We were all told that the fourth film in the Friday The 13th series was going to be the last. From the cast and crew to the studio execs it was official: Jason was dead and gone. Time to move on. But it took less than a year for a new chapter to be tacked on to that final one. The fifth entry into the franchise would contain one of the more limited budgets. But it wasn’t the budget cuts that has made this one of the most highly criticized films of the series. It’s the total disregard for the tradition of the films and the poor choices that were made in making this film. The movie was filmed with little fanfare. This was in the days before the internet made such things all but impossible. It was made under the name Repetition to hide the true nature of the shoot from anyone who caught wind of the production. Perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to try and diminish the film’s buzz. It brought in a very disappointing $21 million at the box office. That might have had a better chance of truly killing Jason than anything else.
Director Danny Steinmann’s only real credit was a porno film. You can’t mistake the tendencies in this outing. It certainly contains a greater amount of nudity than any of the other films. The sexual scenes are by far more graphic. It was also the last we’d hear of the troubled director. Meanwhile Jason was relegated to an almost non-existent part in the film. The kills all are very quick and happen mostly outside of camera range. The obvious excuse is that the MPAA had reined down hard on these films, and to an extent that was true. The real problem here was a lack of both imagination and money. Tom Savini was again gone from the scene, and his replacement couldn’t carry Savini’s latex jockstrap. The series went from using barrels of stage blood to a couple of toothpaste tubes’ worth. Finally the killer isn’t even necessarily Jason at all. It’s almost impossible to criticize this kind of a film for being ridiculous, but the series reached a low point with this outing.
As the film begins we find a group of red neck Hee Haw type boys digging up Jason’s grave. Hiding in the shadows is Tommy (Feldman) who took Jason out in the previous film. Looks like whoever buried Jason made the mistake of including his machete and trademark hockey mask in the grave with him. Jason makes quick work of the good ol’ boys while Tommy watches. The next thing you know it’s years later and Tommy is waking up in the back of a van. Was this a memory or a bad dream? We never really know for sure. Tommy (Shepherd) is now a teen and is still suffering the effects of his encounter with the masked killer. He’s been in a loony institution for the years since. Now he’s being transferred to a half-way camp out in the woods. I’m sure that everyone in the audience already saw where this one was going. There Tommy befriends young “Reckless” Reggie (Ross), the son of the camp’s caretaker. The neighbors aren’t too happy when they learn that these mental patients will be staying at the nearby camp. The most vocal is Ethyl Hubbard (Locatell) and her inbred son Junior (Sloan). The two are like something out of Deliverance. The fear is soon proven true when one of the residents takes an axe and kills another. Vinnie (Barrile) is taken away kicking and screaming from the camp. Soon there are more and more folks turning up dead around the half-way camp.
But this is more of a psychological thriller than a typical slasher, or at least that’s what it attempts to be. Is the killing actually being done by Jason? Is it Vinnie? Maybe it’s even Tommy, who appears to be somewhat possessed by the fabled killer. Or is it someone else entirely? It’s not that hard to figure it out. You might want to pay close attention to the hockey mask worn by the killer.
The film does have one of the largest and most eclectic cast of characters in the series. We’re not just talking horny teens here. Don’t get me wrong. There’s more than a fair share of jiggling and making out going on here. But there were more kinds of fodder for the killing machine. We had some rednecks, cops, and locals to throw into the mix. Still, the film never was able to hit its stride and deserves all of the heat it’s taken over the years for being one of the weakest of the films to come out.
Friday The 13th: A New Beginning is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This is very much an average presentation. It’s nice to have the extras, but I think two discs and a higher bit rate were needed here. I suspect they will soon be out on Blu-ray in high definition. Then I can do a better job of evaluating the actual black levels and color. Here it’s all terribly average, and colors are somewhat washed out. One of the kills happens entirely in shadow, but artifact issues tend to dampen the nice effect.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track isn’t at all expansive. No complaint at all. The original was mono, and I’m against overly changing the mix on these earlier films. The score was about the only place that the field expands any. Dialog is clear, and it all happens pretty much front and center.
There is an Audio Commentary with director Danny Steinmann, actor John Shepherd, actor Shavar Ross (who was great as Reggie), and Victor Miller on the phone. They talk about how the film was not long planned and the attempt to take the franchise in a new direction. Shavar Ross is entertaining, but otherwise this is a pretty odd conversation.
The cardboard slip case has a cool 3D image.
Lost Tales From Camp Blood Part 5: (7:10) This is a continuation of the odd vignettes that started with the first film’s DVD release. It’s fan made stuff, and I haven’t liked any of it yet.
The Crystal Lake Massacre Revisited Part II: (10:11) This is a continuation of the mocumentary that acted like a Geraldo style expose of the events of the first four films. Here it focuses on the events of this film and more on Tommy than Jason.
New Beginnings – The Making Of Friday The 13th: A New Beginning: (11:04) Cast and crew talk about resurrecting Jason, or at least the films. There’s a lot here on casting and problems with the MPAA on the films ultimate rating. There’s a clever Tom Savini cameo here that is the best 10 seconds of the piece.
Upon revisiting this film, I tried hard to like it even a little bit. Unfortunately it lost everything I liked about the series. The short and unimaginative kills. Heck, even the aftermath shots look about as real as a cartoon version would. There is an interesting bit of trivia here. Playing the part of Tina is an actress named Debi Sue Voorhees. In the commentary we learn she got the part, not because of her name, but the size of certain parts of her anatomy. I bet she loved hearing that. Sorry Debi Sue. Ultimately there’s nothing remotely scary about this film. Of course, that might just be me. “Where I come from you learn to be scared of nothin’.”