Friday, September 13, 2013
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan is considered by most to be one of the worst entries in the series, and for good reason!
F13 Part VIII is about a group of college graduates going on a cruise heading to New York, and unbeknownst to them, unstoppable zombie serial killer Jason Voorhees was brought back to life the night before by an anchor breaking an underwater electrical cable next to his waterlogged corpse. As the cruise ship Lazarus (HAHAHAHAHAHHAHA! Real subtle, guys!) sets out, demure girl Ronnie (Jensen Daggett) starts seeing mysterious psychic visions of young Jason, while the real thing sneaks on board.
As Jason starts to covertly kill off the cruisegoers, a big storm starts brewing, and soon, there's only a handful of survivors left, and soon enough (read-an hour), Jason is all set to paint the Big Apple red!...
Ok, where do I star with this film! How about the fact that almost none of it is in New York!
Friday the 13th Part VIII spends an hour on the boat, and while the boat does serve a fine and somewhat refreshing change from the Crystal Lake forests, it's ludicrous that a film called Jason Takes Manhattan spends only half-an-hour in the big apple! And even when the characters do reach New York, it's just a few sound stages in Vancouver, with a tiny, tiny portion actually filmed in NY.
I really don't understand why with a FIVE MILLION dollar budget, the film's makers weren't able to move the cast and crew a few states over to New York. On five million dollars, they couldn't muster up some death effects period, let alone good ones? The film is mostly talking! It cost FIVE MILLION FUCKING DOLLARS to film a few dull characters talk on a ship for 96 goddamn minutes?! Grrrrr!... I can only imagine that the budget was used almost entirely for coke. Hey, it was the 80's, after all. And how else could you get an ending like this movie's without a crew coked out of their minds.
The gore is a total DISAPPOINTMENT! It's pathetic! The film is full of either sillhouette kills, or totally offscreen deaths! There's almost no blood at all! The only good deaths were the one where Jason grabs steaming hot sauna stones and rams them into a guy's chest, and Julius' death scene. Julius the boxer punches the crap out of Jason (to no real effect, which is hardly surprising, given he keeps punching Jason's mask! Way to break your fingers, dude!), and when he's spent, Jason throws a single punch, which decapitates Julius!
There's one particularly awful effect when the boat's captain gets his throat slit. For one, you can tell the knife doesn't actually touch his neck, two, no blood comes out of his slit throat, and three, the slit mark is obviously already on his neck before he gets his throat cut!
Jason looks cool, albeit sloppy, like he's Swamp Thing or something, but when the mask comes off...*sigh*. The effects for his face aren't good in the slightest, especially compared to previous movies in the series. It's terrible! As for kid Jason in flashbacks or hallucinations, the filmmakers sometimes remembered that he was meant to be deformed, but forgot other times. Jason is also strangely vocal in this film, with loud grunts, heavy breathing, and ethereal evil cackling.
For the first hour, the use of Jason is partially done well, and the film is almost tense in a few places. Only partially done well, because he really doesn't appear all that much. Though thankfully we don't only see his feet for 90 minutes, like in previous entries!
The plot is pretty nothing. There's almost something with Rennie's visions, but the whole movie is just Jason stalking and slashing.
The characters are quite possibly the blandest in the whole series (I say 'possibly', because I haven't seen every film in the series, namely the supposed worst, A New Beginning). In previous F13 entries, the characters had no big epic story arc or anything, but their dialogue and actions were usually still well-written enough for them to be not one-note. But in Part VIII, the dialogue is boring, the characters are largely dull and zero-note! I kinda liked the rocker chick, and I would have liked it if she was the final girl. It'd be a change from the series norm! Unfortunately she's only in the film for two minutes before Jason beats her to death with her guitar.
The acting is merely ok. There's not really any bad performances, but nothing special either. Peter Mark Richmond is fun as the requisite massive asshole, and had a somewhat satisfying death. Kelly Hu is just meh in her first ever movie role, though that's the film's fault, not hers.
As for the soundtrack, it's ok. There are also a few bits of rock songs here and there, and they're ok. Listenable, but nothing I'd ever go out of my way to hear.
The best thing about the movie is of course...Toby the dog!!!...Ok, it's Jason, but the dog is adorable enough to come in a close second. I can totally understand why Kane Hodder didn't want to have Jason kill the dog, even if I do make 'Jason-card carrying member of PETA' jokes whenever I watch the movie.
He isn't exactly in it a whole lot, but the sopping mess that is Jason is played finely once again by Kane Hodder! (It's funny that many consider Hodder to be the best Jason, but when people mention their favourite F13 films, it's usually not any of Hodder's entries!). He's pretty badass, and I love the scenes where he 1) Punches a mirror out, 2) Jumps straight through a glass door, and 3) When he kicks a bunch of punks' boom-box straight in the air. Granted, what follows that part is stupid! The angry teen punks whip out their weapons at Jason, and he turns around, flips his mask up, and the scared punks run off. That's it! Jason just walks away after that!
Onto the ending, probably the most notorious part of this movie. What happens you say? Well, survivors Rennie and Sean are in the sewers, running from Jason, and they bump into a maintanence worker, who informs the two that they have to get out of the sewers before midnight, when the New York sewers flood with toxic waste!...the fuck?!... After Jason offs the worker, Rennie and Sean run away and make it to a ladder. With a stuck entrance, and Jason grabbing Rennie's ankle, it seems like all is lost, but then a mass of toxic waste comes flooding down the sewer corridors and hits Jason. He melts, then as the statue of liberty is struck by lightning...Jason turns into a little boy, complete with boxer shorts...the fucking fuck?!...Then Rennie and Sean leave the sewers, and even though their dog was lost miles away, it finds them immediately after they leave! Also, the sun starts rising, even though it's midnight.
Then there's Jason's teleportation powers! At several points in the movie, characters run directly away from Jason, only to immediately run straight into him! It's so ridiculous and absurd that is has to be seen to be believed! Since when could Jason teleport? Did he become a magician, or learn from a clan of ninja sorcerers while dead underwater in-between this and Part VII?! Also, Rennie also has random psychic powers that make her see boy Jason every now and then, for some unexplained reason.
Strangely enough, Jason manages to tail the survivors, who are sailing to New York on a lifeboat, and when they reach the city, he not only finds them, but tracks exclusively them down! He only kills a couple of street thugs about to rape Rennie, and a cop helping the survivors. Aside from them, Jason only ever pushes people out of his way as he chases down Rennie and Sean. And of course, the film is full of 'realistic' character reactions, what with New Yorkers being completely emotionless and uncaring about two people being chased by a maniac with a machete!
There are also a few other nonsensical things. For one, if this big storm has been definitively forecast, why is a graduation cruise being taken?! Also, there are tons of people seen on the Lazarus the first time we see it, and in the boxing scene, but they all seem to vanish, and we're just left with a skeleton cast. Also, no one ever notices the absence of their friends, or hear the shrieks and shattering glass of the kills!
The film is very well shot, for the most part. There is a terrible bit of direction at one point though. When Kelly Hu runs into a disco room, the camera shifts around like crazy! I get that a disco room would be a tad disorienting, but not to this damn point!
For the first hour, the film is never boring, but once the remaining survivors leave the boat and get to New York, the pace slows down like crazy! It was so boring!
In closing, I don't recommend Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan at all! While it's largely not boring, it's hardly a good movie by any means!