Sunday, November 10, 2013

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (Rob Hedden, 1989)

It was pretty obvious, judging by the words I typed, that the intrinsic allure of Diana Barrows in a short skirt was what drew me to the hackneyed glow emanating from Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood. And it's pretty obvious what drew me to Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, the–in case you're like me, and are hopeless when it comes to Roman numerals–eighth film in the inexplicably popular horror franchise. Care to guess why I was drawn to the sequel? Anybody? That's right, Jason Voorhees, the world's most famous drowning victim, is hitting the streets of New York City, the Big Apple, baby! The city so nice they named it twice. Sick of killing horny teenagers out in the sticks, Jason sets his eyes on the people of New York City. Holy shit! This is going to be sweet. Just a second, someone wants to whisper something in my ear. - Could you hold on a second, I'm trying to write about Jason Voorhees roaming Times Square in search of supple adolescent flesh to penetrate with a wide array of foreign objects. What's that? You say it's pertinent to what I'm currently writing about. Okay, then go ahead. Uh-huh. You don't say. An hour?!? Really? - Hey, I'm back. Well, according to my whispering friend, it would appear that I'm not currently writing about Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. What am I writing about? Would it shock you to learn that I just watched Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes East Vancouver. Oh, I see. All right, so what. They substituted Vancouver for New York City, lot's of films do that. They [the producers] save money that way. Let me rephrase that, I just watched Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Sails the High Seas. But Jason does eventually walk the rain-soaked streets of East Vancouver masquerading as Manhattan, right? Yeah, after we spend an hour aboard a rusty Panamanian freighter with a bunch of annoying teenagers.

These annoying teenagers you speak of, please tell me they're at least transplanted New Yorkers. What? No, they're not New Yorkers. Okay, so, why the hell am I watching this? And don't say fashion. I'm afraid you're watching this for the fashion. But it's 1989. What's that got to do with anything? I'll tell you what, it's probably one of the most heinous years the decade ever spawned in terms of fashion. I thought you loved '80s fashion. Yeah, I do, but 1989 is a separate entity all-together. I don't know what was going on during that particular year, but even I have to question the taste of some of these people.

However, I'm not looking at you, Saffron Henderson. Your Pia Zadora meets Chrissy Amphlett of The Divinyls with a touch of Joan Jett look was beyond topiary. Unfortunately, writer-director Rob Hedden botches your potential as a style icon at every turn. First things first, Rob, you killed her first. What were you thinking, man? Okay, technically, Saffron wasn't the first to die in the film, that honour goes to Jim (Todd Caldecott) and Suzi (Tiffany Paulson), a couple of teens who were boating on Crystal Lake. But she's the first die aboard the Lazarus, the rusty Panamanian freighter I mentioned earlier.

Secondly, there were no full body shots of Saffron's J.J. Jarrett, part-time cuttie pie, full-time rock 'n' roller. Huh? I wanted to see the entirety of her leather-friendly outfit, yet Rob Hedden failed to provide me with one.

The killing of J.J. Jarrett pretty much sums up what's wrong with these films. But you have only watched two. That's true, but I can tell already that they're made by people with little imagination. If I see something in the other chapters (if I ever get around to them) that changes my mind, I will gladly point it out. In the meantime, the handling of J.J. Jarrett, or, I should say, the mishandling of J.J. Jarrett, definitely put me in a foul mood. I mean, why introduce a character who's so appealing from a visual point-of-view, only to kill her off almost immediately? It's fucked up. Let it go, dude.

I'll let it go, but I reserve the right to complain about it later on down the road. Quirky fun-fact: Saffron Henderson is the daughter of Bill Henderson from the band Chilliwack.

Things start off promising, as we're given a brief taste of the sights and sounds of New York City after dark. Aptly paired with the song "Darkest Side of the Night" by Metropolis, the opening shows footage of punks hanging out in Times Square, junkies shooting up, yuppies being mugged, the director's sister pouring coffee for a mildly deranged customer at a diner, and commuters riding on the subway.

What's great about this opening sequence is that we'll being running into them all later on in the film. Only problem is, we have to wait a whole hour to do so. Until then, Jason Voorhees, played yet again by the appropriately menacing Kane Hodder, is resurrected by a couple of sexually active teens on a boat; some nonsense involving an anchor cutting into an underwater electrical cable. At any rate, the male teen does tell the female teen (a white pantie enthusiast with lower back dimples) the story of Jason Voorhees, which I found to be highly informative.

Since Jason Voorhees knows nothing about sailing, the boat he's on drifts toward the harbour. Disembarking from the dead teen's boat, Jason hitches a ride on the Lazarus, a freighter that's been chartered by the graduating class of some high school; Crystal Lake High, maybe?

Eww, what's with the frizzy hair? Huh? Look at their hair. Who's hair? Rennie Wickman (Jensen Dagget), a thoughtful teen who is skittish around water and Colleen Van Deusen (Barbara Bingham), her English Teacher. Their hair is atrocious. It's a good thing Rennie is wearing that crazy vest or else I would have disowned her ass; normally I would say, "shapely ass," but we don't get to see Rennie's ass in this movie, so I can't confirm if it's shapely or not, which is a shame.

I have a question: If Rennie is so skittish around water, why is she getting on a Panamanian freighter? Excellent question. And that's exactly what Charles McCulloch (Peter Mark Richman), Rennie's uncle and the school's principal, would like to know. He gives Colleen a disapproving look, but reluctantly allows Rennie and her dog to come aboard.

After a brief montage that features shuffleboard, skeet shooting, and disco dancing in denim skirts, we spot a couple making out near the ship's stern. No biggie, right? Wrong! Both are wearing blue jeans with black leather shoes and white socks! I feel like my eyes have just been scratched an armada of super-tiny rakes.

Is it okay if I skip past the next part? Why? Well, Saffron Henderson is about to appear onscreen, and just thinking about what happens to her makes me sad. Don't be such a baby. Okay, fine. Playing her pink-accented Gibson Flying V on the ship's upper deck, a leather clad J.J. Jarrett is rocking out while Wayne (Martin Cummins) films her with his hulking video camera. Deciding that her guitar will probably sound better in the engine room, J.J. heads down there unknowing that a hockey-masked killer is waiting for her.

Why didn't Wayne and his busy shirt go down with J.J. to the engine room? Well, for one thing, he's a damned fool. Excuse me, but wouldn't he have been killed by Jason if he went down below with J.J.? Good point. What I should have said was: He was a fool for not being into J.J. In the long run, however, it doesn't matter, as most of these people aren't going to make it to New York City alive. So, you mean we're still going to New York City? Yeah, but the film is taking its sweet time getting us there.

While we wait, please enjoy the sight of Kelly Wu in suspenders. And since this is 1989, Kelly wears her suspenders in an unorthodox manner.

Who's that vision of cattiness standing next to Kelly Hu? Oh, that's the wonderfully unpleasant Tamara Mason. Played by Sharlene Martin, Tamara is the film's resident hosebeast. And I must say, she does a bang up job when comes to dispensing beastly properties that are hose-like in nature. Don't believe me, check out the scene where she pretends to accidentally push Rennie off the ship. Does Tamara know that Rennie is afraid of water and is currently being haunted by the ghost of Jason Voorhees? Well, duh! Of course she knows that. Man, what a hosebeast. Yeah, tell me about it, she rules.

And get this, Tamara didn't just push Rennie into a kiddie pool or even a serene lake up in the mountains, uh-uh, she pushes her into the freakin' ocean!!!

Call me sane, but I think Tamara is my new favourite character in the Friday the 13th universe. Did I mention she does cocaine? It's true, she totally does, cocaine, that is (cocaine, by the way is cool, while crack will always be whack). A cocaine-snorting hosebeast who pushes skittish, frizzy-haired basket cases in the ocean and is best friends with Kelly mother-scratching Hu? I love Tamara Mason.

I'm not trying to make your head explode or anything like that, but Tamara draws her biology project on her body. Huh? I don't get it either. But she uses these drawings and along with a black bra and matching panties to seduce Mr. McCulloch.

Are they in New York City yet? Not quite. Jason has more people to kill. Let me guess, Tamara and Kelly Hu aren't going to make it to New York. Well, the latter is a hosebeast. And hosebeasts rarely make it to the end in these films. So, probably not.

On the positive side, when we finally do arrive in NYC, we get to witness the epic rooftop the battle between Julius (Vincent Craig Dupree), a boxer/badass, and Jason Voorhees, a former drowning victim turned mindless killing machine. Using his skills as a boxer, Julius pummels Jason with dozens of head and body blows. It doesn't make up for the fact that Tamara, J.J., and Kelly Hu didn't make it to New York, but Julius vs. Jason is definitely worth the wait. While thirty minutes in Manhattan might seem like a rip off, the scenes on the boat were not as tedious as I thought they would be. Oh, and did I mention that Tamara totally pushes Rennie into the freakin' ocean!!! The Ocean!!!


  1. I know a lot of fans tend to bitch about this one which I suppose is understandable seeing as the title of "Jason Takes Manhattan" is a bit of a false advertisement and I will admit I was a bit irked when I first saw the film how little time was actually spent in NYC but over the years this has actually became one of my favorite entries in the series. The time spent on the boat actually felt like a breath of fresh air, after 7 films the camp setting was getting old so this was a more than welcome change.

  2. When I saw the title, "Jason Takes Manhattan," I had this idea I was going to see Jason wandering 42nd Street killing sleazoids (Maniac meets The New York Ripper). But when that didn't happen, I'll admit, I was crestfallen. However, what you say about it being "breath of fresh air" makes sense. I mean, who wants to watch seven camp set, lake-adjacent slasher films in a row?

    Though, it should be noted that Friday the 13th: A New Beginning takes place at a non-lake-adjacent halfway house for troubled teens, not a camp. ;)

  3. I guess "Jason Takes East Vancouver" just wouldn't be marketable. Maybe "Jason Takes Winnipeg" would be too bleak.

  4. I have to say though, Jason would have a pretty hard time scary anyone in East Vancouver, as that is one tough neighbourhood.

    Jason Takes Winnipeg, written and directed by Guy Maddin.

  5. Not all of East Vancouver is bad. My sister has lived in the west end for years. Its a mainly Chinese and South East Asian neighborhood with lots of nice restaurants and shops. I don't think people would appreciate Jason lumbering through.

    Anyway, love visiting there and she adores the city. Once you head multiple blocks toward Chinatown and go past that, the area does get more urban tough. Someone described it to me as "like any street in Toronto." It reminded me more of parts of DC.

    Thanks for introducing me to Guy Maddin. The only cool thing I've known from Winnipeg so far is the incredible band Fuckmorgue.

  6. Everything I know from East Vancouver I either got from the movie "On the Corner" (starring Katharine Isabelle) or some bleak documentary from the 80s that I can't [damn it] remember the title of.

  7. Well, she's on the western side, which has gotten nicer in the past ten years. But sections of East Vancouver (where Skinny Puppy used to live) are still the same. We heard that the entire city was basically the wild west back in the '60s and '70s.

  8. More ideas:
    Jason Takes Kapuskasing
    Jason Takes Iqaluit
    Jason Takes Saint-Louis-du-Ha!-Ha!
    Jason Takes Big Beaver, Saskatchewan

  9. @ido: Skinny Puppy's Mushroom Studios in Vancouver.

    Speaking of studios in Vancouver, I have an old cassette somewhere that has Skinny Puppy live at CBC's Vancouver studio; I recall recording it off the radio. Brave New Waves, baby.

    @Karim: Jason Takes Penetanguishene, Jason Takes Moosonee, Jason Takes Etobicoke...

    If Jason were to take Flin Flon, would anybody notice?

    Just kidding, I love Flin Flon. Sure, I've never been to Flin Flon, but I'm comforted by the fact that it exists.