Silver Screen Reviews
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
Director - Tom McLoughlin
Screenplay - Tom McLoughlin
MPAA Rating - R
Year of Release - 1986
Thom Mathews -
The sixth entry in this series is a complete turnaround from A New Beginning. Absent is the unnecessary cruelty, and present is the self-awareness of Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. We know we're in for something different when the opening title sequence begins with a James Bond-type of entrance. Writer/director Tom McLoughlin realized, perhaps ahead of his time, that the series was becoming less serious and more silly. Indeed, the next two films would pit Jason against a psychic and drop him in Manhattan, respectively. He did what anyone with that kind of foresight would do. He wrote a script that parodied the series' status as a cult phenomenon and inserted some clever one-liners to compliment the new direction.
Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews) is back for the last time as Jason killer extraordinaire. Not as catatonic as he was in the previous film, Tommy figures that the only way for him to find peace is to rid himself of Jason once and for all. He and a friend drive back to Crystal Lake, now called Forest Green, to dig up Jason's body and burn it. Tommy learns immediately that he shouldn't unearth a body during a lightning storm; a bolt zaps Jason back to life, giving him superhuman strength, so that he can once again take up his old hobby of slaughtering camp counselors. Tommy barely escapes, but warning the local police is of little use; nobody wants to be reminded of Jason Vorhees.
As Jason makes his way back to Crystal Lake, McLoughlin seeks out potentially amusing situations for the masked killer. A group of businessmen in a paintball contest meet an untimely end, courtesy of the mad goalie, who dismembers one guy's arm with force, throws another guy's face into a tree, beheads three more people at once and finally "walk-chases" the last one. What's funny is that McLoughlin had the nerve to give these characters quirky personalities. In fact, everyone in the movie is above-par for this kind of material. In addition to writing good dialogue, McLoughlin actually got real performances out of everyone. He obviously wasn't content with the stale acting we got in Friday the 13th Part 2, and wanted to do his part to make up for that. Even those who are onscreen for a few minutes have something to offer.
The sixth film makes up for the fifth in another way. This Tommy Jarvis is a cool-headed person determined to end the threat to Forest Green (to him, it's always Crystal Lake). Thom Mathews (Return of the Living Dead) gives a fierce performance that is the opposite of John Shephard's static portrayal. He's a likable guy, and his acting actually goes well with McLoughlin's breezy direction. The plot outline is basically the same - Jason goes on a killing spree - but there's more to appreciate this time around.
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives did right by ignoring the ridiculous last shot of its immediate predecessor, and started the series anew. Whether you think of that as good news depends on how you perceive this series. I haven't been so hard on it. There were decent entries and bad ones, and this sixth one is actually the best of the Paramount films. When New Line took over in the early '90s, there was a noticeable shift in direction. In the end, this isn't a really good movie, but it's certainly an interesting change of pace.
It's clear that a lot of effort went into producing a half-way entertaining slasher film. It's more watchable than most of its kind. I think what prevents the film from freeing itself from the requirements of the genre is McLoughlin's unwillingness to do so. He had the right idea, and he plays with it for awhile, but for the finale he reverts to a standard showdown between good and evil. By then, however, it's easy for us to acknowledge this movie's unique stance in the series. It's like the little horror movie that could.
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