Friday the 13th: Part 6: Jason Lives (US - DVD R1)
Gabe had less luck bringing his granny back via iron rod and lightning bolt...
The best nine minutes in the history of the Friday the 13th franchise come at the top of Jason Lives, which sees the Frankenstein inspired rebirth of Jason Voorhees via dual lightning bolt strikes to the chest, thanks to the overzealous actions of series protagonist Tommy Jarvis. Director Tom McLoughlin musters every once of James Whale, Mario Bava, and Terence Fischer he possibly can, and without missing an iota of cheese or corn, he spits it forth in a perfect conglomerate of past, present, and future horror movie iconography. The whole film isn’t this good, but it’s hard to live up to such rousing heights. There are moments of hysterical genius throughout the Friday the 13th movies, even the series’ lesser entries have their sunny side kills, but while re-watching Jason Lives I got the distinct feeling that McLoughlin actually knew what he was doing when he achieved such glory, and he may be a better filmmaker than his follow-up, made-for-television follow-up career led me to assume.
Jason Lives is one of the first self aware slasher films. It doesn’t quite approach the post-modern aspirations of the Scream series, but McLoughlin assumes the audience knows the series rules, and lets us know were in on the joke, even completely shattering the fourth wall once. The fifth film had a more goofy sense of humour, and wasn't really aware of itself as a movie, which doesn’t quite work outside of the time of release. In contrast Jason Lives is quite clever concerning its sense of humour, which runs a gamut from blatant self-criticism, tasty in-jokes, old fashion one-liners, and effective slapstick (or splatstick if you prefer). The film also features some of the series most likeable and realistically drawn characters. Lead Thom Matthews is somewhat ineffective in the thankless role of Tommy, and some of the random kill forest wanderers are kind of obnoxious, but the camp counselors don’t act like sex-starved idiots, the cops aren’t gun toting idiots, and even the child actors are relatively harmless. The plot is minimalist in the extreme (Jason is reborn, goes on a killing spree, the good guys set out to stop him), but gets big points for tastefully putting kids in danger (a hard concept on film).
Concerning that wacky Friday the 13th continuity, Jason Lives is responsible for bringing full-on supernatural elements into the series. From this point on Jason Voorhees is an unkillable zombie, not a hyper-aggressive mongoloid man-child with a strong constitution. This is also the film where Jason gets his much loved machete, which he keeps in some form for the rest of the series. In its way Jason Lives is kind of a series reboot, it just takes past continuity into account. Concerning the gore and kills, Jason Lives is actually one of the series’ more tame entries, not only because of the MPAA’s required cuts, but because McLoughlin is more concerned with rollercoaster scares, and impressionistic visuals than disturbing gore. Even the deleted gore that accompanies the film on this DVD isn’t particularly grueling or upsetting.
This is the first film in the new release collection that I can see a distinct difference from the previous releases without a comparison (I don’t own the old sets anymore, so I actually can’t do a comparison, and do apologize for the assumptions I made on previous reviews). Jason Lives is probably the best shot film in the entire series (only Freddy Vs. Jason possibly rivals it, and that one was shot by Ronny Freakin’ Yu), and a solid understanding of theatrical lighting often makes for a generally better transfer. The transfer is effective because it features sharper contrast and brighter colours than I’m used to seeing out of these discs. Blacks are deep, clean, and sharply edged, and the colours pop without drawing too much attention to themselves. Details aren’t finer than expected, but thanks to the brighter colours and sharper contrast fans aren’t likely to miss much, even during the last act, which is dark enough to have been muddied a bit on previous releases. There is still quite a bit of compression noise, especially around edges, in skin tones, and in a few of the brighter reds, so there is some room for improvement come Blu-ray release time.
For Jason Lives composer Harry Manfredini took his normally minimalist, Herrmann inspired string riffs, and ramped them up to super frenetic levels, especially for that all important opening sequence. Like the other 5.1 remixes this one is still mostly centered concerning effects and dialogue (though the film is new enough to have been Dolby Surround mixed the first time around), but the music is brassy and bassy, and fills the channels pretty well. Alice Cooper’s additions to the soundtrack aren’t as surround intense, but are all crystal clear and feature a good punch of bass.
The collector’s edition extras begin with a commentary from writer/director Tom McLoughlin, editor Bruce Green, and actor Vincent Guastaferro. The track is constant, informative, and features an amusing but effective tone. McLoughlin is the track leader, and runs the discussion with a bit of technical know-how (some good lessons actually), and reference to his many levels of homage. Green adds a little more technical jargon, and Gustaferro fills in a few of the gaps. There’s not a lot of blank space or simple discussion of on-screen action here, and plenty of good natured bitching about the MPAA cuts.
‘ Jason Live: The Making of Friday the 13th Part 6’ (13:00) continues the streak of new release making-of featurettes that are short, but well put together and effectively informative. As per the norm the featurette covers a lot of the same stuff as the commentary track, but there’s some new info here too (such as apparent proof that the film was a partial inspiration for Scream, and some behind the scenes on the deleted footage that didn’t even make the deleted footage reel). The featurette is met with the third part of the fun ‘Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited’ (9:30) series of mockumentaries, this one obviously concerning the events of the sixth film, and some supposition on the events in between the films.
The most exciting extra for fans will be the uncut gore reel, or ‘Slashed Scenes’ (6:00), which has apparently been making the rounds at cons for decades. The footage is in rough shape – non-anamorphic full frame video, it’s very dark, details are choppy, and the print is teeming with artefacts. The changes are surprisingly minimal considering what McLoughlin describes on the commentary track, but their presence in any form is valuable to fans. Some of the scenes, it should be noted, have nothing to do with gore, and were apparently cut for pacing. ‘Meeting Mr. Voorhees’ (2:45) is a pseudo-alternate ending, which has been recreated from McLoughlin’s original script using storyboards, music, and the actor who played the caretaker’s voice. The scene was intended to introduce Jason’s father into the series as a possible villain for the seventh installment. That would’ve been better than a telekinetic girl…
Things end with yet another Lost Tales from Camp Blood entry (part 6, natch, 7:15), this one picking up again where the last one left off, and showing perhaps too much of our non-Jason’s face, a trailer, and a teaser for The Uninvited. I suppose the Camp Blood shorts may be growing on me a bit, and I’m still happy Paramount included fan films as extra features, but I was still pretty bored.
…And thus ends my review coverage about Friday the 13th movies I care about. Well, until the Blu-ray releases, when I reassess the audio and video qualities. Otherwise the only films left in Paramount’s catalogue are The New Blood (which features the coolest physical manifestation of Jason, but nothing else), and Jason Takes Manhattan (which features the flat out strangest ending in the series history, but nothing else). Perhaps Warner Bros/New Line will jump on the bandwagon soon and we’ll see Blu-ray releases of Jason X and Freddy Vs. Jason (and I guess Jason Goes to Hell, just to complete the set). Maybe Warner Bros/New Line will also see fit to release Blu-ray versions of the Nightmare on Elm Street series. Only time (an inevitably the sales of these DVDs) will tell.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 16th June 2009
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby 2.0 Mono English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: English, French and Spanish
Extras: Director/Cast/Crew Commentary, Lost Tales from Camp Blood Part 6, The Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited Part III, Jason Lives, Meeting Mr. Voorhees, Slashed Scenes, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Tom McLoughlin
Cast: Alan Blumenfeld, Jennifer C. Cooke, Darcy de Moss, Matthew Faison, Tom Fridley
Length: 87 minutes
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