Sunday, May 6, 2007

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

Director: Rob Hedden

What a great title: “Jason Takes Manhattan.” Though, perhaps a more accurate title for this film would have been “Jason Takes a Boat,” or “Jason Takes His Sweet-Ass Time GETTING to Manhattan.” You see, well over half the film doesn’t even take place in New York. It mostly takes place on a cruise ship filled with teens, which is not a terrible idea for a Jason film, but it’s very disappointing considering the epic title and the images that it conjures up. However, if you lower your expectations, you just might enjoy yourself.

Alright, Jason needs a way out of Crystal Lake in order to get this ball rolling. Cue the sex-obsessed teens and their boat. Their anchor drags the lake bed, snags an electrical cable, and voila!! Jason’s recharged, and rarin' to go. First, he must pick up a new hockey mask. Coincidentally, the teens have one on board; don’t leave home without it. Then Jason proceeds in taking them both out with a harpoon, before taking command of the ship and sailing off to find a new batch of victims. Next, we meet our heroine, Rennie (played by Jensen Daggett). She has a fear of water, resulting from an incident involving a young Jason on Crystal Lake. Rennie boards the cruise ship, the Lazarus, after receiving a pointy pen as a gift from one of her teachers (we all know that pen will wind up in Jason's eye), especially after her teacher adds, "I know you'll put it to good use." It’s a graduation cruise filled with ripe young victims. They will be making their way to New York, but not before engaging in the usual debauchery that gets Jason’s goat. Jason grabs one of their lines as they pull out of the harbor, and now the pieces are in place. The rest of the major characters include: Rennie’s love interest, Sean (played by Scott Reeves), a bland and average white guy who can’t make his dad (who’s the captain of the Lazarus) proud. There’s the head teacher Mr. McCulloch (played by Peter Mark Richman) who’s also Rennie’s uncle, and Julius (played by V.C. Dupree), the token black character with an affinity for boxing; that will figure in later, trust me. Rennie keeps having visions of an increasingly freakier looking young Jason around the ship. In this film Jason has gained even more superhuman abilities. He’ll just appear in a completely different location than he was in a few seconds previous. He apparently has gained teleportation abilities. Sure that’s a staple for Jason to just appear, but this is ridiculous. He vanishes, and pops up in extremely confined spaces, despite the fact that he WALKS after his prey. You know that as soon as the camera pans off of him, he must be doing some serious sprinting.

First, Jason takes out a “rocker” chick who’s pretending she’s in a music video in the ship’s boiler room. He bonks her on the head with her own guitar as if he were El Kabong. He also shoves a rock through the chest of a dude who was just enjoying a sauna. He uses a broken mirror to dispatch the slutty, bitchy chick, impales a guy on the ship's antennae, and tosses the token dweeb onto the Lazarus' control panel which erupts in flames causing the ship to begin to sink. He also strangles a girl on the disco dance floor of the dining room (she tried cocaine, so her days were numbered). Meanwhile, the captain and crew of the ship are snuffed out, causing it to drift off into uncharted waters. Mr. McCulloch, who doesn't believe Jason is real, suspects the killer to be the creepy deckhand who warned of a curse, but is quickly proven wrong. The remaining kids team up to try and stop Jason -- quite unsuccessfully, needless to say. As the ship sinks, the remaining survivors hop in a lifeboat and attempt to make it to shore. Nick, Julius, Rennie, Mr. McCulloch, another teacher, and Rennie’s dog, Toby, finally arrive in New York.

It’s a good hour into the film before Jason actually sets foot on the oddly vacant streets of Manhattan. Here he takes out a junkie with his own needle, and knocks Julius’ head off, like a Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robot, during a rooftop battle. Then we find out Mr. McCulloch tossed Rennie into Crystal Lake to attempt to teach her to swim when she was a child, hence Rennie’s encounter with a young Jason and her fear of water. At any rate, it’s made quite clear that Mr. McCulloch’s long overdue death is imminent. He then gets dunked (by Jason, duh) headfirst into a vat of toxic waste that was just sitting out in an alley somewhere. Finally, Jason hits the streets of Manhattan as he chases Rennie and Nick around the city. We get a few lines about how Jason isn’t out of the ordinary in a city like New York (ha ha), and Jason terrorizes a few citizens, but he goes right back to his pursuit of the protagonists. They run through diners and the subway, before eventually ending up in the sewer (a major tourist attraction). The sewer is about to be flooded with toxic waste, according to a sewer worker they run into. I guess it’s standard practice to routinely pump toxic material mere feet below the populace. Rennie and Nick gain higher ground, and Jason melts in the muck. When the waste clears, we see a young, non-deformed Jason lying on the ground. Rennie and Nick climb out of the sewer, and walk off amongst the night sky and neon lights of Times Square. Before the credits can roll, we get a standard fake-out, where we get a P.O.V. shot coming towards the couple. It turns out to be…Toby, Rennie’s dog, who ran off earlier. They have a good, generic laugh, and walk off. Cue credits.

If you ignore the title of this movie, it may actually be a satisfactory journey through the gore. There are enough interesting deaths, and attractive cast members (although little nudity) to satiate rabid Jason fans. It’s fun to see Jason on the subway, scaring punks, and clearly on the top of his game. They obviously should’ve gotten to New York a LOT sooner, but if you ignore that aspect, it’s still far more rewarding than what Jason fans have been dealt in the past.

Best Death:
Jason punches a dude’s head off, and it flies into a dumpster.

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