Jason takes the slow boat

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN

3 Stars  1989/18/96m

“New York has a new problem.”

Director/Writer: Rob Hedden / Cast: Jensen Daggett, Scott Reeves, Barbara Bingham, Peter Mark Richman, Kane Hodder, V.C. Dupree, Martin Cummins, Sharlene Martin, Kelly Hu, Saffron Henderson, Warren Munson, Gordon Currie, Alex Diakun.

Body Count: circa 26

Dire-logue: “He’s come back…and you’re all gonna die!”


The first Friday the 13th film I ever saw was ironically – at the time – the last. BBC1 used to play Jason Takes Manhattan a fair bit way back when, due to its comparative lack of grue. Nevertheless, first time I saw it I still almost crapped myself.

This one and Part VII: The New Blood are well suited bedfellows. Both saw declining box office returns where the series’ main competitor, A Nightmare on Elm Street, soared to ever greater heights, leaving Camp Crystal Lake in the dust. By 1989, both franchises as well as Halloween were all spiralling towards failure and it’s interesting to note that all three pretty much gave up for a time, with Freddy returning for his Final Nightmare in 1991; New Line would soon snatch up the rights to Jason to put him to bed (for a while) in 1993 and Michael Myers addicts had to wait six years for the next Halloween instalment.

Jason Takes Manhattan was Paramount’s final word on their shameful cash cow, who’d harvested shitloads of profit but almost as much disdain from moral guardian critics and during production it was intended to be Jason’s final outing. Go out with a bang eh? Well, not quite. But let’s go about this in the same was as The New Blood and examine how things unfold before we pick it apart…

Credits: This was actually the first Friday not to have a pre-credits sequence and also not have block-white font on a black background.

05 min – “We’re right around that summer camp where all those murders took place…” I quite like this part, in place of the campfire tale, Jason has become a real urban legend.

07 min - “Stop screwing around!”

08 min - In Part VI, Jason went to the bottom of the lake with gloves, which he no longer had when Tina resurrected him in VII and now he has them again.

13 min - Peter Mark Richman (McCulloch) played Suzanne Somers’ dad in Three’s Company.

How does Crystal Lake connect to the Atlantic??

16 min - LOVE that dancing, especially the girl with the long dark hair in the white blouse and black skirt. She got it!

19 min - “Don’t be a dweeb, Wayne.”

21 min – This song is Broken Dream by Terry Crawford. Alas, what you hear is all there is. It was never a full track. Shame, because it rocks!

25 min – “He’s undefeated…” – you can tell where that’s going.

29 min – The boxer originally received darts in the eyes but the boring old MPAA kicked up one of their no-fun storms. The scene was finally included on the Deluxe Edition.

39 min – They kill Tamara off way too early. She had a lot more bitching to do.

41 min - Neither Sean nor Rennie got changed into dry clothes after falling overboard!

46 min - Eva’s criss-crossed suspenders are awesome.

49 min – Yet again, lose your specs in a slasher film and you’re blind as a bat!

53 min – Gordon Currie (Miles) is sixth billed and doesn’t have a single line of dialogue in the entire movie!

54 min – …Unless “Aaaarrggghh!” counts?

60 min – Toby the dog had run off last time we saw him, now he’s in the boat. How’d he get down the ladder?

66 min - “Let’s split up…” Ugh, do they never learn?

72 min – Why doesn’t Julius at least try to remove the mask rather than punch plastic?

76 min - That’s actually a pretty neat dissolve there!

82 min – Always time for kissing during times of carnage.

87 min – “There’s a maniac trying to kill us!” / “Welcome to New York.”

88 min - The greasy chef is Ken Kirzinger, who played Jason in Freddy vs. Jason.

The film is endlessly problematic. The most common complaint being the cheater title, Rob Hedden was restricted by the budget but had planned on scenes at the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge. But why are there only two teachers for about fifty kids? And only four crew members? Is there a chef? Bar staff? A DJ? And if Crystal Lake is in New Jersey, who long would it even take to cruise to the Big Apple? Banking on fans of the series having an IQ of about 23, Paramount obviously overlooked these gaping holes and just hoped for the best in this ill-thought out concept. But then it’s Part VIII - how many franchises get that far?

Jason’s apparent new found ability to teleport is grating. Consistency was never a strong point in Friday the 13th Part Anything but such giant changes this late in the game were bizarre, as were the supernatural connotations when Rennie encountered the sometimes-malformed, sometimes-not young Jason.

But for me, what required alot more work was the heroes themselves. Jensen Daggett has the look and the vulnerability but as a final girl she’s dull and pedestrian, standing out only by the amount of screentime she’s allocated and the shortcuts made by the script to establish her as worthy of survival rather than fighting for it. Equally uninteresting is Sean, who, like Rennie, is full of parental pressure broodiness and we learn nothing else about him.

The other characters are pale Xeroxes of those from The New Blood: Rennie’s uncle McCulloch fulfills the Terry Kiser role as nasty authoritarian while the nice female teacher is Tina’s mom; Tamara is a diluted Melissa and Wayne stands in for dorky Eddie but does okay out of his limited role as film geek. It’s almost as if the script from Part VII was handed to Hedden with a post-it stuck on the front that said: Do this again on a boat with the end bit in New York (which will be Vancouver, really).

Even though it’s likely one of the worst in the series (I think Jason X is a tad worse) and runs about ten minutes too long, I’m quite partial to watching this one every couple of years. The late 80’s charm has got it going on from JJ’s great hair and guitar to Wayne’s ma-hoosive camera and memories of the era itself: I can clearly remember the film ‘premiering’ on Cable TV with a shot of Jason in the boat-disco. Good nostalgia, disappointing reality – it’s rare I’d say a gimmicky film wasn’t gimmicky enough.

Blurbs-of-interest: Gordon Currie actually landed the lead – and spoke! – in The Fear: Resurrection. Sharlene Martin played the final girl (under the name Melissa Martin) in the dismal Possession: Until Death Do You Part. After Jason was recast, Hodder donned new makeup to play Victor Crowley in Hatchet and its sequel and can also be found in Behind the Mask, Hack! and Children of the Corn V; Todd Shaffer was in Mirage the following year under the name Todd Schaefer.

3 comments

  • “76 min – That’s actually a pretty neat dissolve there!”

    For a moment there, I thought you were gonna do a line from “Spaceballs”…

  • OMG this is actually one of my favourite Firday the 13th movies !!!! it was so bad it was good, i dont even KNOW why i like this one so much i really liked Rennie as the final girl, and maybe it was the scarf wearing dog who made it cool, or just the random craziness of it, or the sheer fact i seem to like all the bad slasher flicks everyone else slams for being bad !!!!

    but this one and part 2 and the remake are all pretty much an even number one for my fave friday the 13th movies !!!!

  • Toby the dog is seriously cute.

    This was the first Friday I saw – I thought it was so scary back then!

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