Director: Rob Hedden
Cast: Jensen Daggett, Peter Mark Richman, Scott Reeves, Sharlene Martin, Kelly Hu, V. C Dupree and Kane Hodder
Plot: A boat taking several partying graduates to Manhattan is commandeered by undead killer, Jason Voorhees (Hodder).
Despite the title of this movie, the eighth Friday the 13th is not, sadly, about Jason heading off to the Big Apple to chase down a love for musicals.
In fact, when you boil the movie down to it, it isn’t really about Manhattan either. For the majority of this movie, we are witnessing the action from inside a ferry heading to Manhattan. A stern teacher is taking his graduating class to New York, meaning that when he is not looking, we are essentially inside a mobile summer camp, with teenage girls sneaking off to take cocaine and discos pairing up horny adolescents. The action focuses mainly on Jensen Daggett, a nervous girl who has blocked out an encounter with Jason in her past, and Scott Reeves, handsome hero 101, who is getting unwanted pressure from his high-achieving father. It isn’t too long, before Jason Voorhees has come back from the dead and become a stowaway on board the vessel (called the S.S Lazarus, because SYMBOLISM!!!). And from that point onwards, we get a confusing blend of the same old mistakes and an actual attempt at something new. The last seven movies have been the same boorish movie on repeat with teenagers making out in an abandoned summer camp and getting butchered off by Jason. The issues I had with the series was that it was turning into one long, frustrating series of the same mistakes being played out over and over. You will be surprised about how much life changing the setting to a boat jolts into the story. Dull forests are replaced for claustrophobic, winding corridors. Sparse bedrooms are now grimy engine rooms in the lower deck of the boats. It’s nowhere near the high end horror the series feels like it should be to justify eight films, but, at long last, it feels like someone somewhere is trying. At the same time, perhaps it isn’t all that different. The plot is still the same lazy “there are teenagers here; Jason is going to kill them off!” After love-making or acts of bitchiness, the supporting cast are still cornered in a room and have something sharp pushed through their lower intestines. The end question is: do you want the same, old crap or a different kind of crap? But there are enough novel moments to make this one more interesting than the usual helpings of Friday the 13th. The class bitch concocts a plan to blackmail her teacher. One kid tries to take Jason on in hand-to-hand combat. The laugh out loud scene sees four people start on Jason, only for him to lift up his hockey mask and send them running with a single glare. Sometimes, it is just nice seeing the majority of the characters band together and try to come up with a plan. Back in 1989, movie characters that actually worked as a team must have been the most innovative moment of the decade. Even when the plan is predominantly useless, it’s the trying that counts…
Then we actually get to Manhattan. Sadly, still no sign of a musical, but we are in brand new territory, which only makes things get more exciting. Jason tears through subway trains, alleyways and sewers in his endless quest to murder poor Jensen. For those wanting a coherent story, prepare to be frustrated, because the niggling plot hole that Jason pops up wherever the story needs him to, even when the characters splinter away from each other, only hits overdrive, when he has the whole city of Manhattan to flit between. But there are some interesting beats in this story that begin to make Jason feel slightly more wholesome. It is almost as though that, now Kane Hodder is a permanent fixture as Jason, the writers are trying to lay down some rules, rather than just making it up as they go along. As the main characters flee through the city, it is clear that Jason is targeting purely them, allowing everyone else to whimper in the background. It’s not as though he hasn’t got the opportunity, smashing a bouncer through a window, but not finishing off the kill, and giving a cornered waitress a stare, before moving on. Usually, that would be the end of those extras, but here, it is almost as though Jason has a clear pecking order in his head. Jensen is the girl he decided he wanted to kill on the ferry and, like an OCD murderer, he has to stick to that order. If anything, it makes Jason more scary, as the poor girl he chases down feels like she is lumbered with a curse, as well as a killer. The ending is also, as usual, the best bit of the movie with the characters wonderfully turning the tables on Jason. He takes a good, long while to murder, but when he finally goes down, the reveal is moderately interesting, if annoying unexplained. This is another Friday the 13th, which like the fourth one, feels like it was meant to be the ending to the series. Clearly, with a handful more entries left to go, this wasn’t to be, but I am curious to know where the writers are going to go from here.
From the sounds of this review, you probably think I adored the eighth Friday the 13th. I didn’t. But at eight movies, it is just easier to talk about the good points, than the bad. The bad points are the same as the last seven movies with weak writing, lazy kills and poor acting (although a handful of actors are fighting through awful dialogue). The good bits are simply new to talk about and therefore the focus. All in all, this is by no means a good movie, simply a different one, making it a touch more entertaining than the movie I was expecting.
Final Verdict: Still crap, but at least it feels unique, which, for the Friday the 13th series, is vitally important at this stage of the game.