Saturday, May 7, 2011

Franchises: Friday the 13th. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)

Now we come to one of the more controversial entries in the series among fans. Although many have warmed up to it in recent years, others still call it the worst in the series for one simple reason: the killer isn't Jason. And that is true. Other than the original, this is the only Friday the 13th movie where Jason is not the one who's going around, butchering people. But worst in the series? I couldn't disagree with that notion more. While I was initially a little bit dubious about this film when I first got into the franchise given what I'd heard about it, this is actually a really good, entertaining entry. It has all of the ingredients necessary for an enjoyable slasher film: a lot of kills (probably the highest body-count in the series), some pretty good gore at points, a number of memorable characters, instances of morbid comedy, and some really dark moments here and there.

Years after the events of The Final Chapter, Tommy Jarvis is now a very disturbed teenager who is sent to a halfway home for troubled kids. While he struggles to fit in as he battles his crippling personal demons, a series of killings begins in the nearby town near that ultimately lead to some of the other troubled teens at the house being knocked off. Has Jason returned from beyond the grave? (Well, obviously I just told you what the deal is but I'm trying to be dramatic!)

The reason for no Jason in this film becomes obvious when things are put into perspective. Jason was definitively killed at the end of the fourth movie, which was meant to be the last one, but since that film made a lot of money, Paramount decided to continue the franchise. And since the movies had, up to this point, still been more or less believable, it was probably natural for them to decide to not have Jason return but instead have someone else take up the mantle. Moreover, the creepy look he gave at the end of The Final Chapter suggested that Tommy was now disturbed and had the potential to become a psychopath himself, which is what I think this film was going to lead up to: Tommy eventually becoming the new Jason. However, after the reception this movie received (its box-office take started out strong but plummeted sharply after the first weekend), that game plan changed. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Our director this time is, without a doubt, the most controversial person to ever tackle a Friday the 13th flick: the late Danny Steinmann. This is one of only four movies he ever directed, with the other three being High Rise (a porn film), a horror film called The Unseen, and Savage Streets, an exploitation movie starring Linda Blair. Steinmann's past experience with porn gave him something of a seedy, exploitation-centered mentality that really seeps into the film. There's a lot of gratuitous nudity here, probably more so than there was in The Final Chapter, and there are also some really sleazy characters here, as we'll see. The film itself does look quite good but, at the same time, you can really feel that this is just as much a sleazy exploitation movie as it is a slasher movie. As for the cast and crew's opinions on Steinmann, it's really divided. Some liked him, while others, especially some of the women, have said he was a pervert who snorted a lot of cocaine, allegations that he himself always denied (at least when it came to being a perv). Who knows what really went on but, as I said, his past experiences do filter into this film.

Corey Feldman was originally supposed to reprise his role as Tommy for the entire film but he was filming The Goonies at the time, so he only appears briefly in a dream sequence that opens the film. John Shepherd plays the adult Tommy and I must say, for a series that often gets some rather bad actors, he does a great job. He really does come across like an extremely troubled kid. He hardly ever speaks (24 words total, according to IMDB), he never smiles except once and it's so quick you'd probably miss it, and his mannerisms all point to a damaged person who's lost his family and is very disturbed by his encounter with Jason. He's constantly hallucinating about Jason as well. One particularly hard one for him is when he's remembering killing him and then sees him standing behind him in the mirror with an axe raised. But, when he turns around, there's nothing there and he then pounds his head against the dresser and sobs in utter frustration. Tommy's also prone to violence. At one point, Eddie, one of other teens at the halfway house, puts one of his masks on, scares him with it, and then throws it back at him. After asking if he can take joke, gently punching him in the shoulder while saying so, Tommy brutally attacks him and Matt, the guy who's in charge, has to get him off of Eddie. The ending with him is really creepy, suggesting that Jason has tainted his soul for good. He sees another hallucination of Jason and while he gasps at first, he slowly becomes calm and a frighteningly cold look comes over his face, made even scarier by the lightning and crashing thunder going on outside. The last scene has him put on Jason's hockey mask and prepare to stab Pam, the female lead, with a butcher knife, which was meant to be the start of Tommy's intended stint as the new villain, which didn't work out. Despite that, though, Shepherd does a very good job nevertheless.

Melanie Kinnaman as Pam Roberts, the lead female, has nothing to do other than act like a typical nice girl as well as scream and run. (The scene at the end where she's being chased by Roy, the killer, is some really bad horror movie acting: she falls down and then acts like she can't get up.) Shavar Ross as young Reggie, whose nickname is Reggie "The Reckless," acts all tough and says nothing scares him at the beginning when he first meets Tommy but, during the climactic chase, screams like a little girl. That's about all I can say for him, other than he's also a little smartass. Richard Young (who would go on to be the guy who gives the young Indiana Jones his hat at the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) has
literally nothing to do as Matt, the guy who runs the halfway house. He seems like a nice guy who does genuinely care about the kids but he's so unimportant that his death is off-camera. Another guy who has nothing to do is Vernon Washington as George, Reggie's grandfather. Again, seems like he really cares about Reggie, but, like Matt, he's killed off-camera. Marco St. John is the sheriff, Cal Tucker. Not the best actor but he does seem like a reliable sheriff who wants to figure out what's going on.

The other teens at the halfway house are quite a colorful bunch, to say the least. You've got Jake, played by Jerry Pavlon, who stutters a lot; Juliette Cummins as Robin, who does absolutely nothing other than laugh at Jake's advance on her and strip down to just her underwear before she goes to bed; Tiffany Helm as Violet, a goth sort of chick who constantly listens to music and does some crazy dance moves to it as well (watch her movements as she dances to the song His Eyes right before she gets killed; her movements almost look like their stop-motion!); and our horny couple this time, Tina and Eddie, played by Debi Sue Voorhees (yes, that really is her last name) and John Robert Dixon. Other than being sex-obsessed, Eddie doesn't do anything other than get his ass kicked by Tommy. Tina's most amazing traits are her gigantic boobs. Check out those things! Damn! Finally, I have to mention two teens who only appear in one scene but it's really a memorable one. Dominick Brascia is Joey, a fat, chocolate-loving kid who is a bit annoying but seems like a nice guy who only wants to help. And then there's Vic, played by the late Mark Venturini from Return of the Living Dead. Joey comes up to him and starts to ramble endlessly about helping him chop wood. Vic eventually loses his cool and after Joey tells him he's out of line, he chops the kid to pieces. What makes this scene notable is that this is the only kill in the series not committed by the actual villain of the film, be it Jason, Mrs. Voorhees, or, in this case, Roy. Also, you have to question the logic
behind this place. These kids are disturbed and yet, you let them work with sharp tools? Moreover, you give Vic, who is clearly crazy and would literally rip your head if you breathed on him wrong, an axe to chop wood? It was a disaster waiting to happen. This murder also serves as the impetus for the other killings in the movie, as I'll explain in a bit.

There are also plenty of side characters whose only purpose is to serve as more cannon fodder but some of them are so colorful that they are worth mentioning. There are these two greaser guys dressed in black leather jackets whose car has broken down and, as a result, they become Roy's first victims. The one named Pete (Corey Parker) is a major douchebag to, the other guy, Vinnie (Anthony Barrile), and threatens to kick his ass if he doesn't fix the car. Long story short, he, at least, deserved to get butchered. Billy, played by Bob De Simone, is a pervy paramedic who delivers Tommy to the house and gives Pam a really bizarre gesture involving his ear and tongue. His girlfriend, Lana (Rebeca Wood-Sharkey), does nothing but show her enormous tits (which are nice) and whine a little bit before she gets killed. Miguel A. Nunez Jr., another Return of the Living Dead actor, plays Reggie's brother, Demon, and although it is made clear that he's kind of a troublemaker, particularly with how George feels about Reggie going to see him, he does genuinely love his brother. I like how he seems to be a tough guy with how he's dressed in leather and chains but when he's trapped in the outhouse by Roy, he starts crying like a little girl. His girlfriend Anita (Jere Fields) does nothing special but they do serenade each other while he's taking a crap in the outhouse (Ooh, baby, ooh baby, ooh, baby).

The best characters in the film by far are Ethel and Junior Hubbard, a hilarious over the top redneck mother and son. Carol Locatell plays Ethel as such a nasty, foul-mouthed hick woman that it's awesome. She calls her own son a big dildo at one point, as well as tells him to, "Shut the fuck up!", threatens the sheriff by saying she has a bomb on her, and warns all the kids at the
home that if she catches any more of them on her
property, she'll blow their brains out... and she would, too! Ethel rules! Junior (Ron Sloane) is also pretty funny with how much of a big baby he is. After he picks a fight with Tommy and gets the crap beaten out of him, he rides around on his motorcycle, screaming and crying as he circles around his house. (They hurt me, Ma! They hurt me! Aaaaaaah!) Normally I would find something like that annoying but in this instance, I was dying laughing. There's also a random guy who shows up on their doorstep at one point and asks for work so he can earn a meal. I think the credits call him Duke but he never has a name in the actual movie. Even though he's another person who's only there to up the body count, Ethel's reaction upon seeing him in front of her door is priceless.

As you can probably surmise, this film is an odd one in the series because, not only is Jason not the killer, but this is also the first film not to take place at Crystal Lake. In fact, this is the only Friday the 13th film where we don't see Crystal Lake at all in one form or another (when I say that, I'm counting the holographic version in Jason X). We're never told exactly where this place is but, since the sheriff knows about Jason and suggests that he may be the one doing the murders, we can surmise that it must, at the most, be in the same state as Crystal Lake. That, however, is the only connection to Jason's old stomping grounds that we get, as the name, "Crystal Lake" is never even mentioned in the film. Speaking of the setting, you have to wonder exactly what the purpose of this halfway home is. It's supposed to be for troubled teens but many of the teens don't seem to be all that troubled. I guess Jake's stuttering problem could be a reason why he's there, Vic is clearly crazy, and we find out why Joey was there, but why everyone else? Are Tina and Eddie there simply because they can't keep their hands off each other? Is Violet there because she's a Goth who won't stop listening to music? And is Robin there because... she's a redhead? In slasher films, this stuff doesn't matter but it's still fun to point out such oddities and lack of logic in them.

Many have compared this movie to Halloween III: Season of the Witch, the film in that series that has absolutely nothing to do with the films before or after it, a comparison that, while I understand it at face value, I don't think is warranted when you really look at both films. Halloween III, although a good horror film in and of itself, is a completely different and separate story in the middle of that particular series, whereas Friday the 13th Part V is another chapter in the series' story and does pick up from where the movie before it left off. Even though Jason isn't the killer, this is a story where he is prevalent: Tommy is haunted by him, Roy becomes him, and during the climax, his image is there even if it really isn't him. It's still a guy in a hockey mask killing people. In fact, if you think about it, Jason is in the movie. He only appears in dreams and hallucinations that Tommy has but during those scenes, it is him. The opening scene, where Tommy has a nightmare about watching, as his younger self, two men dig up Jason's grave, only for them to be slaughtered by him, is a great opener. I love after he rises from the grave and pulls his machete out of the corpse of one of the guys he just killed, Jason slowly walks up to Tommy, looks at him, and then raises his machete, with a flash of lightning and crash of thunder on the shot of his hand holding it making for quite a creepy image to me. In fact, this scene can almost be viewed as warm up for Jason's actual resurrection at the beginning of the next movie.

Such a large cast means a large body count and Friday the 13th Part V delivers on that score in spades. The two guys in the opening dream sequence get killed with a machete to the stomach and a knife to the throat. After Vic kills Joey (the aftermath of which is quite gruesome), the first real murders are of the greaser guys. Vinnie gets a road flare shoved in his mouth (which would be cool if the effect didn't look so fake) and Pete gets a simple throat slash. Billy gets an axe to the back of the head and Lana gets the same axe in her stomach. Duke, while watching Tina and Eddie have sex, gets stabbed in the stomach with a large knife. Tina gets her eyes gouged out by hedge sheers (we don't actually see this but we do see the gruesome aftermath), whereas Eddie gets a belt latched around his head and gets his skull crushed against a tree as Roy twists it. (That really had to hurt.) Anita, Demon's girlfriend, is killed off-camera but when we see her body, her throat is slashed. Demon gets trapped in the outhouse and eventually gets an iron bar shoved all the way through his torso. Junior gets beheaded while riding his motorcycle and Ethel gets a meat cleaver to her head. Jake is killed by a meat cleaver to the face (while we, again, don't actually see this, we do see the aftermath and there is also a still of a fake head with the cleaver in it). Violet gets stabbed by a machete up through her bed and into her back. Violet was originally supposed to get stabbed in-between the legs but when the MPAA nixed that, they changed it to where she gets the machete in her stomach (a lot of stomach stabbings here, aren't there?) When Pam and Reggie are being chased by Roy, they also discover a dead paramedic, Matt's body, who had a metal spike shoved through his forehead, and George's body, whose eyes had been gouged out. There's quite a bit of gore in these murders and to me, they have an even more mean-spirited feel to them than those in The Final Chapter.

The guy who is imitating Jason in this movie turns out to be Roy, a paramedic who appears briefly in just two scenes. The reason for his rampage is because Joey was his son and seeing him murdered pushed him over the edge. (Why then didn't he just go kill Vic, then?) The "murder mystery" built around it isn't a very thought-provoking one since there's a very blatant clue early on when Roy gives an evil look to the camera when he sees his son's dead body and the reveal at the end that he was the
killer is done very clumsily. Case in point, when I first actually watched the movie, at the end when Roy falls out of the barn and onto a bed of spikes, the mask comes off, and his face is revealed, my initial reaction was, "...I have no clue who that is." I believe they used a dummy for that closeup but whatever they did, it looks nothing like Dick Wieand, the actor who played Roy. And like I said, since the guy only appeared in two short scenes, I had no idea who they were talking about afterward until they mentioned that he was a paramedic. (I actually thought they were talking about Matt because that face kind of looked like him and that first time, I missed where his body is discovered.) Even more confusing is the fact that when Roy is dressed up like Jason during the climax, it's stuntman Tom Morga who's playing him, not Wieand (the two of them have very different physiques, which add to the confusion), and what's more, you'd swear that it was indeed Jason because he smashes through a door and gets up after being hit with a bulldozer, something that only Jason would be able to do. At the same time, though, if you're sharp, you'd be able to catch that it's not Jason because the marks on the hockey mask are blue instead of red and the dark blue jumpsuit he's wearing looks more like something you'd expect Michael Myers to wear. While it doesn't hurt the enjoyment of the movie, it is a rather poorly constructed and executed plot twist in the end.

I have mixed feelings about Harry Manfredini's music for this film. While it's not bad, I don't particularly care for the main title theme (the title itself, with the hockey mask exploding through Friday the 13th and A New Beginning appearing in front of it in blood red letters is cool) and I don't like how the, "ki, ki, ma, ma," sound now does come across like the often misconstrued interpretation of, "ch, ch, ah, ah," but I do, however, like a lot of his other cues, especially the eerie one that plays when Robin goes to bed right before she's killed. I also like the music that plays during the opening dream sequence and the final scene. This movie also only has one cue from any of the previous films, which is the frantic theme first heard in the original after Brenda got thrown through the window in front of Alice and, in fact, you hear it here at one point when a body does get thrown through a window. Nevertheless, all of the music still sounds like the type of music we'd expect to hear in a Friday the 13th film.

As I mentioned earlier, Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning did pretty well at the box-office but there was a swift backlash against it when audiences realized that Jason wasn't the killer. To this day, it still remains one of the most polarizing films in the franchise. As you've gathered, I think it's another solid entry: it's very fun to watch, has some great, memorable characters, a large body count, and some nice, fairly gory kills. While I was not so sure about it at first since going into it, I was aware that Jason isn't the killer, when I watched it a few times, I really warmed up to it. In fact, when I was starting to really get into the series, this ended up being the first one I saw all the way through. Anyway, to conclude, if you hate this movie for that reason, give it another chance. It's much better than you probably think it is.

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