Upon multiple viewings, A New Beginning turns out to not be such a bad FRIDAY THE 13TH film after all. To be honest, it delivers exactly what the first four movies delivered, and stayed truer to the Friday the 13th spirit than anything that followed. Despite not having a Voorhees slashing people up, A New Beginning is a pretty solid entry in the saga that delivers on everything that the fans crave: violence, sex, nudity, drugs, and hockey masks.
What has grown on me the most in the many viewings of A New Beginning is the wacky array of characters. This is quite a rag-tag bunch in this entry, only to be rivaled by the crew of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III. At first glance these people in this movie are either gross, boring, or just off putting. But there is also something about them that, in retrospect, is rather appealing. There are two types of people in A New Beginning: the mental patients at Pinehurst Halfway House and the Pinehurst Locals. But, to be fair, they're all nuttier than a fruitcake. And that makes them really fun.
The patients take some time to get used to, as they can be quite annoying at first glance. Perhaps no character in the entire Friday the 13th legacy is more annoying than the obnoxious, fat chocolate fiend Joey (Dominick Brascia), a character who is short lived but proves to be a vital part of the story. His peers are an unusual cadre of teens with all sorts of disorders, issues, and troubles. These youths are governed by the Halfway House staff, including the beautiful Pam (Melanie Kinnaman) and the head facility doctor Matt (Richard Young). Plus, the house cook George (Vernon Washington) and his grandson Reggie "the Reckless" (Shavar Ross) help out, and Reggie in particular is a comical smart-mouthed character.
There are also the Pinehurst locals, the most memorable of which includes foul-mouthed granny Ethel Hubbard (Carol Locatell) and her imbecile son Junior (Ron Sloan) whom she constantly insults. But you can't leave out the cocky cokehead hospital orderly, a vain diner waitress, two (possibly gay) greasers with car trouble, a weirdo derelict staying with Ethel, and a sheriff more bumbling than any before in a Friday film.
The star of the film is once again Tommy Jarvis (John Shepherd), now portrayed as ten years older than his last appearance in FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER. If you recall, at the end of The Final Chapter Tommy killed Jason once and for all, but seemed to pick up some disturbed traits in the process. Ever since then, Tommy has been living in hospitals and receiving treatments of all kinds, but nothing seems to work. And when he arrives at Pinehurst and bodies start piling up, Tommy begins to wonder what is going on - is it him? Has Jason returned? Shepherd plays the role with a refreshing amount of sophistication, and despite his limited dialogue he brings about a character to love and fear. We feel Tommy's awkwardness, and sense his internal trauma. The Tommy Jarvis of A New Beginning is the best Tommy Jarvis, because he is the deepest and most damaged, making him the most likable male hero in the entire Friday franchise. The Tommy of JASON LIVES is just silly.
Ultimately, it is revealed that Tommy is not the killer. And it's not Jason this time around. It's kind of nice to see that the filmmakers wanted to take the series in a different direction without Jason, yet continuing his reign of terror through other characters. The whodunit aspect has not been seen since the original film, and it was a welcome return for this episode. But the problem is, there are tons of red-herrings but none of them have much motive (except for the crazy Ethel and Junior duo). This creates a inconsistency, as the audience doesn't know who to suspect, and eventually stops caring.
The killer in A New Beginning is a paramedic named Roy (Dick Wieand). His identity is revealed after Tommy kills him and his Jason mask slides off. It is a cheap reveal, considering all the bodies that have built up to this big moment. Roy's revelation is anticlimactic, and that might be why so many fans detest him as the murderer, wishing it was Jason the whole time (and this being the only reason why Jason was revived in Jason Lives). Roy's motive is also too much of a stretch to be near plausible, and could have used a little more clues dropped throughout the film. His motive is that his long lost son was the fat kid Joey, who was killed by another inmate, and the grief drove Roy insane. While Roy's motive is weak, his methods of murder are strong - anything from an axe to a machete to hedge-clippers to an outhouse to a flare are in his arsenal. But in the end, there is no substance behind his sudden killing spree, making him a failed slasher killer.
The seedy atmosphere of the film works wonders, and A New Beginning marks the last entry in the series that truly has a low-budget, sleazy feel. The following films - Jason Lives and onward - would become reliant on special effects, comedy, and gimmicks (like JASON TAKES MANHATTAN) that change up the mood. After A New Beginning, the realism is replaced with over-the-top self-awareness and a pride for effects-laden plots. The gore and nudity in this film are classic, comparable to the nudity of The Final Chapter. But like The Final Chapter, a flaw with A New Beginning is the lack of suspense leading up to the death scenes. Without suspense, it's a waiting game for who will be offed.
Had Jason been in A New Beginning, I'm sure fans would be singing a different tune about the movie and praising it. It really has everything that Friday aficionados want - lots of gruesome deaths, tons of nudity and sex, a good amount of intentional and unintentional comedy, and a sleaze-filled atmosphere. But because it lacked the iconic Jason, moviegoers felt cheated and wanted to write it off as the first real disappointment in the series. It's a shame because there's a lot of good stuff to be had with A New Beginning. And maybe someday, it will get the respect it deserves in the Friday community.
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