Film Review: Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood

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This is a fantastic poster in the franchise, which highlights that it’s going to be the “Jason vs. Carrie” concept.

We officially have the longest gap between movies after bringing Jason back in 1986’s Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives … by one month, with a 21-month gap (compared to a 20-month gap between the third and fourth films) to 1988’s Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood.

Out of all the films in the franchise, I remember this one the most because of one element: telekinesis. Apparently, Paramount Pictures, which distributes the films, sought a partnership with New Line Cinema, which distributes the Nightmare films, to do a crossover between the iconic horror franchises. That wouldn’t happen until 2003’s Freddy vs. Jason in 2003. So, in the meantime, with this film, they did “Jason vs. Carrie.” That is, the girl in Stephen King’s first published horror novel, 1974’s Carrie, which then became a film in 1976.

I love that premise, to be honest. You already went supernatural and Frankenstein with Jason Voorhees in the previous film, so if you’re going to do that, then it’s only fair to create a protagonist who is capable of taking him on, and who better to take him on than someone with telekinesis powers? I AM DOWN. A lot of people seem sour on this “ill-advised” idea, but I think it’s a perfect continuation of what was started in Jason Lives.

I will say, though, I’m surprised they went with “new” in the title again after already doing that two films ago with 1985’s A New Beginning. It’s like they’re telegraphing how much they’re trying to revamp the franchise instead of letting it breathe.

Furthermore, I can’t pass up noting that with the seventh film in a horror movie franchise, they were going for a freaking Oscar. Barbara Sachs, associate producer, pitched an idea similar to 1975’s Jaws, wherein a corporate land developer covers up the killings in order to “profitably build condos on Crystal Lake.” Sachs liked the Jason vs. Carrie idea more, though, but still was pushing for the next installment to be a more respectable entry than the previous entries.

In the director’s chair, we have John Carl Buechler, who I don’t have much to say about yet because I’m not familiar with any of his work besides this film. However, he did 1986’s horror comedy Troll, which features the film debut (she was already doing Saturday Night Live) of one of my all-time favorite actresses Julia Louis-Dreyfus. On that principle alone, I’m going to have to watch Troll now.

We have two people credited on the screenplay. First, Manuel Fidello, who literally didn’t do anything else. And Daryl Haney, who has been credited with the “Jason vs. Carrie” idea. After this, he seems to have gone on to do mostly softcore porn films, if the titles on his IMDb page are anything to go by. Alrighty then.

Producer credit goes to Iain Paterson, who worked on the television series Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Stranger Things. Well, that’s neat, a show I loved as a kid and a show I love now as an adult.

In front of the camera, we have the most well-known person to play Jason Voorhees, Kane Hodder, who would go on to portray him three more times. He’s the only actor to have played Jason Voorhees more than once. I’ll have more to say on Hodder as we go through the film.

Again, like a lot of these films, I’m not familiar with most of the cast, as they’ve either not done much else or they’re soap opera/TV actors. We’re also seemingly done with the Tommy Jarvis character after he appeared in three straight films since he’s not cast in this one. I’m glad, to be honest, let’s move on to a new character arc with the telekinesis girl, Tina Shephard, played by Lar Park Lincoln (what a great name that is).

New Blood

The premise of the film (you already know, but I like writing out the actual synopsis) is, “Ever since homicidal maniac Jason Voorhees got trapped in chains at the bottom of Crystal Lake, the nearby summer camp has operated without a hitch… without a murder. But one of this season’s happy campers has brought along a deadly secret.”

I like to think “happy camper” was intentional because that’s hilarious.

Well, that’s different for this franchise: We start with an opening monologue by Walt Gorney over the usual flashback of the prior films. If that name sounds familiar from my previous reviews that’s because he played “Crazy” Ralph in 1980’s Friday the 13th and 1981’s Friday the 13th Part 2.

“They say he died as a boy; but he keeps coming back. Few have seen him and lived. Some have even tried to stop him. No one can. People forget, he’s down there, waiting.” – Crazy Ralph

I think that’s an effective way to start the film. I’m always a sucker for a gravelly voice-over.

We then get a scene where a young kid Tina is upset with her dad, who is being abusive to her mother, running away to the lake. She then tells her dad she wishes he was dead. Welp, thanks to her telekinesis, that seems to happen. We then get back to grown-up teenager Tina, who is undergoing “treatment” from Dr. Crews (played by Tony Kiser), who has taken her back to the same lake where her father was killed.

But I put treatment in quotations because it seems like Dr. Crews is more interested in trying to get Tina to use her powers. In their first session, he’s only interested in capturing on camera Tina moving a matchbook with her mind. He also starts yelling at her that she’s lying to him. It’s all quite gross! But then she does get the matchbox to move.

For the record, it’s not clearly established when this film takes place or how long after the events of the previous film. We don’t know how long Jason Voorhees has been in the lake chained up, waiting. Presumably it’s only been a few years, but who can say?

He’s not waiting anymore, though. Tina, in a bid to bring her father back, unwittingly brings Jason Voorhees back instead.

Jason back

Oh man, when he pops out of the water (Hodder is so far the biggest version of Jason Voorhees yet), and you can see Jason Voorhees’ back bones, and he looks like a feral swamp creature. I love it! By far, this is the coolest looking makeup and wardrobe for Jason Voorhees, and performance with Hodder. He also has gross zombie-looking hands. I can see why they kept bringing Hodder back.

As an aside, let’s say that people legitimately think Jason Voorhees is dead, and again, at best, maybe 15 years has passed through all of these films so far? That’s not a long time for quite literally dozens of horrific murders of teenagers, no less. Yet, with each film, there are still people living, passing through, playing, camping, and coming to Camp Crystal Lake! What is wrong with these people?! Do they have a death wish?! (I’m asking these questions in the spirit of fun; it does not actually bother me. Within this world, maybe you could argue that nobody even knows about the murders. After all, in the prior film, they literally renamed the county Forest Green County to get away from the legacy of the murders.)

Tina isn’t just someone with telekinesis powers, but she’s also seeing things, like Jason Voorhees attacking the party-goers, in what seems to be visions of what he’s done. She doesn’t seem to use that at any point as a superpower per se, more so to just know what’s coming.

In an iconic scene they would replicate 14 years later in Jason X, Jason Voorhees comes upon a couple camping in the woods, easily disposes of poor Dan (played by Michael Schroeder), and then goes after Judy (played by Debora Kessler). Debora tries to hide in her sleeping bag, so Jason Voorhees drags the sleeping bag out of the tent and heaves the sleeping bag (with Debora in it still) into a tree, killing her instantly because of the force of the impact. As far as us horror nerds go when we say, “That’s a great kill!” because of the special effects … that was a great, iconic kill for the franchise.

I still can’t get over that we’re seven films into this franchise and are only now getting the definitive Jason Voorhees portrayal.

Unlike the previous film where I had no problem with any of the characters, some of the characters here aren’t likable. Robin (played by Elizabeth Kaitan) is a jerk to Maddy (played by Diana Borrows), someone who is ostensibly supposed to be her friend. Melissa (played by Susan Jennifer Sullivan) and Eddie (played by Jeff Bennett) are being jerks to Tina, making fun of her mental health issues. And we already talked about Dr. Crews. David (played by Jon Renfield) is mostly an oblivious stoner dude. Nick (played by Kevin Spirtas), who Tina likes, is a good character though. He seems like a good dude, as he stands up for to Tina, “What was that crap you pulled on Tina this afternoon?” he asks Melissa. He’s also concerned about his cousin, Michael (played by William Butler). Kate (played by Diane Almeida) and Ben (played by Craig Thomas) also seem fine enough, although I feel like I missed something about why they’re fighting (and then they make up). But they don’t get much characterization. Oh, and Tina’s mom, Amanda Shephard (played by Susan Blu), seems good enough: After all, she’s the one who uncovers that Dr. Crews is a scumbag trying to exploit Tina.

tina1

Also, this reminds me of the fourth film with just how enormous the cast is to ensure the body count stays high. I personally think it would be smart to have gone tighter with these films, aka, a smaller cast, and really build out their characters so that we care about their struggle against Jason Voorhees. That said, I think we do get great characterization of Tina and since she’s the protagonist, that’s really all you can ask for.

Dr. Crews is a monster, though. He puts Tina’s mom as a shield between him and Jason Voorhees. It was sad to see her get killed, especially because of Dr. Crews.

The telekinesis special effects look good for 1988. The matchbook one was a small example, but when Tina gets mad at Dr. Crews and slings the television across the room at him, it looks good!

With about 15-ish minutes left, we finally get the showdown between Jason Voorhees and Tina, and I AM HERE FOR IT. She knocks him down into a puddle (with telekinesis), and then uses the telephone wire to electrocute him. It looks phenomenal.

As he’s done in a few other installments, we get a great scene where Jason Voorhees bursts through the window to come after Tina. There’s also great shot where he follows her outside, and she makes the porch roof collapses on him. Apparently, Hodder did a lot of his own stunts, including that one.

Another great special effect, albeit one that almost turned legitimately fatal for Hodder, is when Tina smashes a light into his head and he flies backward through the staircase. Hodder said more steps broke than anticipated and he was inches away from smacking his head on one of the steps. Yikes!

sleeping bag

This is the most we’ve seen Jason Voorhees get, for lack of a better word, manhandled by the “final girl.” Well, to be fair Chris and Tommy both “killed” Jason Voorhees, but in terms of everything else, Tina’s kicking his ugly maggot-head butt!

We also get to see Jason Voorhees without his mask, speaking of maggot-head, and it’s gross. Great makeup effects. Hot take: The makeup effects look better on Jason Voorhees here than in most of the Nightmare sequels for Freddy Krueger.

Another fantastic special effect and stunt performance is when Tina sets Jason Voorhees on fire. At the time, Hodder set a record by being on fire for 40 seconds.

Interestingly I guess the dad (John Shepard played by John Otrin) is a actually good after all? Tina is able to summon his spirit to rise up from the water and drag Jason Voorhees back to his watery grave. At least they’re continuing that mythos where Jason Voorhees needs to be returned to the water to be stopped.

Overall, I don’t think this one held up as well as I expected in my imagination, but it was still a fun viewing. Again, I love the premise. I suppose I wish we could cut down on some of those teen characters I didn’t like, and focus more on Tina and Nick. Hodder is a welcome addition to the cast because he pulled off some impressive stunts and gave the best Jason Voorhees performance yet.

The ending fight between Tina and Jason Voorhees, because of Hodder, might be the best fight so far in the series? I think character-wise, I liked others more (like the aforementioned Chris and Jason Voorhees battle, as well as Ginny and Jason Voorhees’), but for pure action fun, that was great.

The box office continued the theme of slightly diminishing returns, as we’re marginally down from the previous installment with $19.1 million in box office receipts on a $2.8 million budget (which again, is a a great return on investment, but hey). Critics are back to hating the franchise again, too.

Still, as a concept, this is a great addition to the mythology of the Friday the 13th series. It’s too bad they didn’t continue with the “Jason vs. Carrie” idea.

Hodder
Oh nothing, just Jason Voorhees hanging around.

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