?

Justing’s Review: There comes a point in watching this entire series back-to-back – a point which I’ll call “Part 5” – when the law of diminishing returns catches up with you and suddenly you feel tired and achy all over, not to mention your nipples are unusually sensitive. I probably have the flu. But in any case, I’m now convinced that these Jason romps aren’t meant to be viewed in any sane marathon, because they expose its main, fundamental weakness: being far, far too similar to each other.

Like a power outage right when you were going to watch a long-awaited TV show finale, the lesser F13 flicks can’t help but make you groan in mild pain and bowel obstruction (what is up with the anatomy references today?). If viewed alone, separate, with a comfortable 2-month barrier since the last time you saw a F13 movie, they stand a slight chance of being cool. As it is, the Friday movies aren’t works of supreme art, and the only good ones (2 and 4 and maybe 10 if you’re weird like me) make the others look like common trailer trash.

As I still have three more Jasons to go, I’m quite sure the series has a ways to fall even from this flick. Therefore, I’ll be a kinder, gentler Justin and withhold my machete for a future paragraph here. Instead, I’d like to commend Jason Lives for three excellent decisions:

1. They Brought Back Jason From The Dead. Good move. Smart move. Part 5 bit you on the buttocks, didn’t it? Remember Halloween III without a Michael Myers? So I do applaud the decision to resurrect iconic Jason into a newer, more terrifying form, that of an even MORE unstoppable zombie thing.

2. They Went Back To Camp. A Friday movie is just… lesser… without a camp setting (at its core, the first couple movies were pretty standard summer camp flicks with low-fat horror dressing drizzled on top). I’m loving how stubborn these townspeople are, to go ahead and re-open for the tenth time a camp on Crystal Lake and somehow get an insurance underwriter to cover it all.

3. I Had A Number Three, But I Forgot It. And these fish oil pills I take every day is supposed to help my memory, not make me daydream of migrating up frigid streams to spawn in the shallows.

Jason Lives gets off to an interesting start as series tradition is broken, and we get to see full-frontal Jason march around the woods, doing the stalking thing he does, without a lot of that coy camera work from previous films that was supposed to be suspenseful. Tommy Jarvis (in yet another actor incarnation) returns to make sure, really really sure, that Jason’s dead. Because he’s mentally disturbed from being a twice-over hero, he figures he has to go as far as corpse mutilation and immolation to solve the problem. Alas, Tommy hit his mental stride back in Part 4, and is about two steps from not being able to remembering how to breathe here. His efforts merely serve as the conduit to bring Jason’s moldy oldies back from the grave, and here we go again!

I don’t know who’s idea it was to turn this film into a twisted comedy, but I gotta say, it just fails on pretty much all levels. Jason movies aren’t supposed to be sitcoms, starring our favorite babysitting murderer and stocked with racially diverse best friends and a cranky old butler to mince words. They’re supposed to be death, carnage, and brief pauses to go off for bathroom breaks.

The “comedy” as it is pretty much consists of widely-drawn caricatures (such as the old drunk who drinks and talks to himself while drinking drinks) trying to pull off some humor before they’re killed in – more often than not – FUNNY ways. And by funny, I mean “How much longer does this movie have until it ends?” Everything else is largely toned down – the carnage is almost always done right outside of the camera range (cutaways and whatnot), and although I’m not really complaining here, it’s weird to see the only sex scene in the film shot completely without any nudity.

With Jason on the loose, Jarvis tries to warn the locals with his arms flapping and bad acting spilling from every yell. The sheriff doesn’t believe him, but has a morally loose daughter who does, so Jarvis gains an unstable ally there. Jason eventually returns to home sweet home, summer camp on Crystal Lake, where he stupidly doesn’t kill a single one of the kids – kids who are just ASKING for it with out-of-place morbid jokes. Jarvis changes his mind about burning Jason, and instead weirdly decides that drowning is the only way to kill an undead zombie. Please, re-read that previous sentence. Yeah.

I have nothing more to say. This film is guilty of making me watch it.

Jason hates RVs. Jason really, really hates RVs.

Intermission

  • Though the town council votes for a name change fromCrystal Laketo Lake Forest Green, this point is never mentioned again in future films.
  • Where’d he get the mask?
  • Friends help friends grave rob!
  • Maggoty goodness.
  • That is an awesome credit sequence.
  • They’re gonna scare Jason… right.
  • The smallest gun in the world
  • The gravedigger has a bad monologue
  • Wearing a headband that says “dead” is a bit ironic in this film
  • Apparently there’s a coolCampBloodcard game you don’t quite learn how to play in the film, somehow involving stacks of cards as cabins, and you have to find out which cabin Jason is in. If anyone knows how to actually play this, please let me know!
  • SEX AND DEATH AND BLOOD AND MONEY – We get a sex scene, but the girl is annoyingly clothed. But it’s probably for the best, right Morality Patrol? This one-ups the ante by actually putting little kids at camp and in danger, so it’s not just idiot teenagers at risk anymore. Will they save all the kids? I hope so too! 18 people of varying ages eat hot liquid death in this one, and amazingly some of the death scenes are “funny.” I mean, a guy who gets bent in half the wrong way, a survivalist who gets his arm torn off and dies looking at a smiley face, and a drunk who literally dies by the bottle . . . okay, they’re aren’t “funny.” But they are memorable! There was a clear vein of dark humor that ran through Part 6, and even the hard-assed critics noticed. Critics still didn’t like Part 6 anymore than they had liked Parts 1-5, but 6 did receive kudos for that dark humor that made things a little easier to watch. Part 6 made $22.1 million.
  • KYLE’S FRIDAY THE 13TH MERCHANDISE FACTOID – confusing reports found in magazines and on fan web pages indicate that there are only novelizations for the first three films and for Part 6. And Part 3 was novelized twice by two different authors. And one of the guys who did Part 3 went back to do Parts 1 and 2, and apparently he spelled Jason’s last name incorrectly as Vorhees instead of the correct Voorhees. I’m not really sure what’s true and what’s not; I feel like Mulder here. I do know this: a novelization of Part 6 exists, and I own it. I’m holding it right now. It’s written by Simon Hawke, it has a few deviations from the finished film (Jason’s dad is briefly in it, and he’s quite a Satanic figure!), it’s a pretty good read, and Hawke spells it (incorrectly!) as “Vorhees.” But I only paid a dollar for it. So I’m pretty happy with it!

Groovy Dialogue:

Tyen: You know what I think? I think we’re dead meat.

[a little later on, after hearing Megan screaming]
Tyen: REAL dead meat.
Billy: So, what were you gonna be when you grew up?

Tommy: Jason belongs in Hell – and I’m gonna see to it that he gets there.

Lizabeth: I’ve seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly.

Martin: Why’d they have to go and dig up Jason? [looks at the camera] Some folks sure got a strange idea of entertainment.

Sheriff Garris: That, what we call it in the books, is screwing the pooch! Iron this punk!

If you enjoyed this movie:

You got a strange idea of entertainment, but nevertheless try

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7 Comments

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