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John’s Horror Corner: Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989), teleporting all over the place in a love letter to Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

December 2, 2017

MY CALL:  Much more mainstream and kind of silly, this sequel is nothing like any of its camp-slaughtering predecessors except for its growing sense of humor.  This is not a “good” movie, but it’s such a fun flick! I love it.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Friday the 13th Part VIIIObviously, Friday the 13th (1980) and Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) for sure.  Sadly, I’d only suggest part III (1982) for the sake of story continuity (it didn’t impress me at all, but many seem to highly favor it), but part IV: The Final Chapter (1984), part V: A New Beginning (1985), part VI: Jason Lives (1986) and part VII: The New Blood (1988) were all quite redeeming.  After part VII, things started to get a bit more silly.  So I’d suggest fans of this turn to later Freddy sequels like A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988).

Wow. Where’s the lake?  Where’s the van unloading girls in short-shorts out into the Pine Barrens?  From its first moments this film feels so distant from Camp Crystal Lake and the seven prior Jason Voorhees movies.  We open to a late-night radio narration, rough city streets and heroine-injecting alleys overlaid by rock music.  It’s as if writer/director by Rob Hedden found his greatest muse in the stylings of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988).  Upon hearing this movie’s title as a kid, the first thing that came to mind was The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984).  But around this time a lot of horror franchises were absconding their secluded cabins in the woods to try their hand at horror in the big city.  It was seldom successful. Carol Anne moved downtown only to be followed in Poltergeist III (1988); evil tribbles hit Los Angeles in Critters 3 (1991); Pinhead went solo in the club scene in Hell on Earth (1992); and Leprechaun 2 (1994) took its diminutive rascal to Las Vegas and then the Hood twice (2000, 2003).

Part 7 SIDEBAR:  Wrapping up the Tommy Jarvis story arc, Tommy wrapped up part VI by defeating the lightning-resurrected Jason in the first of his undead movies, which ended leaving Jason drowned (yet again) and chained at the bottom of Crystal Lake.  Then in part VII, Tina (Jennifer Banko; Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III) telekinetically resurrected and subsequently dispatched Jason, sending him back to his watery grave where we find him now…

In this most contemporary installment, Jason is once again resurrected when some midnight lovers’ boat anchor severs a submerged electrical line near our favorite masked revenant.  I know…very convenient. LOL.  Then, somehow the boat drifts from Camp Crystal Lake all the way to maritime waters (by magic or teleportation or something…because it’s a LAKE!) where Jason boards the aptly named Lazarus on its way to take a group of high school graduates to New York City.

Incontinuity SIDEBAR: A lot of things just don’t add up in this franchise.  In part V we learned that Jason Voorhees’ body was purportedly cremated (to justify that Jason wasn’t behind all the killings) and then in part VI we learned that the locals of Crystal Lake changed its name to Forest Green to help forget the horrors of Crystal Lake’s past.  But neither are acknowledged in the ensuing movies in which Jason’s body is still intact (and clearly not cremated!) and strolling past signs that read Crystal Lake (not Forest Green).  And speaking of lakes, that’s what Crystal Lake is!  A lake!  So how the Hell did a boat in this lake (in the woods) drift into a waterway leading to New York City!?!

Something I love about the last few movies is that Jason (Kane Hodder; part VII: The New Blood, Hatchet, Smothered) keeps decomposing and getting yuckier.  After being left for dead underwater and resurrected twice now, his bloated body is covered in a sludgy slimy muck-like mucous.  And just wait until you see what’s under that mask!  Yup, he gets uglier with every sequel and I adore that.

Franchise Timeline SIDEBAR:  So when does this movie take place???  Part 1 took place in “present day” (1980), parts II-IV all occur in rapid succession 5 years after the events of part 1 (so 1985), then part V jumped forward 5-6 years (so 1990-1991-ish) and (probably more of a writing flaw than anything) part VI took us questionably another 10-ish years yet further into the future (soooo, 2001…?).  Parts VII-VIII provide no time statement, but could just as well occur in the same year as part VI.  I guess it makes sense that too much time hadn’t past or the fish and freshwater bacteria would’ve whittled him down to nothing.

What is it with all the spear guns around Crystal Lake?  Is New Jersey known for its quality lake spear-fishing?  I guess they make for good death scenes…and so do steaming sauna rocks plunged through teen chest cavities and even electric guitars.  And speaking of the rocker’s guitar death, this is the first kill of the franchise that led me to strongly question if Jason simply teleported!  Yes, this is a big point of contention among F13 fans and one savvy Movies, Films and Flix writer offers his arguments refuting such teleportation hypotheses (even producing a diagram for the Kelly Hu death scenario) for several kills in Jason Takes Manhattan.  I smell controversy!

Director Rob Hedden wore his love for Freddy Krueger on his sleeve—or, to be fair, the NOES sequels’ style more than Freddy himself.  Not only does Jason manage to surprise his victims with putatively impossible movement patterns, but our final girl (Rennie) has spectral visions of a young drowning Jason through her cabin’s porthole, pulling her under the water, and strangling her through her bathroom mirror (all before she knew or even suspected any murders were afoot; like premonitions warning her).  Additionally, scenes depict injectable drug use (against one’s will) and death by syringe (like the drug addict, punk girl in Dream Warriors), and a talented fighter being defeated by our boogeyman (as with The Dream Master’s martial artist).  All are Freddy movie tactics and even the very reflection of a young innocent Jason harkens the nursery rhyming children or Freddy’s nun mother reminding us of our killer’s human origins.

The campiness is in steady league with part VII: The New Blood (1988).  We have random nods to Stephen King and The Toxic Avenger (1984) (just because, I guess), what seems to be the unofficial son of the “death curse” guy from early in the franchise, horrible logic by authority figures, Jason breaking every door and window he finds, lots of boobs, and even more poor decisions.  The nonsensical climax is also a fan favorite—when the boxer taunts “take your best shot” and Jason punches his head off!  It’s also joyously funny seeing Jason shoving his way past regular people in the city streets or the subway—the New Yorkers aren’t even shocked until they see what’s behind the mask.

Revealing his extra-uglified face, Jason is defeated in a dramatic finale matched only by the utter lunacy of the resurrected father in part VII.  And like VII, this is overall about as outlandish as the franchise has reached thus far.  This may not be a favorite among die hard Crystal Lake fans, but these last two movies strike me as the most blast-tacularly enjoyable despite their silly flaws.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. December 2, 2017 9:17 am

    I like how Jason’s has gradually become more decomposed looking since his resurrection, it looks awesome! I know its not one of the best in the series, but I really like 13th Jason takes Manhattan. Its a bit silly, but still grisly fun. Guess I have a soft spot for this one because its the first Friday the 13th movie I ever saw, so I’ve always liked it.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      December 2, 2017 9:23 am

      This may have been my first as well. It would have been hitting video rental stores some time in 1990 and I was renting horror since about ’91.
      I love his constant bloating, that yet advances in IX. It adds to the fun factor. This might really be the most fun F13 movie so far.

      • December 2, 2017 9:34 am

        For sure, I remember renting this one, as the cover just jumped off the shelf at me LOL! The undead Jason is the best, he just gets more gory with each film, brilliant! Agreed, certainly one of the most fun films in the series 🙂

  2. Bret permalink
    December 3, 2017 7:10 pm

    Great review!!
    Some things to add… teleporting after chasing Charles McCulloch down NYC alley as he runs into an apartment and within seconds is thrown out of second story…never understood the whole teleport theme.
    Also the timeline thing, one main company that is displayed in Times Square which was Minolta. The company merged with another company in 2003 (changing the name of company). I don’t know if that counts with timeline since we don’t actually hear or see a date/year.
    Regardless this film was a fun one but still low on the choices that I would select if I wanted to watch a F13 film.
    Looking forward to more reviews👏🏻

    • John Leavengood permalink
      December 3, 2017 7:42 pm

      I never noticed anything time distinctive–even in Times Square. I was hoping it would show a movie ad or a DOW stock price on one of the screens.

      I actually really love this one. And IX (which I just finished tonight). They’re super campy and veer deep into left field, but they’re so much fun!

      • Bret permalink
        December 5, 2017 8:18 pm

        Funny side note, the cook/bus boy who is thrown into the mirror is Ken Kirzinger stuntman/actor (who played Jason in Freddy vs. Jason)


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