Friday The 13th Part 6: Jason Lives


Jason Voorhees, cinema’s pre-eminent go-to guy for mass slaughter, can be accused of a lot of things – a sizeable impulse control issue and gargantuan mother issues spring instantly to mind – but one label that’s never been slapped on him is having much of a sense of humour…
Stoic as hell behind that non-expressive hockey mask, Mr Vorhees’ misadventures have mostly been somewhat serious (as you’d expect of a series that deals primarily with the systematic mutilation of good looking young people) but for this 6th outing writer/director Tom McLoughlin went for something of a different tone and switched focus from making the film less jumpy ghost house and of a roller coaster ride by making the carnage that Jason inflicts… well, fun.


Tommy Jarvis (now played by Return Of The Living Dead’s Thom Matthews meaning that the character’s almost gone through more actors than Jason himself) has been the guest of numerous institutions since he killed Jason in self defence as a child and has returned to Crystal Lake (now renamed Forest Green) to put his demons to rest by digging up the remains of the once-unstoppable killer and burning them up once and for all. While this brand of self therapy could hardly be described as professional, things get exponentially worse when Jason shrugs off death like it’s a pesky dose of the man-flu thanks to a handy bolt of lightning and awakens Frankenstein style. Displaying some impressive muscle mass for a guy who’s been chilling in a coffin for a few years and change he casually exterminates Tommy’s friend by punching out his heart (sucks to be you, brah) and renews his rampage while Tommy flees for his life. Menwhile fledgling counsellors at the newly renovated camp are anxiously waiting for their supervisors to show up (good luck with that, they’ve blown out sick after catching a nasty case of impalment that’s been going around lately) blissfully unaware that a super-charged zombie serial killer is cutting a swathe through anyone silly enough to be chilling out in the woods in order to make a beeline to what he considers “home”. Tommy tries and fails to convince the hard nosed authorities as to what is going on but instead teams up with the police chief’s smitten daughter and concocts a plan that might just keep Jason contained once and for all…

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Pre-dating Scream for cheeky meta-humor, Jason Lives is chock full of knowing references to scenarios that characters find themselves in – take the couple on an old dirt road at midnight who step on the brakes to see a spike wielding Jason blocking their path for example only for the woman to quip “I’ve seen enough horror movies to know that any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly” in an epic case of understatement; or the crusty old cemetery caretaker who laments at the sight of Jason’s open grave; “Some folks have a strange idea of entertainment!” directly down the camera at us. It may seem like an obvious statement to make considering that most slasher films are a little “light” when it comes to the writing but McLoughlin turns in probably the best script the franchise has ever seen with witty characterization that goes a little bit beyond simple genre conventions and that boasts some legitimately fun jokes and setups. Take the group of executives playing paint ball in the woods pissed that they’re being bested by a woman player or a extended set piece that sees Jason stow away in the toilet of a massive motor home and pounce out on an unsuspecting nymphette while her bone head lover rocks out to one of the many Alice Cooper songs littering the soundtrack (although judging by the nonsensical lyrics he probably whipped them up on a lunch break or something).
Tellingly, McLoughlin is wise enough not to let any of the humor directly affect Jason himself (here played nicely with Terminator style drive by stuntman C.J Graham), keeping the hockey masked one fairly direct among all the winking and rib nudging the script does; although he does get a quizzical beat after inadvertently ripping the arm off some hapless sap and staring blankly at the dripping appendage.
The filmmakers also seem to realise that now that everybody’s favorite machete swinger has evolved into the realms of the supernatural, there’s actually no need to keep him hidden in bushes and wardrobes anymore and he’s blessed with a succession of iconic shots that, if nothing else, are super fucking cool. Although judging by the high winds that lash every character who stands outside you have to wonder when exactly the film is set: did all these parents send their kids to camp in November or something?
As a bloody cherry on top of this suprisingly good cake, we get a legitimately exciting climax with Tommy poised out in the middle of Crystal Lake aiming to anchor his nemesis to the bottom of the lake with a boulder and chain while Jason wades out to greet him with his typical sense of single mindedness. It’s all well thought out stuff and a genuine high point of a series whose popularity was starting to slowly disperse.
Any issues? Well, slasher snobs are going to turn their noses up at the material no matter how well it’s written but despite the sizable bodycount, weathered gorehounds may find the blood letting a little dry (this was the era the MPAA increased it’s censor happy stranglehold on horror films to a degree that borderline on fascism) but thankfully the spirited setupz and payoffs make up for the reduced viscera. Also, slasher fans who suffer from OCD might rankle at the fact that absolutely no effort is made to explain what happened after the cliffhanger ending of Part 5 where it looked like a heavily traumatised Tommy was going to continue on from where Jason left off – but my advice to you is not to worry about it because, in essence, Part 5 is a pile of shit and Part 6 isn’t…

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I guess Jason isn’t the only one who can make cold blooded deletions…
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