Jason X

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"He just wanted his machete back "

April 2nd, 2013

At what point was it decided that when a horror franchise hits a certain age it's time to move the events into space? Joining films such as Leprechaun 4 and Hellraiser: Bloodlines the Friday the 13th series blasts Jason into the final frontier. Typically the death kneel for movies in the horror industry (or just an admission that the producers are out of ideas) Jason X manages to buck the trend and deliver one of its best movies for years.

Rather than just sit on their asses in wait for the long gestating Freddy vs. Jason New Line Cinema decided to bring the big fella back to the cinema screen. In an attempt to keep continuity intact following on from Jason goes to Hell (something they failed to do with that movies move from Paramount) Jason X is set 10 years later meaning the events take place after Freddy and Jason's smackdown (takes a bit of the suspense out of wondering if Jason survives the encounter then).

Locked away in an underground facility by the military it's clear that the world has had enough of Jason's murderous antics. Knowing that it is near impossible to kill Jason (unless done so by a blood relative and not brought back by Freddy, yeah kinda stupid) they decide that the best course of action is to freeze him cryogenically (that's actually a good plan). Hundreds of years later the Earth is a desolate wasteland and Jason's body is uncovered by an intergalactic field trip. Taking this primitive specimen onboard the crew (mostly made up of teens) excitedly plot a course for Earth 2 anticipating the accolades for finding something so rare. Unfortunately for them there are naughty teens onboard and their sent has reawakened a groggy Jason.

Like most when I first heard that they were making a Jason movie in space I rolled my eyes expecting the worst. At the same time I was actually looking forward to there being another movie as it had been such a long time since the last Friday movie (1993) and I had never had the opportunity to see Jason on the big screen (I was too young). Then the trailer arrived and it quickly became one of my most anticipated movies that year. The sci fi looked like fun and was far away from the cheap crap that had been served up in horror movies previously. Then there was the choice of using Drowning Pools Let the Bodies Hit the Floor over the action, could there have ever have been a better song to sum up Jason Voorhees (Sure the song has now been overused but back then it was genius fun).

The main reason I think the Jason experience in space worked where so many others genre swapping horror failed is because it stayed grounded in the genres roots. The space setting is just that, a background theme for your typical slasher. Of course sci fi troupes are used but what we get is a mash up not a complete genre swap. Of course that means the story is throwaway nonsense but that's what the Friday series is (something the previous movie forgot).

Now you'll tend to notice that there are a lot of bad reviews of this movie out there but for the life of me I cannot understand where the hate comes from. The Friday series is cheap exploitation and was never intended as anything else. I myself have had plenty of issues with certain movies in the cannon but I never judged them as being anything less than what they set out to be. You should not take a movie franchise about an undead serial killer seriously. Every movie is meant to be campy fun comparing horror movies on the same scale as Hitchcock and Kubric is ridiculous. Let's take a look at the things that worked for me and didn't for others.

First comes the acting chops which are slated for being of poor quality. Let's be honest here the acting throughout the entire series has never been a strong point but that really isnt that much of an issue when you consider this is a slasher film. As this movie has a high body count a lot of the actors are just around for cannon fodder. Do they have multilayered back stories to explain their presence? Of course not, you get teens, security guards and teachers. Considering all the other 9 movies thus far have really consisted of horney teens it's an odd time to begin complaining.

For me I thought everyone was good in their roles bringing the correct balance of characterisation and humour. We do tend to lean closer to the humour side of things with tongue in cheek quips that rival Bond's best (After a security guard falls on a giant drill the team announces "She's screwed") with the tone giving us a slightly goofier version of Jason Lives self referential humour I was more than happy. The casting is rather inspired with Lexa Doig and Lisa Ryder who were in the middle of their run on cheesy sci fi series Andromeda. They fit right into the films universe and style having already dealt with similar material ( their presence was also an indication of what to expect going in). I also loved the reverse roles they played when compared to their Andromeda characters (Android and lead female).

Next is the sci fi setting which for me breathed new life into the series. The camp setting had already been played out and the producers had already been playing around with changes to the formula (Jason Takes Manhattan, Jason Goes to Hell) while they were less than successful they had the correct idea. The space setting was original (at least in the Friday series) not only giving us a new background to look at (Trees were starting to get boring) but fresh inventive ways for Jason to kill (liquid nitrogen face smash). The special effects were quite great (they were when the film was released CGI tends to date poorly) and this was the first time I actually felt like the franchise had a large budget to rival a lot of mainstream movies.

I can understand that science fiction is not everyone's cup of tea and Jason X will do little to persuade anyone to change their opinion but the genre shift was made clear in all advertisements. There's no point passing judgement on a genre if you don't like it and you can hardly be upset that there are spaceships, VR and nanotechnology in a future set movie. On the other side sci fi geeks shouldn't rip the film to shreds based on its unrealistic portrayal of technology and space travel. Jason X is not Star Trek so it shouldn't be judged the same way. The setting is a theme/props for the Friday franchise.

The first thing I like about Jason this time around is his new look (prior to the upgrade later in the film) which is the best design since Friday part 7. Using a ragged look suits the age of the character and is more appealing to look at then the black sludge version in Part 8 and the Tumour Head version from Goes to Hell. Next is the fact that they embraced the fact that the character is now the star of the franchise giving Jason the longest screen time out of all the movies (Kane Hodder is brilliant in his last turn as the character).

The upgraded version of Jason (This isn't a spoiler as he appears on the poster and the trailers) was a fun moment that like the rest of the film shouldn't be taken too seriously. This version only appears for a small period and with the knowledge that the following films would return to present day it was never going to be a permanent change (although if Jason X had been a bigger success who knows?).

I haven't mentioned the kills and that's because most can agree they are pretty spectacular offering some of the best. Not only are there some brilliant original kills(switching to digital effects enhanced them) but there are more than any other movie (28 in total). I have to single out the homage to Friday 7's sleeping bag kill which is not only effective but one of the funniest scenes I have ever seen in a horror movie.

Jason X is not a scary movie (For that you need to go to Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street) but it's a fun one. It's a perfect addition to the franchise and a definite step up from the drab offerings things had descended to. It's a shame we never got to see Jason's further adventures on Earth 2 (Although there is a book series) as Jason X is one of the movies I return to most frequently. Fortunately Jason X amped up my excitement for Freddy vs. Jason and what could be achieved in the modern era.

Other reviews in the series

Friday the 13th (1980)
Friday the 13th Part 2
Friday the 13th Part 3
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood
Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
Jason Goes To Hell
Freddy vs. Jason
Friday the 13th (2009)

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Movie Details

Movie Poster Here
Director:James Isaac
Screenplay:Todd Farmer
Starring:Lexa Doig
Lisa Ryder
Kane Hodder