Film Review: Jason X

Jason_x
Another great cover, and if you think I’m not going to love that tagline, “Evil gets an upgrade,” then you’re wrong!

Jason Voorhees was never going to stay dead, was he? After eight years (almost nine years, given it was eight years and eight months), nearly double the previous longest gap between films, our favorite hockey mask-wearing psycho came back in 2002’s Jason X, as the name indicates, the 10th installment in the franchise. Even though it didn’t come out until April 2002, it was filmed in the summer of 1999 (and even had a Spain screening in November of 2001). Movies took longer to turn around at this point than they did in the 1980s. Remember, there were only 11-month gaps for some of these films prior!

This is by far the most expensive Friday the 13th film to date. The previous biggest was Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, which had a budget of $5.1 million to $5.5 million. This film more than doubles that with a projected budget between $11 million and $14 million. Movie-making sure seems to have, not only taken longer to turn around, but gotten more expensive since the early 1980s, but I suppose when you’re putting Jason Voorhees HUNDREDS OF YEARS INTO THE FUTURE IN SPACE, it’s going to get expensive.

Let’s recap: At this point, we’ve tried the camp formula across three sequels, and then had Jason Voorhees get killed in that third sequel. Then we tried to restart the series with a new killer in A New Beginning, but that didn’t work, so Jason was brought back in Jason Lives. But then you’re back to doing the camp formula, so what if we bring in Carrie to fight him with her telekinesis? Nobody seemed to like that, so what if we put Jason Voorhees in an urban setting? Nobody seemed to like that, so let’s just end Jason Voorhees again by sending him to hell. Okay, but we want to make another film, now what? SPACE!

Or as the script would call Jason Voorhees in this installment, Uber Jason.

Todd Farmer, in his debut scrip-writing film and he also stars in the film as Dallas (rather arrogant to write yourself into your first script, but hey), is the one who pitched the IN SPACE! idea. I’m not going to rag on him too much because he’s wearing a Superman t-shirt in his Wikipedia profile picture and he also did 2007’s The Messengers and 2009’s My Bloody Valentine 3D, both solid horror flicks.

“What would it be like to set Jason in a different environment?” Farmer reasoned about Jason X’s plot, according to a 2002 IGN article ahead of the film’s release. “In space, he is essentially a fish out of water and with all the technology, the characters really have the chance to fight back.”

Although, the problem with Farmer’s thinking there is, as mentioned, they made Jason Voorhees Uber Jason, so he’s back to being more dominant than even these futuristic humans.

I’m fascinated to know what Farmer’s ideas would’ve been, had he gotten the trilogy out of this futuristic Friday the 13th he seemed to envision.

“This is definitely something for the fans and for people who liked it four movies ago,” he said to IGN.

At least he’s trying to give us fans something he thinks we want to see! An “A” for effort.

In the director’s chair is James Isaac, perhaps most known for special effects on 1983’s Return of the Jedi and 1984’s Gremlins. Sean Cunningham is back as a producer on the film, including Noel Cunningham, and James Isaac also gets a producer credit.

Even though the end of Jason Goes to Hell teased the long-awaited Freddy vs. Jason film, the 1990s was mostly “development hell” for that concept. So, in the meantime, New Line Cinema went with Jason X.

In front of the camera, Hodder returns for the fourth and final time to play Jason Voorhees/Uber Jason. I haven’t gotten to this part in the series yet, but apparently, the lead, Lexa Doig, as Rowan LaFontaine, had a role in the latter seasons of Smallville, so that’s neat. The only other cast member who stands out to me for obvious reasons is famed science fiction horror film director David Cronenberg, who plays Dr. Wimmer.

There’s a fair amount of Canadian actors since this was shot in Toronto.

Also, what’s interesting about the film is that the “x” is pronounced like the letter, not the number, even though it is the 10th film in the franchise.

I’m surprised there’s not more production notes on sending Jason Voorhees to space, but that’s all the table-setting I have, everyone!

Jason-X_main
HOW DO YOU NOT LOVE THIS MOVIE ALREADY?! LOOK AT HIM!

The synopsis reads, “In the year 2455, the cryogenically-frozen uber-ghoul Jason is discovered by a group of students on the abandoned planet Earth and brought to their space ship – when he thaws out, the bloodshed begins!”

Small note here: Jason X isn’t available on Prime or Hulu, so I’ve officially rented my first ever YouTube movie to be able to watch this.

I haven’t mentioned this yet, but Jason X was my Friday the 13th movie as a kid (and the next one in the series, but no spoilers!) because it came out when I was 12. So it’s the one I most associate with. I’m not sure how many times I’ve seen it, but I know it’s probably more often than any of the other Friday the 13th films. That said, it’s been a while since I last saw it and I’m losing my mind at the opening title sequence. I don’t remember it at all!

At the end of Jason Goes to Hell, we see Freddy Krueger’s finger-knives glove hand come over Jason Voorhees’ hockey mask completing the whole “goes to Hell” part. Somehow, though, the United States government has captured Jason Voorhees and he’s a research laboratory. The opening looks like its through Jason Voorhees’ blood vessels or something? I don’t know how to even describe it. Let’s just say, if you’re a movie person, the opening bit looks very 2000s. I might be saying that a lot going through this film.

Now, when we get the shot of Jason Voorhees chained up at this Crystal Lake Research Facility, I loved that as a kid! For some reason, the image of these monsters actually chained up is a fascinating visual to me, same with Michael Myers imprisoned in both Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers and Halloween (2018). But it is a change here: Jason Voorhees … has hair again? instead of the usual grotesque zombie-like bald head we’ve grown accustomed to. What’s funny is that the government kept the hockey mask on him. If this is a hot take, I don’t know it, but that hockey mask is one of my favorites of the franchise! It looks like something a psychopath would wear. But it is weird to get such a close-up on Jason Voorhees’ (Hodder’s) eyeball. He looks too human. At this point, Jason Voorhees should look as zombie weathered as ever.

“I’m taking the specimen.” – Dr. Wimmer to Rowan, referring to Jason Voorhees, in what has to be genuinely one of my favorite lines of the entire franchise

From the get-go, Rowan is a rather formidable “final girl,” no? She’s able to lure Jason Voorhees into the room with the cryogenic pod, get the drop on him with a shot gun, and close the pod on him. Granted, he gets the last laugh because he’s still able to stab her through the pod with his machete, thus trapping and freezing them both in there with that cryogenic fluid, but still.

We then zoom forward to the year 2455, or 445 years later, to humans from that time investigating the area. At one point, KM-14, an android (played by Lisa Ryder), notes in reference to Jason Voorhees’ hockey mask, that the NHL was outlawed in 2024. We have four more years to go! Makes sense that some of the other characters wouldn’t recognize a hockey mask if the sport stopped being a thing 400 years prior.

For humans 445 years into the future, they sure do dress with the weird fashion of the early 2000s (drink!). And apparently all the teenagers in this are horny like they’re in a 1980s horror film.

Still, we end up getting one of my favorite “kills” of the franchise when Jason Voorhees thaws out and attacks Adrienne Thomas (played by Kristi Angus). He dunks her head in liquid nitrogen (and we get a great shot from the perspective of the liquid nitrogen) and then he smashes her head to pieces. The grotesque makeup effects look great.

Ew.

Lowe early on in the movie lets us know that he’s the stupid human villain (seriously) by calling his financial backer Dieter Perez (played by Robert Silverman) and quite literally spelling out that he wants money, and he sees Jason Voorhees as his lottery ticket, essentially. “I need money,” he whines.

It’s also a revealing conversation because Perez doesn’t care when Lowe initially tells him about two human beings reanimated and walking around, who were previously alive 450 years ago. Reanimation on Earth 2, which has become the new location for humans because apparently Earth 1 turned into a hellscape of pollution and other disasters, is virtually mundane at this point because it’s so ubiquitous.

Rowan mentions to Lowe that the federal government tried to execute Jason Voorhees in 2008 by electrocution, gas, firing squad, and hanging. “Nothing worked,” she said. That’s why they tried the cryogenic stasis: If they couldn’t kill him, they could at least contain him. For some reason, I’m fascinated by the image of the federal government trying to execute someone repeatedly and it not working.

What’s difficult about setting Jason Voorhees this many years into the future — and presenting to us how advanced these humans are since reanimation is routine, fully formed androids exist, they’re capable of easily mending severed limbs, traversing the galaxy, etc. etc. — is that, despite what Rowan says about Jason Voorhees being an “unstoppable killing machine,” he still ought to be up against technology that, at minimum, can contain him. Yet, he’s able to mow through them like regular 1980s humans.

Also, the best guns they have are machine guns? Later in the film, their better weapon becomes Kay-Em 14. Which is another way of giving humans a fighting chance against Jason, whether it’s telekinesis in A New Blood or in this case, make it a non-human android. She uses a gun that blows his limbs and eventually his head off. It makes you wonder why the other soldiers weren’t using guns like that.

That said, there is a neat sequence where two soldiers are playing a holographic game with an alien simulation when Jason Voorhees walks “into the simulation.” The simulation looks so realistic until Jason Voorhees chops one of their heads off, and the person keeps talking. That’s a neat sequence. We then get one of the better kills when Jason Voorhees does a pro wrestling move, the back-breaker, on Azrael (played by Dov Tiefenbach), and tosses him aside like a rag-doll.

When one of the characters gets killed by Jason Voorhees and the other two soldiers come upon him, and report his death to Sergeant Brodski (played by Peter Mensah), they report that he’s been “screwed.” HIS BODY WENT THROUGH A SCREW LOOKING THING. Come on, what are we doing here?! Puns?! I can take comedy in horror, and even this franchise (Jason Lives), but that’s too much. Your partner is dead, and you’re making a punny joke? No, thanks.

But for whatever faults this film may have, it does have some of the best “kill” sequences of the entire franchise. Another great one is when another soldier gets killed (to be honest, there’s so many characters in this show, it’s too difficult to even find out who some of them are) by having his body split in half, he begins crawling away with his bottom half missing. It’s a sick and disgusting, but great visual.

One of the most genuinely funny and iconic moments in the film (and franchise) is when Lowe is confronted by Jason Voorhees and is trying to bargain with him. He sees Jason Voorhees pick up his machete.

“Guys! It’s okay, he just wanted his machete back! Woo!” Rowe says to the students before Jason Voorhees decapitates him.

I just realized: This is Jason Takes Manhattan, but Jason Takes Space: Just like with that film, we have an awful human character who is the “chaperone” of a bunch of a students taking a “field trip.” But instead of a ship, it’s a spaceship. And much like that film, where it takes well-into the film to actually see Jason Voorhees in Manhattan, this one takes until 72 minutes into a 90-minute film before we see Uber Jason, thanks to the medical station’s nanites technology, which rebuilds him as a cyborg. Now, he’s even more powerful than before … and he was already an “unstoppable killing machine.”

As a kid and even now, I’ve always thought Uber Jason looks awesome. I love the Uber Jason mask.

I also think it’s genius that they try to distract Uber Jason with the holographic simulation of Camp Crystal Lake with two teenager girls, and then they recreate the awesome (I know, weird to say) sleeping bag death sequence from A New Blood.

Virtually all the characters in this film are obnoxious and not likable, but, the three who do survive, Rowan, Kay-Em, Tsunaron (played by Chuck Campbell), and for a moment he did live, Brodski, until he saved the day by sending Uber Jason off into space, are the only likable ones. So there’s that.

What’s awesome is that they keep the ending open by having Uber Jason crash onto Earth 2 in a lake, with two random people talking about investigating it. That opens up the world to sequels on Earth 2!

Continuing the string of disappointing box office performances, though, at $13.1 million domestically, this one somehow did worse domestically than Jason Takes Manhattan and Jason Goes to Hell. In other words, the last three films in the Friday the 13th film all got progressively worse at the box office, even with a nine-year gap.

Critically, as with most of the films in the franchise, it didn’t do well, either.

That said, it’s apparently receiving something of a resurgence from younger fans (like me) of the franchise, who appreciate its humor, self-awareness, and inventive kills. That one pun aside, all of that I agree with. There is a lot to like about this film! Even the idea of going more science fiction with the franchise (although A New Blood did, too, sort of with telekinesis) was a fun way to go. The execution, however, leaves something to be desired in terms of how much it looks like the early 2000s, how humans 450 years from now dress like the early 2000s, and some of the awful dialogue.

But again, as with Jason Takes Manhattan, which I already compared this film to in a lot of ways, I will die on the hill that this is a fun film to watch. It is not in the upper echelon of the franchise, but it’s fun.

What more can you ask for out of a horror franchise in its tenth dang outing?

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