Friday the 13th Part VIII—Jason Takes Manhattan

October 22, 2012

Jason, the socially maladjusted slasher of the Friday the 13th series, has been stuck in the small town of Crystal Lake for his entire cleaver-hoisting existence. Mind you, Crystal Lake provides an acceptable volume of stupid teenagers for Jason to slice up. But even Jason can dream of new horizons, new challenges. His vagabond shoes are longing to stray.

In the eighth installment of the series, Jason’s little-town blues are melting away; he goes uptown in Friday the 13th Part VIII—Jason Takes Manhattan. Yes, the man with the hockey mask gets himself to New York City, where, appropriately enough, he fits right in.

The TV commercials that have been incessantly promoting this film over the last couple of weeks have stressed the amusing angle that Jason is nothing unusual in New York. Unfortunately, all the good lines are in the commercials. The movie doesn’t have nearly as much fun with this idea as it should.

The ads, and the titles, have been misleading in another way. This film is two-thirds over by the time Jason and the other principals reach New York. The first part of the movie is taken up with a sea cruise, for a high-school graduating class of course, which Jason joins as an unwelcome stowaway. He soon has his hands full: so many teenagers, so little time.

Despite the switch in scenery, this outing is one of the series’ worst. Writer-director Rob Hedden blows nearly every opportunity for shipboard terror, and his treatment of the inner-city stuff is standard and unimaginative. The leading lady (or, main target) is Jensen Daggett, who lends a thoughtful presence; she could be at home in true Gothic material.

At some point, some Friday the 13th movie is going to have to spoof itself. (Intentionally, that is.) But who knows where Jason will turn up next? He may be off to Rio, Tokyo, or Paris; picture Jason crouched over a croissant at a café on the Left Bank, dreaming of ways to kill the waiter. This boy can thrive anywhere.

First published in the Herald, August 3, 1989

How did I not end this review with “He’s gonna make it anywhere”? I guess the movie wore me out, as did this dismal series. The intentionally funny one turned out to be Jason X, by the way.