After the frankly dire quality of the fifth Friday the 13th film, I was feeling a bit jaded about the idea of continuing the blog’s tradition of watching and reviewing a Jason Voorhees movie every Friday 13. Not that I wasn’t going to do it, mind you; just that I was keeping my expectations really low.
With the sixth film in the franchise, I think it’s reasonable to say that it’s probably never going to return to the quality of the very first film. However, it is substantially better than its predecessor, and is a relatively high mark for the franchise so far.
The film brings back the character of Tommy Jarvis, hero of the fourth and fifth films, now played by Thom Mathews. He’s a lot more talkative than last time. Unfortunately for him, most of what he’s saying comes across as crazy rambling. In an attempt to come to terms with his trauma, he digs up the body of Jason Voorhees, and an inconvenient lightning strike miraculously brings Jason’s half-rotten maggoty corpse back to life. (Which raises a question: why was Jason buried to begin with? A headstone and a cemetery plot isn’t exactly the norm for a body with no next of kin to claim it. Had the local authorities followed standard procedure, he’d have been cremated, and this movie wouldn’t have happened.)
Tommy of course goes to the authorities with news that Jason is alive and killing again, and naturally enough is dismissed as being a crazy loon — which, to be fair, is completely reasonable under the circumstances. Still, the sheriff (David Kagen) still puts himself on the “too stupid to live” list with his abrasive personality and hair-trigger temper. I realize that movie producers may not know all the standard operating procedures of law enforcement offices, and I’m certainly not going to portray myself as an expert, though I did have a part-time job at a sheriff’s office at one point. But I doubt I would need that experience to know that it’s generally frowned upon to immediately draw one’s gun on a somebody who runs into the office. But that’s how Sheriff Garris is introduced, and he and his deputy (Vincent Guastaferro) continue to draw their guns on people (usually Tommy) at the least provocation throughout the film. Any responsible law enforcement officer would have arrested them. Contrariwise, Garris’s daughter Megan (Jennifer Cooke) is immediately smitten with Tommy, and assumes this AWOL mental patient’s story is completely on the up-and-up.
Both extremes are a little hard to credit, but the background the film gives does sort of explain it… even if that explanation is likewise hard to credit. Forest Green — which has changed its name from Crystal Lake to avoid the association with its past — has apparently been teaching its children that Jason Voorhees was a myth, and never actually happened. Given that Tommy personally killed him, it’s pretty recent history to be glossing over, but arguably the teens are young enough to fall for it, with the 5th film having focused on an imitator. Even so, it seems unlikely that it’s a story that would hold up for long, and one can only imagine the conversations once kids find out the actual history and learn their parents were essentially trying to pull a reverse Santa Claus on them. It’s a minor background element, but it does illustrate the willful obliviousness and inborn stupidity that this franchise relies on.
There must be something in the water of Crystal Lake. Besides Jason’s soggy corpse, I mean.
Of course, at this point we expect the plot to be running on nonsense. The question is whether the film is entertaining in spite of this. In this case, it is. It’s not that the serial killing is particularly suspenseful; it’s not very imaginative, there’s no build up and it’s feeling a little played out at this point. But it gets some help here and there. First, the actors are all turning in reasonably good performances. Not great, but decent. Second, director Tom McLoughlin sets the scenes up so that they at least provide interesting visuals, even if they don’t do much to build the suspense. But mostly what helps is that the film is aware of its inherent goofiness. There are nods to classic horror films throughout and there are a lot of jokes here and there — ranging from pure silliness (a bloody smiley face on a tree after one death) to subtle oddities (one small child is reading No Exit by Sartre) to some black humor among the campers about their odds of survival once the threat is known. The Alice Cooper soundtrack certainly doesn’t hurt either.
So while it doesn’t entertain in the same way as the original film, it still manages to entertain. Which is more than I was really expecting at this point.