Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)

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I’d like to give the producers of the “Friday the 13th” franchise some credit. Eurgh, it feels weird writing that down. After part 4, when Jason had his head chopped to bits by demented Corey Feldman, they appeared serious about killing Jason off for good. Of course, they weren’t going to stop making terrible movies, and the slasher in this one, in many respects, is the same as Jason anyway, but they’d admitted “yes, our bad guy is actually flesh-and-blood, and if you try hard enough you might finish him off”. Now, we know they went back on that for part 6, but the thought was there. Or something.

Tommy, aka Corey Feldman, wakes up from a dream and is now substantially older. The actor was 25…this is sort of important, when you find out where the movie takes place. He’s been taken from places unknown in a van to an experimental mental health facility out in the woods, where the owner tries to rehabilitate people by allowing them free reign, their own rooms, and so on. The ages of the people range from early teens to mid 30s, which just seems weird to me. Do you not need a licence to run a place like this in the USA? Insurance?

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Anyway, the annoying kid gets hacked to pieces by one of the other “inmates”, and…no-one thinks of closing this extremely dangerous place. Even with the hillbilly neighbours threatening to sue, and everything! Then, after that kid is carted away by the police, full Jason-style murders start happening again, and we’re on for another fun hour of slashing, with the added mystery of who’s doing it this time. Also, when Tommy arrives, he’s got his monster masks from part 4, and a large knife. Who lets mental patients carry massive knives?

New Tommy has that thousand-yard stare in full effect at all times, and even manages to beat Ryan O’Neal in “Driver” for the most taciturn leading character award – he says a grand total of 24 words in the entire movie. The rest of the actors are fine, the movie looks fine, the special effects are okay…it’s really about what you’d expect from the 5th instalment of a trashy slasher franchise, but trash produced by a major studio. Director Danny Steinman was apparently instructed to give a shock, scare or kill every seven or eight minutes (which I’m going to steal for my sarcastic book about slasher movies – Mark Longden’s “A Shock, Scare Or Kill Every Seven or Eight Minutes”, coming this spring!) and does so in a manner entirely as competent as that specific instruction would allow. While the identity of the killer isn’t all that obvious, the twist ending most definitely is, but, well, it’s expected and is fine.

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It’s certainly a lighter film in tone than any that came before, even part 4 with Crispin Glover busting out some sweet dance moves. It’s the first franchise to really embrace that side of things (the first properly funny “Nightmare on Elm Street”, part 3, didn’t come out til 1987), and of course we’ve got the full on sci-fi-comedy-slasher of “Jason X” to come in a few movies’ time. My favourite line is a woman encouraging her boyfriend as he sits in an outdoor toilet with the shouted line “You’ll feel a lot better after you shit!”, which indicates a fine and healthy relationship, albeit one that’s got about another 30 seconds of shelf life before faux-Jason shows up.

I’ve said this before, but we get the sort of entertainment we deserve. Gorehounds have always been a curious lot, wanting their favourite movies to never change, and damn the rest of the viewing public – the insane fandoms of today have their origin in the communities that grew up around magazines like “Fangoria”. Because those people wanted Jason to carry on murdering teenagers forever, he was resurrected in part 6, completing the journey to unstoppable supernatural force of evil, and Tommy was downgraded back to normal teen, in virtually the same was as “Halloween 5” did by retconning the end of part 4. In another parallel to the “Halloween” franchise, they attempted and failed to drop Michael Myers, after realising being blown up and then left to burn to a cinder is sort of difficult to come back from.

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Obviously, the pathetically low quality is the reason these films are considered a joke by anyone outside horror fan circles these days, but having the killer be completely indestructible, and the efforts of the heroes in every film always come to naught, is a contributor too. “What’s the point in spending money on part 5 of some horror franchise,” says the hypothetical fan, “when the baddie is going to be back, right as rain, for part 6?” If the films were *about* something, then you could forgive that, but they’re just (deeply conservative) teenager death delivery systems with a bloke in a mask.

Rating: thumbs down

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2 thoughts on “Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)

  1. Pingback: The ISCFC vs. Horror Franchises |

  2. Pingback: Body Shop (aka Deadly Memories) (2002) |

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