I’ll give the producers of the Friday the 13th series credit for one thing: they seem to have been at least somewhat aware of the need to do something to keep the series fresh. Even though “Jason Voorhees chopping up campers” is what the series is all about, there needs to be some sort of variety, or there’s no reason to watch Part N instead of Part N-1.
In part 7, directed by John Carl Buechler, the writers have taken a page from the Nightmare on Elm Street playbook and introduced an element of the supernatural (well, besides Jason’s continued existence.) In fact, it was apparently originally intended to be a crossover between the two franchises until plans fell through. Those plans would eventually come to fruition 15 years later, but in 1988, the “new blood” the writers came up with was to focus the movie on a young woman with telekinesis.
Lar Park-Lincoln plays Tina, a young adult who is a nervous wreck over the guilt over killing her father in a telekinetic outburst as a child. Her doctor (Terry Kiser) suggests that she may have an emotional breakthrough if they revisit the scene of the tragedy — which, of course, took place on Crystal Lake, Jason’s old haunting ground. Dr. Crewes has an ulterior motive, however; he’s less interested in her emotional well-being than in studying her telekinetic abilities. The dialogue is stilted in places and these are — of course — not deep performances, but they’re pretty solid for a late entry in a slasher series. Park-Lincoln does a credible job as the distraught Tina, with the one caveat that her performance seems rather stiff whenever she’s exercising her powers. This may be more due to the directing than her acting ability, however. And there are, of course, the usual assortment of young adults to play victim for Jason, and as usual, they’re pretty much one-note characters there to extend the body count.
“I’m catty, insensitive, and demand to be the center of attention at all times. Amazingly, I survive more than five minutes.”
The special effects are in some ways the real stars of the show, given its focus on Tina’s abilities. The first non-flashback display isn’t all that great, to be honest; when Tina moves a matchbook, it skitters across a desk with the most obvious jump-cuts possible. But later efforts seem to have been handled with a bit more skill in the effects department. It’s nothing that will wow anybody who has seen more than a handful of science fiction films, but it gets the job done — and the scenes with the furnace spewing out flames are at least pretty good. What really works is the make-up job done on Kane Hodder, the actor who plays Jason (making his first appearance in the series, and if I’m not mistaken this is also the first time any Jason actor has had a mention in the opening credits.) While he naturally spends most of his time behind the hockey mask, his face is shown a few times, and the rotting mess is quite convincing and horrifying.
At this point in the franchise, it’s pretty easy to be jaded about the disposable victims and Jason’s methods of dispatching them. A few are a bit inventive, and I’ll admit I’m glad that there are some where the camera cuts away from the gore, such as one scene with a pole saw. But it’s safe to say that at this point, the series needs more than just a sequence of dead bodies to be interesting. Tina’s telekinesis provides this angle. First, it gives the audience a reason to actually care about and root for a character again, which is always helpful. And second, it gives her a means to fight back, so that she isn’t just running and screaming all the time. While we all know she isn’t going to succeed in stopping him early on, it’s still more interesting when we get to watch her try, which is something the “Tommy Jarvis trilogy” in the series also provided a bit of. It helps. It doesn’t make it a great film, by any stretch, but it does keep it from being a boring one.