FRIDAY THE 13th PART VI: JASON LIVES (1986)

Friday the 13th 6 - Jason Lives.jpg

Studio:       Paramount Pictures
Director:    Tom McLoughlin
Writer:       Tom McLoughlin
Producer:  Don Behrns
Stars:     Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen, Renee Jones, Kerry Noonan, Darcy DeMoss, Tom Fridley, C.J. Graham

Review Score:

65.jpg

Summary:

Tommy Jarvis¡¯ plan to exterminate Jason Voorhees once and for all inadvertently awakens the killer for a new slaughter spree.


Synopsis:     

Review:

¡°Jason Lives¡± usually wrestles with ¡°The Final Chapter¡± over which ¡°Friday the 13th¡± film earns the most fan favor.  One can kind of see why, as in a certain sense ¡°Jason Lives¡± represents a pretty direct distillation of what the franchise is all about.

Responsible for establishing ¡°zombie¡± Jason, ¡°Friday the 13th Part VI¡± features an incarnation of the iconic killer that is a pure murder machine.  He¡¯s no character.  He¡¯s a conduit for carnage.  ¡°Jason Lives¡± couldn¡¯t care less about continuity, much less meaningful motivations.  Once the setup puts its pieces in place, the remainder of the movie cuts down the whole game board in a bloody machete slash focused almost exclusively on dropping bodies to the forest floor.

And that setup doesn¡¯t make a lick of sense.  Unable to leave well enough alone, Tommy Jarvis has the dimwit idea to re-kill an already dead Jason Voorhees by digging up his grave, prying open his coffin, and cremating his decaying corpse.  A compelling case can be made that Tommy is as much to blame for what happens next as Jason, maybe more so.

Jason¡¯s maggot-riddled body wasn¡¯t going anywhere.  It is now, thanks to Tommy¡¯s Ahab urge to stab his Moby Dick with a metal pole from a nearby fence.  Out of nowhere, a laughably well-timed, well-placed lightning bolt strikes the pole, somehow sending supernatural juice that jolts Jason into joining the ranks of the evil undead.  On the list of all-time dumbest ways a dead horror movie character comes back to life, only Freddy Krueger¡¯s flaming dog piss resurrection ranks higher.

Writer/director Tom McLoughlin knows his story is silly, and that awareness becomes a recurring thorn cutting into the movie¡¯s clout.  ¡°Jason Lives¡± is goofy to a fault with persistent meta humor about fright flick clich¨¦s and unsubtle sight gags that may as well include someone winking at the camera while a ¡°Debbie Downer¡± trumpet warbles.  One or two touches to acknowledge being in on the dopiness would be fine.  ¡°Friday the 13th Part VI¡± takes self-deprecation to a level where it seems McLoughlin may not take his movie seriously at all.

Not that there is a whole lot to be taken seriously.  Among the major slasher series, ¡°Friday the 13th¡± has notoriously remained the most hollow on substance.  In true ¡°Friday the 13th¡± fashion, this fifth sequel exemplifies that.

The wafer-thin core plotline involves Tommy trying to convince the sheriff of Crystal Lake, now renamed Forest Green, that he isn¡¯t crying wolf about Jason rising from his grave to start a new terror spree.  In the mix are four counselors, one of whom takes a shine to Tommy, gearing to reopen the camp for a busload of kids.

There isn¡¯t much more to the premise than that.  ¡°Jason Lives¡± never does more than it has to, as evidenced when Tommy briefly thumbs through a library book about occultism, subsequently concocting a plan to destroy his nemesis based on as much reasonable logic as Jason¡¯s lightning bolt rebirth.  So to stretch the runtime to its requisite length while waiting for everyone to converge at the camp, ¡°Jason Lives¡± drops in random red shirts as machete fodder in a series of slaughter scenes almost entirely unrelated to anything else. 

Weirdly, ¡°Jason Lives¡± has some of the better-developed characters in the series.  Sheriff Garris and his daughter Megan in particular encounter complex, for horror movie heroes anyway, conflicts over picking a side in the ongoing ¡°is Tommy a lunatic?¡± debate.  ¡°Part VI¡± doesn¡¯t have a Shelly or a Ginny who truly stands out, though it at least molds everyone from likable clay.

More weirdly, particularly for a property known for its creative kills, the deaths don¡¯t have nearly as much personality as the people.  Jason even repeats straightforward stabs from the metal pole or his machete for mediocre murders, a majority of which don¡¯t even occur on camera.  ¡°Friday the 13ths¡± are meant to get a lot of mileage out of this material, meaning ¡°Part VI¡± ends up escorting audiences on a fairly short trip.

The film nevertheless lands as a relatively strong entry in the franchise for its no frills approach to having just two elements in use: Jason and victims, nothing more, nothing less.  However, that doesn¡¯t necessarily even it out as a strong scary movie overall.  ¡°Jason Lives¡± is too jokey for unadulterated horror tastes and too underdeveloped for sophisticated satisfaction.  But hey, if all a ¡°Friday the 13th¡± fan wants is Jason turning wayward campers, corporate retreaters, a canoodling couple, and a drunk cemetery caretaker into mulch, albeit somewhat plainly, ¡°Jason Lives¡± certainly has that in spades.

PS: Who paid for Jason Voorhees to have a headstone?

Review Score:  65

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