“I’ve seen enough horror movies to know that any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly.”
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES
“Nothing this evil ever dies.”
Director/Writer: Tom McLoughlin / Cast: Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen, Kerry Noonan, Renee Jones, Tom Fridley, Darcy DeMoss, CJ Graham, Vincent Guastaferro, Ron Palillo.
Body Count: 18
Dire-logue: “Don’t piss me off, Junior, or I will repaint this office with your brains!”
The general rule of sequels – not least horror sequels – is that they get progressively worse. Although, it’s also worth pointing out that the more you make, the more likely it is that as quality spirals, there’ll be a pleasant bump along the way. Of course, loving slasher films means that I don’t subscribe to either of these theories and will watch any Revenge of, Return of, Rise of, Re-Return of sequel going, no matter what numerical suffix it has.
Friday the 13th Part VI is a case in point of the multi-sequel that takes its rinse-and-repeat formula and manages to make familiar territory interesting, thanks to director/scribe Tom McLoughlin’s energetic script, which was intended to feature an apt thirteen murders (extended to accommodate studio wishes and probably pad out the running time – it’s the shortest Friday).
Sometime after the events of A New Beginning, Tommy Jarvis (this time played by Thom Mathews), drives to Crystal Lake, now re-named Forest Green, to incinerate Jason’s corpse in an attempt to gain closure on his awful past. His nervous friend Hawes tags along to offer words of discouragement as a familiar storm blows in. In a fit of fury, Tommy jabs Jason’s corpse (strangely un-cremated as we were told in Part V) with a steel pole that is subsequently struck by lightning, reanimating the J-man yet again!
With his buddy becoming Jason’s first victim in X number of years, Tommy races into town to alert the cops and instantly makes an enemy of no-shit Sheriff Garris, who locks him away, assuming the boy is just acting out on his traumatic psychosis. Meanwhile, Jason takes out a few more people, including some dorky paintballing execs and the head counsellors of the recently re-opened Camp Crystal Lake, I mean, Camp Forest Green.
Yep, camp is back on and this time there are even kids about! This is one element that richly enhances the likeability of Jason Lives. While Parts 1 and 2 were set at camp, neither were operating and, summer camp is what Friday the 13th is all about. Trees, cabins, pontoons and open fires – it’s all here.
It just so happens that one of the four remaining counsellors is the Sheriff’s daughter Megan, who, unlike pop, takes an instant liking to Tommy, who is released and flees back to the cemetery to try and prove that Jason has risen, only to find the grave covered up, albeit now containing Tommy’s friend Hawes. Garris ejects Tommy from town and warns him to stay away permanently while Jason collects additional victims on his way back to the camp.
The murders are discovered and blamed on Tommy, who joins forces with Megan to entrap Jason and send him back to the bottom of Crystal Lake where he belongs. Once Jay finally encounters some horny teenagers, things kick in to gear. There are some creative murders and back to basics stalking sequences and, although the bloodletting is comic-styled and of reduced effect (despite still being cut down), the film plays well to its simplified approach.
Case in point is with the murders of counsellors Sissy and Paula. Jason is lurking around camp, scaring some of the little kids who inadvertently wake up and see him. We know he’s there. They’re paranoid that something’s up… They play a card game called ‘Camp Blood’… After Sissy disappears (snatched out of the window and beheaded), one of the campers discovers a bloody machete and brings it to Paula, who escorts her back to bed and returns to her own cabin to find that the machete has vanished and the phone is out… Then the door swings open…
It’s an excellently directed scene featuring a sympathetic character versus the boogeyman.
Obviously, Tommy and Megan return to save the kids and fight Jason, the Sheriff learns the truth and an Alice Cooper rocker plays out over the credits: He’s back! The man behind the mask! One of several Cooper songs to feature on the soundtrack.
Jason Lives is the (intentionally) funniest film of the series; wisely avoiding out and out parody – save for the ‘Jason does James Bond’ opening – and opting for a classic gothic feel to its horror opus: floating mists, the lightning storm, the creepy cemetery and the shadowy trees. Oddly, it’s about the one entry to feature no nudity but you’d hardly notice, even during the requisite sex scene. The characters are drawn much more sharply than other instalments, where they exist only to die gruesomely. McLoughlin largely avoids stereotypes, squeezing nice attributes out of even the bit-parters, although Cooke’s heroine isn’t ultimately successful in her role.
My third favourite of the series after the original two, things went serious again for The New Blood as theatrical grosses dipped further. But this one is 80’s slasher perfection: big hair, pop metal, and a horror icon.
Blurbs-of-interest: Tom Fridley was in Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge; Darcy DeMoss was in Return to Horror High; Renée Jones was in Deadly Lessons.
Hurrah! Nice to see some love for this one. It’s a favourite of mine too.
I didn’t see this one until much later in my slasher fandom. I somehow missed it during my many childhood viewings of the various Friday the 13th films. It has since become one of my favorite sequels, even though it officially began the era of zombie Jason which eventually led to the worst cliches and laziest “chase” sequences of the series. It’s genuinely funny, while also retaining some effective spooky sequences (e.g. Jason outside the window watching Paula). The return to Camp Blood is perfect, and the actual inclusion of campers for once was a welcome addition to the formula.
While this is sort of the final high water mark for the series, and easily the best of the zombie Jason era, I really like part 7 as well, maybe on account of seeing it so much as a kid and loving it then. Carrie vs. Jason? Don’t mind if I do. After that, I can’t be as enthusiastic about the sequels. The remake has given the franchise new life, though. Here’s to hoping the sequel will be at least as good. Not sure how I’d feel if they continue the formula of borrowing from the original films. I hope they branch of in a new direction rather than scouring the later sequels (not that a few references would be out of line).