Jason, Come Back To Us

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

Hey, did you realize Jason died in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter? It's true. Through the whole early arc of the series, Jason was treated as a mortal character. Even though the first movie clearly stated that he drowned at Camp Crystal Lake, which is why his mother went on a murderous rampage killing anyone that dared go near the campground, from the second movie on the films instead went with the idea that he just nearly drowned and then followed in his mother's footsteps, continuing the campaign of carnage after she was killed at the end of the original movie. Thus, how do you continue a series when the main character is well and truly dead (with his head chopped clean off)?

That was a question the Friday the 13thOne of the most famous Slasher film franchises, the Friday the 13th series saw multiple twists and turn before finally settling on the formula everyone knows and loves: Jason Voorhees killing campers 'round Camp Crystal Lake. series had to answer. A new killer was needed if the series were to move on from Jason, so this first film comes up with a mysterious killer taking over the mantle. Who could the killer be? Is it Jason again, somehow back from the dead (like A New Beginning's opening dream sequence would imply)? That's the crux of the film, and, in a better, smarter series that mystery would actually have some weight. If this series were more like Scream, the who and the what of the crimes would be the focus. But the Friday the 13th movies have yet to prove themselves to be smart, so hoping for a nuanced, interesting take on the material is asking a lot. Too much, really.

Opening five years after the events of The Final Chapter (which clearly wasn't), we pick up with Tommy Jarvis, now a troubled 17-year-old (played by John Shepherd, although Corey Feldman returns for a cameo as the character in the first dream sequence of the movie). Having trouble sleeping, or controlling his emotions, or being any kind of well adjusted teen, Tommy has been bouncing from hospital to half-way house for most of his teen life. He ends up at a new halfway house right around the time a fresh batch of killings begin. Tommy fears it may be Jason, while others either don't even notice the killings are going on, or look at the halfway house full of troubled teens as the likely culprits. Is one of the teens committing the murders, like maybe Tommy, or has Jason really come back from the dead?

The best thing I can say for the film is that at least it doesn't find some stupid way to bring Jason back from the dead (we'll have to wait for the sixth film, Jason Lives for that nonsense to begin). Instead, the person behind the mask is clearly a different character this time, not only because they're wearing a different mask (with blue marks instead of red ones on the cheeks, and a lack of an axe gash on the side) but also because their entire build is different -- less hulking or freakishly built. For anyone paying attention, Jason is clearly not the culprit, so the question really is who the killer might just be this time around.

Or, that would be the question if the movie had any thought about focusing on that. While there are a couple of feints towards Tommy possibly being the murderer, this is never really given any weight. While Jason is a mindless killer who lacks any kind of motivation, Tommy is never built up enough as a character to convincingly be a murderer. The film would have had to develop him more for that twist to have worked and that kind of character development is beyond this series. Even if he had turned out to be the killer, it still wouldn't have had any real heft to it. I think the movie wants us to care about the character, to worry about if he might be the killer or not, but he's not written well enough for that kind of emotional heft to be attached to the character. Also, he's just not played very flat and unconvincingly by Shepherd. If Tommy is supposed to be our trouble protagonist, the movie does a very poor job of selling us on that.

Really, there just aren't any characters in the film at all for us to attach to. This is par for the course with the Friday the 13th series, of course, but there just isn't anyone in this film that's developed enough for us to care about them, either as a protagonist, a Final Girl, or even if they live or die at all. They're all just flat, one-note characters given a bare minimum of scenes before they're inevitably killed off. And they're all killed off, because this movie really wants to leave a bloody smear in its wake.

It's expected in this series that just about every character, except for the Final Girl (and maybe the obnoxious, Cute Kid) will die by the end of the film; everyone who isn't the pretty blond is fodder for the killer's machete (whoever that killer may be, film-to-film). Normally when the cast is kept kind of small, that kind of setup-and-delivery in a Slasher -- the smaller the cast, the more time each character gets on screen. Over the course of the series, though, the Friday the 13th films have prioritized more killings over better characters. This film really pushes that to the breaking point, with a whopping 21 deaths crammed into the 92 minute run time. With that kind of kill-count, there's no possible way to give any of the characters any kind of development, so all of them remain shallow fodder throughout their spare scenes.

Maybe that could have been tolerable if the film gave us anything to fill the void. Slasher flicks sate a certain prurient interest, and many of them can get by with bad story and forgettable characters if the kills are any good. This film, though, continues the trend of lackluster kills from the previous films in the series. Every kill is basically: character walks out into a room, looks around, settles down to do something, and then surprise Jason attack. It happens twenty-one times, with each one following the same formula. Most of them don't feature any real gore, good screams, or decent scares, and by the fifth time (let alone the twenty first) any thrill from the carnage. There isn't even one decent jump scare, which most of the previous movies were able to stumble into at least once in each of their run times. Put simply: for a horror movie this film just isn't scary.

I can understand why this movie isn't well loved by Friday the 13th fans. Audiences wanted the series to continue (not me, mind you, since I've been bored with these movies since the first one), so some way to revive the franchise post-Jason had to be found. However they were going to do it, this movie was probably the worst way they could have done it (short of, like, a Saturday Morning Cartoon or something). Whatever minor spark the film series might have had is completely lost with A New Beginning. This is a rote and tedious Slasher that never finds the fun, or the scares, in the carnage its showcasing.

A New Beginning was supposed to be the launch of a new trilogy for the series, with Tommy taking over the mask. Instead, because of the failure of this film (the lowest-scoring film in the series at the Box Office), producers scrapped their original ideas for the series moving forward. Instead, Jason would return, for real, in the sixth movie. I don't know if that's for the best, but at least I won't have to watch another Friday the 13th like A New Beginning. At least, I hope that's the case...

The Killing Floor:

First Sin:

Greed. Two grave robbers go to dig up Jason, presumably for fame and money. Obviously, this ends poorly for these idiots.

First Kill:

Jason, freshly risen from his grave, takes out the two grave robbers in quick succession, one with a machete and the other with a screwdriver. Although this sequence is played as a dream, considering that previous dream sequences in the series have also been later taken as canon, I think we have to count this one as well.

Final Body Count:

Twenty-One. The two grave robbers kick off the party (dream sequence or not), plus six kids at the halfway house, their supervisor and the cook, ten random townies, and the new (however brief) killer. There's also a fake-out killing at the end, but the character is later revealed to actually be alive, so it doesn't count.