Friday, May 20, 2016

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives!

Allow me to illustrate the tone of Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives! (1986). In the pre-credits sequence, Tommy Jarvis (now played by Thom Matthews) digs up the corpse of Jason Voorhees, so he can cremate him and be rid of the nightmares he's suffered since first encountering Jason as a child. Unfortunately, a lightning bolt reanimates the now rotting slasher. Jason reclaims his hockey mask and poses for the camera. The camera cuts in close to Jason's eyeball when Jason, in full form, strides across the frame, turns and slashes the screen, a gorified parody of James Bond.

Jason Voorhees is back of course, and while it hews closely to the formula of its predecessors, Jason Lives! adopts a comedic tone, one that's practically self-parody. It's just as well. By this point, the series was bled dry of scares, so if they can't terrify the audience, they might as well as entertain us, and all things considered, Part VI does a pretty good job. Many fans regard it as the best in the series.

After that hilarious and gory opening (Jason rips out the heart Ron "Arnold Horseshack" Palillo), Jason resumes his reign of terror, slaughtering anyone who comes across his path. Meanwhile, Tommy tries to convince the sheriff (David Kagen) that Jason is back, but he doesn't believe him, convinced Tommy is really the killer. The sheriff's daughter Megan (Jennifer Cooke) is the only one who believes him.

Wow, that's a lot more plot than one would expect from a Friday the 13th movie. It reminds me a bit of what they might have been trying to do with A New Beginning, but they don't make the mistake of having an imposter Jason. Right from the start, we know he's back and doing his thing while Tommy desperately tries to stop him and finally finish Jason off once and for all.

Jason's kill are still violent and bloody but not as much as the others in the series (reportedly the MPAA cracked down hard on this one); the most horrific stuff occurs off screen. By now, the movie is self aware and kind poking fun at itself. Tony Goldwyn and his girlfriend are driving through the woods when they see Jason standing in the road, and the girlfriend immediately hits the reverse. "I've seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly," she says. Jason pulls a counselor through the window, and it's so quick and suddenly, he yanks her right out of her fuzzy slippers.

For once, there are actual kids at camp. A couple of them amusingly say to each other, "We're dead meat," when the bodies start piling up. One of them even asks the other, "So, what were you going to be when you grew up?"

The movie also has fun showing more of Jason, instead of just having him leap out of nowhere. By now, we know what he looks like, so why keep him in the shadows? This adds to the humor. In one scene, a counselor assures a scared camper there's no monster, and behind her, in the window, we see Jason watching her.

Alice Cooper contributes some songs, but be warned: it's 80s hair metal Alice Cooper.

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