Tag Archives: Friday the 13th

Never gonna dance again

prowler-dvdTHE PROWLER

3 Stars  1981/18/85m

“It will freeze your blood.”

A.k.a. Rosemary’s Killer (UK) / The Graduation

Director: Joseph Zito / Writer: Neal F. Barbera & Glenn Leopold / Cast: Vicki Dawson, Christopher Goutman, Farley Granger, Lawrence Tierney, Cindy Weintraub, Donna Davis, Lisa Dunsheath, Timothy Wahrer.

Body Count: 8

Dire-logue: “This is everybody’s last night together. Some of us’ll never see each other again.”


Bad pacing almost kills this early slasher flick from the director of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. This unruly little feature begins with the industry standard prologue, here set waaaaay back in 1945, where young Rosemary’s Dear John letter to an American G.I. culminates in the rejected soldier gruesomely skewering her and her new lover with a pitchfork at their graduation dance.

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35 years later, Avalon Bay is set to hold its first graduation dance since that fateful evening, thus prompting the killer to don his old uniform in an effort to repeat the crime on the new kids. So far, so My Bloody Valentine. Nominal heroine Pam encounters the killer in the student dorms (unknown to her, he just killed a couple of her friends) and alerts her deputy boyfriend, Mark.

Together, they inform one of the chaperones at the dance while they begin snooping for clues, first around mansion of wheelchair bound Major Chatham, father of the long-dead Rosemary, as he grabbed Pam as she fled from the prowler. This takes a long time. A very long time.

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Back at the dance, Pam’s friend Lisa has already wandered off for a late night swim and becomes another casualty, as does the poor teacher who comes looking for her.

Pam and Mark continue to delve into the unsolved mystery of Rosemary’s murder and, without the guidance of the town’s sheriff, stumble around slower than a Mazda Premacy. To the police station they go, then to the cemetery where they find Lisa’s body in the freshly exhumed grave of Rosemary Chatham, then back to the Chatham house. All of this takes forever, which, in a slasher film is unwelcome.

Of course, Zito tries to wring suspense out of this nothingness but fails miserably. Dancing very slowly moving between shots of Pam in the car and Mark crouching down at the graveside is not scary, it’s boring. Hurry up. Kill some more people. Kill those people over there…

Finally, on the second visit of the night to the Chatham mansion, the killer puts in an appearance and chases Pam around with his pointy-pitchfork until she blasts his head clean off his shoulders.

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There are other ‘issues’ with the picture; a horny teen couple stray away from supervision so they can have sex in the basement. The camera lingers, showing them from behind objects in the foreground. A pervert watches too. We wait for him to die and then then couple. We switch to another scene (probably with Pam and Mark achieving nothing in their investigation) and the sex-couple are never featured again! Once the killer is revealed, it really turns out that his identity is secondary to the needs of the plot – it really could’ve been anyone ‘of an age’ to have committed the 1945 murder. And what the hell happened to the Major?

The low body count doesn’t do too much harm; Tom Savini’s gore-jobs here at top notch, so much so that even I questioned whether this could be a genuine snuff film at one point. The shower murder is particularly realistic and nasty, as is Lisa’s fatal throat-cuttery and the tracheotomy on the nice teacher. As with Zito’s previous film, Bloodrage and also his Friday episode, there’s more than a subtle hint of violence chiefly against young women, which was discomforting.

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The photography, score and the original artwork (above) are all ace and there are no problems with the acting abilities of those involved, although Vicki Dawson, as Pam, evidently excelled in her how-to-frown acting class. One curiosity of the film is its number of striking similarities to one Friday the 13th Part 2, so much so that even the final girls look like sisters…. See?

friday-prowler2It should probably be noted that The Prowler was shot before Friday was released (albeit several months earlier) so it’s just some kinda weird coincidence…isn’t it? I mean, Zito later directed a Jason and there’s that double-impaling. Hmmmm.

I think The Prowler is okay; it’s flawed but the technical abilities of its general look and Savini’s wonderful work means it would be ignorant of these plus-points to rate it any lower than three stars. It’s commonly viewed as a cult favourite, although be prepared for some boredom between the slashings…

Blurb-of-interest: Lawrence Tierney was in Midnight.

“Jason” lives

fridaythe13th5FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING

3.5 Stars  1985/18/87m

“If Jason still haunts you… You’re not alone.”

Director: Danny Steinmann / Writers: David Cohen, Martin Kitrosser & Danny Steinmann / Cast: Melanie Kinnaman, John Shepherd, Shavar Ross, Richard Young, Marco St. John, Corey Feldman, Carol Locatell, Jerry Pavlon, Juliette Cummins, Tiffany Helm, John Robert Dixon, Debisue Voorhees, Vernon Washington, Tom Morga.

Body Count: 22


The parallel universe in which Friday the 13th exists is a place where ones build, height and entire facial structure can change over a single day, and where knowledge of current events is so minimal that folks vacation in the same spot where dozens of murders have taken place a matter of hours earlier. Time jumps along at a merry old pace as well, as shown here. Boy-hero of The Final Chapter Tommy Jarvis sprouts from a weedy 12-year-old into a super-buff teen of no determinable age, but I’d guess between 16 and 18 – and only one year in real time since his last outing!

A New Beginning is just that (unless you count the presence of old characters); Tommy is carted off to the Pinehurst Institute for troubled teens with bad hair:

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Naturally, Pinehurst is in the middle of the woods (pine, I guess), affording many a place for a masked, unhinged psycho to stalk mentally unstable kids.

No sooner does Tommy arrive then a particularly angry resident embeds an axe into the back of a porky fellow inmate. Shortly after, locals begin falling victim to a psycho killer: An utterly surreal couple of leather-clad boys are first, then the requisite horny couple, local rednecks, and eventually the Pinehurst kids.

Is it Jason, who Tommy seems to keep seeing all over the show? The Sheriff seems to think so too, much to the chagrin of the dreadful actor who plays the mayor.

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Murders continue and when only staff member Pam and cook’s grandson Reggie remain, the killer is revealed to be the hockey masked, machete bearing legend that is JV. Can Tommy save them and stop his arch-enemy all over again? And here comes the spoiler

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No.

Because it’s not Jason, just some schmuck donning a hockey mask (complete with different design), taking revenge on Pinehurst and all who dwell there for the axe-murder…of his son!!!

This is flawed for many reasons: if Dad was so local, why was there no relationship between them? Porky’s killer was already arrested and carted off – why kill everyone but the assailant? Why have a random photo of yourself in your wallet? Oh right, in case the audience are so fucking stupid they can’t put it together.

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A New Beginning is commonly known as the worst of the Friday crop; which is a fair assessment on some levels – it’s one of the laziest films, with a body count so stupidly high (including dream sequences) that the killer virtually teleports his way around town, perfecting the chess game of slasher movie killers’ ability to always be hiding behind the right tree or picking the right bedroom to stalk a victim into…

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According to the wonderful Crystal Lake Memories book, ex-porno director Steinmann’s intense paranoid moodswings made for a tense set and some questionable sequences: Are the leather boys supposed to be gay? One of them does get a phallic road flare rammed into his mouth… There’s a vicious streak to some of the homicidal dénouements, which personify abject cruelty as the troubled teens are brutally wasted without any care for their individual stories. They’re just wastable problem kids.

As with most of the earlier instalments, the MPAA insisted on several cuts, with the BBFC advising further shots removed.

It also has the worst score out of all the movies, a swirling attack of strings that belongs in a made-for-TV hurricane movie.

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In the ‘for’ arena, Friday V showed a jump forward in terms of production quality; much of the grainy, underlit scenes of The Final Chapter have been replaced by clearer visuals. The pure 80s-ness of it all is irresistibly amusing and Kinnaman makes for a gutsy heroine with the help of Ross, of Diff’rent Strokes, and Shepherd is suitably traumatised as Tommy, even if he only utters about 20 words the whole 87 minutes.

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Probably the cheesiest Jason venture (in spite of his absence) but definitely a fun ride if you don’t care about that minor fact.

Blurbs-of-interest: Juliette Cummins appeared in Deadly Dreams, Slumber Party Massacre II and Psycho III; Debisue Voorhees was in Innocent Prey and Appointment with Fear; Tiffany Helm is the daughter of Brooke Bundy, who was in A Nightmare on Elm Streets 3 and 4; Dominick Brascia was in Rush Week and directed Evil Laugh; Mark Venturini (Victor) was in Mikey in 1992. Bob DeSimone (Billy) is the brother of Tom DeSimone, who directed Hell Night. Danny Steinmann directed The Unseen under the pseudonym Peter Foleg.

December Duel: Har-De-Har-STAB!

Christmas is coming: time for joy and laughter and, if you’re me, horror films of death. But how to mix these things together and please the visiting familials? Oh yeah, the sub-sub-genre of the slasher parody.

Parody films are very hit and miss at the best of times (Airplane! excluded). And as slasher films largely unconciously parody themselves in the ornate crudness of their very situations, what’s left to take the piss out of?

Let’s dip our hands into the comical waters of slasher mickey-taking and see what we can dredge up from the bottom…

studentbodsSTUDENT BODIES 1981

The hilarious story: sexy teen couples at Lamab High are being laid to waste by a commentating maniac in squelchy boots. Can super-goody-two-shoes heroine Toby solve the mystery?

Funny stuff: things start well with an amusing When A Stranger Calls-type opening; death by paperclips; death by eggplant; half-funny fart gag; Toby’s overt final girlisms.

Unfunny stuff: pretty much everything else; the stupid twist-within-a-dream ending where they evidently took the audience to have a combined IQ of 19.

VV’s amusedness: 43% – “I’m laughing on the inside.”

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national-lampoons-class-reunionNATIONAL LAMPOON’S CLASS REUNION 1982

The hilarious story: the class of ’72 from Lizzie Borden High gather for their deca-reunion where the kid they played a Terror Train-type prank on is now a paper bag-masked psycho killer. Of the cast of twenty-five odd folks, he kills four. Four.

Funny stuff: Anne Ramsay is present as the school cook and there’s a recurring demonic possession joke that made my lip curl…

Unfunny stuff: there’s some real shit gags in this, it’s no wonder nobody’s ever heard of this one, National Lampoon tag or not! The lead guy was a wanker who I waiting to see die in a myriad of horrible griz. Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion is way better.

VV’s amusedness: 22% – “we are not amused.”

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pandemomiumPANDEMONIUM 1982

The hilarious story: Bambi’s cheerleader academy was shut down after a rash of cheericides in the 60s, including the ultimate shish-ka-bobbed spirit squad. Having decided to re-open “the old camp,” Bambi finds that her new class of students (three of them guys!) are being tormented by another cheericidal manaic! Only telekinetic cheer-wannabe Candy has the smarts (and power) to stop the madness…

Funny stuff: the cheerleaders are called Candy, Sandy, Mandy, Andy, Randy and Glenn. Glenn Dandy. The Carrie poking is amusing and the cast, featuring Carol Kane, Judge Reinhold, Debralee Scott, pre-PeeWee Paul Reubens and Eve Arden is great. It was originally to be called Thursday the 12th until Saturday the 14th came along but had sod all to do with Camp Crystal Lake.

Unfunny stuff: with any of-the-moment parody, it’s going to be dated as soon as it’s finished, so lots of it has little relevance 27 years down the line but, on the whole, Pandemonium holds up pretty well. “If I can’t be a cheerleader…no one can be a cheerleader!”

VV’s amusedness: 71% – “it was like this one time, at band cheerleader camp and it was so funny.”

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wackoWACKO 1983

The hilarious story: 13 years after seeing her older sister sliced and diced by the Halloween Prom Night Lawnmower Killer of Hitchcock High, virginal Mary Graves finds herself stalked by the very same killer as her own Halloween Prom approaches.

Funny stuff: One of the best lines in slasherdom when Mary’s mother receives a letter from the killer: “it’s Halloween, it’s Prom Night, there’s a psycho on the loose so don’t open the door, don’t answer the phone, don’t look in the attic, don’t go to the bathroom, don’t go into the ocean and don’t go into space ‘cos no one can hear you scream!”

Unfunny stuff: as with most of these things, the film spends too long trying to be relevant to the time period, which takes away from the slashing. ‘Wacky’ teachers and parents disappear and reappear frequently. George Kennedy getting a pie in the face for aping Hitchcock is the final ‘hilarious’ twist.

VV’s amusedness: 28% – “I smiled tolerantly and we parted.”

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scarymovieSCARY MOVIE 2000

The hilarious story: Six high school friends are stalked and tormented by a cloaked fiend who might just be the fisherman they ran over last Halloween, while a nosey reporter investigates the spree of killings that begins.

Funny stuff: if you watch this right after watching Scream, it’s funny. Any other time and you’re likely to tilt your head and squint your eyes trying to work out if you should laugh or not.  The Matrix and Blair Witch Project take-offs were funny at the time but the recreation of “the Jada Pinkett moment” from Scream 2 is the best part. The working title Scream if You Know What I Did Last Halloween was far better.

Unfunny stuff: the film wanes like a dying plant, eventually flopping flaccidly like a disappointing bedtime partner. Eww. And Marlon Wayans as Shorty – what the fuck is the point of his character? Talk about family favours!

I went on a date to see Scary Movie 2. We never spoke again.

VV’s amusedness: 55% – “you used to be funny but now you only make me cringe.”

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shriek-if-you-knowSHRIEK IF YOU KNOW WHAT I DID LAST FRIDAY THE 13TH 2000

The hilarious story: almost exactly the same as Scary Movie (with which this film was the competition but took too long to complete): the teens of – groan - Bulimia High are stalked by a killer who knows what they did last summer etc… Only here, the killer is so inept that the victims die from bee stings and coronaries before he can get his hands on them.

Funny stuff: the ‘Pop Up Video’ part near the end is actually funny. Coolio dies.

Unfunny stuff: fart jokes, erection jokes, gay jokes = all shit jokes. The lead character is called Dawson Deary. Pass me the razor blades…

VV’s amusedness: 24% – “oh look, it’s Funny’s cousin, Not Funny.”

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club_dreadCLUB DREAD 2004

The hilarious story: at Coconut Pete’s Costa Rican island resort (a sort of 18-30’s thing), a machete-toting killer is offing staff members, forcing those remaining to act ‘normally’. Is it the island’s mythical ‘Machete Phil?’

Funny stuff: Bill Paxton is great as Coconut Pete and there’s some good stalking and slashing sequences, the best of which involves a victim trying to get away in a golf buggy, eventually out-walked by the killer.

Unfunny stuff: The Broken Lizard comedy troupe evidently think they’re a lot funnier than they actually are, director Jay Chandrasekhar as queeny tennis boach Puttman is the best and Kevin Heffernan’s new-boy masseur makes a likeable hero but the others are just plain annoying. Clocking in at a whopping 113 minutes (the DVD version), Club Dread drags out some of its lame gags to the bitter end.

VV’s amusedness: 69% – “hi-de-hi-de-hi, ho-de-ho-de-ho, go go go to the holiday rock!”

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VICTOR: It can only be Pandemonium, the film with the crappest title but the least amount of crap gags.

Jason and the Astronauts

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JASON X

3 Stars  2001/15/93m

“Evil gets an upgrade.”

A.k.a. Friday the 13th Part X

Director: James Isaac / Writer: Todd Farmer / Cast: Lexa Doig, Lisa Ryder, Chuck Campbell, Peter Mensah, Kane Hodder, Jonathan Potts, Melyssa Ade, Derwin Jordan, Melody Johnson, Kristi Angus, Dov Tiefenbach, Phillip Williams, David Cronenberg.

Body Count: 24 (+4 virtual reality kills and a load of people in a space station…)

Dire-logue: “Hey, do you want a beer? Or do you wanna smoke some pot? Or we can have pre-marital sex? We love pre-marital sex!”


Cinema’s apex-predator returned after an eight year absence (nine, if you count the delay in releasing the film) and renaissance of the genre he ruled throughout the 1980s. Evidently, the ‘final’ trick used (for the second time) in Jason Goes To Hell cannot be believed again and thus here comes the dumbest hack n’ slash film to emerge in thirty years!

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In 2010, at the convenient ‘Crystal Lake Research Center’, Jason is chained up, having survived various attempts to kill him (heroine Rowan notes they tried to electrocute, gas, shoot and hang him) and his “amazing ability to regenerate damaged tissue” has attracted sleazy government types who want to exploit it. Naturally, several grunts fail to do the job and, along with David Cronenberg’s doctor, end up dead. Rowan manages to shut Jason in the cryogenic chamber that was being prepped as the next crack at disabling him, but Jay’s machete is powerful enough to rupture the casing, putting them both into stasis…

455 years later, intergalactic explorers happen upon the site and take both Jason and Rowan back to their ship. Led by Professor Lowe, who is keen to benefit financially from Jason’s fame, there’s a healthy number of nubile teenage ‘students’ along for the ride. Rowan is brought out of stasis by the crew, who believe Jason is beyond saving and before she can convince them to dump his body into outer space, he’s up and hewing his way through the crew.

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With evident debts to Alien, Jason X smartly goes down the comedic route, making the most of the Scream crowd’s awareness and playing up to the cliches. Meanwhile, cartoon-level violence sees a face cryogenically frozen and then shattered on a table, people chopped in half, impaled on giant screws plus the usual throat cuttings, impalings and decaps.

The onboard military personnel all fail to survive (let alone stop Jason) and so it’s down to the other crew members, who call upon droid Kay-Em 14 to do some damage and she takes him on Buffy style, eventually blowing him into several pieces. The damage sustained by the ship inadvertently releases the regenerative ‘bugs’ that repair injuries and rebuild Jason with synthetic extra parts. Yes – it’s Super-Jason!

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Weird to think back to the sack-headead B-movie axe-murderer from 1981.

Uber-Jay proves more of a match for the dwindling crew members than his previous incarnation and things go from silly to ridiculous in the final few minutes, but it is punctuated by the film’s best scene, where Kay-Em ‘builds’ a virtual reality around Jason of Camp Crystal Lake in 1980, complete with chirping cicadas, the gentle lake, a full moon and a couple of easy campers (see Dire-logue) and a recreation of Kane Hodder’s favourite kill from Friday VII.

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Jason X is a real contender for the “least good” entry in the series (I don’t say worst as I like all 12 films). It’s a step too far down Cheesy Street; Freddy vs. Jason may have been equally as daft but made up for it with some nostalgic setpieces and a respect for the roots of the series that are (the a fore mentioned scene aside) all but absent here. This opinion was accentuated by virtue of the fact that it’s also the poorest performing Friday film so far, barely breaking even; the producers later admitted that they chose the wrong script. In this sense, the 2009 ‘reboot‘ is helpful, the origins having been re-set, rumours of that sought-after Crystal Lake in the snow scenario becoming a reality and back-to-basics stalking and slashing instead of gimmicks and in-jokes.

Blurbs-of-interest: Sean S. Cunningham produced; his son, Noel, co-produced and was one of the campfire kids in the original 1980 film. James Isaac also directed The Horror Show (a.k.a. House III); Todd Farmer later wrote My Bloody Valentine 3D and the 2012 Halloween III. Harry Manfredini once again contributed the score. This was Kane Hodder’s fourth and final turn as Jason.

Here, there and everywhere

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FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER

3 Stars  1984/18/88m

“This is the one you’ve been screaming for.”

Director: Joseph Zito / Writers: Barney Cohen & Bruce Hidemi Sakow / Cast: Kimberly Beck, E. Erich Anderson, Corey Feldman, Joan Freeman, Peter Barton, Crispin Glover, Barbara Howard, Alan Hayes, Judie Aronson, Lawrence Monoson, Camilla More, Carey More, Ted White.

Body Count: 14

Dire-logue: “What happens if a psycho wanders in?”


Beginning with an awesome “Jason’s Greatest Hits” quick overview of the events from parts 1 to 3, The Final Chapter takes a rare turn for this series and picks up where the last film left off, with police and meat wagons clearing up the bodies from the ranch and taking them to the morgue – including Jason’s. Of course, it transpires that Mr V. isn’t so dead after all and he quickly does away with a couple of hospital employees before making the long walk back to Crystal Lake… A superb opening section.

At this point, rather than continuing the story in any way, it opts to repeat the events of the former by having a van full of kids – wait, it’s a car, they changed that! – vacationing at a house at Crystal Lake for the J-man to slaughter anew. As before, amongst the naive youth there is next to no mention of Jason, the recent murders, local paranoia, fear – just girly chats for the lovely females and sex for the horny guys, who include a pre-George McFly Crispin Glover and post-Hell Night Peter Barton.

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Next door to the vacation house is a cabin inhabited by the Jarvis family: Mom, teen daughter Trish and 12-year-old Tommy (a pre-everything Corey Feldman), who has a thing for making scary monster masks. Also new to the area is Rob, who tells Trish he’s bear hunting in the locale. The other teens meet a couple of sexy twin sisters and invite them and Trish over for a party, which is interrupted when Jason comes a-callin’, quite possibly bummed out that they didn’t invite him too.

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Teens start dropping all over the show: knife through the neck, cleaver in the face, axe in the chest and, most painfully, speargun in the balls! Meanwhile, Rob confides in Trish that his sister was one of the victims from Part 2 (although he doesn’t refer to it as that, which would’ve been cool) and he’s trying to find Jason for some good old fashioned revenge.

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fc7Rob’s efforts prove futile when Jason swats him into the next realm like a fly and it’s down to Trish and Tommy to save themselves, which is doubtlessly aided by Tommy’s knowledge of all things scary and some handy newspaper clippings about Jason, again, posing the question why nobody local seems to be aware of what’s been happening on the very same lake!

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The Final Chapter was the last Friday I saw out of the first nine films when I was first introduced to them in the mid-90s. Having crammed all of them in in less than a month, the form was a bit predictable and stale by the time I watched it and so it’s never ranked highly for me in the series. Zito’s technical direction is good but the film can only pale next to Parts 1 and 2 and, as in his earlier slasher film, The Prowler, there’s a streak of misogyny evident in the treatment and violent murders allotted to the girls in the film, notably only one of the two Fridays where female victims outnumber males. Bizarrely, according to Crystal Lake Memories, the casting process called for more ‘likeable’ victims in this outing, something that almost seemed to have achieved the exact opposite effect – I wasn’t fussed about any of them much.

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Feldman’s presence is welcome as the first involved pre-teen in the series but in being so, Kimberly Beck’s turn as the heroine is made kind of redundant. In spite of throwing herself through second-floor windows, finding body after body and taking on Jason singlehandedly with a machete, she plays second fiddle to Tommy’s eventual ruse that distracts Jason for long enough for them to kill him. And kill him they do, in sensational style where Tom Savini’s excellent effects work is flaunted to maximum force, a highlight of this entry in a scene that was heavily cut in the UK until its 2001 DVD release.

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Ultimately a bit of a non-event as far as I was concerned; the film holds up better than most slasher films from the same period but the summer camp setting of the first two films is missed, as are the goofy disco-antics of Part 3, the lighting in the final twenty or so minutes is abyssmally dark and the scenes jumble as Trish goes next door, comes back, goes next door, comes back… Jason does the same – kills someone inside, then seemingly goes outside, scales the side of the house to do the next one, and back to the scene of the previous murder to get a knife. And Gordon the dog? What the hell was going on there? Though I wonder if the rumour that one die-hard fan committed suicide (“If Jason dies…I die!”) is true…

Blurbs-of-interest: other than those mentioned, Crispin Glover played a set of twins in Simon Says.

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