Thursday, 12 February 2015

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)


‘Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood’ has some nice touches making it the last instalment in the franchise until the 2009 reboot or 2003’s ‘Freddy vs. Jason’ if it can be counted that is passably entertaining. There is just enough here to make it that… just. As it is terribly paced with a distinct lack of suspense and tension, the kills are extremely lacklustre in their execution cuts or no cuts and the teen characterizations and the performances of this supporting cast is probably the worst of the entire series.


That nice touches first though. The proceedings are encapsulated in a constant sombre atmosphere not like the creepiness and twitchiness of the gialloesque atmospheric encasing of the first four entries but it is still effective. This is thanks to the dark lighting techniques and a fresh take on the score provided this time by Fred Molin instead of veteran composer Harry Manfredini and it is a welcome change. Although much of the soundtrack over the course of the film is recycled samples from Manfredini’s previous compositions and remains prominent throughout, hence his co-credit here Molin’s original music leaves a lasting impression and even provides a suitably supernatural feel in the climax.


The opening is simply put very cool. As Fred Molin’s score comes in inducing a strong feeling of unease the picture fades in to a cemetery at night during a storm and we hear the familiar voice of Walt Gorney who played the lovable Crazy Ralph in Parts 1 and 2 narrating the fact that Jason Voorhees always comes back… not that we need to be told this after a stonking six sequels at this point. The footage of the cemetery is intercut with various moments from Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 & 6 and returns frequently to the cemetery in between these shots. This is until we see the headstone of Jason’s grave explode from a lightning strike that is actually unused footage from 1986’s ‘Friday the 13th  Part VI: Jason Lives’ and we are now shown a recap of the events of that previous entry leading into the beginning of the events here.


After the title sequence in which Molin kicks in the sound of impending doom, we are introduced to the protagonist Tina Shepard who is unlike any other final girl Voorhees has faced before. In this opening flashback scene set in an undisclosed time after ‘Jason Lives’, Tina is a little girl who is outside the door of her parents’ holiday cabin in Camp Crystal Lake listening to them fighting and she sees her father hitting her mother. Running to the pier and chased after her father, she gets on a motor boat in the lake in which Jason Voorhees is still chained to the bottom of. Angry with him she channels telekinetic powers that causes a tremor in the lake and the pier to shake, break apart and collapse as her father falls to his death in the lake.


Okay so the filmmakers were really reaching for ideas here. The gimmick of a telekinetic teenaged girl to face off against Jason - “Carrie Vs. Jason” as fans dub this one - sounds stupid on paper but it does make for some nifty practical special effects the likes of which are never usually seen in the slasher sub-genre. Especially in the climax featuring Tina and Voorhees' battle coupled with this instalment’s stuntman playing him Kane Hodder pulling off some impressive stunt work and that the hulking hockey masked maniac now has a foe that actually has the ability to defeat him all makes for a great deal of dramatic tension and an entertaining and memorable finale.


In addition, Lar Park-Lincoln as the present day’s teenaged Tina draws our sympathy as we become invested in her plight due to her trauma of causing her father’s death and struggling to control her mind powers she does not understand that come on out of her anger. She is manipulated by the wicked Dr. Crews the other antagonist here played by Terry Kiser who succeeds in getting us to long for his character's comeuppance. He exploits Tina’s emotions to bring her telekinesis to the surface for his own ends having brought her back to Camp Crystal Lake to where it all began. It would seem he wants to bring back Jason Voorhees as well due to a later revelation although it is not explained why he would want to do this. When Tina is forced to confront Jason who she accidently resurrected from his watery grave when she was trying to bring back her father (they could not recover his body), it also forces her to confront her fears and to focus so she can control her powers in order to defeat the zombie psycho killer.


The other highlight here is Voorhees himself. This is Hodder’s first appearance as the character that he would go on to play for another three entries - one of the best performers in three of the worst Friday the 13th movies. Although I am not a fan of this zombie incarnation he really gives the role a lot of character letting you know convincingly that Jason Voorhees is very pissed with his heavy breathing and his commitment to the stunt work deserves much respect. The director and special effects make-up artist John Carl Buechler compliments his performance greatly by creating one of the very best Jason designs. Buechler makes his appearance here look more like a classic movie monster than the usual slasher villain appearance with his beat up hockey mask, the decay of his rotting flesh, his skeleton showing underneath his torn up clothes and chain around his neck. The unmasking to reveal his zombiefied visage in the climax looks effectively ghastly.


It is a shame all these positives are crippled by all the negatives. Voorhees is seen far too much here which became the norm for the franchise from ‘Jason Lives’ onwards and is one of the failings of the later instalments as he was no longer scary as a consequence. This coupled with the fact that John Carl Buechler’s talent is in SFX not directing as he has no understanding of pacing and staging set-pieces in terms of build up. Jason Voorhees just suddenly appears lumbering onto screen in full view and slices n’ dices with weapons that appear out of nowhere. There is zero suspense and tension here unlike when Jason was still lurking in the shadows in the first four entries. Throughout the majority of the running time, you would only know that he is a presence and see glimpses of him and mostly see his hands holding the weapon during the set-pieces until his revel in full view in the climax during the chasing of and fighting against the final girl. He was also still very human - a backwoods hermit deformed man-child on a psychotic murderous rampage… and he still ran too.


The set-pieces also became way over the top from ‘Jason lives’ onwards to put emphasis upon Voorhees’ new found powers as a slow walking super zombie - so ludicrous as opposed to the kills of the first five instalments in which it was more grounded in realism striving to shock you seeking the response from you that you could not believe what you just saw. Here in ‘The New Blood’ the deaths sequences are the most uninspired of the series save for the infamous sleeping bag kill. It is made even worse by how the MPAA demanded a cut to shreds version as this at least would have been a visceral experience with what could have been the goriest in the series evident from the rough footage of the deleted scenes that you can watch here...


The structure of the premise is borrowed from 1984's Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter with a group of teenagers - who unlike the characters in that previous instalment are a bunch of the most unlikable obnoxious zero personality fuckwits - rent out a cabin opposite the Shepard family’s old holiday cabin much like how the Jarvis’ home is situated. The kids are holding a surprise birthday party for a friend who does not make it to blow out his birthday cake candles the cousin of which is Tina’s love interest Nick (Kevin Blair) who is actually an all-around nice guy but has little to do. The only real standout from this supporting cast of slasher fodder is the late Susan Jennifer Sullivan as Queen Bitch Melissa who like Kiser does a solid intentional job of getting us to hate her anticipating her demise. We have here a set of characters so unlikable and we yearn for them to be slaughtered in loving graphic detail in inventive ways but we are deprived of this because the payoffs are so dull. Although rooting for the villains in horror instead of fearing them in the hope they will kill characters on screen you should fear for as they are the ones you should be identifying with is not real horror it is a secret exploitative guilty pleasure that is robbed from us here.


‘Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood’ is average watchable genre fare. Its immense amount of faults undercut its intriguing qualities - at times engaging at times tedious. This is a hit and miss entry that qualifies for a right smack bang in the middle ranking in terms of quality and entertainment control in a slasher franchise that became to rely excessively on gimmicks after The Final Chapter when trying to kill off its star madman on the loose.

** out of ****

Dave J. Wilson

©2015 Cinematic Shocks, Dave J. Wilson - All work is the property of the credited author and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.

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