FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES is a mixed bag. In some ways its the best film in the franchise, while in other ways it begins a decline that would lead to such travesties such as JASON GOES TO HELL and JASON X. Jason Lives takes the series for a spin; the films are no longer low-budget slasher fare that exploit nudity and gore but are instead bigger productions with more special effects. Jason Lives makes more "Hollywood" and less sleaze. Once again its a mixed bag.
There are a number of good things Jason Lives accomplishes. For starters, it has some of the best death scenes in the series, and some really creative ways to kill people. Fans pray for this film in its uncut glory. It has the highest body count in the series (up until Jason X) that includes dismembered limbs, a triple decapitation, heads being twisted off, people being bent in half, and the creative use of a broken liquor bottle for a deadly tracheotomy.
The film moves at a fast pace and doesn't allow one dull moment. From the opening scene where Tommy Jarvis (now played by Thom Matthews) and his unfortunate buddy (Ron Palillo) accidentally resurrect Jason (now played by C.J. Graham) to the end where Jason and Tommy have their final confrontation, it is a roller-coaster ride with some great entertainment value. If you're looking for a wild good time, look no further than Jason Lives.
The opening is the best part of the movie, starting with various shots of an eerie Crystal Lake that bulldoze into the story. From the first shots of the movie, writer/director Tom McLaughlin makes one thing clear - this is not going to be just another Friday the 13th. No, this time McLaughlin has set out to not only out-do the proceeding films, but actually make a good movie. A good movie? Yes, McLaughlin wants to make a good horror movie!
Oh, and kudos to actually setting the film on Friday the 13th - only the original FRIDAY THE 13TH and FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 were actually set on the date.
Jason Lives was released in 1986, and it's tone fits in well with other mid-80's movies. Despite being a completely different genre with a different target audience, there are definite aesthetic similarities between Jason Lives and movies like BACK TO THE FUTURE, FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF, THE BREAKFAST CLUB, FRIGHT NIGHT, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, and STAND BY ME, to name a few. Of all the Friday the 13th movies, Jason Lives is the only one that fits into the "brat pack" era.
However, is this a good thing? While Jason Lives is a well done movie, perhaps its too well done for a Friday the 13th flick. Basically, Jason Lives has such a drastic tone shift from the first five movies that it does not fit inline with the others. Rather, it is a parody of those movies in the same way that SCARY MOVIE is a spoof on SCREAM. People that love the first five Friday movies might find the sudden change a little jarring.
It's not fair to knock Jason Lives for being a parody, because that's what it aims to be. And that is made clear from the very beginning. But the problem is that Jason Lives still does not have the correct balance of a good satire, although it definitely tries. Jason Lives is much too outlandish and blatant, being more a comedy than a horror movie. It has more in common with Scary Movie than it does with a more subtle horror satire like Scream.
There is also a lack of interest with the characters in the film. Tommy Jarvis is way too different from his incarnation in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING, and he seems far too sane. In A New Beginning, the thing that made him interesting was his insanity. Here, Tommy is a kid who is obviously sane, only no one believes him because of his history. This makes him silly, not heroic.
There are problems with the other characters, too, such as Tommy's love interest Megan (Jennifer Cooke), the daughter of Sheriff Garris (David Kagen). Megan falls for Tommy too quickly, creating an unrealistic story arc between the two of them that never has time to breathe. For all Megan knows, Tommy is a lunatic who just escaped from the mental hospital! Hardly a turn-on. And the Garris also tends to be too stubborn: after Tommy's rants and raves that Jason has returned, Garris refuses to look for a few missing camp counselors. He's either the world's worst sheriff, or he's just plain lazy. But the worst are those paintballers, literally being used to fill frames between scenes. While they are kind of funny, they are also completely pointless and don't add to the plot in any way, except for body count!
There are other things in Jason Lives that are bothersome, but they aren't worth nitpicking over. Like Jason's eyes, for instance: after being dead and decomposing for over ten years, how does he still have fully intact, human eyeballs? You would think that to make him look scarier, the filmmakers would have either chosen to not show his eyes or make them even less human than before. Considering he had maggots eating his face for a decade...
The biggest flaw with Jason Lives is the "legend" of Jason. It has only been about ten years since twelve year old Tommy killed Jason in FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER. In Jason Lives, Tommy is about 22, meaning only a decade has passed. How come no one knows about Jason's existence except for the adults? Megan and her friends surely would have been young during The Final Chapter, but they would have remembered a massacre that made their town famous. This is a plot point that completely fails and is illogical. The Crystal Lake Massacre made the town famous, it wouldn't be easily forgotten.
Like all Friday the 13th movies, Jason Lives does not come without its flaws. Die-hard fans of the first five movies might not like the changes made, as Jason Lives features no nudity or drugs, but enhances the comedy and makes fun of the previous films with glee. But then again, by the time the sixth sequel rolled around, Friday the 13th needed something to become fresh again. And Jason Lives does a pretty good job at being a fresh entry in the long-running franchise. Oh, and the music makes this movie! It's the best soundtrack to any Friday the 13th film - check out "He's Back (The Man Behind the Mask)" by Alice Cooper. A great tune!
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