So, here we are at the end of Jason Voorhees’ original run of starring roles in the movies. There’s “Freddy vs. Jason” a few years after this, but that’s more the first ever big internet meme than it is a movie; and a 2009 reboot (which I hope does the “Fright Night” / “My Bloody Valentine” remake thing of telling the original story in 15 minutes then moving on to something different). But those aside, this is the 10th and last, and despite the series’ often appallingly low quality, I’ll miss it. There’s something to be said for the sheer mindlessness of it all.
They definitely saved the best for last, though. After a genuinely funny part 6, this series had comedy form, and they go all out in “Jason X”, throwing a ludicrous premise out there, a cast full of wisecracking teen stereotypes, every slasher film cliché you can think of, and a real sense that this wasn’t just an “ah well, we need a few million, let’s dust off Jason Voorhees” exercise. I’ve seen this film a number of times (it was the first “Friday the 13th” movie I ever saw) and it never fails to entertain.
It’s the present, probably. Jason Voorhees, now visibly an old man with wispy curly grey hair, has been captured and chained up in a large empty room, as we discover that – due to them trying and failing to execute him a number of times – he’s being prepped to be put into cryogenic suspension. When the evil profit-driven guy (played by David Cronenberg!) wants to take him away to find out why he can’t be killed, you think “oh, he’s going to escape because of these fools” but, no, he’s already broken his chains, killed the guard and is roaming the facility. Luckily, we have resourceful scientist Rowan, who avoids the slaughter and manages to trap him in the cryogenic suspension pod before getting frozen herself. Fun, quick, and a nice bit of setup for what’s to follow.
2455! A spaceship full of students is scavenging on the lifeless husk of the Earth…I guess some kind of history thing, although it’s never mentioned. Who do they find but Jason and Rowan, ready to be thawed out after 400+ years? So, off to the spaceship Grendel – the creature from mythology who came out of a lake, looking for victims, and was unkillable – and then back to Earth 2, our new home. Rowan is revived, but Jason is apparently “very dead”, and in the first of this movie’s nods to “Aliens”, the teacher in charge of this expedition, Professor Lowe (Jonathan Potts), calls his…bookie? Antique dealer?…and when he finds out who Jason Voorhees is, realises he can sell the corpse for a lot of money. Of course, Jason starts thawing out, and in perhaps the funniest, most self-aware moment in this entire series of films, is brought fully back to life when teens have sex – at the moment of orgasm, Jason sits bolt upright and realises there’s killing to be done.
The students, the crew of the ship and a small team of marines (why marines on a school trip? Stop asking so many questions!) then have to survive Jason. This is moderately similar to part 8, where the action was confined to a boat, which was also far too large for purpose; but the subtle and important difference is that part 8 was terribly boring, and this is awesome. Chief among the Jason-fodder are Azrael (Dov Tiefenbach), the “stoner”; Sergeant Brodski (Peter Mensah), the badass marine; Tsunaron (Chuck Campbell), the nerd; Kay-Em 14 (Lisa Ryder), the android that Tsunaron created; and Janessa (Melyssa Ade), the “slut” who is prepared to go to any lengths to get a passing grade on her assignment. No embarrassing performances, no weak spots at all.
Now, a lot of how you’ll feel about this movie depends on your sense of humour, re: slasher movies. A lot of criticism has come from people who have this idea that making wisecracks while your friend gets her face dunked in liquid nitrogen and then smashed off isn’t very nice; or critics who see them going into space and think it’s a last resort for a franchise with nowhere else to go. I think they’re annoyed that the series they’ve been mocking for 20 years got fully self-aware and decided to mock itself, personally. The Professor’s “Guys, it’s okay! He just wanted his machete back!” is a genius line, perfectly delivered, there’s the reference to “the Microsoft Conflict”, when people would beat each other to death with their own severed limbs, Brodski’s “It’s gonna take more than a poke in the ribs to put down this old dog”, Janessa’s worry about her clothes…it’s a film packed with great lines and great ideas.
It’s not just the comedy, though, it’s the mixing of slasher tropes with “Alien” (well, there’s “Aliens” in there too). How many times can a group of people split up after being shown that splitting up is a bad thing? A lot, is the answer. Jason stalks around the ship, with a seemingly perfect knowledge of every location (although it would have been a laugh, just once, to see him stood at a junction with no idea of where to go next). The relationship between Tsunaron and Kay-Em 14 is not only funny and weirdly wrong, but the way she’s powered up to be able to take Jason down is great, and Lisa Ryder clearly relished the acting involved, too.
Throw in a holodeck, and the way they recreate Camp Crystal Lake to confuse Jason (the two hologram girls who offer Jason weed and premarital sex is a close second in wonderfully self-aware moments) and you’ve got a gem. Now, if you’re really not a fan of slasher movies you’re probably not going to enjoy this, because the overall framework is that of the genre we’ve followed through ten movies now, with all its flaws and lulls. But it’s what they do with that structure that I really liked – the self-referential comedy, the oddly believable world of 2455, and the way they think of new and inventive ways to both kill off and resurrect Jason, yet again.
This series has been awful, but the rather conservative early movies (don’t drink, do drugs or have sex) are now treated as a joke, not a sensible template for an entire genre. Jason was always more of an equal opportunity killer, anyway, just tending to slaughter whoever was in his way rather than pick or choose based on the characters’ moral proclivities; and by “Jason X”, the “shock the men, stalk the women” routine would have felt like a sexist relic. It seems the world of the future has a much more equal view of gender.
It’s the best film in the series by a long way (followed by part 6, then everything else in a tie for last). It’s every ridiculous thing about 80s horror in general and this series in particular, it throws in the old Harry Manfredini score again, and almost by way of apology for those first 9 movies, gives you everything it has, with an ending so wonderfully ridiculous you’ll almost cheer. I hope its status improves in years to come, and I heartily recommend it.
Rating: thumbs up