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Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
Well, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter wasn’t the worst entry in the series by a long shot and, in my opinion, it would have been a great place to end the series. Unfortunately, The Final Chapter wasn’t the last word and even for a big Friday fan like me, A New Beginning is a tough movie to love. It isn’t impossible to enjoy this movie and there are some funny over-the-top characters here that are fun to watch, but everything just doesn’t click. All the elements that make up a Friday the 13th movie are here, in one form or another. You’ve got your psycho in a hockey mask, some horny teens, colorful locals, and the largest body count in the series to date. Despite all of this, the movie somehow manages to be less than the sum of its parts.
The movie opens with a very cool and oh-so misleading sequence involving young Tommy Jarvis from The Final Chapter cowering in a cemetery during a serious storm, watching in terror through the pouring rain and flashing lightning as two young hooligans vandalize Jason’s grave. Of course, Jason doesn’t approve of this and lunges up from his coffin to slaughter the punks. Then, seeing his old enemy, Jason begins walking toward Tommy. Watching this for first time, a Friday fan might be rubbing his or her hands together maniacally because Jason is back, and this looks like it could very well be the end of Corey Feldman. Unfortunately, neither turns out to be true.
Just as Jason is about to strike the fatal blow, Tommy (now 18) wakes from his terrible dream as he arrives at a half-way house that is set up to help formerly institutionalized kids work their way back into society.
Tommy, very traumatized by his run-in with Jason and looking spookily like John Boy Walton, acts very strange from the start and when one of the kids at the house goes crazy and hacks another teen up with an ax, Tommy begins to increasingly hallucinate about Jason and also begins to have violent outbursts when provoked.
Soon, somebody begins to kill people in and around the half-way house and we are left to wonder who is the culprit. Tommy, with his dark past, weird attitude, penchant for sudden bursts of aggression, and fondness for a lock-blade knife, is supposed to be a prime suspect.
A few other characters that are set up as possible suspects are a crazy hillbilly woman and her crazy hillbilly son. There are a few obvious red herrings thrown around and the identity of the killer is given away throughout the movie with clues about as subtle as lead pipe. It is obvious that they were going for the "who done it?" aspect of the original Friday. However, without the cast, direction, stellar make-up and overall novelty of the first movie, nobody really cares who did it and when we find out who, nobody is really surprised.
Speaking of crazy hillbillies, these two characters, played comically by Carol Lacatell and Ron Sloan, along with Demon (played by Return of the Living Dead fan favorite Miguel A. Núñez Jr) add some much needed humor to this movie and without their few scenes, the whole thing would be even more tedious than it already is. Nobody really thinks the killer is Tommy and we quickly grow tired of seeing him gnaw on the scenery. In the right hands, I suppose the character of Tommy at 18 could have seemed truly haunted and scarred by his traumatic experiences. In the hands of over-actor John Shepherd, the character just seems silly and very overblown.
People might think I dislike the 5th entry in the F13 series because Jason isn’t in it and because I think the first 4 are the best. Well, I must deny these charges. True, the fact that Jason isn’t the killer was a big disappointment when I first saw the movie about 13 or 14 years ago and I think his presence would have gone a long way in making this movie more palatable. It was, after all, only the presence of Jason, as portrayed by the masterfully Kane Hodder, that made the deservedly hated Jason Takes Manhattan bearable. Still, I don’t know if either Jason or Hodder could have saved this one.
As for my post TFC bias, I do believe that the first four Friday films are the true greats of the series and I really do think that 4 would have been enough. However, I do enjoy some of the post-TFC movies. Some of them are silly and some border on seriously cool. Despite their shortcomings, however, most of the later entries in the series have something going for them. It might be something as large as a great story or something as simple as a cool looking Jason, but they have something to keep us fans interested.
The truth is, however, that Friday the 13th: A New Beginning has nothing going for it. Aside from the examples above, the characters are uninteresting and best and annoying at worst. The kills, although plentiful and varied, are not very well done and not very interesting, the pseudo-Jason as played by Wieand is not scary and lacks the power of those that have gone before and those that will come after. The story, even though it took at least four writers to pound it out, is not as incoherent as some reviewers have said, but it is not engaging. We Friday fans don’t expect a lot from a Friday script, but we do have some standards. They are certainly low, but not low enough to enjoy this movie.
I watched this and Jason Lives on the same evening in preparation for this review and I caught myself longing for the end of this flick and the start of part 6. If you are a Friday completest like me, you should probably have it in your collection. If you are a casual fan, please see another film in the series and please don’t judge the whole series by this movie if it is the only one you’ve seen. To be honest, if I had been a bit older and wiser when this came out and if Jason hadn’t returned in the next installment, this movie could have been enough to turn me cold on the series. If you knew what an avid Friday fan I am, you’d know how much I disliked this one. With everything from the music to the main title graphics, it is obvious that they were trying to recreate the feel and success of the original. They, most assuredly, did not.