Picture this scene: a bunch of movie guys are frantically trying to come up with a new hook for the next Friday The 13th outing but are coming up empty. It’s late, angry spouses are leaving messages with the receptionist and the deadline for a pitch is rapidly approaching. Then finally, one exec stands and drifts to the window as if in a dream. “Guys,” he whispers, voice horse with emotion, “I think I got it…”. His companions look up, hanging on the pregnant pause that fills the room with deafening science.
“We’ll send him to New fucking York!” Is the eventual pay off. For a beat – silence. Then the room erupts with cheers, hookers are called, cocaine is plentiful.
Now… I’m not saying that’s what happened but I also not saying it couldn’t have happened, because the pitch for the eighth installment for the juggernaut slasher franchise is so in-your-face daft it’s stunning that actual grown ups could have thought of it.
The first of what I call “Jason’s Travelogue Trilogy” (I’m lying, I’ve never called them that, but I might start), in which Mrs Voorhees’ baby boy visits New York, Hell and then Space in an impressive round trip, kicks off with his notorious stop-over in the city that never sleeps in an adventure that at best can be considered “silly” and at worse is an outright lie to the face of fans.
Rudely awakened from his latest watery time out at the bottom of Crystal Lake by a random power line (a power line running through a lake?) Jason Voorhees slaughters a couple of graduating teens on a boat that eventually leads him to stow away on board a cruise liner taking the rest of the class to the big apple. Sharing the trip with this hulking murder machine is dreary wannabe author and full-time aquaphobe Rennie and her equally drippy boyfriend Sean who’s budding romance is under siege from her overprotective uncle. While Jason squelches around the ship stabbing, choking and chopping everyone he comes across from bulge to stern (I think that’s right – I’m not exactly nautical) the survivors – now so scared, EVERY deck is the poop deck – band together to try and fight back against the waterlogged lunatic but a fire on board causes everyone left alive to man the lifeboats and belatedly make it to New York. Of course they’ve been followed by the tenacious Mr. Voorhees and now New Yorkers have much more to worry about than junkies or travelling on the subway…
If it sounds to you like there isn’t a whole lot of New York in a movie that has Manhattan in it’s subtitle, you’d be right, but I guess Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes A Boat On It’s Way To Manhattan was too unwieldy to fit on the poster. With only about a couple of days budgeted to actually shoot in the titular location, the rest of the movie was shot in the decidedly un-Manhattan-y Vancouver, leaving you with a weird feeling that you’ve been duped. Look at it this way, it would be like if The Shining waited to the last 20 minutes of the film to get to the Overlook hotel or Nic Cage’s character only had time to visit the gift shop of Alcatraz during The Rock – the New York gimmick is the only reason we’re here!
Maybe the impressive amount of misrepresentation would be forgivable if the surrounding film wasn’t as saggy as a prolapsing butthole but for a film where people on a boat get murdered on average every 7 minutes, Jason Takes Manhattan is tremendously tame and is more content with spraying plot holes around rather than grue.
For example: where exactly is Crystal Lake located if a boat can randomly float aimlessly as far as the ocean and rendezvous with the cruise ship in a couple of hours? And as we’re asking questions, how has Jason picked up the peculiar ability to teleport; popping up all around a brightly lit disco in full view of his victim like Nightcrawler from the X-Men? Also, why is Rennie having visions of a young Jason and how could she have had a run in with the drowning infant as a child if Jason was born in 1946? While we’re on the subject of Rennie, how on earth is she able to shrug off a heroin injection in about 20 minutes – does this tiny redhead have the metabolism of the Hulk or something?
While these questions (and a whole lot more – believe me) make for unintentionally humorous viewing, it eventually grinds you down despite a couple of visual gags like jaded New Yorkers not batting a single eyelid as a visible rotten mass murderer in a hockey mask strides past them in pursuit of screaming or Jason showing visible confusion at a billboard advertising a hockey league that seemingly bares his visage. Plus, out of nowhere, the movie somehow pulls out a series high point with Jason’s rooftop showdown with an overconfident boxer who showers the killer with endless blows until he’s utterly spent and Jason takes him out with one blow in a horror movie twist on a legendary sporting tactic (Jason knows the rope a dope? How is that possible?)
Thankfully it’s returning Jason actor Kane Hodder who effortlessly saves the day again, giving the only believable performance in the movie despite not even having a face to work with, let alone lines. Watch his subtle reaction when exposed to the lights and neon of Times Square for the first time (remember, he’s a country boy) before snapping back to the mission at hand, not to mention his super physical dispatching of the bland cast, which while virtually bloodless (curse you censors!), still has enough oomph to keep thing ticking along even though the design of his soggy appearance in this movie is vastly inferior to the look seen in the previous movie. It also doesn’t help that when Jason removes his mask he looks suspiciously like a moldy pumpkin and the squelchly noise of his footsteps makes it sound like he’s had the misfortune of stepping in dogshit… a lot.
Add to this the ending; which could quite possibly be the worst, most confusing and poorly conceived ending in slasher movie history (toxic waste negates evil? How much meth you smoke to come up with that one, guys?), and you have somehow wind up with a film with a body count of around 17 people but that has entirely no edge whatsoever.
Jason Takes Manhattan? Jason takes fucking liberties, is more like it…