TGIF13 – Day Seven: Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood

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With Jason Lives, the Friday the 13th series opened up its doors to all sorts of new, more fantastical story directions. It didn’t take them very long to capitalize on this, as today’s movie attempted to give Jason a brand new nemesis with a supernatural bent of her own. Did it work out? Read on to find out. And, as always, SPOILERS AHEAD.

FRIDAY THE 13TH – PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD (1988)

Directed by: John Carl Buechler
Written by: Daryl Haney & Manuel Fidello

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THE PLOT

Upset following an argument between her parents, young telekinetic Tina Shephard accidentally loses control of her powers and causes a dock to collapse underneath her father, causing him to drown in the waters of Crystal Lake.

Nine years later, Tina and her mother finally return to the scene of the incident. They are accompanied by Tina’s psychiatrist, Dr. Crews, who has promised to help Tina overcome her feelings of guilt regarding her father’s death, but is in fact only interested in exploiting her powers.

In frustration, Tina heads out to the dock and attempts to telekinetically revive her father, but instead accidentally awakens Jason, who is still chained to the bottom of the lake following his fight with Tommy (making this the second film in a row in which the “hero” is actually responsible for bringing Jason back).

Aided by the friendly and handsome Nick – one of a group of teens throwing a party next-door – Tina must now quickly learn to control her powers, in order to use them to battle the yet-again-resurrected Jason.

MY THOUGHTS:

Friday the 13th – Part VI: Jason Lives was no massive box-office success (probably due to fans leery of another Part V-esque disappointment), but it still did well enough to keep the series going. What’s more, its bold decision to bring Jason back from the dead opened up all sorts of new possible directions. With the supernatural threshold now officially crossed, there were a lot fewer limitations on what could happen in a Friday film.

As one might expect, the first idea was a dream-match (literally) pitting Jason against his chief box-office rival, Freddy Krueger. Unfortunately, an agreement could not be reached between New Line Cinema (who held the rights to A Nightmare on Elm Street) and Paramount (who held the Friday rights). No surprise there – at the time, the Nightmare on Elm Street series was faring far better at the box-office than the Friday films. Plus, because of their more imaginative nature, they enjoyed at least some level of critical respect that Friday had never known. A team-up movie would benefit Paramount far more than it would New Line, so there was no real reason for “the house that Freddy built” to agree to a deal which would see them reap only half the earnings. Any potential Freddy vs. Jason fight would have to wait.

I only share this little history lesson because it helps explain how Part VII came about. While the desired Freddy team-up was not feasible, the producers still liked the idea of pitting Jason against another supernatural character. And rather than continue to pursue the more tongue-in-cheek nature of the previous entry, it was decided that returning to a more serious tone might help elevate the series to the same level as the Nightmare films (which doesn’t really make any sense, considering Freddy had already begun to turn into little more than a comedy character by this point). Eventually, screenwriter Daryl Haney pitched the idea of Jason taking on a Carrie-like telekinetic girl, and the ball was rolling.

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Now, I’ll admit right off the bat – this was a pretty cool idea. It’s a clever twist on the usual “Jason vs. the final girl” motif, and it really does give the movie a completely unique vibe. And when you’re seven films in, you better be doing something to make your movie stand out from the rest. Plus, most importantly, the climatic battle between Jason and telekinetic Tina actually is as awesome as the idea promises. Essentially the entire last act of the movie, it’s an absolute blast seeing Tina use her powers to wrap Jason in electrical wires, send him crashing through a flight of stairs, shoot nails into his head, set him on fire, etc, etc. Having watched Jason chase after the same sort of helpless teens movie after movie, it’s a nice change to spend 20 or so minutes seeing him go head-to-head with someone who can truly hold their own.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the rest of the movie.

Yeah, the Jason vs. Tina stuff is neat and all, but it’s still just propping up what is otherwise a rather pedestrian entry in the series. Coming off Part VI‘s self-referential humor, it’s somewhat disappointing to watch the majority of this film slip right back into the same sort of worn-out characters and clichéd situations. In fact, if most of the non-Tina parts of the movie feel a little overly familiar to you, it’s probably because you kind of have seen them before. The basic set-up and pacing of the film is pretty much copied directly from Part IV (a house full of party-going teens, right across the way from a house where three other main characters live) – a decision mandated by the series’ then executive producer, Frank Mancuso Jr., who had always liked the fourth film best, and was eager to replicate its blueprint.

This time around, though, we don’t even have the benefit of a Crispin Glover or attractive twins to liven up the proceedings. No, this group of victims is perhaps the blandest in series history. They each have their own little mini-identity (the sci-fi nerd, the stoner, the ugly duckling), but the movie has no real interest in exploring any of them. I know that might sound like a silly complaint, as rich and complex characters are not really a hallmark of these films anyway. And I also get why the filmmakers would want to focus their creative energies on the Tina character, even at the risk of shortchanging the others. But still, I have to call it like I see it, and all I can say is that I was nearly bored to tears anytime neither Tina nor Jason was onscreen. These kids are not the type of characters you want to bother spending ninety minutes with.

Well, I mean...maybe these two.

Well, I mean…maybe these two.

Then again, if the characters are so damn annoying, then it should at least make their eventual death scenes that much better, right? Well, you would think so (and even hope so), but unfortunately that’s not the case either. Part VI‘s humorous tone might not have pleased all, but at least its sheer absurdity had given it a little leeway with the MPAA. Part VII, on the other hand, was a conscious effort to return the series to its more serious and graphically violent tone, and therefore ended up reminding the MPAA why they hated the series so much in the first place. As a result, Part VII suffers from the same sort of heavy cutting that Part V fell victim to. With such a dull set of characters, you can’t wait to get to the scenes of carnage – and yet when the moment finally comes you are usually only given a brief glimpse of it.

To be fair, the Tina character (and her final battle with Jason) does make up for some of those shortcomings. I don’t necessarily find her all that compelling – she is very much a collection of common “telekinetic” clichés, and her instant-romance with the character of Nick is especially ridiculous – but actress Lar Park Lincoln does an admirable job with what she is given…even if at times that is nothing more than standing around and making funny faces while mentally “throwing” flower pots at Jason. No matter how I might feel about the movie as a whole, I will give the Jason vs. Tina aspect the respect it deserves.

New Blood Tina 2

But as cool as their confrontation is, in a historical context Part VII will probably primarily be remembered as the film where Kane Hodder took over the role of Jason – a job he would hold onto for three more movies, making him the only actor to date to play the character more than once. Up until this point, Jason had been portrayed by a constantly changing set of stuntmen and actors, their names forgotten by all but the most dedicated Friday fans. While you can’t really go so far as to put Hodder’s contribution to the series on the same level as, say, Robert Englund and the Nightmare on Elm Street series, it still gave the franchise an identifiable main actor.

How important the actor behind the mask is will always be a subject of some debate, but there’s no denying Hodder did a bang-up job in the role. He loved playing the character, and it shows in his performance. Like all the previous actors, Hodder was obviously limited by the fact that Jason doesn’t speak and wears a mask – although this film would somewhat eliminate the last problem by having Jason spend a large portion of the final act without the mask on. This was apparently a controversial decision, but personally I love the mask-less Jason make-up in this movie (and, for the record, I’m a big fan of the total Jason appearance in this movie, and kind of wish the later films had stuck with it).

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Even before the mask comes off, though, the difference between Hodder and his predecessors is obvious. Hodder introduced a whole new kind of body language for Jason. Before, he had always come across as an emotionless killing machine. This time around, you can actually see the anger and determination behind his movements. Whether this is consistent with the basic idea of Jason is questionable (a debate that would come up again later when Hodder was replaced for Freddy vs. Jason), but it certainly works in this movie – you can see Jason getting more and more frustrated by Tina’s psychic attacks, and the obvious rage he then feels makes him an even more intimidating opponent for our heroine.

Jason ANGRY!!

Jason ANGRY!!

Look, I know this particular entry has a great number of supporters who consider it to be one of the best in the series. And I’m sure those fans will think I’m being a little harsh on the film. But it’s just never worked for as a whole. Yeah, the final third of the movie is a lot of fun – but 1/3 of a good movie is definitely not enough for me to declare Part VII one of the series’ stronger installments. I wanted to like it a lot more than I did, but it just wasn’t happening. It’s certainly not the worst Friday film – not even close – but I also wouldn’t put it near the top. It’s simply hovering there in the middle, as even the presence of one of the series’ more unique heroes can’t completely overshadow the “same old, same old” feeling of the rest of the movie. Let’s call it a decent effort to try something different, and leave it at that.

BODY COUNT: 16

Not a bad body count, but like I said, most of this film’s good stuff ended up on the cutting room floor. Much like in the case of the first film, we end up seeing a lot more of Jason’s aftermath than the actual killings themselves.

BEST KILL:

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Well, this is easy. For all the crap I’ve given it, Part VII does include one of the best deaths in series history, as Jason grabs a camper in a sleeping bag, and proceeds to slam the poor girl against a tree trunk. It’s amazingly brutal in its simplicity, and is perhaps the only death scene in the movie that benefited from the enforced cuts – while the original version had Jason repeatedly striking the bag against the tree, it eventually ended up being just the one hit, which both Kane Hodder and director John Carl Buechler agreed was more effective anyway. This would become one of the all-time-classic Friday kills, and was even paid tribute to in the later Jason X.

BOOB COUNT: 6

You might read the number and think this one has its nudity-loving-heart in the right place, but it’s important to note that these are all quick “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” flashes. Still, after the boob-free Part VI, I guess it’s worth something to see the series finally showing a little skin again.

CRAZY OLD COOT:

No crazy old coot, per se…although the opening series recap is narrated by what definitely sounds to be a crazy old coot. I guess times were tough for the old coots back then, as they could only muster up voice-over work.

NITPICK PATROL:

Man, this movie sure wreaks hell on the Friday the 13th timeline.

I’ll try to keep this short, but let’s think about this for a second. The first film took place in 1979. Except for the brief prologue, the second film takes place five years later, as do Part III and IV. So that puts them in 1984. Now, although it is never made clear how much time has passed in-between Part IV and V, it’s obviously been long enough for Tommy Jarvis to grow from a young boy of around 12 to a teenager. I’m gonna go ahead and say four years, meaning that Part V is taking place in 1988. Part VI is at least one year later…it’s probably even more than that, but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and say it’s taking place in 1989. And remember, those dates are based on me guessing the least amount of time passage possible.

Now, here’s where we run into problems. The beginning of Part VII shows that Jason is already chained to the bottom of Crystal Lake – where Tommy left him at the end of the last film – when Tina is a young girl and accidentally kills her father. Not only that, but based on his proximity to their dock, one must assume that the camp from Part VI was torn down, and Tina’s family’s house was built where it used to be…because this has to be the exact same spot. How long would it take to do that? I’m gonna be extremely generous and say two years, placing the death of Tina’s father in 1991. That means the majority of Part VII – when Tina comes back nine years later – is taking place in the year 2000!

Granted, this really only becomes a problem when you consider how it screws up the timeline of the following films, but even still…someone should probably tell the Part VII characters that it’s 2000, because they’re sure as hell dressed like it’s 1988.

Apart from that, there’s a whole variety of little nitpicks here. Why are the clothes Jason is wearing when he comes out of the lake not the clothes he was wearing when Tommy chained him down there? Why is zombie Jason breathing? And why the hell would the body of Tina’s father still be at the bottom of the lake all these years later? You’re telling me the authorities didn’t look for it? Heck, I know from the last movie that Crystal Lake is only about nine feet deep…I think they could have put a little more effort into that one. It’s also bothersome that the body of Tina’s father has not decayed at all in those nine years. Hey, maybe it’s the water of Crystal Lake itself that is the problem!

And just what the hell does “The New Blood” mean??

FINAL SCORE: 2 out of 4 Hockey Masks

2Masks

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About Trevor Snyder

Give me zombies or give me death. Wait...that doesn't make sense.

Posted on November 10, 2014, in Franchise Post-Mortems, Friday the 13th, Reviews, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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