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John’s Horror Corner: Jason X (2001), a wonderfully bad movie featuring a sexy fembot versus Mecha-Voorhees in space.

January 12, 2018

MY CALL:  This is bad in all the ways I like. Despite ignoring almost everything that ever mattered in the franchise, this was gory, had good pacing and energy, funny and clever death scenes, and was self-aware in its own raunchiness and style  MORE MOVIES LIKE Jason XLovers of this film may not appreciate the early Friday the 13th (1980) and Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981), and I’d only suggest part III (1982) for the sake of story completists.  Then 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—with part VII starting a campier off-the-wall trend.  So part VII and part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) get a bit more silly, and Jason Goes to Hell (1993) is outright bonkerstastic entertaining mayhem—like Jason X.

For some detailed podcast discussions about this quality film check out episodes by the How Did That Get Made? and The Horror Movie Podcast.

This movie is the now 17-year old 9th sequel of a true slasher classic… yet a classic it most certainly is not. But a guilty pleasure it was in 2001, it is in 2018, and it will be in 2118—such a joyously bad movie!  So, this classlessic begins on the Crystal Lake Research Facility… in space!  Yep, you heard that right.  Coming from a special effects background (e.g., Gremlins, Enemy Mine), director James Isaac (Skinwalkers, Pig Hunt) follows in the late ‘90s path of Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), Leprechaun 4: In Space (1996) and Event Horizon (1997), and decides to take the Friday the 13th franchise to outer space.

Not only that, but we find Jason—who used to become ever more grossly decomposed with each sequel—perhaps in better shape (putrefaction-wise) than he’s been in a while.  And not just that, but we find him ALIVE—and with no electrical Frankensteinian resurrection to be witnessed.  So, for those of you keeping track at home…

Jason’s death and resurrection SIDEBAR:  Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder; parts VII-X, Hatchet) has been electrically (or telekinetically) resurrected and subsequently drowned (in Crystal Lake or a NYC sewer) in parts VI-VIII.  Then Jason Goes to Hell (1993) broke any sense of rules and decided that Jason was a deadite that possessed new bodies either by heart-ingestion or wriggly mouth-to-mouth demon parasite transmission.  In that movie, he was “permanently” killed by his sister’s daughter—yup, Jason apparently had a niece.  No clue how he ended up on a space ship.

So, yeah.  Jason’s back and alive and chained up on some sort of space station named after the very lake where he killed about 200 people (if we include his Manhattan graduation trip).

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), 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…?).  Part VII provides 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.  So, parts VI-VII could have taken place in the same summer, and VIII is about 10 months later (into the next year; so, 2002???) since our victims are on a high school trip around graduation.  No clue on part IX, but if it was also in about 2002, then the sequels have caught up within a year of present day!  And now we’re going to the future. So, who even cares anymore?  Oh, right, skip to the year 2455!

Jason has greater martial prowess than we’ve ever seen before… it must be the weaker gravity.  He’s trapped in cryofreeze in a machete-swinging attack pose (pretty sure freezing doesn’t work out like that).  Then a group of “space students” open up his chamber and decide to thaw the huge masked mongoloid holding a machete in an attack pose!!!!!

Incontinuity SIDEBAR: My past comments (see the sidebars in my reviews of part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan and Jason Goes to Hell) about franchise inconsistency get Hulk-smashed by the nonsense transpiring before my eyes as I watch with a sort of child-like wonderous glee.  Ever since part VII: The New Blood (1988), things have grown ever more exponentially bonkers and I couldn’t be happier.  Continuity out the window—from deadite destroyed by prophecy in IX to whatever he is now, Jason X and Freddy vs Jason violate the rules and timeline that perhaps once mattered to filmmakers and fans.  So, I guess the timeline really ends with IX, right?  You know, after his niece killed him when he vaginally (yes, I meant to type that word) possessed the dead body of his sister (and yes, they just decided he now had a sister).

Rather than playing off themes from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), NOES 4: The Dream Master (1988), NOES 5: The Dream Child (1989), The Hidden (1987) and  The Evil Dead (1981, 1987) movies, this sequel decides to pull from an appropriately different genre.  The sci-fi honoraria run rich as we have a David Cronenberg (Nightbreed, The Fly, Videodrome) cameo, Aliens-esque Colonial Marines and sinister financial motives, they’re from Earth 2 and en route to the Solaris space station (after the 1972 film), we have Trekkie jokes about “beaming” to safety, the Bishop-ish Kay-Em 14 (Lisa Ryder; Andromeda, Forever Knight) wants to be more human (like Star Trek’s Data) and has nipples and makes out with her inventor (not at all like Star Trek’s Data), and there’s even a gory little callback to Alien: Resurrection (1997; airlock scene).

The action, death scenes, special effects, make-up and gore are all adequate and entertaining.  We have a juicy slimy gooey behind-the-mask scene during another messy Jason autopsy (as in Jason Goes to Hell), the sleeping bag kill (during the Crystal Lake simulation) harkened all that was good about the sleeping bag death in part VII: The New Blood (1988) and feistily played on tropes about as well as The Final Girls (2015; based on this franchise).

Overall this movie looks cheap… as in way cheaper than any of its predecessors.  Sure, we have some wonderful “Jason pose” shots.  But everything else is direct-to-DVD quality; like porn quality down to the ultra-cheap sets (in some cases).  And don’t even get me started on the CGI spaceships. Geez.  But with “cheap” can come “funny.”  In a somewhat pinnacle moment of “Bad Movie Glory,” the ship’s repair nanites create an upgraded Jason that smacks of The Guyver (1991)—basically he’s a demonic zombie cyborg.

The spaceships are called the Tiamat and the Grendel (do we have some Dungeons and Dragons-mythology geeks among the writers?) and this sequel was hypersexualized (because… Dungeons and Dragons fans).  There’s an S&M mid-term sex party, a scantily clad autopsy, a sexy resurrection in skimpy chainmail, sex scenes (Lexa Doig; V, The 4400, Continuum, Andromeda), and a love bot with magnetic robot nipples.  Kay-Em reminds me way too much of Alice (Resident Evil; which actually came out after Jason X), all dolled up in a saucy tight black leather outfit, doing cartwheel kung fu, and playing superhuman gunfighter against Jason.  But the real highlights are the liquid nitrogen head-crush kill, the crawling torso, and Jason’s second punch decapitation (since Jason Takes Manhattan).

In an elegantly graceful swan dive into a lake of clichés, Jason is ejected from the spaceship only to burn up re-entering the atmosphere of a presumably Crystal Lake-like camp. And while this was the last we’d see of Jason until the 2009 reboot, I thought it was a pretty fun ride worthy of my time (again).

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