Friday, September 13, 2013

Triskaidekaphilia: 'Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives' (1986)

On the 13th of each month, I write about a movie whose title contains the number 13.

After audiences revolted when the villain in Friday the 13th: A New Beginning turned out to not be Jason at all, the series' producers went out of their way to definitively bring him back in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. It's right there in the title, and the movie opens with doomed survivor Tommy Jarvis (now played by Thom Matthews, replacing John Shepherd, who replaced Corey Feldman) exhuming Jason's grave, ostensibly to make sure that he's dead. A quick lightning strike later, Jason is up and lumbering about again, now a completely supernatural force (which at least explains why he is super-strong and essentially invincible).

Writer-director Tom McLoughlin's greatest contribution is to embrace the silliness of the series; Jason Lives isn't remotely scary, but it's still the best Friday the 13th movie since the first one, thanks to its sometimes clever, often dopey humor. McLoughlin doesn't worry about the mechanics of Jason's resurrection, and he gets rid of all the angst and seriousness of Tommy's life from the last two movies. Instead he focuses on dumb jokes and self-referential one-liners ("Some folks sure got a strange idea of entertainment," says the cemetery caretaker after Tommy and his buddy have dug up Jason's corpse, just as the producers have dug up Jason's corpse for the sake of entertainment by making this movie).

Most of the jokes are lame, and McLoughlin still has to go through the motions of getting Jason to kill a bunch of random people, and that leaves him only so much room for creativity. Jason Lives returns to Camp Crystal Lake (renamed Camp Forest Green by town leaders to distance it from its murderous past) and once again offers up horny camp counselors as fodder for Jason's blade, although this time there are actual kids at the camp (even though they aren't really in danger). Jason Lives also has the distinction of being the only Friday the 13th movie to feature no nudity, which goes along with McLoughlin's throwback monster-movie vibe. None of the clever touches are quite enough for Jason Lives to transcend its sixth-movie-in-a-slasher-franchise origins, but after four straight movies of unrelenting sameness and predictability, a little originality is a pleasant surprise.

Previous Friday the 13th posts:
Friday the 13th (1980)
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)

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