Friday, October 21, 2011

31 Flavors of Horror #21: Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

Another day, another taste of October horror reviews. As I've worked through so much of the Friday the 13th oeuvre this month I may as well start thinking now about tackling the Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser, or Halloween series for next October.

Will any of them be able to stand up to my man, Jason? I doubt it... I also have too much respect for both of us to consider the Children of the Corn series, so don't worry your pretty little heads about it.

Picture me biting my knuckle and holding the back of my other hand (which is clenching a handkerchief that is sodden with tears) against my forehead while bemoaning "Oh, Jason! Why can't I quit you? You're no good for me. You don't communicate. You go off and die for years at a time. You're just not responding to my needs... and you're starting to smell a bit."

31 Flavors of Horror #21:
Friday the 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

Paramount was scratching the bottom of the barrel with Part VII, which I, like many, call "Jason vs. Carrie," but by Part VIII (number eight for you non-Roman types) they'd punched thru said bottom and were clawing the earth beneath it. Personally, I think they must've taken the title from The Muppets Take Manhattan. Someone got the bright idea of the image of Jason Voorhees incongruously planted in the middle of Times Square and a movie had to be built around it.

So, one more trip to the well. One more Friday night with my main dead, deformed man-child camp-counselor-killer squeeze... and right from the start I know I'm in for a crappy Friday night. This movie opens with stock shots of New York and a voice-over from what I'd assume is supposed to be a DJ... but mostly just sounds like a delusional douchebag who thinks he's a poet. Bad Skinamax jazz, set-dressed grit, and some tastefully clad street junkies complete the "NY milieu." This is not just a long way from Crystal Lake, this is a long way from the actual franchise.

A quick dip by Liberty Island and we transition to what I assume must be Crystal Lake, where psycho douchebag DJ spews some ominous plot exposition in a dedication about the senior class of  Lakeview High taking a road trip to the big, bad city. (Lakeview High? Considering this series is populated with bussed in counselors and creepy old coots -there's even a Crazy Ralph in the form of a deckhand in this one- I find it hard to believe there's much of an educational system around Camp Blood.)

(Magnificent, towering amounts of snark follow)

Anyhow, some big haired teens on a boat - a big one to have out on a lake that's already been established time and again to be rather small, though it does seem to get larger with each movie - engage in some smooching and back-story exposition while their anchor drags an electrical cable to the submerged Jason for a convenient reviving zap. Seriously, that's a wimpy anchor for a boat that size.

These kids deserve what they're about to get.

This man is Uncle Grumpypants. He is a douchebag.
Big-haired boy volunteers, by virtue of acting like a douchebag, to be first blood for our soggy sweetie, Jason, whose body now looks to be about the consistency of aspic. He makes quick work of them with a spear gun. Who knew spear guns would be so useful to have on a lake boat?

It's worth noting here that the filmmakers aren't even trying anymore. This is glossy nonsense only vaguely related to the series, and the effects are damn bad. Jason pulls up to the camera what are implied to be big-haired boy's intestines but they could be rubber tubing out of an old Volvo, too. Jason also gets some sound effects cues that seem to imply that he's chuckling or  making other noises.

Once the amuse bouche is out of the way we get to meet Rennie as she's about to join the senior trip on this lake/river/upper-Maine looking area that has no relation to the geography of the last films (I'll stop harping on that now). She gets a fountain pen once used by Stephen King (yeah, I'm sure) from her shovel-chinned, badly-permed teacher who gets her onto the senior trip boat against the wishes of some grumpy authority figure in a suit... who turns out to also be Rennie's guardian, Uncle Charles. She comes with the mysterious past Final Girl emotional baggage like the gals in III and VII did. Amazingly, Uncle Grumpypants even expects the students to adhere to a schedule and present homework during this trip. I really can't figure this out.

The boat, the Lazarus(!), was captained by an Admiral (now I'm actually chuckling), who's the father of a pretty boy who I guess will be the male lead to Rennie's final girl. Pretty boy has daddy issues and stares sensitively at teens who can conduct healthy interpersonal relations. His name is Sean. You'll soon grow to loathe him as much as I already do...

Skeet Shooting! Shuffleboard! Premarital heavy petting! There's lots to do on the Panamanian-registered, rusty Russian fishing vessel of a Lazarus. There's also a sublimely 80s guitar solo by JJ, a leather-clad teen who I think they wanted to echo a cross between Pat Benatar and the chick from The Divynals. She's paired off with Wayne from the AV club. In real life, these two kids would never cross paths, though they may have been friends up til about fifth grade, when things start getting really vicious.

In real life with enough beer, they'd also be the two I'd lay money on hooking up during this cruise. Well, if not for the masked killer and all... moving on to the boiler room. Poor rockin' JJ goes to live out her Headbanger's Ball masturbatory fantasies but Jason's more of a 120 Minutes fan and kills her with her own Flying V.

Stay away from the windows in this flick.
Jason then goes and lurks outside of Rennie's room, making weird whimpering "mommy" noises through the porthole. She pictures a drowning boy for no other reason than for the audience to have a "Jason drowned" moment.

Sigh. This is bad.

Elsewhere on the boat, the late-twenty-something graduating class of Lakeview High are celebrating their bright future with boxing and cocaine. One kid even goes for a shvitz. He gets a flaming lava rock to the navel from Jason, who I can only assume is cranky he doesn't look as good in a towel.

Meanwhile, Rennie the amazing plot thread is on a walk with Miss Shovelchin when she gets knocked off the boat and imagines young Jason trying to drag her down to drown. When back aboard she immediately goes and hallucinates blood running from the taps and drowning boy leaping thru a smoke-and-light filled mirror for her. That's annoying. I mean, I REALLY am hating that part of the plot. Wait, no, I'm hating every part of the plot. After all these Fridays together I think Jason is starting to take me for granted.

Jason next goes after some blonde T&A who attempts to frame Uncle Charles with a blackmail video. Really anyone who ever wants to play the whole "teenage sexual mores" angle of slasher movies need look no further than this character. Like big-haired boy and JJ of the Flying V, T&A gets stabbed off-screen, too. It's really a downright shame how little effort they put into the killing effects in this one. No gusto. Seriously, the Friday the 13th TV show was gorier than this movie.

Her killing is quickly followed up with that of the ship's second in command getting speared - which we see thru a rainy window - and the Admiral getting his throat bloodlessly slit. When pouty Sean finds him seconds later, he's trussed up and these sad bastards now know they're on their own. At least now we have a group of characters gathered who know most only have one or two scenes left, tops - and this crap still has nearly an hour to go. There's a sneak-up cheap-cheat involving Uncle Grumpy coming up on Rennie. Too bad they didn't take the chance to twist the genre and knock her off then. Instead we cut to Kelly Hu (the only actor who's career survived this crap) finding T&A and then running from Jason to a very quick end. This time it's death on the dance floor... I guess this means Disco faked it's own death and joined the Merchant Marines?
Kelly Hu, not Who...

Next up is Wayne-the-well-coifed-film-geek, who quickly "pulls a Velma" and loses his glasses and shoots someone by accident. He runs into Jason, then what's left of JJ before getting electrocuted. Some guy I haven't bothered to mention, he was just a blonde guy who was friends with Sean, gets chased up a mast then I think impaled on something. they don't bother to clarify what exactly he's killed with. The token black guy is tossed into the drink immediately after.

Things are picking up, at least, even if the movie's still shitty. Jason comes after the hallucinating Rennie and she puts that first-act fountain pen in his eye... or is it eye socket? He's suffered so much soft-tissue trauma over the years it's safe to assume his vision isn't 20/20.

Anyhow, people run around the ship without any thought to spatial relationships until it starts flooding. Shovelchin, Rennie, Uncle Grumpy, and pissy old Sean start making their way to the lifeboats where they run into a stabbed Crazy Ralph. They make it to the boat while Jason considerately stands on deck and watches them. He then takes off so we can get a fake out scare when Julius (the black guy who's name I didn't bother to catch before now), not being dead after all, pops out of the water and joins them on the raft.

Oh, I didn't mention the dog! Rennie brought her dog. He hasn't required a "Jones the Cat" like rescue or had any run-ins with anyone worth mentioning, so I didn't bring him up. He's on the boat too. I include this mostly to prove I'm still paying attention to this crap.

Anyhow they row all day through the fog and all night until they wind up in sight of Liberty Island. I give up on the geography of this trip since Crystal Lake was established to be in, I think, Ohio at some point. The fog must've been so thick they didn't see any lights... and the East Coast... near New York City... is SO under-lit.

They reach the dock and scatter, then Jason pops up right behind them. The first thing he sees is a billboard with a hockey mask on it, proving once again that slasher films are over the hill when they add dumb, slapsticky jokes. It's too bad he didn't catch up with our Soporific Five, as they immediately get mugged by "Street Toughs." They take wallets and Rennie, who they threaten to shoot up with an enormous syringe of what looks to be urine or apple juice. This looks to be a large amount of what I assume is an illegal drug with a street value to waste on a silly, wandering teenage girl... but that's just the Capitalist in my objecting. If only someone were there to protect her pure white womanhood from these central casting thugs... oh, wait, Jason stabs the guy thru the back with the big needle and then shrugs off some bullets before using the partner's face to break a steam pipe. Rennie, that ungrateful bitch, runs off without even thanking him.
By now, Julius, who's been chasing them, catches up to the storyline for his big death scene. He scampers to a roof for what I can only assume will be a West Side Story-style dance fight with Jason. He throws boxing jabs until he tires himself out against a woefully unimpressed Jason, who returns the love taps by punching his noggin' clean off. It lands in a dumpster, as it should, since Jason's a country boy who's mama didn't raise him to litter.

Sean finds Rennie and Uncle Grumpy finds a cop. Rennie explores the cheap excuse for character development by running to Shovelchin before they take off with New York's Canuckiest cop. After a cheap shock involving a head that looked nothing like Julius, and the cop's Jason-inspired stage-left-exit, they take off in the cop car. Rennie promptly wrecks it after some annoying slo-mo during her latest wet drowned young Jason hallucination. I would think she's just revealing herself to have some sort of fixation on much younger men, but then she has to go and spoil it with a flashback sequence.

The Muppets took it better, bitch.
Uncle Charlie took her out on the lake as a kid to teach her to swim, using the incredibly ill-judged scary story of Jason still being in the lake and willing to pull down anyone who can't swim. Seriously, that is a dick move and he'll be paying a fortune in therapy bills for that one. He chucks her in the water and she... immediately gets pulled under by a deformed boy.

All of her emotional problems come from a dunking? Jeez, this is a crap flick.

People split up and Uncle Charlie winds up getting thrown out a window by Jason, who then drowns him in a barrel of green crap. For Jason that's a) far more effort than he usually puts into murder and b) unusually spiteful of him. Maybe he is her protector...

So now whiny Rennie and the magnificently blah Sean bond and run thru New York, hoping to get away from Jason by subway... wait, where did Shovelchin go? To show you how absorbing this cinematic masterpiece is I had to go rewind and find out. She got blowed up with the car when Rennie wrecked it. I truly hope that in the after story, Rennie blames herself for that death for the rest of her natural life... for no other reason than she annoys me.

Jason's riding between the trains and chases them. Their temerity to pull the train's emergency break means all of New York is now siding with Jason against these two prats. When they go and follow it up by luring him onto the third rail to get fried - which I assume would shut down the subway for a while - I'd bet some locals will be literally gunning for them, too.

These ever-so-responsible kids wander off from the body of the multiple-murdering maniac without telling anyone and hie off to play tourist and check out Times Square. At least they made it there before it got all Disneyfied. Jason follows them up to provide the crowd-pleaser shot that sold the movie.

There's more humor slugged in when Jason scares off some more street toughs by lifting his mask and Rennie and Sena meet a sassy waitress who I'm betting is there only so someone can say "Welcome to New York" in the most cynical manner possible. It really isn't "my kinda town" in this movie. (Sigh, is it over yet? Almost - the counter's now at 1:29 of 1:40)

The kids get into the ever accommodating, easy to get into flooded access tunnels to what is stated to be the New York City sewer system. A convenient Mister Exposition is there to point out the tunnels are going to get flooded with toxic waste momentarily. He's immediately offed by Jason. His screen time might be even shorter than that poor bitch who gets killed eating the banana in... number 3? 4? They all blend together at this point...

What did I just tell you yesterday about moisturizing???
Rennie monologues in an effort to make it all about her "you're not gonna get me now blah-blah-blah" then she goes and chucks some toxic waste in his face. This causes Jason to not only remove his mask but cry and make a gesture not unlike clutching one's pearls as he starts to steam and melt from the waste. That shot made sitting through this whole crapfest worthwhile, even if it breaks, once again, one of the series' cardinal rules. Jason should be silent. If he's staggering around in pain and crying he's out of character. By the 8th installment you should have the characterizations down flat.

The kids are escaping with Jason on their tail when the flood of "Waste" comes. We're lead to believe he says in a child's voice "Mommy, don't let me drown" before (and in closeup) Kane Hodder vomits water into the camera. (I looked it up, he really did just barf on cue.) There's some yucky bobbing makeup before the waste recedes leaving behind a perfectly normal dead boy in swimming trunks in it's wake.

Smartly, Rennie and  Sean once again wander away from the dead body lest they have to explain why they're hanging out with a half-naked dead seven year old in the New York Sewer System. They reunite with the last plot thread: the dog, who somehow knew just where in all of New York to find them and then the credits and smooth Skinemax jazz starts.

Bad. Bad. Bad.

Jason, we would SO be over at this point... I woulda stormed out by the time JJ got it... but I've already written seven of these fucking things and there's only two more to go... Three if I get ambitious... Four if I sit through the remake again. 

Hmm. I feel like less of a completest than a codependent saying that. Ah, well. You took me to Times Square and next go round I know you're going to Hell (I mean, it's IN the title), so I can't complain that you don't show a boy a good time.

It's just that there was nothing good about this time. Moving on... See ya next time, ya big mook.


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