OK, so I won’t watch a classic Sergio Leone Gangster movie, but I will watch the 8th Friday the 13th movie. Don’t judge me.
This one is Jason Takes Manhattan so let’s enjoy the mayhem as our second favourite hockey-mask wearing psychopath causes carnage in New York.
It starts off in perfect 80s style with some nameless rock track backed with a pounding 80s drum machine. Every movie made in the 80s seemed to have these soundtracks.
We get an establishing shot of New York, Twin Towers still intact. Then the titles play out on some rather less salubrious scenes of urban decay, including a mugging where the mugger throws the emptied wallet into a dirty, water-filled trash can with a rat crawling out. I’m sure this is all metaphorical.
After a title sequence filled with various shots of New York City life, we cut to, I’m assuming, Camp Crystal Lake, and a large boat. And the first people we see are a couple of teenagers, stripping off and starting to make out. Have these people not seen any of the previous seven movies?
What’s even odder is that the young man, having taken his and her shirts off, decides to interrupt proceedings because he’s “got to drop the anchor over”. I hope that’s not a euphemism for need the toilet.
When he returns from that important function – I’m sure it was important because we got a shot of the anchor hitting the water, and one of it landing on the lake bed – he’s nervous. “It’s just that we’re right around that summer camp where all those murders took place.”
“The Guy’s dead now, somewhere at the bottom of this lake, if you believe the stories.” You mean the same bottom of the same lake where you just dropped your anchor?
He recounts the history of the Crystal Lake murders – he even remembers the first film where it wasn’t even Jason doing them, but his mother (great pub quiz question, there). And after having unnerved his young friend, he says “Forget about it, they’re just stories.” Oh really? Then why do we keep getting close-ups of your boat anchor?
Said anchor catches an underwater cable, splitting it and causing electricity to surge through Jason’s dead body, which happens to be right under the boat. Pretty soon he’s up and about again.
She gets nervous and asks him to check out the strange noises. Which he reluctantly does, and when he doesn’t come back immediately, she gets nervous, and goes to look for him. She’s confronted by someone in a hockey mask, who stabs her – except there’s no blood, it’s a retractable knife. It’s her boyfriend, making a very bad taste joke. But it’s lucky he did, otherwise Jason would have turned up later au naturel.
Why does Jason wear a mask? What reason does he have to hide his face, since most of the time he kills anyone who sees him. It seems pointless, except to save the reveal of how horrific he looks to the end of the movie.
By the way, did you know he didn’t start using a hockey mask until the 3rd installment. For the second movie he spent most of it with a pillowcase over his head. I am not making this up.
Our lovers get back to smooching, but it doesn’t last long because here’s Jason!
He fires a harpoon at them, but misses – well, he’s just been brought back from a watery grave, so he’s really just finding his bearings. The girl escapes, but the boy gets stabbed with something, although it’s not clear what. Either this is a cut version of the film, or they’ve started skimping on the makeup effects. She hides under a hatch, but Jason finds her, and impales her with the harpoon, very very slowly. Was this movie made in 3D? Because the shot of Jason lowering the harpoon down into the camera was interminable, and that kind of thing was common in the 80s 3D mini-boom.
Anyway, that’s it for those two. And I was so hoping they’d make it to the end.
We’ve got some more characters to introduce. First it’s a young girl, driven to the docks by her teacher – although I assumed it was her mother at first. She gives her a present. It’s a pen. “Stephen King used it in high school” according to teacher. I think someone saw her coming. I’m sure she calls the girl “Grinny” here but iMDb says it’s Rennie. Grinny would have been better. Name all the characters after rejected names for the seven dwarves.
“You have a real gift. And if there’s anybody who can make use of that pen, it’s you.” Or, indeed, anyone who feels like writing with a high school ink pen. I bet it’s all dried up, too.
Oh joy, Mrs Antique Pen is here as part of the cruise, as is Peter Mark Richman, I’m guessing he’s the headmaster. I recognise him from the Next Generation episode The Neutral Zone, as one of the annoying people revived from being cryogenically frozen, and I already predict I’m not going to like him.
He doesn’t seem pleased that young Rennie is joining the cruise. He’s her legal guardian, and he knows what’s best for her. Incidentally, she brings her dog along, although why someone with an unspecified by severe fear of water would bring a dog on board without a lead, I really don’t know. Maybe he’s a Swimming Eye Dog.
Up on the bridge, the ship is being piloted by an Admiral. But he immediately hands over captaincy to his son, another one of the students, along with a present of a sextant and some sort of modern navigational aid. If one or other of these hasn’t been impaled into someone by the time the voyage is finished, then the filmmakers aren’t doing their jobs. My money’s on the sextant. Because it’s got sex in it. And it’s pointy. It’s metaphorical.
Young Captain Sextant doesn’t impress his father with his recommendations for getting underway. I can see one of the themes of this story is going to be the pressure of living up to unreasonable parental expectations.
As the young man stomps off the bridge, he meets a deckhand swabbing the deck. His first words are “This voyage is doomed.” If you’re playing Friday 13th Bingo, tick off the “doommonger” square.
The ship’s called Lazarus. Even though it was another ship altogether that raised Jason from the dead.
The passengers enjoy some recreational activities, like shuffleboard, clay pigeon shooting (will those guns be used for anything else I wonder) and a disco with such a low roof that the glitterball looks like a health and safety nightmare.
Young Captain Sextant looks like he has a thing for Rennie, as he gives her a present of a gold statue of liberty on a chain. Except that he tells her he thought she wasn’t coming. So why does he have it ready to give her. I suspect he was going to drop that baby on the first girl he makes eye contact with. He’s got a whole itinerary planned for her when they get to New York.
Principal Cryofreeze and Rennie have another inconsequential conversation, then we cut to the POV of a video camera on them. Which then pans around to reveal someone rocking out on the upper deck.
Her nerdy friend doing the videoing calls her JJ. I’ll hazard a guess that JJ and nerdy video guy aren’t an item. This is the 80s (and a horror film) so nerdy != desirable. Anyway, he’s in love with someone else.
By the way, I hope you’re keeping track of the pointy things that could end up in Jason’s homicidal hands.
Back to Principal Popsicle and Rennie, he’s still trying to persuade her to leave. He does this creepy face grab thing that’s probably supposed to seem parental and protective, but just comes across as inappropriate. It’s the kind of thing a rapey bad guy would do to a woman he’s tied up.
JJ has gone down to the bowels of the boat to do some rocking out. But her only audience is Jason, who then disappoints us all by bashing her over the head with the body of her guitar, rather than impaling her with the guitar neck, AC/DC style. Very poor.
Our budding author Rennie has what I’m assuming is a flashback to a traumatic event – either that or the in-cruise entertainment is in very poor taste. Although if it is an hallucination, why did it spook her dog too?
A couple of (I’m guessing) bad girls are watching some guys box. “He’s the only senior I’d ever consider doing it with” says one. Then “Gorgeous guy at Ten O’Clock. Act sensual.” I can’t tell if these are supposed to be naive teenagers trying to act sophisticated, or if they’re just very badly written. They even take some coke. I’m not going to get too attached to these two. I’m still mourning JJ.
“I don’t know, if I get caught I could lose my science scholarship.” “I’m the Prom Queen. Do you really think I’d risk getting caught?” Science girl buys this argument, gets set to snort up, and neither of them hear the incredibly loud foley footsteps coming towards them, and are surprised to see our budding author in front of them. “She’s such a space cadet. I wonder if she’ll narc on us.”
Jason is lurking close, and when the two girls have finished their snorting, they’re again surprised. But still not by Jason, but by Principal Iceman. They drop their mirror, he sees it and asks “Are you girls using drugs?” “We’re just exploring the ship” “I’ll be coming round to your stateroom in exactly 15 minutes, Miss Mason, so you’d better have your biology project ready or I’ll be phoning your parents.” “They’re out of town.” “Well I’ll make sure you remain on board while your classmates are out seeing the sights.” Nothing about this exchange makes sense. Does he know they’re using drugs? Is the punishment dependent on her not having her biology project ready? Haven’t they just graduated?
Now we’re in the ship’s sauna. There’s one boy in there, but he keeps a flannel over his face for the whole scene, even when Jason enters and stabs him with a hot rock from the sauna. Why on earth would they hide his face like that, as it removes any possibility of caring about him. There’s ADR dialogue which lets us know he’s one of the boys who was boxing earlier, but we don’t see his face. I suspect they couldn’t use the same actor for both scenes so they just covered his face and added the dialogue later.
The two bad girls from earlier have decided that they’ve got to get Rennie, because she’s the principal’s neice, and exploit whatever her unspecified fear of water is, so what do they do? They shoulder-barge her off the ship. This is not good for her as her issues manifest as a little boy pulling her down into the water. Also, if you’re that scared of water, maybe don’t stand a foot away from the edge of the deck with no railing.
She’s rescued by one of the boys – I think it’s young Captain Sextant, but it’s hard to tell – all these good looking young men look the same to me.
Her teacher is concerned. “Can’t talk about it?” “I can’t swim.” “No kidding. You ever thought about taking lessons?” “It’s not that simple.”
Principal Callippo is cross with Mrs Cheap Gift for not supervising properly. Typical manager. And the towels someone brings for her are next to useless – a couple of hand towels. Still, she doesn’t look as wet as someone who’s almost drowned in the sea should look.
Deckhand Doomsayer is there again. “He’s come back. And you’re all going to die.” I don’t know about you, but if the crew on a ship spoke that way to passengers, I think I’d probably fire them, and possibly even have them arrested.
Back in her cabin, and Rennie has already got rid of the towels that she had in the previous scene. She runs the tap, and soon they’re pouring out blood. Then, in what is so far the only impressive special effect in the whole movie, a hand emerges from the mirror, and the ghostly little boy starts to try to strangle her. It’s a simple effect, but at least it demonstrates a smidgen of imagination.
Over in the bad girl’s room, we find out how her biology project has turned out.
Principal Icebucket seems confused by her presentation. I had half assumed that she and he were already having an affair, but this scene is directed and written so badly that I genuinely can’t tell if she’s seducing him for the first time.
Aha, there’s video guy skulking outside, and after an unacceptably long time, the Principal finally remembers his principles and extricates himself from her. “I’m your teacher, young lady.” But she’s got the tape now, so no more summer school for her.
Video Nerd confesses his love for Mean Girl, but she blows him off. As he leaves, there’s Jason, just sticking his head out of a cabin door, as if to remind us which film series we’re watching, because it’s genuinely hard to remember sometimes.
Mean Girl gets out of the shower, hears something in her room, peeks out and sees Jason walk in. She hides behind her door, but Jason clearly has X-Ray vision as he punches through the door and grabs her. Then, because he arrived empty handed, he has to smash the bathroom mirror, then root around in the shards for something approaching a blade. Mean Girl is just cowering on the floor at this stage, just waiting for Jason to turn around and kill her, which he does, but entirely off-screen. This is the most bloodless Friday 13th movie I’ve ever seen. Haven’t the makers seen any of the others?
Up to the Bridge, and Admiral Disappointed Father is chatting to his First Mate. “How old’s your boy, Carlson?” “Nineteen Months” Oh dear. A new character has been given a back story, and Jason has just picked up a giant harpoon. Can death be far behind?
No it can’t, as we witness Carlson’s demise through a rain-soaked window as Jason pokes him with the harpoon, then, when the Admiral returns to find his body, he’s finished off with the least convincing throat slashing I’ve ever seen.
Rennie and the Admiral’s son go to the bridge to arrange for her to leave, and discover the ‘carnage’, so now the everyone knows. Deckhand Doomspouter is back again to point the finger at Jason, because it’s important that serial killers get the correct credit for their projects.
The tough boys decide to go and look for Jason, nerdy video guy and his friend go in the other direction. You can tell this is a different time. Today they’d be live streaming to YouTube.
But where’s Rennie, our hero? She’s gone off on her own to drop the anchors. On her own. Into the bowels of the ship. To operate machinery she’s probably never seen before. While her boyfriend stays on the bridge where everyone else is. Could she be in danger? The film desperately wants us to think she is, but no, it’s another fake out, with Uncle Slushy coming to stop her dropping the anchor because apparently that’s a stupid thing to do in a storm.
Mean Girl 2 discovers Mean Girl 1’s body, and is then menaced by Jason, so she runs into the disco. Surely this time the film will do the right thing and have Jason kill her with the glitterball.
No of course he doesn’t. He just throttles her.
Video Guy is down in the depths of the ship, looking for JJ, with his camera in one hand and a shotgun in the other. A burst of steam knocks his glasses off, then a figure jumps out right in front of him, so he shoots him. Of course it wasn’t Jason, just another crewmember (I think, like I said they all look the same to me). Only then does Jason appear. Escaping, he comes across JJ’s body, and has the good grace to seem vaguely bothered by her death before Jason grabs him and throws him at a random piece of the ship’s equipment which immediately electrocutes and burns him up. That’s not the kind of failure mode I’d want to see in equipment designed for an environment where people are likely to fall heavily and randomly at any time.
Back to the Bridge, and Principal Ice Cube returns. Mrs Calligraphy and Sextant Boy are there. “Did you find Rennie?” “She’s locked safely in her room, no thanks to either of you.” Really? I’m beginning to lose patience with this man.
After a lot of fumbling with random equipment our young Captain says the ship is back on course. But below decks, Nerdy Video boy’s burning body is turning into a bit of a conflagration, and Jason, being the only person on this ship with a clear sense of Health and Safety, sets off the fire alarm.
The deaths are starting to rack up now, as one of the tough boys climbs a mast to escape Jason, then Jason is suddenly close enough to grab him and throw him down onto the radio aerial. Several times in these sequences, it looks as though Jason can suddenly move from one place to another instantly. Either it’s bad direction or they’re trying to imply some kind of ghostly power.
Another tough kid is just thrown off the side, and we don’t see him come up, but I’m guessing he’ll be back later.
Rennie is in her room, safe behind that really thin wood veneer door. She’s still getting flashbacks of the drowning boy. But Jason soon interrupts, not through the door, which we’ve already seen him punch his way through, but through a porthole, which I would wager would be far stronger than an internal cabin door.
That young drowning boy does look awfully familiar, you know.
Rennie escapes Jason’s clutches by doing what Jason should frankly have been doing this whole film, by finding the nearest pointy thing and poking it in his eye. Yes, Chekov’s fountain pen comes into play just when it’s needed.
The fire’s getting worse, Mrs Ofstedfailure gathers the remaining kids in the dining room, while Principal Iceland stalks the kitchen, flare gun in hand. There’s a lingering closeup of a kitchen knife glinting in the light, but at this stage I’m half certain this film is trolling me, and Jason’s going to kill him with the sieve.
Oh hoorah, the camera pans back and the knife is gone. But no! It’s not Jason at all, but Deckhand Yourallgoingtodie, who grazes him and runs off.
Rennie and Captain Sextant are investigating the engine room, for no apparent reason other than to witness it flooding, and to escape back up to the bridge. Principal Iceberg and Mrs Year6Sats arrive, she having lowered the lifeboat. Sextant tells them they need to get off the ship now. “What about the other kids. I left them in the dining room.” “There is no dining room” says Sextant Boy, thus, I presume, removing all the other cast members, and also cheating us of even a glimpse of their fates.
Outside, they’re met by Deckhand Itoldyouso who falls down dead with an axe in his back.
They make it to the lifeboat, a very small, rickety looking affair given the size of the ship, and they all make it into the boat, with Jason watching from teh deck. Then suddenly he’s gone, and just as suddenly, somebody erupts from the sea by the boat. No, not Jason, but the young tough guy who was thrown overboard, and who has presumably been treading water waiting for everyone to get on board, rather than, I don’t know, getting into the boat as soon as it was lowered.
Even Rennie’s dog is in the lifeboat, despite not appearing in any of the previous scenes.
After what is presumably a long time rowing, through darkness and fog, the lifeboat actually does arrive at New York – at least, we get an establishing shot of the Statue of Liberty, which totally means they’re all in the Big Apple.
They even make it all the way to a very seedy looking harbour. I’d have hoped to be picked up by the coastguard, but Principal Icebucket had the only flare, and he couldn’t work the flare gun earlier when he wanted to shoot it at the deckhand.
At this point, the film is only an hour gone, although it feels so much longer, so up comes Jason from the water.
And the film has what I’m charitably going to call a joke at this point as Jason sees a familiar face on a billboard.
(It’s a billboard for a hockey team, in case you thought it was more meta than this film can manage.)
Then, because this is New York, our survivors obviously get mugged. One of them even tries to shoot the dog. And they take Rennie with them, because they’re rapists as well as muggers.
Then, just when I think this film can’t possibly sink any lower, Principal Freezerburn says “Look, I think we’ll all be more productive if we split up.” I mean, really?
Captain Sextant spends a touching minute picking up the crappy Statue of Liberty necklace he gave Rennie, which the mugger clearly decided was too cheap to steal, rather than, I don’t know, actually going in the direction she’d been taken.
The muggers aren’t just rapists – they’re also drug addicts, and generous ones at that, as they’re going to inject Rennie with some too. But Jason has other ideas, and he picks up the discarded syringe and somehow manages to stab the rapist in the back with it so hard that it sticks out of his chest.
After the other mugger tries to shoot him, Jason smashes his head against a heating pipe. And Rennie gets away.
Jason then goes after our tough guy boxer, who at least fancies his chances, and starts punching Jason in the mask. Aren’t those masks designed to prevent damage when struck forcefully? This fight lasts about a minute and a half of him punching Jason pointlessly and getting more and more tired. Then Jason punches his head off.
Mrs FrontedAdverbial is wandering down a back alley when a policeman jumps out a points a gun at her. I guess it’s lucky she’s not black. Principal Icestorm is with the cop, and they also meet up with Rennie and Sextant. So they must all be safe now. The Principal is still not listening to anyone about Jason, and Mrs Whiteboard asks “Is it true, Vinne?” Or at least that’s definitely what it sounds like.
The policeman seems to have come from Darby O’Gill and the Little people. “I find it a tall tale indeed, but you seem like honest folk so I’m inclined to believe at least some of what you say.”
They also ask him to find tough guy, but there’s no need, because he’s already in the police car.
Jason grabs the cop but Rennie jumps in the driver’s seat and guns the motor, Sadly, her hallucinations are still happening, and there’s yet another vision of drowny boy, which this time causes her to smash the car into a wall. Three of them get out of the car, but Mrs Detention doesn’t make it out before the car explodes.
Rennie stares wistfully at a patch of burning petrol, and there’s a transition that might have been impressive if it hadn’t taken about six times longer than really necessary. It’s flashback time, and perhaps we’ll finally find out what Rennie’s childhood trauma really is.
She’s in a rowboat with Principal Icebath, and he’s telling her that it’s time she learned to swim. In a boat in the middle of a lake. “You don’t want to drown, like that Vorhees boy, do you?” asks Principal Icetea, his voice ludicrously echoey. “He never learned how to swim either. And he’s still in the bottom of this lake.” Blimey, no wonder she’s got issues. “He’s ready to pull down anyone who falls in and can’t swim.”
This man is a psychopath. Which is proven when he pushes her in the lake. “Better swim, Rennie, before Jason pulls you down.”
Which, in this memory, he does.
This is the first time Rennie properly remembers what happened, having always been told by her uncle that she fell in. She and Sextant Boy run off leaving him there, for Jason to chase. He runs into an abandoned building, then momentarily is thrown out of a first floor window. And when he survives that, Jason picks him up and sticks him head-first in a barrel of slimy green water.
Rennie and Captain Sextant share a quiet smooch, until Jason interrupts, and they run off into the subway. Surely he can’t follow them down there?
They pull the emergency stop lever, and escape out the back of the train, and when Jason follows them, the brave young Captain tackles him and pushes him onto the live rail. And the idiots think that’s going to kill him. Weren’t they paying attention at the start of the film?
They leave the subway, clearly not caring if Jason’s body is left down there, and emerge into the actual Times Square. I’ll wager these few shots are the only actual shooting they did in New York.
“It’s over” he says, not having read all the way to the end of the script, or, indeed, having seen any of the previous seven movies.
Then there’s another joke, as Jason walks past some street thugs, kicking over their music system, and when they come after him he turns around, lifts his mask up, and they all run away.
Rennie and friend take shelter in a diner, but Jason follows, so they escape out the back, removing the need to pretend they’re in New York any more, as they’re back in backstreets again. But not for long, as there’s nowhere to go but down into a sewer where they run until they find a worker, who tells them that they need to get out in ten minutes because the whole sewer will fill with toxic waste. “Follow me” says the worker, naturally sealing his fate.
Jason keeps doing his thing of being a long way behind his quarry, then going in the wrong direction and suddenly leaping out from ahead of them. Poor old sewage worker gets brained with a spanner, and Sextant boy is knocked out.
Rennie takes off with Jason in pursuit but she finds a tin labelled ‘Toxic Waste’ to throw in his face. This finally gets him to take the mask off, and it’s not really worth the wait.
Rennie goes back for sailor boy and they climb the ladder to get out, but the hatch is locked, and Jason is right behind them – but so is the wave of toxic waste, and Jason is consumed by the waste, while we hear his young voice cry “Mommy, don’t let me drown”. He also, for no appreciable reason, bursts into flame, and there’s lightning strikes all around New York.
And when the toxic waste subsides, all of a sudden, Jason’s body has reverted to that of a young boy’s. No idea why. Toxic Waste isn’t renowned for its curative properties.
Back up on the street for our two survivors, and guess what? The dog turns up again. It’s had absolutely no function in the film, but it’s still there.
And that’s the end of the film. It’s quite bad. Poorly written dialogue, perfunctory performances and woefully flat direction. But its most cardinal sin is that it breaks the covenant viewers have with Friday 13th movies – it’s got hardly any blood in it at all. When you think how the franchise got its start, with Tom Savini special effects when he was at the top of his game, it’s shocking to see how anemic the series has become.
And remember what I said earlier about the sextant? I was right, the filmmakers weren’t doing their jobs.
But wait, dear reader, that’s not all, because next on this tape, a film that doesn’t stint on the gore or the scares. It’s the original Evil Dead.
In lieu of a detailed look at a film which is pretty well known, I’ll just relate an anecdote about the film. It was released in the UK by Palace Pictures, a company started by the people who used to run the Scala Cinema near King’s Cross, a repertory cinema which used to show the strangest movies, weird double bills, and was often the only place to see some films.
Palace Pictures was their move into cinema distribution, and The Evil Dead was one of their first releases. I think they also released the French thriller Diva at the same time. Evil Dead did well in UK cinemas, helped by posters and marketing overseen by, among others, horror writer Christopher Fowler. I think I saw it on its first run in London – this was certainly a time when I’d started going to London on a Saturday to see movies.
But it was a lot more controversial on home video, and was consistently one of the movies prosecuted as a ‘video nasty’ during that particular moral panic. So its availability on video in the UK was quite short-lived, and because at that time there was no real ‘sell through’ market yet, I couldn’t see it.
I did get to see it once, though, on a family holiday, where we stayed at my uncle’s house for two weeks, and they had a VCR. So for that two weeks, I joined the local video store, and rented all the movies I could. What’s even better, was that this was in the Republic of Ireland, where there was no Video Recordings Act, and so films like this, and others like The Burning, were still available. I had a great two weeks just staying in and watching movies. My family didn’t understand at all.
This version of the film looks like the heavily cut home video version, judging by the Arboreal assault sequence.
After this, there’s a lot of Sky Movies promo stuff, and I can’t tell if it’s my tape that’s a bit wonky or if there’s a lot of broadcast glitching. This doesn’t particularly look like typical VHS recording glitches.
- trail: Maniac Cop 2
- trail: Sky Movies Plus
- trail: Uncle Buck
- trail: The Freshman
- making of: Hook
- trail: Ernest Goes to Jail
- trail: The Simpsons
- trail: My Blue Heaven
- US Top Ten
- trail: Gremlins 2
- trail: Honey I Shrunk The Kids
- Wayne’s World competition
- Making of: Air America
- The Comedy Channel
- trail: Entertainment Tonight
- trail: Gangsters Week
- trail: Motorcycling
- trail: Newsline
- trail: Sky Movies Plus
- Making of: The Five Heartbeats
- trail: Arachnophobia
- trail: Tremors
- trail: Movies in June
- trail: After Dark
- Making of: Gremlins 2
- trail: Guns N Roses
- trail: Texasville