Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives

In the early going of Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives, there are flickers—flickers, mind you—of self-parodying humor.

The most outrageous flicker is a parody of the James Bond opening, in which, seen in profile through an iris, 007 shoots at the camera. This time the mad killer of the Friday the 13th sagas, the indestructible Jason, strides across the screen, brandishing his machete. What would Ian Fleming think?

Then there’s the gravedigger who frowns at Jason’s empty grave. “Why did they have to go dig up Jason?” he wonders. Then, looking at the camera, he says, “Some folks have a strange idea of entertainment.”

Well, yes. Considering that this utterly worthless series of films is clocking in with its sixth installment, and more promised by the he’s-not-quite-dead-yet ending, we can assume that a significant portion of the moviegoing audience does indeed have a strange idea of entertainment. At least writer-director Tom McLoughlin tips his hat to the inexplicable appeal of the series.

McLoughlin displays a trifle more wit than the previous interpreters of the formula, which isn’t saying much. Halfway through, even the occasional throwaway gags disappear, as Jason goes on his bloody quest to puree as many campers as he can.

As you will recall from the previous installments, ol’ Jason Voorhees, who favors a hockey mask over his decomposed puss, has been killed off a bunch of times. Jason’s dead again at the opening of Part VI, but a stupid teenager (though that’s a redundancy in these films) digs up his grave. There’s Jason, his face crawling with maggots, incontestably dead.

This kid may have seen a Dracula movie, because he grabs an iron fencepost and rams it through Jason’s chest. However, the kid has obviously never seen a Frankenstein movie, or else he’d know that the thunderstorm raging above is going to send a bolt of lightning down to hit the iron post, thus reanimating (and considerably peeving) the already-disagreeable Jason.

After that, Jason does his thing, much in the manner of an aging vaudevillian running through his familiar routines. Except, of course, that Jason’s routine involves spilling buckets of anonymous campers’ blood. Happily enough—for Jason, that is—he happens upon a machete and a hockey mask, in the course of his forest rambles.

That’s all, except that one sleeping camper reads Sartre’s No Exit; the hero calls Jason “maggot-head” when he wants to get his attention; and director McLoughlin once played the mutant grizzly bear in John Frankenheimer’s Prophecy—a performance roughly as important as his authorial work here.

First published in the Herald, 1986.

I don’t know how many Friday the 13thmovies I reviewed—just around half, probably. They all stink, and they look horrible (when I reviewed a box set for, I was struck by the way the DVDs looked much better than the movies ever had, just by virtue of being crisped up with a digital dusting). The fact that the early-Eighties horror era is now looked back on as a credible period for the genre (and even seen as the good old days for some) is truly bizarre, because at the time, a horror fan was very aware of living through the worst phase of horror-movie history, the first installments of Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street very much excepted.

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