Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
(Click to see .gif of the James Bond title card. Makes me that happy that I can type that)
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives is completely ridiculous, much more so than the five movies that preceded it, and is better off for it. The movie starts with Jason Voorhees being brought back to life like Frankenstein’s monster after a botched body burning by Tommy Jarvis (the star character from the last movie and the kid who killed Jason in Part IV). I really dig the Tommy Jarvis vs Jason storyline. If Jason has a Van Helsing it’s Tommy Jarvis. After Part V it would’ve been neat to see him become Jason like they hinted at, but this story really need a monster slaying finish and you definitely get that here. In this one Tommy is played by Thom Mathews of Return of the Living Dead fame. I really liked that dude and he does a great job here. I don’t know if he’s a good actor or what that even means in this genre, but he has undeniable charisma and I love to watch him on screen.
This movie from the beginning rides the line between comedy and horror. Not quite to the extremes of an Evil Dead 2, but more like a Nightmare on Elm Street 4. It’s a spoof in a lot of ways. There are many winks to the audience and shots that put the punch line in your hands. I watched some behind the scenes footage with the director and he mentions the shot where the girls American Express card floats in the water was lingered on so that people in the audience would shout out “Never leave home without it!” in an attempt to make the audience feel like they were a part of the movie. I’ve never heard of a director sitting back and giving the punch line to the audience. This movie comes with inches of breaking the forth wall at times. At one point a caretaker says to himself: “Why’d they have to go dig up Jason” then looks straight into the camera “Some folks sure got a strange idea of entertainment”.
The director plays with the idea that this is a nonsense sequel throughout the film. He has fun with the picture in ways that none of them really did before or since. For instance, the paintball goofs getting a military marching band theme was absurd and right out of a sitcom until Jason showed up to cut their heads off. All three of them. At once. Jason is out of place in the world these people occupy and so are we. Jason is our anchor in this movie. He’s the only thing keeping it from getting out of hand.
The police in this one aren’t just your typical dismissive cop types though. With a big roster of bumbling idiots it would’ve been easy to add that cliché. Instead they’re treated as competent police officers. They’re not immediately dismissive of reality. Of course they don’t believe Tommy when he says Jason is back. Why would they? Jason is buried and Tommy came from a psych ward. For all they know he’s a rambling crazy. They warm up to the idea of Jason near the end of the film, but of course they’re dispatched relatively soon after. The Sheriff character is well-acted, and the light tone takes a dark shift near the end when he has to sacrifice himself for his daughter. There’s no doubt in my mind that this underdeveloped Sheriff/daughter plot was the inspiration for Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how good “Jason” is in this sequel. He’s played a guy named C.J. Graham, who despite being in his first acting role completely kills it. I’d wager he’s the best Jason in the entire series. His portrayal is very military-like in approach: Jason moves fast and deliberate, and runs right through doors and shit with no time for a drawn-out chase scene. It feels like even Jason himself is fed up with how stupid everyone is in these movies. Towards the middle of the movie he takes a gear belt and wears it like a soldier. Even uses a combat knife from it at one point. Jason goes to war with the concepts of the series and I don’t think anybody else could’ve pulled that off as well as this guy did.
This is a fun movie and you if you haven’t seen in a while or at all you should check it out. I could argue it’s the best film in the franchise, and one of the finest examples of a horror movie sequel. It’s also a commentary on the series itself while being a love letter to the things it pokes fun at. Near the end of the film a kid in the cabin has a great line that sums up this movies identity in the genre:
“So, what were you gonna be when you grew up?”