I love holiday horror films. To me, they demonstrate the genre's ongoing commitment to ruining even the happiest of occasions with visions of nightmarish terror. There was a time when Halloween was the only holiday associated with evil and darkness and that set it apart as the isolated capsule of fear. But then, one by one, the other, more joyful holidays became targets for horror interpretations. It's gotten to the point that no festive celebration is without its own signature slasher or identifiable bloodbath.
When I began this year-long exploration of holiday horror films, I knew full well that I would stumble upon the 8th month. August is completely devoid of anything resembling a holiday so I racked my brain for ways to creatively skirt this conundrum. Then I glanced at a calendar and realized, much to my bloody delight, that the 13th day of August fell serendipitously on a Friday. I now had an excuse to revisit the franchise that made me the horror geek I am today. But now the question becomes, which entry do I chose?
When I was but a wee horrorphile with the discerning tastes of a king sewer rat, I found all of the Friday the 13th sequels enjoyable if not legitimately good. That is, I found them all enjoyable except for the seventh entry. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood was the first of the "gimmick" Jason films. As if a guy who kills campers by the truckload wasn't enough of a hook, New Blood brings a telekinetic female foible into the mix; earning this film the dubious moniker of Jason vs. Carrie. From thence, Jason ends up in Manhattan, tries to worm his way back to life as a demonic cephalopod, and finally gets blasted into outer space; the latter being the most universally cliched of horror franchise devices. Of all those "concept" Jason films, I enjoyed New Blood the absolute least. So in honor of this not-so-festive occasion, I have decided to give this black sheep of the F13th family (at least one of the black sheep) a second glance.
The story is barely more involved than just spouting the now trite gimmick. It is Jason taking on a girl with telekinetic powers. The girl is being treated at a cabin by her oddly hands-on psychiatrist under the not-so-watchful eye of her mother. The cabin just so happens to be next to, you guessed it, a cabin full of juicy teenagers ripe for the slaughter. This plot could not be more slapped together if it were written through a careful process of throwing darts at a wall full of hackneyed story elements. And I know the standard for acting in a F13th sequel is already low, but the kids in this film suppress the bar to near subterranean depths of bad. I didn't believe they were scared, I didn't believe they were teens, and mostly I just didn't buy them as human beings originating from planet Earth.
The seminal milestone of The New Blood is the introduction of Kane Hodder as the psychotic, backwoods party pooper. I know a lot of horror geeks swear by Hodder and hale him as the greatest to wear the mask, but I just don't see anything special about the way he plays Jason versus the others. Sure, he's adequate at busting through walls and swinging a machete, but I find his performance underwhelming and basic. Not only that, but as given his being a former stunt man, I find it suspiciously incongruent that most of his stunts as Jason are middling to downright boring. Yet, from the commentaries I've listened to and the stories I have heard, Kane talks a big game about the revolutionary way he played the butcher of Crystal Lake and the multiple near injuries he suffered executing these dainty stunts.
The gimmick behind this film sounds really interesting, if horribly derivative, but the execution leaves much to be desired. We get the obligatory backstory about how the girl suffered a nasty bit of trauma on the water so we could once again be reminded of Jason's long-standing history of hydrophobia. But the thing that really drove me nuts is the piss poor logic of the inciting exposition and the resultant loony protagonist. She is in therapy because her guilt over having accidentally killed her father has caused her telekinesis. That's great and all, except that she couldn't have killed her father in the first place if she didn't already have the freaking telekinesis. It may have been a forgivable logical leap to everyone else but it drove me bazonkers. And for all the setup to the showdown, it's pretty mediocre when you actually witness it. The one cool shot of Jason's mask straps tearing into his flesh is immediately defused by the incredibly awful design of the underlying zombie face. I'm all for the director's vision of a battle-damaged Jason, but not when he bears a laughably rubbery face and flaps his jaw around like Jim Carrey in The Mask.
So having failed at nearly every conceivable criterion, even for a F13th sequel, at least the kills are good right? If Jason has set one major precedent during his woodland killing spree, it's a propensity for delightfully gory carnage. If ever a sequel begins to flounder, one always has the lifeline of knowing they can't be but five minutes away from a palette-cleansing murder. Unfortunately, in their infinite lack of anything close to wisdom, the MPAA chose New Blood to be the martyr of the franchise. Beyond one sighting of exposed breasts, I have no idea how this thing even got an R rating. All of the kills are offscreen and finish abruptly before we can even tell who's dead and how. I've watched the removed footage and they are delectably gruesome. But apparently no one at the MPAA had ever seen a Jason flick before because none of the omitted kills match the horrific tenacity of the violence in, say, The Final Chapter.
So what this boils down to is horrible acting, a ridiculous story, a wishy-washy gimmick, and absolutely no bloody restitution for our having to endure 90 minutes of all that. Oh, and don't forget about the ending that sees Jason defeated by a father's love...I wish I could sigh harder so the internet could hear it. Well, I have watched it with a fresh, hopefully more skilled, set of eyes and' still whole-heartedly dislike this film.