Sunday, April 9, 2017

Movie Review: Friday the 13th VII: New Blood (1988)

The podcast We Hate Movies is going to do a live show this Thursday in Atlanta covering the film Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood and I'm planning to attend with some of the Myopia crew. Since I have not seen this one (I've only seen most of Friday the 13th Part IV,, Jason Takes Manhattan,, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, and Freddy vs. Jason), I figured it's time to hit up Amazon Instant Video.

Here goes...

The Plot

As my friend Daniel (or maybe it was Nick, but I think it was Daniel) put it when telling me they were going to the live show, this is the one where Jason meets Carrie. Serial killer Jason Voorhees has been chained at the bottom of Crystal Lake and the camp is back to normal, until he's accidentally unleashed by telekinetic teen Tina Shepard (Lar Park Lincoln). Can she use her powers to send him back to whence he came before he wipes out love interest Nick (Kevin Spirtas) and his friends next door and before her odious psychiatrist Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser) has her forcibly sent back to the mental institution? We'll see...

The Good

*I will give this one props for originality. Instead of just "Jason butchers sex-crazed camp counselors vol. 10," they have him face off against a more powerful opponent, a teen girl with psychic powers. And with the original Carrie coming out in 1976 and both the delayed sequel and the remake coming out much later, it's clear the 1988 movie was not a blatant cash-grab on a more successful film.

*Many slasher films from the 1980s were criticized for the prolonged, often sexualized killings of female characters, while the male characters were killed quickly. Jason's opening killing reverses that--the woman is ambushed and killed immediately, while her boyfriend is chased down, impaled on a thrown knife, and then lifted off the ground by the knife embedded in his back. This movie was made at the end of the decade, so possibly the people behind it had been listening to the criticism.

*The details of Jason's costume are quite well-done. Jason has been killed, buried, decayed, resurrected by lightning, and trapped at the bottom of a lake for a prolonged period. You can see his skeleton through his rotten flesh in various places at at one point, his teeth through a hole in his cheek where the mask doesn't cover it. The makeup department was certainly detail-oriented. TVTropes states that the specific wounds from the earlier films were taken into account.

*One of the scenes where Jason stalks a victim manages some suspense.

*For a rotting undead corpse with a machete, Jason displays some strategic sense, including at one point cutting off power to the house before commencing his attack.

The Bad

*The opening consists of a montage of clips from previous Friday the 13th films to introduce just where Jason is now. I understand the need to introduce the film to a new audience, but it was a bit info-dumpy. Maybe just depict Tommy Jarvis sinking Jason into the lake and be done with it? A "cold open" consisting solely of that would be at least tolerable.

Let's be realistic. Who starts with the seventh film in a series? Realistically whoever is seeing this one has seen the previous ones, or at least knows who Jason Voorhees is.

*Another alternative would be to scrap the entire "meet Jason" beginning and start with the image of Jason chaind at the bottom of the lake while the camera pans up to the scene introducing young Tina. That way the threat of Jason is introduced, but the focus is on the new character Tina and her psychic powers.

*It's hard to tell most of the supporting cast (a group of young people staying at a cabin near Tina's) apart and rather than develop them, they just keep adding new characters. They're just a bunch of what I call "teen slasher meat." Although they have a fig leaf for why the group keeps getting larger (they're all gathering for a friend's surprise party), the guy's friend group could be smaller and more time spent on building them up. It risks turning into Twenty Minutes With The Jerks considering how many of them treat Tina, but if it was also trimmed down a bit as well, it wouldn't eat up too much screentime.

*Does NOBODY ever hear Jason coming? He's a big burly guy walking through the woods with lots of twigs and the like to crunch on, but he's always able to sneak up on people. Most of the movie's kills consist of him taking people by surprise and killing them immediately without any real creativity. And he can just show up wherever he's needed for a fight scene, even though there's no way for him to get there.

*Tina seems to have New Powers at the Plot Demands--when it's convenient for the story she has clairvoyance, but the primary focus is telekinesis.

*Apparently there's a much bloodier cut than the one available on Amazon. It looks like it was edited to minimize the blood, and in some cases the cuts are very abrupt. Jason's killing one character cuts away in the middle of the death, just when the blood shows up but before we can see a lot of it.

*There's a missed opportunity for comedy involving a couple stoned characters and a flashlight.

*There's another missed opportunity with Dr. Crews. He's clearly manipulating Tina and her mother for his own ends and based on some articles he has stashed away he knows about Jason, but it's never fully developed. He could have been like Dr. Channard from Hellbound: Hellraiser II who has a hidden agenda related to the supernatural foe, but this never goes anywhere.

*I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about the absolute end, but it doesn't make sense on multiple levels.

The Verdict

They tried to shake up the formula by having Jason face off against a teen psychic, but it wasn't very good. It's not scary, it's not funny (Freddy vs. Jason worked just as well as a comedy), it's just lame. Formulaic and it was like they weren't even trying. At least it's not very long.

5.0 out of 10.

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