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FRIDAY THE 13th PART XIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989)
“You don’t understand! There’s
a maniac trying to kill us!”
Director: Rob Hedden
Starring: Jensen Daggett, Scott Reeves, Kane Hodder, Peter Mark Richman, Barbara Bingham, V.C. Dupree, Sharlene Martin, Warren Munson, Martin Cummins, Kelly Hu, Saffron Henderson, Todd Shaffer, Tiffany Paulsen
Screenplay: Rob Hedden
Synopsis: After dropping anchor from his boat on Crystal Lake, Jim Miller (Todd Shaffer) tells his girlfriend, Suzi Donaldson (Tiffany Paulsen), about the legend of Jason Voorhees. The anchor drags some distance across the lakebed, finally making contact with and damaging an electrical cable. A blast of electricity is released – and engulfs the decomposing corpse that lies beneath the shattered remains of a wooden dock.... Having heard a noise and sent Jim to investigate, Suzi is terrified by the sudden appearance of a hockey-masked, knife-wielding figure....but it is only Jim playing a prank. The two go to bed, unaware that the hockey mask has been claimed.... As Jim and Suzi begin to make love, Suzi screams at the sight of Jason Voorhees, and the spear-gun in his hand. She scrambles out of a window as Jason impales Jim with the spear, before hunting Suzi down in a storage locker.... As the graduating class of Lakeview High prepares for a celebratory cruise to New York, principal Charles McCulloch (Peter Mark Richman) and teacher Colleen Van Deusen (Barbara Bingham) clash over the presence of Rennie Wickham (Jensen Daggett), McCulloch’s niece and ward and Van Deusen’s star pupil, who has suffered from a terror of the water since a traumatic incident during her childhood. On the bridge, Admiral Robertson (Warren Munson) hands the cruise ship’s departure over to his son, Sean (Scott Reeves), a member of the graduating class, but Sean earns his father’s ire by blundering during the operation. Rushing from the bridge, Sean encounters a deckhand who tells him mysteriously that the voyage is doomed. Bitterly, Sean agrees. The ship pulls out, and the students begin their celebrations. Sean’s mood improves abruptly when he discovers Rennie on board. Elsewhere, aspiring rock musician J.J. (Saffron Henderson) warns film-school hopeful Warren (Martin Cummins) that he is wasting his time mooning after Tamara (Sharlene Martin). J.J. then climbs down into the ship’s boiler room to make use of its acoustics for her guitar practice, only to discover that she is not alone down there.... As Rennie changes clothes in her cabin, she is startled by the sound of a child’s voice – which is followed by a vision of a drowning child.... Tamara and her slavish imitator, Eva (Kelly Hu), watch through a window as Julius (V.C. Dupree) boxes with a sparring partner. Tamara pressures the reluctant Eva into using cocaine, during which they are first surprised by Rennie, then almost caught by McCulloch. Assuming that Rennie reported them, Tamara plots revenge. The second boxer is recovering from his bout with Julius when Jason enters the steam room and drives a red-hot sauna rock deep into his body.... On deck, as Colleen encourages Rennie to confide in her, Tamara “stumbles” and knocks the girl overboard. As the terrified Rennie screams and thrashes in the water, she is suddenly pulled under – and looks down to find her ankle in the grip of a disfigured young boy....
Comments: For one reason or another, there is quite a lot of boxing in Jason Takes Manhattan; and it is this that inspires me to observe that ever since Jason Voorhees was resurrected – or rather, not – in A New Beginning, the Friday The 13th franchise had been staggering around like an over-the-hill prize-fighter, punch-drunk enough to climb into the ring just one more time, and with the knock-out blow both inevitable and imminent. After the back-to-basics storyline of The New Blood, it was obvious even to those of the most limited intelligence – and [*cough*] to those involved in making the F13 films – that Crystal Lake had at long last exhausted its slender dramatic possibilities. The idea of sending small-town boy Jason Voorhees on his first trip to The Big Smoke must have been attractive in theory, and it might have worked in practice, had not the stinginess of the Paramount executives intervened to leave us with one of the most notoriously misnamed films of our time; a film in which, far from taking Manhattan, Jason never gets to do anything more than stare at a few billboards, take a ride on the subway, and gruesomely slaughter a couple of muggers. You know – just your average day-trip. The rest of the film is spent in the unattractive confines of a vessel that can’t quite make up its mind whether it’s a cruise ship or a freighter, and whose passage from Crystal Lake to New York is as puzzling of purpose as it is geographically ludicrous. The result is a film that resembles nothing so much as – to return just once more to my boxing analogy – what was left after Apollo Creed’s hubris met Ivan Drago’s fist.
Broadly speaking, Jason Takes Manhattan is probably the most despised entry in the franchise. Certainly, my complaints about earlier entries have frequently been met with cries of, Just wait ‘til you get to the eighth one! Yet as I now look around the net for other opinions, I find a surprising number of people prepared to defend it....and even more surprisingly (not least to me), I find myself prepared to join them – up to a point. For everything this film gets wrong (and while I can sum up its virtues in a sentence or two, it will probably take me another fifteen pages to tell you what’s wrong with it), there are a couple of points in its favour. For one thing, it has (I think) the second highest onscreen body count in the franchise, at least to this point, and doles out its death scenes at a rate of about one every five minutes, avoiding the excruciating Final Chapter tactic of making us sit through about half an hour of – AAACCKK!! – character scenes before it gets down to business. (Indeed, a number of the killings are entirely pointless except as a way of breaking up the character scenes.) While not everything in Jason Take Manhattan that is laughable is intentionally so, there are a couple of deliberately humorous moments that work quite well, so if you like Jason Lives, you might well like this; and conversely, the film again steers clear of the blunder of a couple of earlier entries, by not inflicting upon us an Odious Comic Relief. Jason Takes Manhattan is also notable as the only F13 film to date to feature a black character who isn’t just – “The Black Character” – but a distinct individual with a fairly major role; compare him with Token Black Couple in Jason Lives and you’ll see what I mean. Of course by the end of the film Julius is just as dead as all of his white brethren, but that’s Equal Opportunity for you.
And now for what’s wrong with Jason Takes Manhattan. Lord – where to start...?
Well, with the obvious. In tone and execution, the previous entry that this film most resembles is Jason Lives, and nowhere so much as in the way it recapitulates that film’s crowning sin: with the exception of one oddly out-of-place sequence, Jason Takes Manhattan is almost inoffensive. Despite the body count, the film is practically bloodless, and most of the killings are out of shot or from Jason’s POV. As far as nudity goes, there is one brief boob shot in the opening sequence....and the girl who shows all is, of all the girls, the one with the least to show. Dispiriting as it is to think of, somewhere along the line the Friday The 13th films forgot that they were supposed to be exploitation.
BUT – we open on Crystal Lake – we do open on Crystal Lake – on a boat, with two half-nekkid teens, Jim and Suzi. Prior to hopping into the sack, Jim drops an anchor – not a very good anchor – one that hops and skips along the lake bed until it hooks itself on an electrical cable, upon which it tugs and tugs. The cable is damaged, a blast of electrical power is released....and who should be lying nearby, under the shattered remains of a wooden dock (oooh, continuity!), but good old Jason? (No sign of Tina Shepard’s undead daddy, though.) Some poorly animated electricity runs through the chains still wrapped around Jason, and with a bit of thrashing and twitching he is resurrected. Just like that.
(Perfunctory as this is, I suppose the opening of Jason Lives goes some way to legitimising it.)
I should make mention of the film’s music. As was the case with The New Blood, Jason Takes Manhattan was scored by Fred Mollin; Harry Manfredini’s classic chh-chh-chh-chh-hah-hah-hah-hah only appears as a kind of Special Guest Star (“Jay-hay-hay-hay-sohn-ohn-ohn-ohn....”). When Jason escapes his watery confinement, the second quartet of notes ceases to be hah-hah-hah-hah and becomes, unmistakably – ha-ha-ha-ha!
We’ve already had the traditional “Legend Of Jason Voorhees” speech (although given that there are seven surviving witnesses to Jason’s existence – eight if you count the one in the nut-hatch – nine if you accept that Paul didn’t die at the end of F13:2 – I’m not sure how he can still be considered a “legend”), and remain steeped is tradition as Suzi sends Jim to investigate A Strange Noise, following up with a Jim-Is-That-You? wander around. A figure in a hockey-mask leaps suddenly into shot and plunges a knife into Suzi – but the knife is one of those retractable trick things, and it’s Jim behind the mask. Ha-ha-ha-ha, indeed. We then get proof, if we needed it, that these things are written and directed by men – and not particularly mature men, at that: within moments, Suzi has forgiven Jim and is back in the sack with him. If a guy pulled a stunt like that on me, he’d have to spit out his own testicles before he’d be physically capable of uttering the apology I’d so richly deserve. Anyway, while Jim and Suzi are writing their own death sentences, Jason climbs on board, and we observe sadly that the film’s continuity begins and ends with his presence on the lake bed. In place of the thoughtfully and gruesomely rendered Jason of The New Blood, with his rotting flesh and bare bones poking through his tattered clothes, this Jason is back in one piece with a new set of duds. Pity. (But I do like the shot of his hand as he climbs on board, with a pink and healthy thumb and finger showing through the make-up.) Jason appropriates Jim’s hockey-mask (which, we observe, comes with a ready-made axe-wound in it!!) and Jim’s spear-gun, and for a moment it looks like we’re going to re-work the coital shish-kebab of F13:2, as Suzi sees Jason over Jim’s shoulder. Instead, a strangely casual Jason fires a spear that misses and allows Suzi to scramble out of a window. An equally casual Jim just sits there obligingly as Jason advances on him, and ends up with the spear-gun – not the spear – rammed into his body. We get our first example of censorial interference here, as we see little but Jim staring in horror at his own bloodied hands before wiping the blood over the window nearest to him and carking it. Originally, the plan had been for the spear-gun to re-exit Jim’s body carrying his guts with it....but not in this universe. (Actually, there is a shot from this sequence left in, but it is so poorly done that it wasn’t until my third viewing that I realised that the skinny pink things dangling from the spear-gun were supposed to be Jim’s intestines.) Jason then goes hunting for Suzi, who instead of sensibly making a swim and a run for it (they’re all of fifteen feet from shore), has trapped herself in a storage compartment, where she too just sits and whimpers as Jason takes his sweet time about killing her.
Daylight, and we meet the setting for the bulk of Jason Takes A Sea Voyage For His Health, a ship called – get this – the Lazarus. We are introduced to Rennie, our water-trauma Final Girl; to Colleen Van Deusen, her favourite teacher; and to Charles McCulloch, Rennie’s uncle and (I think, although this is never clarified) the Lakeview High principal, who is exactly the kind of tin-pot Hitler familiar to anyone who ever attended high school, and who divides his time between bellowing “I’M IN CHARGE HERE!” and doing his best to scar his students for life with a stream of viciously disparaging remarks. As McCulloch snots out Colleen for encouraging Rennie to join the cruise and/or being a few minutes late, Jim’s boat (bloody windows and all....although not the right windows) drifts into shot. This moment is significant for two reasons. Firstly, the arrival of the boat is observed by someone billed only as “Deckhand”, but who is no-one less than Crazy Ralph Junior, and who, yes, spends his admittedly brief screen time telling everyone that they’re DOOMED!!!! Secondly – the inference here is that the substantial shipping port at which these scenes take place is contiguous with Crystal Lake! I’ve pointed out before the ever-increasing dimensions of this mysterious body of water, but here we discover that it joins up with the open ocean!!
It’s a lake, Jim, but not as we know it.
We then get into the mystifying business of the trip to New York. (I might as well say here that our school system is very different from the American one, and the film’s various references to “senior predictions” and “handing in your final project” [on a graduation cruise!?] and so on meant nothing to me, so I’m just going to ignore them.) As the Lazarus pulls out of port (a sequence highly by some lovely shots of what is very distinctly the coastline of Vancouver), McCulloch voices his concerns for Rennie to her, and she responds by confessing that she doesn’t even remember the incident that traumatised her in the first place. Meanwhile, Sean, who is (at least in context) hunky and angsty enough to qualify as Final Boy, is up on the bridge. We learn that the Lazarus is under the command of one “Admiral Robertson”, Sean’s old man, who is one of those complete gits whose only ambition in life is to turn his kid into a mindless replica of himself. In pursuit of this aim he hands command of the vessel over to his less-than-thrilled – and less-than-qualified – son. Sean panics and stuffs up, his old man shows his disgust and disappointment, and Sean runs away. As he heads for the deck, we get a cut-away showing Jason pulling himself on board via a rope hanging down the side of the ship. Why? Who the hell knows? Even by Jason’s usual kill-anyone-who-crosses-my-path standards, his behaviour in this film is very nearly inexplicable.
Having survived an encounter with Crazy Ralph Jr (CRJ: “This voyage is doomed!” Sean: “Tell me about it.”), Sean runs into Rennie and, awwww, don’t they make a cute couple? Then it’s the always painful Meet-The-Meat sequence: J.J., a Joan Jett (geddit?) wannabe; Wayne, the aspiring film-school geek (and this must, surely, be one of the very earliest deployments of the kid who feels compelled to film everything?); Tamara, the Bitch; Eva, her copyist; Julius, the boxer; and Miles, who, um, is there too. (There are, by the way, noticeably more teens on board when the ship sets out than we ever see once Jason gets going.) J.J. is the first to depart, venturing down into the bowels of the ship to practice her guitar licks, and ending up by taking a few guitar licks herself instead.
And then it’s time for Rennie and her mystifying childhood trauma. Down in her cabin, Rennie is making use of her graduation present from Colleen, a pen that “Stephen King supposedly used in high school”. (“I don’t know what to say,” Rennie utters upon receipt of this embarrassing gift, presumably being too polite to yell, “Oh, horseshit!”) Unbeknownst to her, Jason is peering through her porthole (wow, doesn’t that sound dirty?) – but what Rennie sees is a small, submerged boy, who pounds on her window and cries for help. Curiously, this vision causes Rennie’s dog, Toby (who I forgot to mention earlier), to bolt in a panic, implying that Rennie’s vision is real. Uh, not an hallucination, I guess I mean. Rennie’s search for Toby leads her into the depths of the ship, where she sees Tamara and Eva using cocaine. Rennie has barely departed when McCulloch also stumbles over the guilty pair, who have just concealed most of the evidence. Assuming that Rennie dobbed them in to her uncle, Tamara plots revenge.
As Rennie is wandering around the ship, so is Jason; and we get a Distinctly Ominous shot of a dart board and its darts – which turns out to be the last we’ll see of them: more censorial intervention disposed of a death-by-dart. Instead, the unbilled guy we’ve seen sparring with Julius in the gym is lying in the sauna (assuming it’s him – there’s a towel over his face) when Jason wanders in, picks up a hot lava rock, and rams it into his gut. Or he does initially. An overhead shot shows the thing lodged in the poor SOB’s chest cavity. Eh?
On deck, Colleen is trying to induce Rennie to confide in her when Tamara takes her revenge, “accidentally” knocking Rennie overboard; an act greatly facilitated by the Lazarus’s almost complete lack of railings. Fortunately, the ship isn’t actually moving – or so we judge by the ease with which Rennie stays near it. Colleen throws her a life preserver, but as Rennie moves towards it she is pulled under the water by her soggy young friend, who has her by one ankle. She manages to kick herself free just as Sean jumps in to help her out of the water. On deck, McCulloch manages to blame this incident on Colleen and Sean, and is leading Rennie away in a huff when he is brought by short by Crazy Ralph Jr, who remarks conversationally, “He’s come back and you’re all going to die.” (As it turns out, “He’s come back and we’re all going to die” would have been more correct.) Rennie does a bolt for the bathroom, where after some blood-from-the-tap shtick, she has yet another encounter with her squelchy companion, who this time emerges from a mirror and tries to strangle her. In contrast to his earlier appearances, the boy is now showing some distinct signs of watery wear and tear – almost liiiiiike....?
Meanwhile, McCulloch, in quest of Tamara’s “final project”, has gone to her cabin. (Even if Tamara weren’t Tamara, this is, surely, an incredibly stupid thing for a male teacher to do??) After trying to ply him with champagne, Tamara drops her robe to reveal her “biology project”. She then pushes the stunned McCulloch back onto the bed. He does – eventually – manage to disentangle himself, but too late: by pre-arrangement, Wayne has filmed the whole thing. As McCulloch storms off (“You can forget about attending any film school! Ever!” he spits at Wayne – and of course, he’s right), Wayne intimates to Tamara that he thinks he deserves a little reward, but naturally she gives him the brush. As Wayne departs morosely, Jason, that ever-ready defender of public morality, makes his move. After waiting politely for Tamara to finish her shower – from which she emerges bone dry – Jason smashes an arm through the bathroom door and makes a grab for her, but only succeeds in grabbing her robe. (You do get a quick glimpse of Tamara’s butt here.) As Tamara cringes and cries in a corner, Jason smashes a mirror (ooh, isn’t that Seven More Films’ Bad Luck?), grabs a large shard, and goes to work....off-camera.
And wouldn’t you know it, there’s a violent storm building outside! Admiral Robertson and his engineer have a D&M about children and how to raise them “Don’t push him too hard!” advises the Admiral, striving for pathos but just making me wish that Jason would get on with it. And Jason does, taking out the engineer with a gaff and the Admiral with what I wish with all my heart I could call a machete – what ought to be a machete – but is really just some kind of big knife. The Admiral’s death is perhaps the best example we can offer of the slasher film’s demoralising journey from genuine exploitation into the late-eighties realm of non-threatening horror. Technically, Jason cuts the Admiral’s throat. This is realised by having Jason grab the Admiral’s head and reach around with his knife, which clearly gets nowhere near the throat. There is a pause – nothing happens – the Admiral’s head tilts back a bit – a small cut opens up in his neck – end of scene. Look back to the death of Annie the cook in the original Friday The 13th, oh my brethren, and weep.
After her third ghostly encounter, Rennie has had enough, and Sean has resolved not just to call the Coast Guard for her, but to leave the ship as well. Of course, all this becomes rather moot when Sean discovers the bodies of his old man and the engineer (who, apart from Crazy Ralph Jr, seem to have comprised the entire crew!). Sean uses the PA to call everyone else to the bridge, then tries sending a Mayday signal – and actually gets as far as contacting the Coast Guard before Jason remembers to wreck the radio (oh, yes, the radio). “Everyone” makes it to the bridge – that is, the half-dozen students we’re familiar with by eye, Colleen and McCulloch. The latter is so shocked by the situation, for a second he forgets to behave like a dick. Crazy Ralph Jr then looks in to make the following puzzling announcement: “You’re the last ones. He’s come back for you.” And no, we never do get an explanation of what he means by that. McCulloch decides that CRJ is himself the killer, on the grounds that, “Walking corpses aren’t real!”
Meanwhile, Eva is looking for Tamara. She finds her dead body, Jason finds her. And then, despite the fact that she started out by inquiring whether Tamara heard the announcement – the one telling everyone to go upstairs to the bridge – Eva runs downstairs to the deserted disco.
And here---- Here, my friends, two things happen of such combined suckiness, it’s a wonder they weren’t enough to blow a black hole right through the fabric of the universe.
Firstly, having tracked Eva to the disco, Jason off-screen teleports. No, wait – let me explain what I mean. We’re all familiar with the slasher film convention that allows psycho killers to mysteriously appear wherever they need to be, or to move dead bodies around without being seen, or leaving a trail. This---- This is different. It isn’t just a case of sloppy film-making being accepted into the vernacular. Here, Jason teleports deliberately. As a tactic. Remember how in the first couple of films, Jason ran after his victims? And then he gave up running, and just walked after them? Well, by this time he can’t even be bothered doing that. Instead, he will spend the rest of the film popping in and out of scenes like Samantha in Bewitched. Here, having trapped Eva in the disco, he appears and disappears and appears again, just, it seems, to screw with her mind – until he gets bored with the game and kills her. Kills her by----
By strangling her.
Yes, it’s come to this: Jason Voorhees, lord of the pointy implement, master of the creative kill, is now so bereft of ideas, he just strangles people.
I think I said back during The New Blood that the girl who got the party noisemaker rammed through her head got the lamest death in the whole franchise. I was wrong. This is, truly, one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. I mean, for heaven’s sake! – he could at least have caved her skull in with the disco-ball!
The five boys who at this point are all we’re seeing of the Lakeview High senior class have decided to arm themselves and hunt down the killer. Separately. (Julius chooses a rifle – oh, dear!) Wayne is wandering around the boiler area when a blast of steam from a pipe blows the glasses from his face, leaving him, as he puts it, in serious trouble. (Believe me, Wayne, I sympathise!) In his visually impaired state, and seeing movement in the distance, decides to shoot first and ask for ID later – with the result that he puts a bullet through one of his fellow students (although don’t ask me who it is). As Wayne stares in horror – through the re-focused eye-piece of his camera, of course – a pair of overall-ed legs wanders into frame. The camera is sent flying, and the race is on. Wayne stumbles over J.J.’s body and her bloodied guitar, and pauses just long enough for Jason to catch him and send him flying into a powerboard. Wayne and it go up in flames. The fire spreads to the fuel tanks, which in turn go up in a blast. Ever helpful, Jason breaks glass and sets off the fire alarm. Eh?
On deck, the faceless Miles is the next to encounter Jason. He tries to evade him by climbing the mast – eh? – but an instant later Jason’s up there too, and Miles is tossed through the air to be impaled – off-screen – on a pole. Julius finds the body before being confronted by Jason and shooting him. Jason responds to this by – tossing Julius overboard.
Man, he just isn’t trying any more, is he?
Rennie, in her cabin, has another vision of her increasingly deformed friend, ventures too close to her porthole, and is grabbed by Jason when he smashes through the window – using his mask! And it’s Stephen King to the rescue as Rennie saves herself by ramming her pen through the left eye-hole of Jason’s mask – although after all this time, I’m astonished that there’s anything left back there to hurt. During this scene, our little misshapen visitor watches in some distress, fading away after Jason lets go of Rennie.
And then the whole power room goes up in a massive explosion. Astonishingly, Colleen has found four other students we’ve never seen before, but abandons them immediately afterwards with an order to “Wait here until I get the others.” And that’s the last we’ll see of them. Our four central characters find Crazy Ralph Junior with an axe in his back (settling the issue of who the killer is), then scramble into a life-boat, only to find Jason standing at the top of the ladder staring down at them. Not to worry, though, because he just lets them go. Eh? Then – someone grabs the boat from the water! It’s – it’s – oh, it’s Julius. (You know, this stretch is a whole lotta nothing.) The five of them – and Toby the dog, who has reappeared from nowhere – set out, Sean and McCulloch rowing.
What follows is probably the most gigglesome part of the film. For one thing, Our Heroes being lost in the fog is conveyed courtesy of a teeny-tiny sound stage and a fog-machine. Secondly, they start fretting over “finding land”. Uh, yeah, I think there was a chunk of land around there somewhere, wasn’t there? – like the frickin’ UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!?? Also, they did notify the Coast Guard before Jason killed the radio. Not that they need the Coast Guard, as it happens, because moments later they look up to find that they have piloted themselves into Upper New York Bay without even noticing. As the Statue of Liberty looms large in the background, Julius bursts into a very bad rendition of “New York, New York”, just to ensure that when his gruesome death does eventually occur, we won’t have any regrets. The Famous Five (plus dog) climb ashore, McCulloch bitching about Sean’s choice of a docking sight. Moments later, Jason too climbs ashore. Eh?
(This idiotic sequence does rather beg the question--- Just where the hell is Crystal Lake, anyway? Is it in New Jersey? Or is New Jersey just where the early films were shot, and I’m getting confused? In any case, the mysterious voyage of the Lazarus leaves us with a couple of tantalising possibilities. I suppose it might have set out from Delaware Bay, and gone north up the New Jersey coastline. Otherwise, the lifeboat ending up where it did, the most likely option would be a trip down the Hudson from upper New York State, or possibly even somewhere in New England.)
(Or am I just putting way too much thought into this?)
The bewildering geography of Jason Takes Manhattan is amusing enough, but even more so is the film’s attitude to the city that it has, at this point, spent just over sixty of its one hundred minute running-time getting to. Don’t think you’re going to see any more of Manhattan than one more look at the Statue and a glimpse of the lights of Times Square: the New York served up here for our delectation is every out-of-towner’s worst nightmare, a quagmire of vice and dirt and toxic waste; a swarming jungle of muggers and junkies – and junkie muggers – and apathetic locals who look on with a sneer while you’re screaming for your life.
It is a matter of record that Jason Takes Manhattan fell foul of the New York Tourist Commission, which objected to, and demanded the withdrawal of, the simply fantabulous teaser poster that is easily the best thing about this entire exercise (and which is reproduced up above; God bless the internet). The question is, did the NYTC object to the poster because the film makes New York look like the @#$%hole of the universe? – or did the film-makers make New York look like a @#$%hole in revenge for their objection?
While we ponder these philosophical mysteries, let’s return to our protagonists, who at this point have been in New York almost two minutes, and are therefore due to be mugged. On the face of it, the mugging seems unlikely, as the dock region through which they are wandering is bereft of even the most minimal signs of life. (New York’s underbelly looks considerably more like a backdrop from a road company’s production of Rent than a genuine urban wasteland.) However, two unpleasant types who apparently eke a living by hanging out around the docks and robbing any misplaced tourists who drift ashore in rowboats take everyone’s money, then try to put a bullet through the growling Toby. (The dog, remember?) Rennie knocks the gunman’s arm, and he and his partner react by dragging Rennie off and warning the others that they will be shot if they make any attempt to help her. So – they don’t. Instead they decide that they need to find a cop, and that the best way of proceeding is to split up and wander around alone in the dark. Yeah, that oughtta work.
All jokes aside, the straight-faced sequence that follows of Rennie’s forced injection with heroin and her threatened rape is both sincerely disturbing and, it must be said, completely out of place in the Friday The 13th universe. Normality is resumed when we learn that Jason objects even more violently to forced sex than he does to the voluntary kind – and good on him for that. One potential rapist is relieved of his syringe and run completely through with it. The other draws a gun and starts shooting – and chooses to take a step nearer to Jason with every futile shot – as if getting closer might make his bullets work better. He ends up with his face slammed into a steam pipe. Rennie, meanwhile, has struggled out from under Rapist #1 and taken to her heels.
So how’s that plan of splitting up working out? Just fine and dandy – at least if you’re Jason, who finds Julius just as he’s found a phone-box. The chase ends with Julius trapped on a rooftop; and although he knows he’s going to die, he decides he’s not going out without a fight – literally. He’s a boxer, remember? And so he rains upon Jason blow after blow after blow after blow (and if we reluctantly admire Julius’s courage, we’re less impressed with his intelligence: at least half of his punches land on Jason’s mask!), with Jason – either as a ploy, or because he’s as freaked out by this as the rest of us – doing nothing but taking a slight step backwards each time. It finally ends with Julius exhausted and both of them teetering on the roof edge. Conceding, Julius invites Jason to, “Take your best shot.” And he does, severing Julius’s head with a single punch – and so neatly, too! The head goes sailing off the roof, completes a triple somersault, and drops right into a dumpster – plop!
You may insert your own “splitting up” joke here.
Meanwhile, Sean’s aimless wanderings have led him straight to a spaced-out Rennie, and McCulloch’s have led him to a cop – and what a cop, sure and begorrah! McCulloch and Finnegan the Flatfoot then find Colleen, and are immediately found by Sean and Rennie. New York must be smaller than it looks. As the out-of-towners pile into a squad car, McCulloch stresses the need to find Julius. He needn’t have worried: Julius is – [*tee, hee*] – way ahead of him. Propped up on the dash, in fact. The visitors scream. Patrolman Paddy grabs for the radio. And Jason pounces. Rennie scrambles into the front seat of the car and, to the consternation of the others, slams her foot on the accelerator, speeding straight for Jason who has teleported back into the road. BLAM!! So far, so good. Except that Rennie next has another of her visions, and as a result sends the car straight into a wall where, like all good movie cars, it immediately goes up in flames. Rennie, Sean and McCulloch make it out, but Colleen – and, presumably, Julius’s head – is still inside when the vehicle erupts into a gigantic fire ball.
Some people have expressed surprise at the fiery death of Colleen. They must have overlooked the fact that on her first appearance, she spoke lightly of Jim and Suzi being off somewhere having sex instead of joining their classmates....and if you don’t know what behaviour like that means by now, you haven’t been paying attention.
Sean and McCulloch stare in horror (or at least in mild consternation: check out Sean’s lack of expression here!). Rennie stares too, but at a pool of spilled oil....and starts to have another vision....of herself as a small child, out in a boat on Crystal Lake with her dear old Uncle Charles, who encourages her to learn to swim so that “you won’t drown, like that Voorhees boy. He’s still at the bottom of the lake, you know,” McCulloch adds, “ready to pull down anyone who falls in and can’t swim.” And then – he pushes her in.
Yup. This guy was made to be a high school principal.
“You’d better swim, Rennie, before Jason pulls you down,” McCulloch goes on cheerfully as the child screams and thrashes in terror. And then – Jason does.
The “Jason” who pulls Rennie down is indeed the child Jason; the same one she’s been seeing visions of all through the film – which, even by the most liberal interpretation of Jason’s personal history (such as the one I attempted re: The New Blood) is ludicrous unless this encounter was just a fear-induced hallucination. The trouble with trying to give the film that kind of out, however, is that it goes on to---- Well, frankly, what this film goes on to do could make your head explode.
(For the record, by my calculations Rennie’s trauma must have occurred during the period when Jason was mouldering in his grave pre-Jason Lives. So I suppose, if you wanted to be generous---- Aw, hell, I can’t be bothered.)
Post-revelation, McCulloch is obviously doomed. Right on cue, Jason recovers from his vehicular incident, grabs the principal (who Rennie and Sean have abandoned) and drowns him in one of the numerous barrels of toxic waste that, this film assures us, are to be found sitting on just about every street corner in New York.
Jason pursues Rennie and Sean into the subway and onto a train; a remarkable clean one, decorated with some of the politest graffiti. Sean pulls the emergency brake and the chase moves out onto the tracks for another fake death scene, as Jason hits the third rail. We then see as much of The Big Apple as the film’s budget would allow with a brief glimpse of Times Square, before Jason reappears and the chase is on again. It leads through a diner filled with indifferent Noo Yorkers (including unbilled Jason-in-waiting Ken Kirzinger!!), then down into the sewers. There is a false scare as Rennie and Sean encounter a sanitation worker who – get this!! – tells them they are in great danger, because every night at midnight, the City Of New York floods its sewers with toxic waste.
I can’t imagine why the NYTC objected to this film, can you??
The sanitation guy is of course next to go – off-screen. Sean gets knocked out in the, uh, struggle, and Rennie saves him by shining a light in Jason’s face (?). “You didn’t get me in the lake,” she declares defiantly, “and you’re not going to get me now!” And this, remarkably, is enough to make Jason forget about killing Sean. Yeesh! Rennie could have least done a Tommy Jarvis here, and called him “Maggot Head”!
Even more remarkably, perhaps, is that this brief exchange is all the film grants us by way of an explanation for Jason’s behaviour: even as he came back to get Chrissie after she (somehow) escaped him in F13:3, evidently he feels compelled to kill Rennie here. What it doesn’t explain is Jason’s otherwise complete reversal of conduct. Until now, as we have observed to our bewilderment, he has killed every single person who has crossed his path regardless of whether he had the slightest motive to or not. Here, in a city of teeming millions, he has not lifted his hand against anyone but his fellow tourists, except for the cop and the sanitation guy who briefly got in his way. The hell - !?
As Jason chases her, Rennie fights back by – oh, lord! – tossing more toxic waste in his face. (At least this bucket had a lid on it!) This causes Jason’s face to melt in one of the worst pieces of make-up work in the whole franchise. Rennie runs back to Sean, brings him to, and helps him away. They are climbing a ladder out when Jason – sans mask – staggers towards them.
And then things get weird.
As Sean struggles with the grating at the top of the ladder, Jason teleports down the passageway and grabs Rennie by the ankle (he really does have a fetish, doesn’t he?). Just at that moment – midnight strikes – and the promised toxic waste comes pouring through the sewer.
And Jason Voorhees – in a helpless, little boy voice – speaks.
“Mommy? Don’t let me drown!”
And then he vomits water. (A real up-chuck here, apparently; one of Kane Hodder’s myriad talents.) The waste engulfs Jason without touching or otherwise inconveniencing Rennie and Sean. (Movie toxic waste must be like movie lava: it doesn’t hurt you unless you touch it.) Jason sinks under the flood, and we get another vision – his? Rennie’s? who knows? – of Jason as a child drowning in Crystal Lake. And then adult Jason – bursts into flames!? We cut outside and see a violent lightning storm breaking over the city (and hitting the Statue’s lamp – ooh, art) before cutting back underground to where the tide of waste is receding, leaving us with – with....
....a small boy – a perfectly normal boy – curled up at the edge of the sewer....
There are countless times in the reviewing game when a film provokes you to an eh? or a what? There are other times when that’s not nearly enough, and you have to resort to a WTF!? to express your emotions.
And then there are those rare moments where the brain refuses to process the information that the eyes are sending; moments that have you scrambling for the ‘Format’ menu and the ‘Font’ control, in a vain attempt to find a way of conveying the utter inexplicability of what you have just witnessed – thus:
And I was not the only one for whom this ending was evidently the last straw. As long as healthy returns from the Friday The 13th films were rolling in, the Paramount executives found themselves able to quell all those pesky ethical qualms about the nature of the material they were marketing; but when Jason Takes Manhattan gave the lowest return of any entry in the franchise, they decided it was time to retreat to some high moral ground, and finally to wash their hands of their red-haired, hockey-masked step-child. And of course, by “wash their hands” we mean “sell off at a tidy profit”. New Line Cinema became the new owners of Jason Voorhees....although evidence suggests that having acquired him, New Line was rather at a loss to know what to do with him. For cinema-goers of the time, it was a full four years before Jason was resurrected yet again.
For others of us----well, it might not be quite so long.....
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