with John Carpenter's 'Halloween' and, somewhat later, the 'Nightmare
on Elm Street' series, Sean Cunningham's 'Friday the 13th' films
provided many a sleepless night for teenagers during the 1980's. All
three franchises took a similar path : A wildly successful and
influential original was followed by a succession of increasingly weaker
sequels, usually ending up going straight to video (Jason Takes
Manhattan, anyone? Thought not.)
And now, nine years after the last F13 entry (Jason Goes To Hell), director Jim Isaacs has decided to dust down the famous hockey mask and resurrect one of the most famous killing machines in movie history for a tenth instalment (Jason X - geddit?). However, much has happened in the last ten years and in this post-Scream/Scary Movie climate, another typical addition to the series would have been a pointless exercise, so things are different from the very beginning.
The movie opens in the not-too-distant future, Jason Vorhees has finally been captured and, having survived all attempts to execute him, is held prisoner by all manner of chains and padlocks as scientists perform tests on his remarkable regenerative skills, before they will place him in a cryogenically frozen state to forever keep the teenage population safe. Predictably, things go awry and, after a nice cameo by horror-master David Cronenberg and a number of rather inventive killings throughout the research facility, Jason does indeed find himself frozen - alongside one of the research staff.
Fast forward 450 years and the two bodies are discovered by a ridiculously good looking military research team who decide to take the twentieth century samples aboard their ship for further studies. Unsurprisingly, even in his frozen state, Jason can sniff out the merest hint of promiscuity and in no time at all, he is thawed out and stalking the hi-tech walkways meting out his own brand of justice against those who offend his sensibilities. So business as usual for a F13 then...?
Well, not quite. This film is very aware of it's place in the series as a whole. Played very much for laughs, the script doesn't so much pop fun at the entire horror genre, but mercilessly rips into it's own predecessors. With it's tongue firmly in it's cheek, the script pokes fun at Jason's (almost laughable) invincibility and, in one particularly inspired sequence, transports us back to 1980 where Jason comes across two teenage scream queens just begging him for "Pre-marital Sex....we just LOVE pre-marital sex". But this isn't an all out comedy. Although it shares more in common with 'I Know What You Did Last Summer' than it does with any of it's own forerunners, Jason X manages more than a few genuine shocks. Some of the methods employed by Jason to dispatch some hapless victims are truly gruesome but the film never strays into full on gross-out mode, as some of the previous sequels have.
In truth, the cast don't really have to do much more than look good and act scared, which they all pull off with consummate ease, but let's face it - if you're coming to watch this movie, you're not looking for subtle internal conflicts and character development. The film sets out to be an fairground ride, that can be enjoyed by anyone who has seen all or none of the previous instalments. And it succeeds admirably.
In truth, the surprise isn't the fact that 'Jason X' ain't bad - the real surprise is how good the film actually is.