Where every anniversary’s a scream!
By 1988, Friday the 13th fans had seen 3 killers, 5 masks, 6 films, and 84 deaths in the waning slasher decade that offed horny teens ranging from 3D to DD; by the seventh film, it was clear that nothing was new. And how could it be? In a slasher serial that had amassed an accumulative $172 million, Paramount found itself with record low returns in its attempt to reboot the series with a brand-new killer in New Beginning – an $11 million dollar decline from Final Chapter – forcing the franchise to resurrect its hockey mask wearing momma’s boy in Jason Lives. And even then, it appeared that fans had given up, as Jason’s sixth outing proved less profitable than ever, despite becoming a fan favorite. It would seem that Jason had officially dulled every blade in the woodshed.
Bringing John Carl Buechler on board, the special effects and make-up wizard behind Stuart Gordon’s cerebral mind-meld From Beyond – who would later enroll the Ghoulies into academia with Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go to College – the Friday the 13th franchise would attempt to cash in on the long dormant telekinetic teen craze of films like Carrie, The Fury and The Initiation of Sarah. It’s an approach that often sees standard genre fare – the high school melodrama, the espionage action thriller – invigorated with the supernatural, elevating the been-done-formula with a sense of the unknown.
After being chained and anchored in the last film by an older, vengeful Tommy Jarvis, Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder in his debut) is reawakened by the telekinetic angst of Tina (Lar Park Lincoln), who unwillingly sent her abusive father to a watery grave when she was just a little girl. Still unable to fully realize the potential of her power, Tina is brought back to her childhood home by nefarious psychiatrist Dr. Crews (Weekend at Bernie’s Terry Kiser), who seeks to manipulate and harness her telekinesis for purposes that go unmentioned. Soon, a decayed and pissed off Jason begins dispatching teens who have conveniently thrown a party across from Camp Crystal Lake, and as the body count grows, so does Tina’s psychic capabilities.
What doesn’t grow with every kill however, is the gore, which was sliced and diced in order to receive an R-rating from the MPAA. And it shows, as nearly every stab, hack, saw and slice feel as if it lost a shot somewhere on the cutting room floor. It’s one of the films most glaring omissions, given the expressive ways Jason cuts through fifteen oblivious teens. And despite these cutbacks, the arsenal at Jason’s disposal does feel new. From axe, scythe, butcher knife and machete, all the way to tent spike, brush hook, a campers own sleeping bag and a kazoo like instrument, there isn’t a tool or party favor that doesn’t find its way as a murder weapon. Jason even punches a damn hole through a camper’s chest, and if you close your eyes, you can almost see the level of carnage that goes into an act like that.
Yet despite the omission of what draws box office numbers (if you need to phone a friend, the answer’s gore), New Blood never quite feels dull, plowing through its 88-minute run time like a Voorhees out of hell, and by the looks of it, he’s been through it.
Taking his make-up expertise, along with a crew of almost 35, John Carl Buechler creates the funkiest decayed version of our favorite killer to stomp the grounds of Crystal Lake. Hunks of decomposed flesh are missing from Jason’s backside, revealing a ten-piece bucket of ribs and spinal cord, while the exposed areas of his rotted-out face reveal a set of chompers that would make Mick Jagger start it up. When Tina does finally confront her fears, which take the form of Jason’s hideous and hulking frame, she telekinetically mind-snaps his mask, exposing the putrefied scowl of a vengeful boogeyman who has been through the ringer. Contorted teeth fill his mouth, which moves with the help of animatronics, bringing to life a modern-day Frankenstein’s monster.
It’s a look that feels desperately needed, as New Blood’s traumatized psychic Tina, despite growing up, feels bolstered to final girl training wheels, pouting and moping around the woods that feel plucked from a Grimm fairytale. Low-hanging moss and lighting give the surrounding forest a delusional daydream quality – filming took place in Alabama – which feels hauntingly like an extension of Tina’s subconscious; playful yet eerie, uninhibited yet venturesome. It’s an addition that feels shrouded in the fantastical, which is unfortunately unable to whisk us far enough away from Lar Park Lincolns baby act, which only disappears when she’s busy levitating television sets or kissing Nick (Kevin Blair), the films love interest turned final guy, whose most interesting (albeit bizarre) character trait is that he keeps a photo of his cousin Michael (William Butler) in his wallet.
Luckily, there’s a smorgasbord of expendable party animals to entertain us, working that 80’s clique caricature cut-out, which shouldn’t work, except that for the most part it does in that sort of fading necessity for debauchery and dismemberment. There’s pop-redhead Robin (Elizabeth Kaitan) and her friend Maddy (Diana Barrows), the films purported ugly-Betty, who are both really into rebellious rocker David (Jon Renfield), who’s really into, well, beer. When we aren’t caught in a conflict of interest, we’re caught in a lover’s spat between Kate (Diane Almeida) and Ben (Craig Thomas), while Eddie (Jeff Bennet), the one geek who is ostracized for his seemingly unhealthy obsession with sci-fi, clamors after Melissa (Susan Jennifer Sullivan), a stuffy socialite who pines after Nick, who only seems to be there to throw his cousin a birthday bash.
Except Michael and his girlfriend Jane (Staci Greason) never get to the lake, and before the hour mark is up, just about every single guest has permanently turned in, bringing Tina face to face with Jason. It’s a confrontation that, while far from bloody, is novel in its approach, feeling like a refresher course on Herculean showdowns. Tina telekinetically undo’s an electrical cord from the ceiling, placing Jason in a noose before mind pushing him through the stairs. There’s a kinetic air to the match between mental and physical brawn, demonstrating that strength takes many forms while proving that maybe, just maybe, there’s new blood flowing through this franchise after all.