Not to be confused as a deeply confusing sequel to Malcolm X, it’s always amusing to compare a new entry to a long running franchise with where the series started because more often than not, it’s nowhere near what the original filmmaker’s ever intended. Take the crew of high speed outlaws from the Fast And Furious movies becoming full on super spies for example or notorious city stomper Godzilla turning from atom bomb metaphor to protector of the human race for just two but surely the farthest distance (both literally AND metaphorically) is that between Camp Crystal Lake and outer fucking space.
New Line Cinema’s second attempt to try and make sense of what exactly they had on their hands after purchasing the rights to hockey-faced teen-chopper Jason Voorhees was – in every sense of the term – a plan-B after numerous failed attempts to get the long mooted Freddy Vs. Jason before cameras. The irony that a face-off between two of the 80’s most notorious horror villains remained grounded while a random (possibly drug-fuelled) concept of sending Jason not only into space, but into the future as well, managed to escape the gravitational pull of development hell isn’t lost on me but launching Mrs. Voorhees’ baby boy into the final frontier turns out to be a gimmick too far.
We catch up with Crystal Lake’s least favorite son as a prisoner, chained and bolted in place in a secret research lab after incarceration and subsequent repeated execution has failed to take. Obviously assuming that rehabilitation is an instant no-starter, the powers that be plan to experiment on the unkillable bastard in order to unlock his ability to regenerate tissue loss but Jason manages to escape, Houdini style, and vows that his next trick will be making everyone left in the facility miraculously un-alive. Chasing after Rowan, a gutsy scientist, both Jason and her are accidently put into cryogenic sleep until the year 2455 (why no one has discovered them for over 455 years is never explained but I’m guessing that Rowan has some shitty relatives if she hasn’t been reported missing.
She is eventually found and defrosted by a group of students on an archeological field trip to the ruined Earth in a future where people still use phrases like “This sucks!” and “Are you high!?” but somehow are unfamiliar with what a bicycle is. Before you can say ” Buck Rogers”, they decide that the frozen husk of Jason may be worth a sizable chunk of that future dollar and the planet hopping knuckleheads bring the slushy serial killer along but are somehow stunned when the hulking, masked, machete wielding figure defrosts and starts killing the crew – if only there was some visual clues that could have told them that would happen…
As Rowan, the various future-idiots she’s stuck with and a butt kicking, human-looking robot (it is THE FUTURE after all) manage to double down and utilise whatever technology they have at their disposal to put a stop to Jason once and for all; fate conspires to give evil an upgrade that will make him even more unstoppable-er than ever before.
Let’s not split hairs (or skulls) here, Jason X is a fucking stupid movie. Not hugely surprising, I know, but even for a concept as deliberately camp as this, the film goes out of it’s way to be as bluntly ridiculous as it can – which is a shame as reports claim that the film was much darker before studio indecision forced director James Issac and screenwriter Todd Farmer to go “full retard”. Years later, Farmer in particular would nail the crazy, anything goes, slasher vibe he was shooting for with the bonkers remake of My Bloody Valentine, but here his script is loaded with daffy one liners where people spit out a witty retort, even if they’re in the middle of being killed. “This sucks on so many levels!” Shrieks a victim before explosive decompression blows her out into space which makes me wish I more people could be so quick on the ball before a violent, agonising death obliterates them into a human flavoured mess…
It’s truly a shame the film was forced to go so low brow because there’s legitimately numerous spores of greatness lurking under Jason X’s dopey surface with the odd flash of inspired genius popping up like the blank eyed creatures in a whack a mole game, only to frustratingly vanish again before you can zero in on it. Not only does it feature a cracking cameo from none other than canadian filmmaking genius David Cronenberg as a shifty doctor (“I want him soft.”) but some of the kills, thanks to the sci-fi, fantasy setting, are fucking stupendous with a spot of face-dunking/head-shattering thanks to some handily placed liquid nitrogen ranking as a franchise high point. Plus the future setting and all that the sci-fi bullshit that it subsequently opens the door to manages to actually pay dividends in a late scene where a holodeck is used to distract Jason by making him think he’s back at Camp Crystal Lake is actually low-key genius. Of course, you can’t mention the merging of low-tech slasher and high-tech gobbledygook without bringing up that armour plated elephant in the room that is known as Uber-Jason, jacked up, upgraded super-slasher that is impervious from everything from gunfire to poorly edited action sequences (and yet is curiously susceptible to ludicrously far fetched plot twists). In fact to this day I am still genuinely unsure of whether I hate or love the tongue in cheek souped up new look for the character and I don’t think I’ll ever settle on an opinion but one thing I am sure of is that once again, Kane Hodder, in his final screen appearance as Jason (the man deserved so much better), proves to be the best thing in the film, ploughing through the camp with his trademark, no bullshit attitude.
Competing with dialogue that’s supposed to be silly yet still makes you wince in it’s awfulness (choice line: “I couldn’t be with a girl whose balls are bigger than mine!”) and Syfy Channel levels of CGI is the work of Friday The 13th regular Harry Manfredini who, despite usually turning in great work, produces one of the worst musical scores I’ve ever heard which misses the tone completely and is stunningly irritating.
Despite the attempts from everyone involved, this ends up as simply another attempt by New Line studios to try and gimmick the Friday The 13th franchise into some form of renewed life (much like Jason himself) but instead of shooting for the stars, Voorhees regrettably crashes down to earth nearly burying the series entirely.