Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

1985
Dir. Danny Steinmann

Five years after his run in with hulking serial killer Jason Voorhees, 17 year old Tommy Jarvis is still traumatised by memories and nightmares of that fateful night. Released from an institution and sent to live in a halfway house for troubled teens undergoing rehabilitation, Tommy’s nightmare is far from over. A slew of brutal murders in the area would suggest Jason has returned from the grave – or that Tommy has flipped out completely. But who’s that bit part actor over there with the wild ‘n’ crazy look in his eye? Is it someone who is pretending to be Jason to avenge the death of his secret bastard son – also a resident at the halfway house?! No! Surely not!!!

A New Beginning is often maligned by fans as it is the only film (aside from Part 1) not to feature Jason Voorhees as the killer. While the killer dresses as Jason and has a motive that also involves avenging the death of a family member, it isn’t the real Jason. You might be forgiven for thinking, ‘Well, Halloween III didn’t feature Michael Myers and that was still an interesting, if flawed, attempt to breathe fresh life into a stale franchise and take it in a new direction.’ And you’d be right. But not in the case of A New Beginning, which exhibits nothing fresh about it at all. Particularly coming after a film entitled The Final Chapter!


A cast of mixed-up delinquent teens make up the fodder list, but even this potentially interesting, and surprisingly ethnically diverse, hodgepodge of characters can’t save proceedings from sliding into boredom. Seriously this is the least threatening bunch of supposedly ‘bad-ass’ young criminals/psychotics ever committed to film. The point of them being in the halfway house is because they need to be integrated back into society on account of their criminal/psychotic behaviour. Aside from Vic, who kills the annoying kid with an axe, and maybe Violet, who looks bad-ass all kitted out in her Eighties punk gear and crimped hair, this lot exude less bad attitude than a startled kitten. That includes bad-ass, mutha-fucka ‘Demon,’ who suffers the indignity of being terrorised and then skewered by Roy Jason, while on the loo.



Aside from the mixed-up, ‘crazy’ teens, Roy's Jason’s other victims in this one also include a couple of leather jacket-clad greasers with car trouble, an ambulance driver and his waitress girlfriend outside the sleaziest red-lit diner you’ve ever seen, and an odd mother-son combo whose redneck exploits and potty-mouthed humour ("You big dildo. Eat your fucking slop!") really doesn’t sit at ease with the rest of the film. A New Beginning is uneven, lurid, sleazy and just plain ‘off.’



Director Danny Steinmann lacks the ability to inject any sort of tension into proceedings at all. The former adult movie director seems more at home helming the various scenes where female characters take their clothes off. Indeed, much of the film feels like a porn film as it is made up of the same kind of vignettes you might find in an adult film, most of the characters are only introduced for one thing – here though, it’s to be killed. Yes, many of the characters in Friday the 13th movies are only introduced to be killed, but at least there are some attempts, as weak as they may be, to flesh them out a little before they're cut up. Even the final chase scene – often the saving grace of many of the other lesser sequels – lacks any sort of impact.



The kills have become mechanical and by-the-numbers (though again, some would argue that this has been the case throughout the series!) and the stalking scenes leading up to them exhibit no tension whatsoever: characters do drugs/party/have sex/do Eighties robot dancing in their bedroom, think they hear a noise, go back to what they were doing, turn around and BAM! Roy Jason thrusts something stabby into them/beheads them/gouges out their eyes/impales them/terrorises them while they’re in the shitter/hatchets them in the stomach and so on and so forth and blah, blah, blah. Maybe my utter apathy comes from being so desensitised to this after watching five (What!? Only five so far!???) Friday the 13th movies in quick succession? One thing is for sure, they’re starting to bleed into each other now. I began to mix up victims from this film, and Jason Lives


Bringing the character of Tommy back provides a certain sense of continuity and familiarity. It was probably the only interesting move made by the filmmakers here – and there is some attempt to explore the psychological trauma suffered by someone who has survived Jason. Corey Feldman even cameos in an opening dream sequence where he witnesses the resurrection of Jason and is about to get skewed when he wakes up just in time. As the grown up Tommy, John Shepherd doesn’t have much to say, but he still plays the ‘traumatised-victim-who-thinks-they’re-losing-their-mind-again’ quite well. He seems lost and vulnerable, but still has that slight edginess that leaves you thinking ‘Well, maybe it is him.’ Except the mystery of who is actually the murderer isn’t the focus here. Like Part 1, the emphasis is on the kills. Unlike Part 1, this batch of murderlisations is bland and forgettable and ripped to shreds by the censors. Either that or a low budget forced Steinmann to cut away at the last minute from most of them.


An uneven, sleazy and quite messy addition that had so much potential given the plight of Tommy, the wasted ‘is-he-isn’t-he-the-killer?’ angle and a potentially cool cast of juvenile delinquents who should, by rights, have been more than a match for Roy Jason and put up a better fight. This Friday only redeems itself because more than often, it falls firmly into the ‘so bad its good’ category. Don't even mention the silly ending where Tommy is set up to be the next Roy Jason though. It didn't make sense then, it doesn't make sense now.

7 comments:

Aaron said...

This is one of my least favorites in the series, too, but not my absolute least favorite. I'll let you know which one that is when you get to it! This one had a few things that I liked about it, though. I always laugh whenever the black kid screams like a girl. Violet's dance scene, Debi Sue Voorhees' rack, etc.

Wings said...

Yeah... So many fans have come to love this one after so many years, but I still find it odd and off-putting in the series. And some of the acting/directing is just completely eye-rolling. Gee, why not just have Roy yell out "Look at me! Look at me!!!"

sigh

Andrew Green said...

I always kind of liked this one....
Part of its problem is that difficulty of living up to part four.

The Movie Snob said...

Nice review, all valid points. Do you feel like after part V, the sixth through the eighth entries got better because they became more self aware?

Gone was the serious tone and in place of it was camp violence and sexploitation that wasn't ever trying to be serious.

James said...

Can't wait to find out which is your least fav, Aaron. And since you pointed out the likes of Reggie 'The Reckless' screaming like a girl (think I may have made a LOL at this, too), Violet's dance scene, and Debi Sue Voorhees' rack I'm beginning to rethink my stance on this film - it has SO many classic moments! ;)

Wings and Andrew, while I like this movie, it is because it falls into the so-bad-its-oh-wait-no-its-just-bad! category. It is TERRIBLE. Though there are a couple of moments in it that I like. Like Violet and her robot dance. And, erm, the return of Tommy Jarvis (surely a worthy subtitle for any Friday the 13th movie!) and the opening dream scene. And Violet's robot dance.

I think the most self-aware instalments were Part VI, IX and X (which will always have a special place in my heart). 'Giddyup!'
I do feel the only 'fresh approach' each director could bring to the table was the humour. The producers firmly believed the success of the series lay in its familiarity, and essentially remade the same film over and over again.

Cody said...

Sometimes I like to pretend the crazy dancing girl is Tiffani Amber Thiessen. But I don't know why.

James said...

Hey, that's just how you roll, Cody. Wouldn't it be something if it WAS Tiffani Amber Thiessen!? *reminisces about Saved by the Bell - but not the College Years*