Sunday, December 12, 2010

Review: Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)

Director: Rob Hedden
Starring: Jenson Dagget, Scott Reeves, Jason Voorhees

Whoo! Boy is that bad old 80s stench strong! It’s like when you leave food out for a few days and it starts to get all moldy and rotten; you know how it is. That’s basically what happened in the 80s when horror movies had run their course. And this movie is RIPE with that shit; I’ll tell you. Let’s just jump right into…Jason Takes Manhattan.

Yes, this was the 8th Friday the 13th sequel, because we really needed that many of them to begin with, and I have to say it’s just downright comical how many of these there were. I mean, this series was like the film version of that trailer trash family who lives in the trailer park that everyone else tries to avoid for fear of getting beat up. There were a ton of offspring produced at a rapid rate, sacrificing quality for quantity. In the end, there just wasn’t enough money to feed all those hungry mouths. And that metaphor applies to Friday the 13th too, as this movie got the sloppy leftovers of everything the series did in the decade prior, leaving virtually no impression and coming out to mostly a lot of up-chucked 80s shit. Excited? Me neither! But we’re going to look at it anyway.

First of all, the title – Jason Takes Manhattan? That sounds like a Scooby Doo type scenario. It’s like, hey, kids, where’s Jason gonna go to next?! Manhattan? Oh, that wiley old dog. He’s just downright wacky with how far he travels and the mishaps he gets into! Tune in next week to watch him invade Paris. And what is this about taking Manhattan, anyway? Is he going on tour?

"Make sure to vote for me in the next election. Thank you, and to all a good night!"

Eugh. Anyway…the movie starts off with a nostalgic sounding 80s rock ballad over scenes of grungy, punky 80s Manhattan, dirty buildings, graffiti, Mohawks and all. Enjoy this while it lasts as it is the LAST YOU WILL SEE OF MANHATTAN FOR THE NEXT HOUR. Seriously, what’s the logic behind that? It’s false advertising! We begin the real “story” – hah – with a guy and girl sleeping together on a boat on Crystal Lake. After some foreplay, they stop having sex when they hear something outside. After that, the guy decides to tell her a scary story about Jason Voorhees’s origins, because that’s the perfect thing to do right in the middle of sex. I get the idea this guy is a real Casanova.

Chick: "What's wrong?"
Cheesy 80s Dude: "Well, my hair is so girly I look more like a woman than you do, and I'm in the 8th Friday the 13th sequel..."

He then takes this idea even further when he sneaks away to put on a Jason mask just to provide the movie’s way of getting Jason’s mask back on him later. Then the movie remembers it still needs Jason in the flick to begin with, and so we get…uh…well, this:

It’s a hastily written device to bring Jason back from the dead! They aren’t even trying to make it look plausible or make it fit into the plot at all anymore; they just go ahead and do whatever they want. That kind of nonchalance is hard to come by; the kind of stuff the Halloween and Child’s Play movies only dream about!

So our favorite hockey mask wearing big lug goes on a killing spree, because he hasn’t done that in the last five minutes. He kills the 80s hair-disaster and then goes after the girl, who has wisely chosen to hide in a confined space where he can easily trap her. Because I guess JUMPING OFF THE BOAT is out of the question. Or…doing anything else other than hiding in a place where he can easily trap her. Dumbass.

The next day, we see a shy, bashful girl named Rennie and an older woman, who is revealed to be her teacher from school, oddly enough. So she rides around and hangs out with her teacher? Why? And her teacher gives her a gift that turns out to be an ink pen that was rumored to be Stephen King’s at one time. Movie…name-dropping random horror icons won’t make this movie any scarier. It’s better just not to try. You’ll be less embarrassed that way…okay, I’m lying; no you won’t be. The story is basically that the graduating class from this high school is going to Manhattan by cruise ship. Or, alternately, ‘INSERT HALF ASSED SET-UP HERE FOR JASON TO GET SOME KILL POINTS.’ Full stop!

Then we get introduced to a bitter old white guy named Charles McCulloch, who is the principal of the school the kids are graduating from and apparently Rennie’s uncle, and who doesn’t approve of her going on this ship, because she’s afraid of the water, I guess. But Rennie says she’s going to do it anyway. And man, is her character boring. She doesn’t even really act so much as just…stand around and stare off into space, because I guess that shows that she’s traumatized, right? McCulloch is no better though, as although he does act, he doesn’t really do much besides shout in a gruff voice and point his finger while scowling.

The other passengers on the boat include this dorky kid – you can tell by the glasses –who loves carrying his camera around, a rock star chick who just plays her guitar anywhere she wants, a bunch of guys who do nothing but box, and two really popular high school prima donnas. Oh, and the Generic Horror Good Guy, here called Sean. Although he doesn’t really need a name, as you have seen this character in every movie from Nightmare on Elm Street to Boogeyman, and everything else in between. Chipper!

Rest in piece, electric were truly the best actor in this movie.

So Jason kills the rock star chick first, which is a shame, as she might have provided some decent filler for the movie, but I guess she already played the two songs she knows, so they just killed her off. With her own electric guitar, at that! He kills one of the boxer kids with a hot coal, and the movie generally just kind of plods along. For some weird ass reason, the two popular girls take some animosity to Rennie, and decide to push her off the side of the boat because she’s afraid of water. Is there going to be any explanation of this, or any furthering of the conflict between these characters? Okay, okay, I’m an idiot for asking that in a Friday the 13th movie, hold your rotten vegetables.

After that, Rennie goes into the bathroom to wash her hands when blood starts coming out of the faucet. I would make a comment about that, but frankly what happens after that is more interesting. I…would try to explain it to you, but frankly it left me speechless. So just look at these pictures:

I mean…what the hell? What kind of drugs was she on? What kind of drugs were the filmmakers on? I don’t even know what I’m looking at, honestly. Why the neon colored smoke? Did the director just have a smoke machine he was dying to try out before he let his daughter have it at her birthday party? It’s downright baffling. I mean…I just can’t wrap my head around this. What were they trying to get across? I need answers! I guess it’s supposed to be some kind of hallucination of Jason as a child, but…hello, try and make a little more fucking sense with your visuals, please! You could at least have a little coherence.

Jason kills more of the kids and starts to literally rock the boat as a big storm comes and sends everybody running around like chickens with their heads cut off. The ship eventually starts to flood and sink, so the five survivors, including the one black guy that Jason threw off the boat and…for some reason didn’t kill…as well as a dog, have to get on a lifeboat and start rowing. They eventually reach Manhattan through some pretty standard editing, and they start jumping for joy. And Jason arrives too, suddenly able to swim somehow, I guess. This does lead to the funniest scene in the movie, however:

As soon as our main characters arrive on the mainland, they’re mugged and Rennie is kidnapped, drugged and about to be raped by two scumbags. Oh, and they shoot at the dog, making it run away. People, welcome to New York! The land of promises! If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere…unless, however, you run into lowlife rapists in a dark alley or a supernatural killing machine wearing a hockey mask. Then you’re pretty much fucked.

This starts the movie’s meltdown, as our token black muscleman is decapitated by Jason in one punch. After they crash a car into a wall and set on fire, killing their teacher in the process, Rennie suddenly has a big plot-revealing flashback that shows her what happened. Apparently when she was a kid her uncle pushed her into the water to try and teach her how to swim, telling her that if she didn’t swim, Jason Voorhees would get her…which he did try to, almost drowning her. Man, what a dick this McCulloch guy is. I hope he dies soon…oh, he’s the next Jason victim, good, good. Justice has been served to those wronged by douchebags, yet again.

They get chased into the sewers, where they’re told by some construction worker who conveniently happened to be there that the sewers will flood with toxic acid in 10 minutes. Jason chases them around, but then the toxic acid comes and he pretty much melts. Like the witch from Wizard of Oz except this time with horrible 80s monster makeup:

It's like if Tom Savini's clay melted.

The movie ends with our two surviving characters finding the dog they lost earlier in the film and walking off into the Manhattan night as that same nostalgic 80s song plays again. Yep. Even though they’re hundreds of miles from home, everyone they knew is dead and they’ll likely be traumatized for life, at least they have their dog and their nostalgic 80s music. That makes everything OK.

God this movie was a headache. I do think there are a couple funny parts here and there, and Jason is always a lot of fun in general, but this movie just wasn’t good. They took way too long to get to Manhattan (the premise of the film), the kills are oddly restrained and the way it keeps trying to force the emotional side of the film with Rennie’s past is just so half-assed it literally hurts. People, this was a film franchise in remission. Tired, dated and soggy as hell. If you want to watch it, go ahead; it’s worth at least one viewing for curiosity’s sake. But after that you’re mostly just left with disappointment and embarrassment.

But seriously, what was up with that weird neon light…little kid…grabbing her neck scene…this:

…anyway? Somebody answer me!