Franchise Friday - Friday the 13th Part 7: The New Blood
I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect to like Friday the 13th part 7: A New Blood. If for no other reason than it seemed like if it wasn’t the starting point for the current Hollywood fixation of films rooted in the formula of “x mixed with y”, then it was certainly close enough to the initial blast to be mistaken for it.
In this instance, what we’re looking at here is Stephen King’s Carrie vs Jason. Does it work? Well, first let’s take a look at that synopsis:
Tina had always been a gifted child, but when her emotionally charged psychokinetic abilities result in the death of her father on the shores of Crystal Lake, she’s been moved from psychiatrist to psychiatrist in an effort to understand and control her abilities. In a last ditch effort before being committed, her current manipulative doctor seeks to exploit her power under the premise of helping her and returns her to Crystal Lake, where a group of teens are there to celebrate a birthday. Finally catching on to Dr. Crews’ intentions, Tina reaches out for help, only to find a force hiding within the lake. Is it her long dead father’s spirit? Or something far more malevolent?
Well, I think we know the answer to that, don’t we? Still, we have a unique set-up within the franchise as this really does break down like a title-card fight. We have some warm-up bouts, naturally, and while yes, anyone having sex or smoking weed…or both…do meet an untimely end, this Jason is a carry over from Part 6 in that really, he’s just there to kill anything that crosses his path and thus keeping the supernatural killing machine vibe from the previous film. If anything, I’d go so far as to say that the Friday films from this point, spanning parts 7 & 8 as well as New Line entries Jason Goes to Hell and Jason X fall under a banner of ‘Jason Unleashed’, if we were to continue grouping the films. This film also keeps up the tradition of the Final Girl, in this instance Tina, stumbling upon pretty much every single corpse Jason has left in his wake on the way to the final showdown.
Speaking of the showdown, how does a psychokinetic girl hold her own against the ol’ hockey mask? Pretty well, I gotta say. This certainly could’ve devolved into either parody or a superhero duel, but I think that, aside from the initial fantastic element, both the writers and director John Carl Buechler keep it fairly grounded. Now, of course, given the limits of effect at the time, while no strings were particularly visible, it’s also no mystery by what means items were moving, so there is that to be considered. Overall though, the final showdown between the two proves to be pretty satisfying, although there is one unused effect that I think probably would have been a better fit for the ending as opposed to what ended up being used.
As one would expect, and is a feature on Shout’s blu-ray, the film is certainly neutered from Buechler’s original vision thanks to the butchers at the MPAA. Widely known as a foe to horror fans everywhere in the 80s and 90s, they certainly make their presence and their disdain known here. It’s a testament to the filmmakers that the kills remain effective, but upon learning what was planned, as is always the case in 80s Friday movies, images of what could’ve been emerge. While it certainly wasn’t the practice back then, it would be a great thing if someone were able to track down the little snippets of film containing these gore effects and restore them properly, but alas, this is not a new sentiment and doesn’t make it any more possible than with previous entries in the series. These moments are for the most part gone for good, reaffirming that the worst kind of censorship an industry can visit upon itself is that of self-censorship…and the MPAA under Jack Valenti CERTAINLY fit that bill.
I do want to take a moment to highlight the cast here…not that we have any particular stand-outs with regards to ability, per se. The doomed teens play the roles of doomed teens as capably as anyone else in the series and our leads of Lar Park Lincoln and Kevin Spirtas as Tina and Nick respectively end up being convincing…special note going to Lincoln for not going too overboard in selling the telekinesis. Instead, I gotta tip my hat to two well known character actors that find themselves here…well, well-known depending on which fandoms you travel in. Terry Kiser, most notably from Weekend At Bernie’s and for you Last Drive-In folks, Tammy and the T-Rex, stars as Dr. Crews. He makes the doctor seem like what if you mixed Tony Stark with Professor X…and he was a TOTAL asshole? This combo works pretty well and, while simplistic, still manages to avoid being too terribly one-dimensional. Honestly, it was just fun to see him…like seeing a familiar face on an unexpected trip, he elevates everything just by being there. Next up we have Tina’s mom played by Arcee herself, Susan Blu in a rare appearance in front of the camera. Sadly, Sue isn’t really given a lot to do here, just be a typical mom in a horror movie, so her presence here isn’t quite as uplifting as Kiser’s, but if you’re a Transformers fan, it’s another reason to smile a bit at the film. Of course, another would be to wonder how flammable her hair was in this film, as it serves as a very fine example of 80s AquaNet hair fashion.
Meriting his own discussion separate from the cast, we have Kane Hodder putting on the hockey mask for the first time. While I do have to admit, upon watching this I did like C.J. Graham's performance in Part 6 better, we do have all the elements present here that would form the foundation of Kane's impressive run as Jason Voorhees including great stunt work such as where the roof of a cabin falls down on him or where he catches fire in the basement and most notably the aura he projects in the role: you are going to die and it's going to be brutal. It's a good start and I'll be interested how it develops through Part 8 before we catch up to him where I first saw him in the role in Jason X. (Yes, Hodder plays Jason in ...Goes to Hell, but it gets complicated)
One last point has to be brought up about the music. While the standard themes are of course provided by series stalwart Harry Manfredini, the score relies largely on composer Fred Mollin. Now, what he provides isn’t going to necessarily blow your socks off or anything, but I did find it clever that the theme for when Tina uses her ability has influences from Tubular Bells, the Mike Oldfield work that has its own roots in horror as it served as the theme for The Exorcist. A clever little nod that certainly deserves some recognition.
As I said in the opening, I wasn’t expecting to like this entry. I was expecting it to reek of desperation as we are indeed coming up on the waning entries of the franchise. But smart handling of the fantastic elements by keeping them as grounded as possible, aside from the initial concession or suspension of disbelief, ends up resulting in another solid entry in the franchise. This film also gives audiences something new: someone able to stand toe-to-toe with Jason and win. Where most final girls manage to survive until they get off a lucky shot or the like, Tina is able to go rounds with Jason before finally pulling out the W…with a little help. And, I gotta admit, a couple of familiar faces ended up turning an experience I was dreading into a fun little reunion. Of course, mileage is gonna vary with that last bit, but it managed to help cement Part 7 into Happy Cat territory.