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FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen
Director: Tom McLoughlin
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 87 Minutes
Release Date: June 16, 2009

“Darren, we’d better turn around.”

“Why?”

“Because I’ve seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly.”

Film ***1/2

From the absolute worst Friday the 13th movie…to the absolute best. Who could’ve predicted? Honestly.

If you read my recent review of the Friday the 13th remake, you may have noticed I labeled that one as the best entry in the slasher series. Dear reader, allow me to correct myself. Having just revisited Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, I can now confirm to you all that this is by far the single greatest installment in the long-lasting horror franchise.

I remember seeing it long ago on TV, at an age when I had to sneak past my parents in order to watch such fare, and having a real blast watching it. And my enjoyment of it as a pre-teen turned was not a fluke like the majority of films I enjoyed at that age. I’ve come to enjoy and respect this particular Friday the 13th movie, but for reasons I wasn’t able to understand when I first saw it.

What I realized in re-watching this, and it had been a long time since I last saw it, was that it may have been the first horror movie to incorporate a somewhat satirical approach that would later surface in Wes Craven’s Scream. We actually heard characters acknowledging the endless clichés and all around repetitive nature of all the previous Friday the 13th movies. In addition, the dialogue in other parts seems to be intentionally mocking the corniness and overdone bad acting associated with the slasher genre as a whole.

And boy was this series ever in need of such a spectacular turnaround. The previous installment, A New Beginning, came close to running the franchise completely into the ground, and even the sequels that preceded it were becoming carbon copies of one another. Jason Lives stands out in the series as the one entry that dares to be different, even if it means mocking the entire franchise.

In my mind, writer/director Tom McLoughlin should be considered a hero to horror movie buffs everywhere for many reasons. The biggest reason of all is the sheer notion that his film is set up in a way that completely disregards the events of the fifth movie. It’s almost as if McLoughlin acknowledges the fact that this series has already shot itself in the foot, and the only way to bring it back to life is through an extreme sense of self parody, which is established at the very beginning of the movie.

The plot goes like this; Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews) is ready to rid himself of Jason once and for all. Though Jason’s corpse is rotting in a public cemetery (why he was allowed to be buried there, I’ll never know), Tommy still has the hockey mask and plans to place it right in the slasher’s coffin. But wouldn’t you know it; the very moment Jason’s coffin opens, lightening strikes him…bringing him back to life.

At that moment, I knew this movie was going to make up for A New Beginning. Then the opening titles kicked in, showing Jason walking across the frame like James Bond, then turn to the camera and thrusting his machete to the screen…and I knew this movie was a work of genius.

The rest of the movie consists of your basic Friday the 13th plot. Jason makes his way back to Camp Crystal Lake, where counselors are apparently overseeing a group of children campers. As stupid as that idea sounds, I take it as another stab at the formula of this series. After five movies, where in which teenagers can’t seem to understand that people have been killed by a deformed madman in the same setting, why not send children to Crystal Lake this time around?

Not only are there huge laughs to be had in Jason Lives, but Jason’s kills are simply awesome. These also provide some surprisingly funny moments, like when Jason tosses a guy in the path of a tree, face first, and the bloody impact leaves a smiley face on the tree. The fact that the one Friday the 13th movie in the series that pokes fun at the entire franchise also happens to feature the best kills illustrates what a rare type of accomplishment this movie is.

You don’t have to see all of the movies that preceded Jason Lives, but at the same time you may end up enjoying it more as a result. By the time you’ve watched the fifth movie, you feel as if you want to get revenge on this series for stooping to the lowest possible level. Dear friend, pop in Friday the 13th Part VI, sit back and enjoy the hell out of it, because it practically extracts revenge for you.

Video ***1/2

In addition to being the best movie in the franchise, this also happens to get the best transfer of any Friday the 13th movie on DVD, which couldn’t make me happier! The anamorphic picture is simply more crisp and fully detailed to the point that you can’t believe you’re watching a movie from 1986. Again, night time sequences are abundance, but they’ve never looked better. A soft image will come up here and there, but that’s hardly a distraction. If any movie in the series was to get such a fine treatment, I’m quite happy it was this one.

Audio ***

Equal marks for the sound quality, which also might be the best I’ve heard yet on a film in the series on DVD. The 5.1 mix accompanies all of the insanity normally associated with Friday the 13th in a top notch manner.  Both Harry Manfredini’s score and the songs provided by Alice Cooper play off incredibly well. Dialogue is delivered perfectly and the slicing and dicing is heard in the most perfect form possible.

Features ***1/2

We get another superb Deluxe Edition release from Paramount, starting off with one of the best looking lenticular slip covers yet for any movie in the series. Among the extras, we get an engaging and funny commentary track with writer/director Tom McLoughlin, editor Bruce Green and actor Vinny Guastaferro. There’s also a neat featurette titled “Jason Lives: The Making of Friday the 13th Part VI”, Slashed Scenes, a storyboarded alternate ending titled “Meeting Mr. Voorhees”, plus new installments in the “Lost Tales from Camp Blood” and “The Crystal Lake Massacres” shorts series. And lastly, we have what has to be one of the coolest Theatrical Teasers of all time.

Summary:

Though I seem to like few of the Friday the 13th movies, Jason Lives is without question the point in the series I always look forward to. Not only is it the best movie in the entire franchise, but I would rank it alongside some of the best campy horror movies of all time. It’s both a terrifically entertaining flick and one way ahead of its time, believe it or not!

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