"As a child, Tommy Jarvis did what many others died trying to do. He killed Jason Voorhees. The mass murderer who terrorized the residents of Crystal Lake. But now years later, Tommy is tormented by the fear that maybe Jason isn't really dead.
So Tommy and a friend go to the cemetery to dig up Jason's grave. Unfortunately
for Tommy, (and very unfortunately for his friend), instead of finding a rotting
corpse, they discover a well rested Jason who comes back from the dead for another
bloody rampage in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES."
It may have been only six short years since Camp Crystal Lake first squirmed its way into the public psyche, but the horror landscape had pretty much changed out of all recognition by 1986. Not only was Freddy Kreuger still stealing Jason's thunder (although his time was almost done as a potent box office bogeyman by this time too), but the idea of camp counselors being stalked and offed one-by-one was seen as plain old hat by the mainstream movie going public (fools, I know). PART V (1985) has its fans (and I'm gradually warming to its cheesy charms after, at first, being appalled by the downturn in quality from Joseph Zito's splendidly Gothic FINAL CHAPTER (1984)), but the series was not only in dire need of the bone-fide Jason it was also in need of a new direction. Tom McLoughlin seemingly was the man to do it; with JASON LIVES he managed to not only give the series an irreverent spin but also delivered the requisite thrills and (admittedly censored) spills.
Any fan of the FRIDAY series knows that its probably best not to pay too close attention to the time line of these movies. In JASON LIVES the teens of Forest Green (the new name for Crystal Lake) think Jason Voorhees is just a legend their parents told them to keep them on the straight and narrow at bed time. Now, these teens must have been a bit old (and gullible) to fall for these stories, as Jason has only been 'dead' for about tens years (not withstanding the pseudo-Jason from PART V).
Considering all the jumping ahead in time lines it might come as a surprise that Tommy Jarvis (now played by RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD's Thom Matthews) and his pal from the teen asylum *** (), don't zip into town in a space craft. Tommy obviously – and quite literally – couldn't let it lie. Not content with whacking six shades of blood out of Mr Voorhees, whilst his sister screamed her pixie boots off in the FINAL CHAPTER – and seeing a demented ambulance driver turned into a pin cushion in PART V – he heads back to Jason's (not so) final resting place to make sure Mr Personality is really dead. Once. And. For. All. Of course, it wouldn't be much of a film if Jason just lay there and rotted. In a hint of the playful nature of things to come, Jason is resurrected by a stray lightening bolt and comes back to life Frankenstein style. Still, no inner torment for this monster, or to-ing and fro-ing between good and evil for Mr Voorhees. After his long nap he's ready for some teen blood to soak his cornflakes in. First up, Tommy's friend has his heart punched clean out of his chest, as he looks on.
The nicely eerie graveyard scene (itself expanded from the similar one that kick-started PART V), is followed by a witty parody of the James Bond movies; as Jason stalks across the opening credits and slashes the screen with his trusty machete.
Bucking the trend of idiotic doings in slasher movies, Tommy heads straight to the police to let hem know that Jason is back to his badass business – and now no one is safe. Naturally, considering he's just bust out of the asylum, the police think he's nuts. Although the sheriff's daughter, Megan (Jennifer Cooke), who visits her father with some camp counselor friends takes a shine to his boyish good looks.
It seems that Camp Crystal Lake (now opened under a new name) is doing a roaring trade. With the kiddies due the next day, preparations are well under way. Unfortunately for the two head counselors (one of them played by the director's wife) they run into Jason as he takes a leisurely night time stroll. Astutely (in the same kind of self-aware humour that Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven would mine to such lucrative effect ten years later in SCREAM (1996)) one of them says to her companion, “I've seen enough horror movies to know to know that any freak standing in the middle of the road with a mask on isn't friendly!”.
With the bodycount beginning to rack up, Jason is gearing up for a rip-roaring return to the campground, with only a couple of plucky teens between him and a row of cabins of screaming kids ...
The tongue may be well and truly wedged in cheek throughout JASON LIVES but it also works as a straight ahead horror movie because McLoughlin was actually a fan of the FRIDAY series. A more cynical director might have ruined this approach, but you get the feeling that he is good-naturedly ribbing the conventions of the films whilst enjoying them at the same time. No more so is this evident when a group of paint ballers fall foul of the hockey masked one, and wear prophetic 'dead' headbands. There are also many nicely comedic touches, such as one kid turning to an another as Jason rampages through the camp ground, “What we're you going to be when you grew up?”. Also, surely JASON LIVES is surely the only FRIDAY pic to reference Jean Paul Sartre (with one child amusingly reading his book 'No Exit')!
Much like PART V (and certainly more so than the previous four movies) JASON LIVES is really many set pieces strung together with either Tommy Jarvis or Jason bursting into shot. This, of course, is a tool for upping the bodycount – no more so than the engaged couple and the gravedigger that all bite the machete in the space of a few minutes. To be fair, McLoughlin was forced to add these scenes to beef up the slaughter at the behest of the producers. It's somewhat ironic that whilst more bodies hit the floor the grue on display was becoming more and more truncated. Of course, the long running battle between the FRIDAY makers and the American censors the MPAA has been often documented. McLoughlin shot three versions of all the kill scenes in JASON LIVES, knowing full well that the goriest ones would probably end up on the cutting room floor (and at least if he had control of these three versions the cuts would be as jarring as, say, MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981)). As it stands in its current version, the gore in this FRIDAY certainly doesn't have visceral shock power of the first film (nor even the immediate sequels). It would be nice to finally see it how McLoughlin intended it. Maybe one day we will ...
Perhaps having sat through so many FRIDAY films, so many times, the peripheral characters don't make much of an impression here (of course, character development isn't exactly high on the agenda). However, Tommy and Megan make an engaging on-screen couple – her with her ballsy disregard for authority and him with his puppy dog eyes and hyperactive state of fear. Unshackled from the is-he-or-isn't-he-evil spectre of the previous two sequels, in JASON LIVES you can feel safe rooting for him (and this sequel remains a relative oddity in having a more-or-less final boy as opposed to final girl). Of course the main character remains Jason – and let's face it, it's always about Mr Voorhees. We can argue till the cows come home whether Jason was always some kind of zombie (after all didn't he drown in Crystal lake way back in the 50's? If he didn't why didn't he go home to Mommy dearest?). The archetypal skulking, hulking, unstoppable bogeyman lends himself to zombiedom. It was good to have him back.
Ultimately, JASON LIVES is more of the same – but I
know if you're reading this you won't see that as remotely anything like a bad
thing. The James Bond movies are just the same thing ad infinitum, nobody bitches
about them. Several notches above any of the sequels that followed, JASON
LIVES is a slasher sequel to be cherished. Effortlessly entertaining.
BODYCOUNT 17 female:6 / male:11
1) Male has heart punched out
2) Male impaled on spike
3) Female spiked and drowned
4) Male has arm ripped off and slammed into a tree
5) Male decapitated with a machete
6) Male decapitated with a machete
7) Female decapitated with a machete
8) Male stabbed in the neck with a broken bottle
9) Female impaled on a machete
10) Male impaled on a machete
11) Female has her face pushed through a mirror wall
12) Male has bowie knife pushed through forehead
13) Female has head twisted off
14) Female hacked to death with a machete
15) Male has peg thrown at forehead
16) Male has head crushed
17) Male bent in half