Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review: JASON GOES TO HELL (1993)

JASON GOES TO HELL. More like... what the hell? What could have been a promising new entry in the series (and easily have been an improvement over the last campy entry, JASON TAKES MANHATTAN) actually ends up being the worst of bunch. By far the worst of the bunch. Yes, those who loathed A NEW BEGINNING, Jason Takes Manhattan, and even JASON X will gladly watch them any day of the week over this mess.

For starters, after eight movies, there are certain rules you cannot break... or suddenly start. Never once in the previous films was it even slightly suggested that Jason is some kind of demon with the powers to switch bodies. No, Jason initially started as a kind of super-human in the first four films, and then in the sixth, seventh, and eighth entries he became a zombie. But now he's suddenly a this demonic, unkillable monster with ancient origins (and even a connection to THE EVIL DEAD's book)? Just a horrible, bizarre idea.

Next, Jason suddenly has a sister. And she lives in Crystal Lake. And he has known about her this whole time. So why, after eight movies, is this the first time he's going after her? If he can only truly be killed by a family member, than wouldn't she have been the first on his list of victims a long, long time ago? None of this makes any sense.

Then, adding onto the family continuity problems, you have the Voorhees Mansion. Yes, that's right. A Voorhees Mansion. It's not Camp Crystal Lake, which the filmmakers easily could have used as Jason's hideout (it would have made sense, right?). But instead there is this mansion that has never been mentioned before, where Jason grew up with his mother. Doesn't make sense.

Another huge continuity problem is that if "only a Voorhees can kill a Voorhees", then how the heck did Alice kill Pamela in the 1980 original film? Either Alice is some kind of Voorhees that has never been explained, or this is a huge plot hole. No matter how you want to spin it, it was poorly done in Jason Goes to Hell.

The series that became famous for slasher thrills, over-the-top death scenes, and campy teenage fun had spiraled down to this nonsense by the 90's. I appreciate that the filmmakers tried to do something different with this film, rather than being the same as the others, but it just doesn't work. What is delivered in Jason Goes to Hell is not what fans expect, or more importantly, what they want. If they wanted to see a slasher film with a crazed plot involving supernatural demons, than they would go see A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, or even a CHILD'S PLAY film (both of those series were still pretty popular around 1993, so its obvious that's what the audience wanted).

Finally, the plot: well, Jason (once again played by Kane Hodder) gets blown up at Crystal Lake by the FBI. His mortician gets a strange urge to eat his still-beating heart, and then the mortician is possessed by Jason. The possessed mortician goes back to Crystal Lake and starts killing anyone in sight, trying to kill the last of the Voorhees bloodline - including Diana Kimble (Erin Gray), Jason's sister, and her daughter Jessica (Kari Keegan). Jason's ultimate plan is to be reborn in his old body, as he cannot stay in a possessed body for an extended period of time. Oh, and did I mention that the actual character of Jason barely has any screentime? He's mostly possessing other people, only appearing in the film's teaser and then briefly in the film's end.

Sounds complicated, doesn't it? That's because it is. Its too complicated, especially for a movie that is apart of a series that has become famous for having, well, such basic plots. In the past Jason has stalked campers in PART 2, gotten the 3D treatment in PART III, been killed by Corey Feldman in THE FINAL CHAPTER, been resurrected in JASON LIVES, fought a telekinetic chick in THE NEW BLOOD, and been to the city in Jason Takes Manhattan. But the core of the story has always been the same - Jason killing teens.

The acting is about what you could expect from a Friday the 13th movie, but whereas in the past the actors were playing clueless teens, the characters in Jason Goes to Hell require a little more sophistication - they are parents and adults (there are only three teen campers that maybe have 3 minutes of screen time before they're dispatched in a the film's coolest - although unnecessary - scene). The actors overall create forgettable characters, save Steven Williams (of "21 JUMP STREET") who plays bounty hunter Creighton Duke, and Rusty Schwimmer (THE INFORMANT! and THE PERFECT STORM, among countless others) who plays the hardass diner owner Joey B.

Had Jason Goes to Hell not been a Friday the 13th film, it might have been more successful. The ideas weren't all horrible, and the film has great gore and plenty of creative deaths. But as a Jason movie it doesn't work. Its just too weird. But then again, a lot of early-mid 90's slasher films were exactly that - weird (just look at HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS). But whereas The Curse of Michael Myers stayed true to the series spirit, Jason Goes to Hell becomes its own beast.

In the end, it might be best for fans to just watch the series in order, and skip from Jason Takes Manhattan to Jason X and FREDDY VS. JASON. Only after you finish the franchise, you might want to take a look at Jason Goes to Hell, out of nothing but curiosity. But believe me, as a fan, it's not what you want.

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
New Nightmare (1994)
Hellraiser (1987)

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