Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

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"Facing your fear doesn't always conquer it "

Oct 30th, 2011

As a teenager I used to watch a lot of shite. I remember taping the 8th Friday the 13th movie off TV and watching it repeatedly with my friends. Over the years I've heard the scorn directed at the movie but put it down to people just not understanding the horror genre (most reviews for 80's and 90's horror are dismissive). So after completing my collection of Jason films on DVD I excitedly popped the movie in and realised that I was a stupid kid. This movie blows.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan was the last film to be released by Paramount before they sold the rights to New Line Cinema (The home of Freddy Kruger). That alone should reveal the disaster that made its way to the screen as the studio became keen to dump its biggest cash cow (prior to this movie).

For no sure reason Jason follows a group of high school students onto a boat en route to New York City. Just let that sink in, Jason Voorhees loose in New York. It's an exciting premise that never really comes to fruition. The film really should have been called Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason takes a boat trip.

I've mentioned time and time again in these reviews for the series that the narrative is hardly an important factor when returning for another round. Each film rehashes the same elements but fans of the franchises can differentiate between the sequels based on certain themes provided. There's the film that was in 3D, the one without Jason, the one with the Carrie clone and now we have the shit one.

Our Hero this time is Rennie Wickham (Jensen Daggett) who is deathly afraid of the water. Of course the best treatment is to take a boat trip (80's logic). Her fear stems from childhood and somehow was caused by seeing child Jason from Camp Crystal Lake (I don't really understand this as I was sure that was a dream sequence for another character in another movie). That's as far as we go for any development as Jason attacks people on the boat before an all too brief showdown in the docks and sewers of Manhattan.

It has over the years been revealed that the budget for the film was radically slashed resulting in the lack of location shoots. Aside from a trip to Times Square (the absolute highlight of the film) most of the film was shot to resemble the city (It was actually filmed in Vancouver) despite not being there. This is why when we get past the long and tedious trek to New York we spend our time in back alley and Sewer locales. While it's easy for me to rip on the bad marketing it wouldn't be such an issue is if what we were left with was passable entertainment but every aspect that defines the Friday series is substandard here.

First there's the acting. I have previously noted that for a B-movie great acting is not a requirement but more of a bonus. If a person lacks acting chops it fine but there comes one actual need, they have to try. The cast here put no effort into anything be it line delivery or representing fear (at least all the previous bad actors could convey terror), wide eyes and mouth agape does not work if I can see you looking at the clock. A lot of the actors could clearly give more and have since (such as Kelly Hu and Peter Mark Richman).

Then we have the new representation of Jason. Still played by Kane Hodder the character can have some imposing moments but has them taken away for more of a cartoony representation. First is his enhanced teleport ability. Prior to this film Jason would appear behind characters for jump scares despite a certain physical impossibility. Now it is overused to the extreme where you have to wonder if he has the ability to fly (I also fail to understand how anyone could ever escape him). Next we get the bad design choice of slimy black overalls and crappy makeup (this is coming off a film with the best make up effects to date) it looks silly much like the fat Michael Myers in Halloween 6. Then we get to watch the mocking of the icon from various characters diminish his presence (The boxing scene is amusing for a Saturday Morning cartoon show).

Let's get right to the biggest disappointment which has to be the kills. Putting aside the poorly conceived Jason and lack of tension I can always appreciate an inventive kill and practical special effects. I can appreciate it but it's not what I got. In a slasher I like a good chase sequence but the producers seemed to realise that by elongating these moments they could save money and pad the runtime of the film (you don't need plot if you can film people running in circles). Rather than having a good kill we get ten minutes of running (Do you know how dull that is on repeat viewings?) followed up by the most anti climatic conclusion.

Stabbing by guitar, pushed into mirror, thrown off a high ledge this is the quality you get. Not only does it feel very TV movieish but the actual effects are lazy (there are a lot of cutaway moments) and beyond cheap (they saved with budget scriptwriters and terrible actors why not go all out on effects) that the movie is outshined by the original in terms of effects (and most other things). The film doesn't even get a pass for trying to get a lower rating as there is more violence in an Indiana Jones movie.

The story is idiotic to the extreme with a conclusion that has to be seen to be believed (Did you know they pump nuclear waste through the Sewers of New York at night?).I will say that Friday the 13th Part 8 is actually a good gateway movie for young teens into the horror genre. As a slight step up in terror and violence from shows such as Are you Afraid of the Dark? And Tales from the Crypt it prepares them for the darker horrors of cinema.

The only good feeling I get from the film is the nostalgia of when I watched it as a kid so I can't imagine what it must be like when viewing without the rose tinted glasses. I'd like to say that this was the low point for the franchise but the next film really takes the cake. Only check out this movie as a completionist or for a laugh. I still can't believe I liked this as a kid.

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
Jason Goes To Hell
Jason X
Freddy vs. Jason
Friday the 13th (2009)

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Movie Details

Movie Poster Here
Director: Rob Hedden
Screenplay: Rob Hedden
Starring: Jensen Daggett
Scott Reeves
Kane Hodder