‘Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning’ is much maligned by the majority of the slasher franchise’s fans. While I am not going to defend it as a good instalment as it mostly certainly is not (in my honest opinion there has not been a good one since 1984’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter) it is not quite the stinker it is made out to be. It does not languish at the bottom of the barrel scraping it alongside the atrocities that are ‘Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan’ (1989), ‘Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday’ (1993) and ‘Jason X’ (2001). Instead it ranks in the series somewhere just above climbing up the barrel a little as an entry that at least tried to do something different with the filmmakers having their work cut out for them as the studio Paramount wanted to keep milking the cash cow after what was supposed to be “The Final Chapter”.
It at least tried not to go down the Universal type monster resurrection route after the finality of the previous film’s climax with Jason Voorhees meeting a definitive demise. This is a route the following year‘s ‘Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives’ unfortunately had to take because there was no other way around it to try to appease the fanbase as the story arc introduced here did not work out bombing with them as they wanted Jason to return as the franchise’s primary antagonist. So due to Paramount caving in to the fans’ demands the iconic movie slasher was resurrected to keep box office receipts rolling in with writer and director Tom McLoughlin creating a said Universal monster like resurrection as homage with Voorhees returning as a super powered zombie.
‘A New Beginning’ is just that as it tried to take the series in a new direction. It started to move away from the original mythos but at the same time used it as a launch pad on to something that would have completely removed all this if the creative approach here had of been fully realized in the next instalment but instead these events were ultimately ignored. It is easy to see why all this was ignored though because despite the attempt at doing something different with a psychological whodunit it is all too much of a mess to be successful; if these new ideas had of featured in a better movie then we might have a very different Friday the 13th saga today. However, all its shortcomings make it a passably entertaining failure.
John Shepherd plays 19-year-old Tommy Jarvis who survived the climax of The Final Chapter having killed Jason Voorhees portraying convincingly a mostly mute traumatized teenager whose family was ripped apart by the hockey-masked maniac’s massacre that included the murder of Tommy’s mother. Having a cameo Corey Feldman reprises his role as the 12-year-old version of our protagonist from The Final Chapter in a creepily effective opening nightmare sequence to illustrate the point Tommy is haunted and fears Jason is still alive as he witnesses two grave robbers digging him up one stormy night. He rises from his grave and murders them before turning his attention to Tommy. It is here in which his older self wakes up while being transferred to Pinehurst a halfway house for youths with mental health problems away from the usual Crystal Lake setting. This is where the timeline starts getting messed up as being several years later this should be set in 1991 but going by the fashions, music and technology of the era this is clearly 1985. As Tommy arrives, we are introduced to the teenaged stalk and slash fodder - some of the worst characters to ever feature in the franchise. This was the point where the victims we are supposed to care about not wanting to see die started to become increasingly more annoyingly obnoxious and stupid with each entry and here they are mostly despicable.
Soon after, one of the kids Joey (Dominick Brascia) a disgusting fat fuck slob with chocolate on the corners of his mouth is hacked to death with an axe. This murder is committed by a fellow patient an unhinged psychopath who should be in a straight jacket locked in a padded cell not left to roam free in a minimal security halfway house let alone given an axe to chop up wood. When the paramedics arrive to take away the body we are told straight away who the killer is with one of the paramedics Roy Burn’s (Dick Wieand) reactions to the sight of the dismembered corpse with an extreme close-up of his maddening angry facial expression. This is not a spoiler, as the inept writing throws no red herrings at us except of course the disturbed Tommy himself who is seeing apparitions of Voorhees but we all know he is not the killer as it is too obvious. After the face off with the copycat killer complete with hockey mask and overalls the final shot is of Tommy donning the mask about to murder after these traumatic events have intensified his psychosis setting him up as the killer for Part VI but we all know that did not happen. The writers also did not give a fuck about trying to justify the motivation for Roy’s murderous rampage. The first kills committed by the unseen even though we know who he is villain unsubtly follow the paramedics’ scene involving two random oddly enough 1950’s rockabilly punks in the area. One kill is very creative with a road flare shoved in one of their mouths.
Aside from this though despite having one of the biggest body counts in the series some of the set-pieces are lacklustre done in cutaways but a handful of exceptions with gore galore highlights is enough to emphasise the ugly mean spirited approach here. There is a distinct sleazy grindhouse-esque vibe very different to the giallo-like atmosphere of the first four films and the whole proceedings are just one big weird trip into Bizarro Land. As well as having one of the biggest body counts with truly horrific imagery this instalment has some of the most explicit nudity/sex scenes and the first ever moment of cocaine use. This is very suitable considering the rumours of cocaine abuse on set as well as director the late Danny Steinman’s background in exploitation and hardcore porn (he made the wildly entertaining 1984 rape and revenge movie ‘Savage Streets’). This must have led to the other WTF stuff seen here. Such as African American rebel Demon played by Miguel Nunez (1985’s ‘The Return of the Living Dead’) in an outhouse taking a dump while singing to his girlfriend who is outside - “Oooh baby, hey baby” - and goth girl Violet (Tiffany Helm) doing a robot dance to the great electro synth pop track ‘His Eyes’ by Pseudo Echo (see below). In addition, there is some eccentric comedic relief with one example being the crazy redneck mother and son duo of Ethel (Carol Locatell) and Junior (Ron Sloan).
‘Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning’ has some good ideas in there trying to get out but is hindered by the lazy writing and it is a confused mess full of random stuff happening. It is hard not to be entertained by all these off the wall goings on though and being a deep, down and dirty affair with some nasty and inventive graphic kill sequences, booooooooooooobs! and a depiction of cocaine consumption makes it all the more perversely enjoyable as well... and makes you want to take a good long shower after. This trashy weirdo slasher sequel makes the grade for the so bad it is good category but squandered the opportunity to take the mythology in a new interesting direction with Tommy Jarvis going from hero to psycho killer making the hockey mask his own.
** out of ****
Dave J. Wilson
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