13 November 2012


Twelve Things about Friday the 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

12. Let's have a show of hands, please. How many other people saw the subtitle "Jason Takes Manhattan" and thought that this movie would be one big, puffy cheeseball of a gorefest?

*Raises Own Hand*

So when I finally sat down to watch this a few weeks ago, I was amazed at its quality. I think it's now one of my Top 5 Slashers of all time. While not a "classic" example of the genre, I can think of few others that can beat this one in terms of thoughtfulness.

11. It's worth repeating that Jason Takes Manhattan is the eighth movie in the Friday the 13th franchise. And it's worth noting that when this installment opens the total body count between the Voorhees mother and son is 78 victims, in less than ten years. (If that number seems a little low, it's because I'm not counting the fodder of Part V: A New Beginning.) You'd think that the people living around Crystal Lake would have taken a hint by then, aye? I imagine the sensible ones did, moving away and continuing their lives elsewhere. And well, it turns out that screenwriter Rob Hedden is sensible in exactly that way.

10. And now you may be thinking, "Yes, Enbrethiliel, we see why the setting had to change . . . But why New York City???"

Jason Voorhees in Times Square:
So surreal and yet so credible.

My guess is that Hedden must have thought that if he was going to dream, then he might as well Dream Big. =P Sometimes it really pays off, you know? 

9. We do get a couple of kills in the original setting--for both continuity and courtesy. (This film isn't rude and sloppy; it has manners.) A teenage couple are celebrating their high school graduation with a romantic boat ride on Crystal Lake when their anchor hits an underwater power line that short circuits and shocks a zombie Jason back to consciousness. Soon he is out of the water and ready to rock. And the young lovers never get to leave their boat.

If you think that these first kills are merely a quick way to get from Point A to Point B, remember that it would have been even quicker for the bigger cruise ship in the movie to have resurrected Jason. There is a reason the first deaths take place near a campground on Crystal Lake--and it is the reason they are also the last deaths ever near a campground on Crystal Lake. As I will keep reminding you, this movie is thoughtful. And it makes the smoothest possible transition from land to lake proper.

8. And who had ever guessed that Crystal Lake, that most insular of Slasher settings (if you don't mind some land form imagery), actually opened into the Atlantic Ocean? I hadn't!

But it fits, doesn't it? This isn't merely some trick pulled out of thin air to get Jason to New York. It makes sense that Crystal Lake would turn out to be an open lake and that Jason's the Voorhees family's reach would be much farther than the original creators ever imagined.

7. Moreover, until Hedden got a story in edgewise, nobody seemed to find it odd that a whole mythology which begins with a boy's death by drowning would have so little to do with the water. As if to make up for this, Jason Takes Manhattan is all about the water. We get our little boat, our bigger ship, an island setting, and a Final Girl who is haunted by visions of a drowning Jason.

6. The other characters are, on average, more memorable than you'd expect from "fodder." There were some really clever twists in what could have been very ordinary kills. (It felt a little sick to write that sentence.) Take the girl who tries to seduce her Science teacher by painting her internal organs on her half-naked torso and modeling the look for him. I would have expected Hedden--and therefore, Jason--to carve her up using her own art as a guide. But the poor girl spends her last few moments trying to cover herself up with her robe while Jason eschews the crudity of a traditional weapon for one of the shards of a broken mirror.

Do you see what the filmmakers did there?!?!?!

5. Then there's the Glam Rock girl, who is both farcical and foddery enough to make me think that her fate (and that of her electric guitar) was a direct commentary on the late 80s music scene. (I know exactly how they felt . . .)

4. Just when I was about to accuse Hedden of being less inspired when it came to the male characters, I remembered the boy with the video camera. You know that I always pay attention when video equipment shows up in a Horror movie! There's just something about the shot in which our aspiring cinematographer raises his camera and sees Jason standing right there--which we see from his point of view, of course. There's such a sense of artistry and knowing in those few seconds that outweighs entire Found Footage films that I've seen.

3. Our teenage cast may have graduated, but there are still some teachers (and one parent) hanging around to make them feel adolescent. By targeting the adults as well, Jason does the younger generation a favour by speeding up their rites of maturity.

By the way, the male teacher may have been a jerk, but it was the female teacher I found creepy. Trying to be friends with a student, attempting to buy her love with presents, and coaxing her to talk about her deepest traumas . . . Am I the only one who thinks there is something wrong with this behaviour?

2. One adult who isn't an authority figure is the cruise ship's deckhand, who is clearly a homage to Crazy Ralph, a character from the first two Friday the 13th movies. But perhaps I wrote that too soon. For as the only one who remains certain that Jason is at large, the deckhand is also the only one who knows exactly what is going on. If that's not authority, then I don't know what is! And yet the only way to get his character to work would have been to make him really loony. Apparently, there was no topping Crazy Ralph, so we get Version 2.0 both to help further the plot and to honour his memory.

1. There are not enough "Things" in my format to praise every clever element in this film, so I won't try to cram stuff in and will just end on a gooey note.

Ever since The Blob nearly broke my heart, I've been all about the Final Dog. =)

Image Sources: a) Friday the 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, b) Jason Voorhees takes Times Square, c) Toby, My Love


amy said...

Oh Enbrethiliel, I love how thoughtfully you examined this movie- you leave me feeling like I am missing out on the great insights of the genere. If anyone ever convinces me to watch a horror movie, it will be you. :)

amy said...

I always forget to sign up for comment follow-up.

Enbrethiliel said...


Thank you, Amy! Maybe we'll have a "Two or Three" Movie Club one of these days and you can join in. ;-)