Image courtesy of Shots of Anarchy (chosen by Steve Carlson).
Why is this particular installment of the Friday the 13th franchise so maligned when compared to the rest of the films of the series? Is it bad? Maybe, but there are so many worse films to look at when you come to the decission of choosing one for the label of ‘The Worst’. There’s ‘Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan’ (1989) that is just ininteligible, stupid and practically destroys the whole mythology that the franchise had created until that point. And then you can compare this to the previous four films of the series, and you can still find that there’s something of value here… personally, I think that this is the second best film of the series, and I can understand why you’d think that I’m nuts, because my number 1 and 2 don’t even have Jason Vorhees as the main killer (woops spoilers?).
Yes, of course ‘Friday the 13th’ (1980) is my favorite of the series, I’ve even come around to think that it’s one of the most important horror films ever made, not because it’s exceptional or a masterpiece, but because of how well constructed it is for what it aims at. It’s strictly a film about fun and death, sex and death, killings and death, how death plays in the society of that time, and it still applys to what we’re talking about today, except that now you’d just have to throw a couple of references to youtube and you have a modernized retelling. But I consider that the fifth film is superior to the other three, specially to something as badly written and made as ‘Friday the 13th Part III’ (1982), which I guess doesn’t get that much of a bad reputation because it was the first one with the classic mask.
This film, on the other hand, is just as complex when it comes to the issues of death, not only again dwelling with sex and death (as Steinmann always did), but also on the identity of the killed, how do we as people with fully functioning brains could possibly take death as something natural when it means the non-existence, when it means that one day it’ll happen to you, how does the mind process something as incredibly harsh and empty as one day not existing? Let’s give that a little thought… but you know, not too much. Actually, take a look at some pictures of these naked women that I’m giving you and some of a bunch of beheadings and killings.
Because that’s how this film works, it tries to put forward a bunch of themes regarding the health of the mind, how reclusion and the 80’s way of looking at certain problems in youth was really wrong, but at the same time it mixes things up with the biggest body count of the entire series till this point and that wouldn’t be surpassed in a long time. The naked bodies of the young people are giving some food for thought seconds before the masked killer comes down and pierces their bodies with a big machete or whatever crazy weapon he fancies that particular second, it’s really nuts how Danny Steinmann alongside Martin Kitrosser and David Cohen crafted the script to bounce around these three elements and in the end create a seamless picture that never truly lets down in its energy and execution.
Of course this is also one of the strangest movies of the franchise, because starting with this movie, the plots and threadlines start to really fuck up. Not that the series of films before it paid any respect to the plot elements and characteristics as well as the lore that had came up at the time, but at least it managed to create some continuation, some resemblance of continuity that ended in chapter four, when Jason was killed off and this movie tries to begin anew with a new character… now, for example, if we follow the rules of the plot accordingly, this movie should take place 10 years after the last installment, that means that all the music should be 10 years older than it actually is.
That’s when theories come in handy, are all the young people in this film really that nostalgic, that they can’t avoid listening music, dancing to the same songs, speaking the same way, using the same clothes and similar hairstyles as those that were famous around 1984-5, while this movie, according to my calculations, takes place around 1996-7. Maybe that’s the reason why the young boys and girls are reclused in that home in the middle of the woods to treat their social and mental deficiencies. Maybe, they got stuck due to a trauma, just like our protagonist, Tommy Jarvis, can’t get out of the 80’s because he was the one who killed Jason Vorhees.
The plot of the film is a real mystery, and while it solves itself in the most Scooby-Doo-est of fashions, it’s still compelling to rewatch and then see how it all makes sense, from the start and until the final death, they are all completely reasonable under the logic of the new killer. This was a really interesting way that the film series could’ve gone if they wanted to, they could’ve ditched Jason forever and then go for different routes on what could possibly happen on a Friday the 13th or with a lineage of serial killers that use differently styled masks.
The concept of a killer who changes appeareances but maintains a similar soul was later explored in the series in the failed attempt that was the ninth entry in the series ‘Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday’ (1993) and a similar experiment was done with the Halloween franchise, with similar results (a return to the classic serial killer, to never ever be good again) in ‘Halloween III: Season of the Witch’ (1982), which was also failed but for the main reason of having a completely boring introduction to a completely bonkers story in the final 20 minutes, that was actually thrilling and amazing.
The editing and shooting style is something that I’d like to talk about in a separate instance, as it falls right into what I like to call chaotic and passion cinema, something so frantic and quick that it just wants to get to the point, to the cinema, to that pure moment of amazing catharsis that makes you realize that movies is what you want to do with your life. It is in that particular moment that you realize that there are certain directors that had the passion to do what they liked, and even if this movie seems to be a product of a studio demanding certain things, the style is something unseen for a product like this. That is Passion and Chaos Cinema. And Danny Steinmann was one of the best examples of that.