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Movie Review: Friday the 13th part VI Jason Lives (1986)
Director: Tom McLoughlin
Cast: Thom Matthews, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen, Ron Patillo, Tony Goldwyn, Nancy McLoughlin, Tom Fridley
Revisiting Friday the 13th part VI: Jason Lives on VHS was like taking a trip back in time. Growing up in a strict Catholic family, I was not allowed to rent these movies while I lived under my father's house. So, being the rebellious little booger that I was, I would watch the Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Child's Play movies when I went to go and spend the night at my friend's house. We would rent a bunch of these films at the local video store and would have a marathon with them (mom and dad, if you are reading this, I am sorry). Watching Jason Lives on VHS brought back those memories in ways that seeing it on DVD just wouldn't have done.
Having watched all of the Jason movies, with the exception of Jason Goes to Hell, I'll say that I thought none of these films were really any good. Yet Friday the 13th part VI: Jason Lives is one of the few in the franchise I look back on in amusement. It contains everything that torpedoed all the other films (terrible acting, stereotypical characters, idiotic dialogue, etc), but writer-director Tom McLoughlin makes it entertaining by poking fun at the series' formula instead of just making another serious entry. There's a self deprecating tone to Jason Lives that makes it kind of enjoyable. It almost feels like a precursor to Wes Craven's Scream, which came out ten years later.
The story here is one of the silliest in the franchise. Tommy Jarvis (Thom Matthews), still suffering from his encounter with Jason in the fourth film, is driving like a bat out of hell to Jason's grave on a dark and stormy night. He feels that if he destroys Jason's body once and for all, his hallucinations will stop. He doesn't seem to suffer from any hallucinations once all hell breaks loose, but never mind. Tommy's plans to destroy Jason's body are thwarted when, through an absurd instance involving a long metal pole and a bolt of lightning, Jason comes back from the dead. Tommy tries to warn the sheriff of Forrest Green (formerly known as Crystal Lake), but the sheriff (David Kagen) is dismissive of Tommy's claims. Only the sheriff's daughter Megan (Jennifer Cooke) believes him, and teams up with him to put an end to Jason's reign of terror.
That's pretty much all the plot there is in this film. The rest has Jason stalking and slashing the usual batch of idiots, but this time, there seems to be a little more restraint put on the violence. Jason Lives does have its share of bloody moments, but it isn't as harsh or offensive as some of the other film in the series. Most of the kills take place off screen, and the movie is all the more effective because of it. There is one instance where Jason traps a young woman in a cabin, and instead of showing in detail all the horrible things he does her, McLoughlin keeps the camera outside the cabin. We can hear screams and see the windows sprayed with blood, and that is all we really need to see. Sometimes, the imagination can create something far more disturbing than anything a filmmaker can conjure up on screen.
Like some of the films in the series, Jason Lives features a now big named actor in a brief role as one of the potential victims. In the first film, we saw Kevin Bacon take a spear through the throat after making love to his girlfriend. This time, we have Tony Goldwyn as a not too bright counselor who doesn't survive his encounter with Jason, largely because he refuses to listen to his girlfriend, who has “seen enough horror movies to know that any guy in a mask isn't friendly.” Good ol' Mr. Goldwyn doesn't want to hear any of that, and tries to intimidate Jason, first by threatening to run him over with his car, and then by pulling a gun on him. In other words, he's playing one of those characters who is just begging to get killed.
It's all in good fun, though. McLoughlin knows this is what fans of the franchise expect. The good thing about it is that he has a sense of humor about it all. Before the opening credits start, we get a James Bond style iris shot of Jason walking toward the middle of the screen. Then, he turns and slashes at the screen with his machete, much in the same way James Bond shot at the screen with his Walther PPK. Later, when an elderly caretaker at the cemetery notices Jason's grave has been dug up, he complains, “Why did they have to go and dig Jason up? Some people have a strange idea of entertainment.” Even later, when Jason targets office workers having a paintball war in the woods, Jason is shot in the chest with one of the paint balls, and the small pause as Jason looks down at his paint smeared shirt, for some reason, makes me chuckle every time.
Tom Loughlin was raised in a Catholic household, and so Jason Lives is perhaps the only film in the franchise to make any religious references. It also leads to one of the most endearing scenes in the whole franchise. When one little girl tells one of the counselors that she's scared of the boogeyman, the counselor advises her to say a prayer when she becomes afraid, and everything will be better. Later, Jason spots the child looking up at him with terrified eyes. She shuts her eyes, says her prayers, and when she opens them again, she finds out that, hey, prayer really does work!
The climax of the film is when things take a much more serious tone, but even then, there's an energy present that ensures the proceedings never grow tedious. Jason Lives will probably not convert detractors of the franchise, and it might make some of the more ardent fans of the series unhappy because it pokes fun at the very things they've come to love. For me, Jason Lives falls under the “guilty pleasure” category. There may not be a defensible argument for the movie being good, but it is likable and amusing enough to entertain if you're in the right frame of mind.
*** (out of ****)
What were your thoughts on this film? :)
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