“Just because our parents keep telling us that Jason was only a legend, doesn’t mean it wasn’t true. What if he did come back here looking for the camp counselor that caused him to drown as a boy, searching for the one that decapitated his vengeful mother? And you do know what today’s date is, don’t you?…Happy Friday the 13th.”
Legend or not, Jason’s back in the 6th Friday the 13th film, and he’s out for more blood than ever before. Filmed under the fake name of Aladdin’s Sane, in an overt tribute to director Tom McLoughlin’s favorite musician, David Bowie, the new film was a return to the franchise’s more established roots. Gone are the psychological thriller aspects of the previous disaster. Jason is back, and there’s no mistaking him for anyone else again. As the titles implies: Jason Lives.
The film begins with Tommy, once again outside of the mental institution where he still resides, this time played by a third actor, Thom Mathews. He’s joined by Horshak himself, Ron Palillo as Allen. Together they’ve sneaked into the cemetery where Jason is buried. They intend to dig him up and burn the remains. Tommy gets a little carried away and stabs at the worm infested corpse with an iron pole from the yard’s gate. Lightening strikes the pole and envelops Jason in his grave. And just like Frankenstein’s monster, Jason is back in business, enjoying some playtime with Horshak.
The town on Crystal Lake has had enough of the infamy Jason has brought them. They’ve now changed the name of the town to Forest Green and decided that Jason was a myth and that none of the massacres ever happened at all. Tommy escapes Jason’s resurrection and attempts to alert the cops that he’s alive and killing once again. Sheriff Garris (Kagen) recognizes Tommy and dismisses him as merely crazy, but when the bodies mount up he begins to suspect that Tommy is behind the murders in order to convince the world that Jason’s alive. Tommy manages to escape with the help of the sheriff’s teen daughter, Megan (Cooke). Needless to say, with Jason on the loose there’s going to be some bloodshed. This time Jason fodder includes weekend warrior paintball office execs, a cookie cemetery caretaker, a yuppie couple out on a midnight champagne picnic, and the usual assortment of horny teens. There’s a new group at Camp Blood, now renamed. This time the teen counselors have some rug rats to protect.
This is one of the better of the films from the series. There’s a good cast of victims, and the idea of having someone trying to alert the people is an added bonus. The kills still don’t measure up to the stuff Savini had done, but they are more imaginative than most. At least we’re back to the gallons of movie blood, and Jason is really Jason again. This film also does the best job of adding more humor to the franchise without ever making Jason look too silly or less menacing. There’s a James Bond spoof intro that pretty much lets you know you’re in for a more amusing ride than in previous slasher films. The humor never gets out of control, and you’ll find this the most refreshing Jason film in quite a few outings. Tom McLoughlin appears to be the first director in the sequels who seems to get it. The result is a film with higher production values than we’ve seen since the first film and a steady pace that appears to move just right. He doesn’t rely so much on the jiggling females or make-out scenes. He allows the natural flow of the horror film to play out in a way most slasher films have ignored before and since. It’s a shame he did not continue with the series.
Friday The 13th: Jason Lives is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 The production values were a little higher in this sequel, and it shows in an improved video image. This is easily the best looking of the sequel DVD’s. It’s still a very dark film, so colors aren’t going to necessarily pop, but they manage to break through the shadowy nature of the presentation. There are some compression artifacts, a product of the release. Black levels look promising, however, and I’m eager to catch this one in Blu-ray.
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 McLoughlin and others. This is an animated commentary and is the best of the DVD series to date. He talks a lot about the humor, constantly reminding us that Paramount was cool with the idea so long as the humor wasn’t at Jason’s expense. It’s easy to see why his take was so fresh and innovative.
The cardboard slip case has a cool 3D image.
Lost Tales From Camp Blood Part 6: (7:16) 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 III: (9:35) This is a continuation of the mockumentary that acted like a Geraldo style expose of the events of the first five films. Here it focuses on the events of this film and even more on Tommy than Jason. They play around with the town name change.
Jason Lives – The Making Of Friday The 13th: Jason Lives: (12:54) This is a typical behind the scenes feature with a lot of deserved talk about the director.
The nice thing about these films is that everyone knows who Jason is. That means you’re pretty much up to speed. You can really start anywhere with these films and let the lesser entries go without wasting your time. While this film is the third leg of a kind of trilogy, it still stands very much alone. You can start right here if you want. I can’t think of a better place. The director sat through a marathon of the first five films before starting work on this one. Why not start a Jason marathon at your house? “Some folks have a very strange idea of entertainment.”