Jason X (Cert 15)

by MATTHEW BOND, Mail on Sunday

Twenty-two years ago Jason Voorhees was just a poor little boy who drowned in Crystal Lake because his summer camp counsellors had yet to learn that you cannot have sex and keep an effective lookout at the same time. Understandably, this made his mother rather cross. Very, very cross, in fact.

This was the perfectly reasonable premise of the original Friday The 13th, a so-so sort of horror flick which, along with its superior predecessor, Halloween, and its scarier successor, A Nightmare On Elm Street, firmly established the idea of watching the random, bloody slaughter of mildly promiscuous teenagers as a good evening out.

An astonishing, wearying nine sequels later, everything and nothing has changed.

Jason is now the killer rather than the victim (as he has been since Friday The 13th Part II); the original form of the title has been dropped (question: do you think he keeps killing people because no one remembers his birthday?); and the action has progressed from 1957 to a rather preposterous science-fiction future.

But at the end of the 25th Century day, Jason is still a man in an ice-hockey mask wielding a machete, chasing pretty, croptopped teenagers up and down dark corridors. Only now he's in a spaceship.

There's something else I'm supposed to tell you - now what was it? Oh yes, that's it - he's totally unkillable - electrocution, gas, firing-squad . . . nothing works, apparently. Which is why, as Jason X gets under way, initially in an unspecified 'near future', the government scientists at the Crystal Lake Research Facility have him all chained up and fully prepped for cryogenic suspension.

The first thing you notice is that for a scientific establishment, the Crystal Lake Research Facility seems to consist principally of long, dark, fog-filled corridors. The second is that government scientists seem to be getting younger and prettier. The third is that the nervous lab technician probably shouldn't have put that blanket over Jason's head.

Suddenly, a scientist (played, in a short-lived cameo cum in-joke, by horror director David Cronenberg) bursts in, accompanied by armed military muscle. Seems that Jason's unique ability to regenerate damaged tissue makes him too scientifically valuable to be turned into psychopathic ice-cubes. 'You're willing to risk the deaths of innocent civilians if he escapes?' asks an incredulous but ever-so-pretty Rowan (Lexa Doig). 'Yup,' replies the macho and ever-sosoonto-be-dead Dr Wimmer.

Five minutes and many nasty deaths later, Jason (Kane Hodder) and an apparently fatally wounded Rowan are both frozen only to be thawed out four-andahalf centuries later by space-travelling archaeologists researching the fate of the now lifeless Earth.

The first thing you notice is that despite the passage of more than 450 years, the bare female midriff is still very much the erogenous zone of fashion choice. The second - strange, this - is that archaeology students seem to be getting younger and prettier. The third is that 25th Century spaceships seem to consist mainly of big, dark, fog-filled cargo holds. Once he thaws out (and that nice blonde girl really oughtn't to turn her back on him), Jason should feel very much at home.

Director Jim Isaac, a specialeffects man by background, clearly aims to mix gore with post-modern, isn't-this-funny giggles but is more successful with the former than the latter. Certainly no one who sees it will be bending over a bowl of liquid nitrogen again in a hurry.

But no one wanted to play strip Monopoly after the first film either. Or was that just with me?

There are one or two splendidly silly moments and Lisa Ryder, who plays a sexy, ass-kicking android rather well, could emerge from the experience just as Kevin Bacon did all those years ago from the original.

Nevertheless, Jason X lacks real suspense and, just like the title character, doesn't know when to call it a bloody day. One for the latenight, lager-filled brigade and bored teenagers too young to have seen it the first nine times.

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