Franchise Friday - Jason X
Fair warning…apparently, hockey is going to be banned in two years.
Don’t blame me, I’m just the messenger. And where did my information come from? Nostradamus? Edgar Cayce? Biblical Prophecy?
Nope. Jason X told me.
Here we are, the tenth movie in the franchise and the writers finally caved in to the cliché of IN SPAAAAAAAACE. So, will the Friday the 13th franchise jump the shark like so many other horror franchises that suddenly found themselves beyond the confines of Mother Earth, or will it live up to the film’s tagline: ‘Evil gets an upgrade.’ Let’s find out.
In the year 2000, Jason Voorhees has finally been captured. Rife with scientific possibilities due to his ability to regenerate, the scientists of the Crystal Lake Research Center conduct their experiments until a combination of greed and carelessness give Jason the opportunity to be free once more. Only through the efforts of one last scientist is he finally brought to a stop through cryogenics. Fast-forward over 500 years later. The Earth is a dead world, reduced to nothing more than the destination of a field trip. When a group of students find the frozen Jason and his captor, is this future society prepared to handle such an unstoppable force? Or will Jason survive one Earth only to kill a second one?
Well, if Part 7 was Jason meets Carrie and Part 9 was Jason meets Evil Dead, then Part 10 here is very clearly Jason meets Aliens. Like Part 7, these end up being two tastes that taste good together, for the most part as the analogies are obvious. We have our space marines as well as an android and a greedy corporate type…this time a professor. Holding true to the Friday Franchise norms, of course we have a bunch of horny teens that will end up as ‘spam in a can’ for this outing.
Now, before I dive too deep into this one, I do have to admit that I’ve always had a soft spot for this entry in the series. You see, for about the last year of high school and the entirety of my college career, I was deluded into thinking I was a cinema snob. To put it in a more Joe Bob-esque phrasing, I heeded the siren-song of the indoor bullstuff. But the DVD release of Jason X changed that…it brought me back to not just the Friday the 13th series, but to horror films themselves. So, in that way, I’m forever in its debt and as such, tend to be pretty forgiving about its flaws.
Given that’s a good a segue as any to look at the film’s negatives, we’re given one right up front: Jason’s appearance. Look, I love Kane Hodder in the role…and I’ll gush more about that later…but having what looks to be some of his hair coming out of the make-up, there’s no way to avoid the comparison: Jason’s head looks like a scrotum in a hockey mask. And now…you can’t unsee that image in your head, can you? At some point in the film, your brain is likely going to let that slip, but then you’ll get a certain camera angle and…boom…scrotum. Now you have to spend another indeterminate amount of time getting your brain to once again overlook that fact.
Next up we have the special effects. While I didn’t really see it this way, as I’ll address in the positives, I can certainly see some people knocking Jason X for its very apparent CGI. Yes, the resolution is better than PS1 or even PS2 caliber graphics, but unfortunately they do look very Asylum-esque. Thankfully, there’s no digital gore to speak of.
This next gripe is really only going to be something that me and five other people are going to pick up on: the musical score. Once again handled by series regular Harry Manfredini, the music accompanying the opening credits is perhaps a little too operatic and grand and this actually persists for about the first 15 minutes of the movie. Then, there’s a swift shift in how the score hits the ear as it sounds like the entire orchestra was ushered out and replaced with a pretty cheap synthesizer. Now, in all fairness, orchestras are expensive, and it’s entirely possible that’s exactly what happened, but still, the transition is jarring. It might have been best to just go full TV-movie of the Week synth throughout the duration.
Lastly, it feels like I should say something about the upgrade that Jason receives in the film, turning him into the cybernetic Uber-Jason and…well…meh. I remember when I first saw the film that I dug the change but upon revisiting it, I found myself more underwhelmed this time. In all fairness, this may simply be due to the fact that I’m taking in all the Friday movies at once and thus have the “classic” Jason more entrenched in my brain, whereas when I was coming to Jason X the first time, it’d been ages since I’d seen a Friday film. So while I’m filing it as a negative this time around, who knows, it might be a positive the next time I see it. For the purpose of this review though, I’ll simply say ‘your mileage may vary’.
On the bright side, the film does maintain the series standards when it comes to the kills and the associated gore to go with them. The stand out kill is of course the liquid nitrogen face smashing but there are certainly enough kills to keep any Jason fan satisfied. We even get a callback to one of the best kills of the series…involving say, a sleeping bag. And I have to admit, a sequence like that was really needed in this film, showing that even though they were doing the “…IN SPAAAAAACE!” trope, they still knew where the roots of the series lie.
While not getting any points for originality, Jim Isaac chose wisely in mimicking a mix of Ridley Scott’s Alien and James Cameron’s Aliens for this entry. In the place of the Xenomorph, we have Mr. Voohees himself, clinging to the dark and killing soldiers and students off one by one and it completely works. It plays the cat-and-mouse angle very much like Scott’s film, yet introduces and maintains the militaristic nature of Cameron’s.
The last thing to talk about here is something I already started on in the negative section, that being the special effects. Yes, the resolution is poor, giving off an Asylum vibe but you have to take this in the context of the times. Jason X was released in 2001. As a low-budget horror movie of this time, the special effects are supposed to be low resolution! They’re supposed to look cheap! So while yes, this may be off-putting to some, I felt it matched with the entire vibe the film was going for and in some ways, provided the cherry on top.
To be perfectly honest, it’s kind of amazing that they waited until the tenth installment to go for the whole JASON…IN…SPAAAAAACE! thing. But I’m glad they did, because they nailed it. Sure, its production was simply an instance of putting something out in cinemas while they continued to work on the whole Freddy Vs. Jason project, but it is perhaps because of this ‘red-headed stepchild’ nature that this project just oozes fun. Well, and blood…but mostly fun. There’s no explanation as to why Jason is back from Hell, his fate in Part 9, in fact, there’s little in the way of continuity at all but that doesn’t seem to matter, it simply starts off in the near-future then ends up in the distant future. One could indeed argue that it’s the same movie as the other films in the series, just with sci-fi set dressings…and if that sounds like a negative to you, then yeah, it might be worth a pass. For me, however, Jason X, possibly because of my nostalgic attachment to it, remains one of my favorites of the series and is certainly worth of a Happy Cat rating.
PS - I know that the next film chronologically is Freddy Vs. Jason, however, I'm going to wait to review that until we go through the Nightmare on Elm Street series...hopefully soon. So next up will be the 2009 remake.