#10. Friday the 13th Part VII – The New Blood (1988)
Nature of Shame: Trudging my way through the intermittent (and extremely relative) joys of the Friday the 13th series. Bring on Friday the 13th Part VII because it’s the next one and this time I’m actually looking forward to it!
Hooptober Challenge Checklist: Decade: 1980’s John Carl Buechler
Seriously, though. Has anyone ever muddled through five films to enjoy the sixth? Police Academy? A Nightmare on Elm Street? I’m at a loss. This next entry arrived via Netflix DVD and here’s the little red envelope to prove it.
‘Friday the 13th Part VII’ Elevator Pitch
A pscyhokinetic, guilt-ridden teenage girl named Tina inadvertently unshackles Jason from his water grave in Crystal Lake after a creep psychiatrist intentionally agitates her with the intention of somehow vaguely exploiting her psychic powers.
So how does he intend to exploit her?
Uh. Well. He just intends, okay?
You have no idea.
Tina must then learn to harness her powers in order to subdue the rampaging supernatural prometheus before he kills and kills again.
Maybe more of a Thursday?
At this point I’ve written more unnecessary words about the Friday the 13th series than just about anything else. I’m not part of the in-crowd; I prefer my slashers weird and Italian. And until just recently I wouldn’t have recommended any of the films in the series for anyone not already indoctrinated into the cult of Jason.
Since we’ve come this far, however, I’ve no qualms about saying if you tried Friday the 13th but gave up after a few entries, re-join the party with Part VI and Friday the 13th Part VII. Where VI aims for greater respectability and production value, Part VII feels indirectly inspired by the manic energy of Evil Dead II (1987).
Paramount Pictures had originally wanted Part VII to be a crossover with A Nightmare on Elm Street, bringing Freddy Krueger into the fold. The two sides failed to agree on terms, but screenwriter Daryl Haney instead came up with the idea of pitting Jason against a “Carrie” — a girl with telekinetic powers, apparently dead set on a monster vs. monster type crossover.
Associate producer Barbara Sachs took this lazy premise, and according to Haney, aimed to win Academy Awards. Most unbelievably, the production team reportedly batted about candidates like Federico Fellini to direct Friday the 13th Part VII to show how serious they were about crafting high-minded schlock. When that Fellini thing fell through (shocker), Sachs had to settle for John Carl Buechler — who also had a unique vision for Jason, even if it wasn’t especially tied to certifiably insane goals like Academy Awards for Jason Voorhees.
Friday the 13th Part VII: The Ultra-Violent Terminator(?)
Despite Oscar intentions, Friday the 13th Part VII feels tonally schizophrenic from the very beginning, consisting of maybe a dozen partially-thawed frozen turkeys. There’s a bite from Jaws when Jason drags a skinny-dipper down underwater. The ghouly, maggoty Jason — especially after the removal of the mask — takes a page right out of the Evil Dead makeup effects. The Carrie elements and the shady psychiatrist (played by Terry Kiser aka Bernie Lomax) feel completely tacked onto the standard Jason-murders-a-houseful-of-horny-teens script. They just happen to live next door!
The teens that Jason rips through like a fun size package of Cheetos have no life or individual flavor. They’re balloons just waiting for the POP. There’s some sort of nerdy-girl She’s All That makeover, some unreal mean girling, and a whiny sci-fi author that makes George McFly look more Rudolph Valentino.
To top it all off, Tina uses her vague and amorphous psychokinetic powers to see the murders before they take place — but her visions are totally different than the actual deaths. I don’t have any special powers of foresight but I could have told her exactly which characters were going to be dead by the credit roll, too.
And then we get to the extended Jason vs. Carrie climax of the film. I mean Jason vs. random psychokinetic Tina and definitely not Carrie the Stephen King property. I mean Frankenstein’s Terminator vs. Firestarter Tina. Just toss it all in a bingo wheel and see what shakes out.
Final ‘Friday the 13th Part VII’ Thoughts
And this is where I take this bl-g post in an entirely different direction. Friday the 13th Part VII is a disasterfest of misguided ideas, but in as much as it gleefully flaunts the standard “rules” for a Friday the 13th movie I can’t help but be entertained by this disconnect.
The climax of the film where Jason takes on Tiny takes on a life of its own. It’s a self-contained showcase of practical effects and makeup. Jason loses his mask and the scarred, maggoty face remains on display. Kane Hodder, the stuntmant playing Jason in this entry, endures a then record-breaking 40-second burn. He’s engulfed in flames for so long, I was convinced it had to be some sort of animatronic trickery. In this finale the film gleefully flaunts its B-movie status. There’s no attempt at high-minded entertainment. This is wacky C-grade schlock begging you to be entertained.
Yes — it’s clear that the more extreme moments of violence were cut to appease the MPAA. It’s also clear that the filmmakers behind this movie actually had no handle on the kind of movie or homage or rip-off that they wanted to make. I compare Friday the 13th Part VII favorably to the similarly unfavorable Part V. Both are heinous messes, but part VII remembers to have fun with the format rather than just trying to push the exploitative elements to the extreme.
Nature of Shame: Trudging my way through the intermittent (and extremely relative) joys of the Friday the 13th series. Bring on Friday the 13th Part VI because it’s the next one.
Hooptober Challenge Checklist: Decade: 1980’s 6th film in a franchise
Complacency had set in. After the disaster that was Friday the 13th Part V, I was just going through the motions at this point. I had to get through #6 to satisfy the Hooptober “6th film in a franchise” requirement and I had to get through Part VIII for #Watch1989 because that’s the other watch prompt I’ve got going on. I’d been told better things were on the Friday the 13th horizon. “Keep going,” Twitter said. “Ugh,” I said to no one in particular. I’d scavenged the entire series on DVD from Netflix and my library so I might as well get these things watched so I can get these back into the library system/Netflix circulation to torture others. And hopefully, eventually, watch the other movies on my Hooptober list.
Something happened very early in Friday the 13th Part VI that brought me back into the fold, however. After a generic Jason-rises-from-the-grave pre-title sequence (featuring Ron Palillo, aka Arnold Horshack!), we’re treated to this little nugget: Jason riffing on the James Bond opening gun barrel by walking into his own dilated pupil and slashing the screen.
I’m normally skeptical of non-espionage movies that riff on James Bond. Without going too far down this rabbit hole, I’ll summarize my feelings by saying they just don’t “get it.” They don’t get what makes these 007 rituals so important to Bond fans — but Friday the 13th, on the other hand, does? Like James Bond, Jason has become an immortal cinematic icon. He cannot be killed. He will return. And he really really likes women. So when Jason steps into pupil, turns, and not-so-gently nudge nudge wink winks James Bond; I finally witnessed the kind of self-awareness necessary to survive, as a viewer, six movies into this franchise.
‘Friday the 13th Part VI’ Elevator Pitch
So Jason wasn’t Jason in Friday the 13th Part V, but we’ve had enough of that nonsense. Stop being cute. Jason’s back, baby. Poor Tommy Jarvis, trying to end the hallucinations plaguing him since his last encounter with Jason, ventures to the graveyard with his friend Allen (Horshack!) to cremate Jason’s corpse. As he opens the casket, flashbacks strike Tommy and he panics, stabbing the rotting, maggoty corpse with a piece of metal fence. Lightning strikes the post, reanimating the corpse and bring Jason back from the dead. Jason punches a hole through Allen’s chest, Tommy flees, and Jason Lives!
The Best Friday?
I’ve not been shy about shrugging away the popularity of the Friday the 13th films. I watched the first one for a Cinema Shame podcast episode two years ago and I’ve been on a two-per-year diet. They occupy a particular place in horror film history and I’ll never deny the budget-conscious effectiveness of the original Friday the 13th construct. Despite some affection for Part II, it wasn’t until this entry, however, that I found the Friday the 13th that proved to be more than its very mechanical, lumbering parts. Part VI has a defined identity and a purposeful sense of humor about itself. Humor had been a component of the series, but it had always taken itself just a little too seriously. Even as the characters kept getting dumber and more deserving of a machete attack, the films as whole failed to embrace humor beyond lazy stereotyping and broad stabs at humor. (Get it? Stabs?)
So Tommy’s not a very good Tommy. We can get over that. John Shepherd, despite his reservations about the role, rendered Tommy as a fully-formed, Norman Bates-like scarred psyche. This Tommy (Thom Mathews) is just a Tommy. He’s dismissed as a quack and subsequently charged with the new Jason murders based on zero evidence. His supposed crimes provide more depth to the film. In order for Tommy to stop Jason, Tommy must also outwit Sheriff Mike Garris and his patrolmen. I didn’t suggest profundity, mind you — just an extra layer of conflict that also introduces Tommy’s love interest in the form of the Sheriff’s daughter Megan.
Friday the 13th Part VI: The Ultra-Violent Prometheus
Director Tom McLoughlin intended to deliver a different kind of Friday. The producers resisted his efforts. Unlike other Friday the 13th films in which editors had to remove graphic sex and violence to avoid an “X” rating, producers asked McLoughlin to add more. He also changed the momentum of the series heading into Part VII. The reborn Jason has now become an indomitable supernatural force — and in certain ways McLoughlin has rendered him as a modern Frankenstein’s monster. A scene early on depicts him discovering this power as he rips an arm off of a corporate paintballer. The resurrection via a bolt of lightning certainly inspires immediate comparisons to the birth of Mary Shelley’s creation.
I can’t say that the parallels continue beyond those few moments. This is still the sixth entry in a series of low-budget slasher movies, after all. Top to bottom, however, there’s just more interesting filmmaking decisions to pick apart. Add in a smattering of Alice Cooper tracks and Friday the 13th Part VI becomes its own thing — an oasis on this cruise through the endless hordes of routine slashing and stabbings.
Final ‘Friday the 13th Part VI’ Thoughts
It took me six tries, but we got there — the Friday the 13th movie that would make me a “fan” of the series. I just needed that one to put me over the top. There’s enough surprises and purposeful filmmaking decisions in Friday the 13th Part VI to make this something more than your average cavalcade of 80’s sex and carnage. I salute this new direction and hope that some of this carries over into Part VII.
Nature of Shame: Trudging my way through the intermittent (and extremely relative) joys of the Friday the 13th series. Bring on Friday the 13th Part V because it’s the next one.
Hooptober Challenge Checklist: Decade: 1980’s
Friday the 13th Part IV was called THE FINAL CHAPTER so this must be the beginning of the epilogue. I’m not going to criticize the series for waffling on its promise of finality because it’s never made much of a point of making sense anyway. Why start now?
‘Friday the 13th Part V’ Elevator Pitch
The PTSD-riddled Tommy Jarvis awakens from a nightmare in which he watches two idiots dig up the grave of Jason Voorhees. (Corey Feldman appears in a cameo during the dream sequence to bridge Friday IV with Friday V.) A thoughtful undertaker even planned ahead and packed Jason with his hockey mask and machete. Tommy then arrives at a mental treatment facility that A) happens to be deep in the woods; B) is surrounded by absolutely lunatics; and C) is filled with other mentally unstable, horny teens, aka low-hanging murder fruit.
Same as It Ever Was?
I’ve never met a slasher movie that was less concerned with building tension than Friday the 13th Part V. The movie’s 22 kills come rapid fire and only a scant few come accompanied by an escalation of tension. We spend a fair amount of time with a secondary character getting tormented inside a port-a-potty, though. With a mixture of humor and horror, it’s easily the most effective sequence in the film, but that’s not saying much when the 21 others come at you rapid-fire, like a greatest hits episode of Jason’s Greatest Cuts.
Here’s a character you barely know and don’t like. Stabbed. Here’s another char– slashed. Here’s an– stabbed. Here– skewered.
The result is a film that dispenses with all pretense. By this point in the Friday the 13th series of films, fans wanted kills and titillation. There’s a refreshing frankness to a garbage movie that moves from horror beat to sexy bit to horror beat with minimal padding. There’s so much sex in Friday the 13th Part V that director Danny Steinmann, in an article in GQ, said he felt like he was shooting a porno in the woods.
Friday the 13th Part V: All Punches Pulled
The biggest problem with Friday the 13th Part V was writing a protagonist (John Shepherd) who spends the majority of the movie heavily-drugged in a catatonic stupor. Like the original Friday, Part V tries to build a mystery around the murders. Is it Jason? Is it Tommy? (Even Part IV feeds into this assumption.) Is it someone else entirely?
I won’t spoil the final twist. The best I can say about the painfully convoluted revelation is that it’s so dumb you won’t see it coming. The best twist, in fact, occurred behind the scenes. Producers cast John Shepherd and many of the other young actors without telling them about the movie they were making. Friday the 13th Part V was made under the working title “Repetition.” To prepare for the role, Shepherd spent months volunteering at a state mental hospital only to be told he’d trained to play the lead in a Friday the 13th movie.
Final ‘Friday the 13th Part V’ Thoughts
I haven’t loved any of the Friday the 13th movies, but I could never say they were boring. Friday the 13th Part V changed that. This movie’s version of lather, rinse, repeat — murder, sex, murder — numbs the senses. It’s gleeful trash cinema that strays from the consistent but predictable dread largely prevalent through the first four entries. I’m told better things lie ahead. #FingersCrossed.
Despite my reaction to this film, I welcome the future of Friday the 13th where it takes itself even less seriously — but also maybe figures out how to reinsert some suspense alongside the gleeful abuse of the formula.
Nature of Shame: Long ago purchased the Arrow Films Blu-ray based on the impressive package of features and the potential for a deep study of the low-budget independent horror filmmaking of Roger Corman.
Hooptober Challenge Checklist: Decade: 1960’s Year Ends with “6”
‘Blood Bath’ Elevator Pitch
Let’s paint a picture. Venice Beach, California. 1966. The beatniks are groovy and the birds are sexy, baby. A woman wanders the streets at night, lost in though, plagued by her argument with her boyfriend. She stops to admire a painting in a gallery window. It’s a Sordi. But Sordi is also admiring her as he’s stumbled into the night to admire his children in the window. He’s taken by her, asks her to pose nude for a new painting, a new Sordi. She happily obliges — to be the subject of a Sordi portrait! The girls will never believe it. Alas, the painter becomes possessed by the spirit of a long dead vampire ancestor and hacks her to pieces with a cleaver before dipping her body in wax. Day and night, the possessed Sordi stalks the streets of Venice Beach looking for his next victim.
Strange Cormans Are Afoot at the Circle K
Even if you didn’t know the history of the production, you’d notice that something feels off about Blood Bath by the end of the first reel. While on vacation in Europe, Roger Corman purchased the rights to distribute an unproduced Yugoslavian espionage thriller called Operation: Titian (1963). Corman added actors William Campbell and Patrick Magee to the cast in order to make it more palatable to American audiences. In the end, Corman discarded the film, deeming it unreleasable.
In 1964, Corman assigned Jack Hill to salvage the project. Hill had just directed sequences for Corman’s production The Terror (1963). Hill shifted the location to Venice, California to match the movie’s Yugoslavian footage and turned a story about espionage into a horror movie about a madmen who kills models and makes sculptures out of their dead bodies. Corman again decided against releasing the film, now titled Blood Bath, featuring Hill’s changes.
Two more years passed before Corman again returned to Operation: Titian / Blood Bath. He hired Stephanie Rothman, an associate producer who’d worked on American International Pictures’ simul-shot Queen of Blood (1965) and Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965), to do whatever she wanted with the existing footage. Her influence changed the murderous artist to a vampire. The actor who played the murderer, William Campbell, refused to participate in yet another reshoot, so Rothman had to add a magical transformation element to the killer’s bag of tricks to explain why the “vampire” looked nothing like Campbell.
At long last, the project received Corman’s seal of approval, and AIP released the film under the title Blood Bath in 1966 with Hill and Rothman credited as directors. It played in a double feature with Queen of Blood.
It’s a Blood Bath
As Blood Bath unspools, it becomes even more incoherent and tonally muddied. Moments of dire seriousness back up against jokey comic relief, and the vampirism angle feels tacked on like Nic Cage’s fake teeth in Vampire’s Kiss. It also rips concepts and beats verbatim from other, better horror films. It’s Frankenstein’s monster in form and function. No amount of massaging Blood Bath could cloud the fact that this was cobbled together from multiple unrelated concepts.
As a historical curio in the filmography of Roger Corman rather than a fully-rendered film, Blood Bath offers more to enjoy. The Arrow Films edition features all completed versions of the film, making the package as a whole worth digging into. Corman’s process of obtaining and shepherding Operation: Titian into its many iterations gives the die-hard film geeks plenty of fodder upon which to chew. Vampire/chewing pun intended.
The average moviewatcher, however, won’t find much of interest here. It’s cheaply made and impossible to follow. Once Corman moved on from Hill’s version, narrative logic got tossed out the window. Continuity errors and unintelligible footage run rampant. If the viewer is to make anything out of their experience with Blood Bath it’ll come in appreciation for small moments of visual ingenuity and surrealist horror and humor. And Sid Haig. Sid Haig’s magic-grow facial hair should provide at least a few overt chuckles. (He had to do Blood Bath reshoots while filming another movie that required different grooming.)
Final ‘Blood Bath’ Thought
View the Arrow Films 4-movie package as a whole, Blood Bath as a curiosity of scrappy low-budget filmmaking technique, or embrace the small time moody absurdities. The best part about this film and the Blu-ray package is everything else that comes along with it.
Nature of Shame: Jaws 3D caused me to cut bait with the Jaws franchise. Let’s see how the infamous Jaws: The Revenge can further degrade the series.
Hooptober Challenge Checklist: Decade: 1980’s Lowest-rated 80’s film
The reputation of Joseph Sargent’s Jaws: The Revenge precedes it. I never had a desire to conclude the Jaws saga because the series just falls off the table in half-measures (at least). There’s not too much backstory here other than contentment that I’d never let The Revenge into my life. Jaws (1977) is one of the most beloved movies of its era — Jaws: The Revenge has a 0%. Jaws 3D does not. I don’t put much credibility in RT scores, but I wasn’t willing to troll for a movie worse than Jaws 3D.
‘Jaws: The Revenge’ Elevator Pitch
Sharks are drawn to the Brody family like their family tree leaks blood. One might imagine they’d move to Kansas to escape the carnage, but no, Ellen Brody and family will not run with her tail between her legs! So the shark comes for her younger son. Bloody carnage! She believes a shark appearance gave her beloved husband Martin a heart attack. Does she leave after deciding that the shark is carrying some personal vendetta? No! She decides to take a vacation. Canada, perhaps? No! The Bahamas! Those dastardly sharks would never find her on an island nation in the middle of the Caribbean! — where elder son Michael works as a marine biologist. No harm will come to any of them, I tell ya!
The Definition of Insharkity
It’s been said that the definition of insharkity is going back in the water, getting eaten and then doing the same thing over again. Never has this been more clear than in Jaws: The Revenge. Ellen keeps having PTSD shark flashbacks, and Jaws 4 draws on the slasher construct to create a kind of Laurie Strode (and fam) vs. the Shape on the high seas. Only unlike a slasher movie that presents its villain as a representation of pure, inescapable evil, Ellen could literally just leave. Amity never looked all that wonderful anyway. If the campers caught in their Friday the 13th nightmares could have just left camp to end their mortal peril, I’m quite certain they would have hopped on the first bus out of the woods.
On a related note this “How could this keep happening to the Brodies?” premise inspires plenty of unintentional humor. The aforementioned Ellen flashbacks of her entire family getting eaten by sharks or attacked my sharks. Sensing her elder son’s peril; in the middle of a dance with Michael Caine, no less; suggests something extra sensory, perhaps supernatural about this connection between Ellen and the fish. There’s no biological explanation for the narrative of Jaws: The Revenge. Jaws: The Revenge just is. As a viewer you can embrace the insharkity or you can, like schools of viewers before you, write the film off as Brody chum (instead of “bloody chum” — over-explaining mediocre puns is my favorite pastime).
The better — nay — best question about Jaws: The Revenge is how Ellen came to this realization that a Great White has a hit out on her family. Martin Brody killed the shark in Jaws and Jaws II. Unless the Lamnidae family of sharks has some kind of ancestral hive mind that pursues its aggressors across the oceans of the world, this is a textbook case of paranoid schizophrenia. Except for the fact that the movie normalizes her fears. This shark wants to kill Brodies and that automatically makes JTR more interesting than your average cash grab sequel. I’m dying to know how that’s treated in the tie-in novelization because you know Hank Searls embraced shark telepathy in his prose.
‘Jaws: The Revenge’ Spawns… Something
There’s no reason for Mario Van Peebles to speak with an accent. Was Michael Caine’s agent drunk in the 1980s? During the mid-80’s, he was all over the bloody map with Blame It On Rio, Hannah and Her Sisters, Mona Lisa and Jaws: The Revenge. Luckily for all of us he showed up to collect his paycheck and still brings swagger and doe-eyed charisma to an underwritten (unwritten) role of swoon-worthy pilot. Caine even talks like he’s doing an impression of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon doing an impression of Michael Caine. Here’s the clip from The Trip (2010) for reference:
I’ve already assessed the clinically “inshark” (again, instead of “insane”) basis for this movie. Despite it all and despite its reputation, Jaws: The Revenge improves on Jaws 3D and I might even dare to argue that Joseph Sargent’s film is more entertaining than the objectively superior and more polished Jaws 2. I’ll share that confession with you, faithful readers and Hooptoberists, but I’m going to keep that to myself in mixed company unless plied with libations. The point I’m riding like a sunbather primed in the jaws of a Great white is that Jaws: The Revenge has reverted back to its B-movie roots. Steven Spielberg turned a B-movie premise into a global, industry-shifting blockbuster.
Between the rampant continuity errors and the comically mechanical shark, Jaws: The Revenge dispensed with any pretense that these sequels were ever able to attain a flavor cinematic excellence. With that guise of respectability finally swept out to sea, the fourth installment marries the slasher movie production mentality with the insharkity inherent to a series of movies about sharks repeatedly terrorizing a single family.
I’ll let Siskel and Ebert describe Jaws: The Revenge. They’re not wrong, but they’re discounting the entertainment value of inept filmmaking.
Final ‘Jaws: The Revenge’ Thoughts
Jaws: The Revenge had no business being released in theaters. It’s rushed, clumsy, incoherent, and the shark roars. Like a lion — that’s right. The final showdown between Ellen and the Great white suggests Sargent has taken cues from the Alien series. The badass woman going toe-to-toe (toe-to-fin?) with her nemesis in one final confrontation. The movie, however, can’t even maintain suspense for the ten minutes required to finish the fish. I’ll refrain from spoiling the method of ultimate demise, but I’ll state that it goes down among the most incoherent action finales I’ve ever seen.
When asked if he’d ever seen the finished film, Michael Caine said as only Michael Caine can: “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”
It’s all true — but I had some fun, and that’s ultimately why we watch.