Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (Review)

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

Todd Shaffer as Jim Miller
Tiffany Paulsen as Suzi Donaldson
Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees
Jensen Daggett as Rennie Wickham
Kelly Hu as Eva Watanabe

Jason Voorhees is an icon of horror movies, one of the most recognizable movie monsters in history. His popularity has adversely affected the quality of the sequels, as fans have seen Jason kill and kill again hundreds of times, why would they pay to see the same thing over and over again? The solution seems to be to provide a gimmick for each film. In a previous review (but later release), Jason took to the stars for Jason X. Here, Jason’s gimmick is a trip to New York. However, the gimmick is short-lived, as most of the movie takes place just getting to New York. It’s Jason on a boat! A boat full of high school punks just aching to die. Only one homicidal madman can put them in their place! Sadly, Jason on a boat just isn’t gimmicky enough. Most of the movie is “Been there, done that,” with little new to add, even when Jason gets to New York, most of the time is spent not killing New Yorkers but chasing after the teenagers. This movie should have been set up like The Warriors, except in addition to the freaky gangs chasing the Warriors, Jason is chasing them as well. That is the masterpiece that is yet to be created. One day, a visionary will rise from the ranks and produce that opus. Until then, horror films will continue to feed sites like mine with cannon fodder by the truckload.

Problem with the last film: Jason’s dead. Again. Ooops! Maybe they should stop killing him off so finally. Not to matter, electricity brought him back once, it can do it again. This time, a boat with some teenagers on it snags a power cable, setting it off in the water, the searing volts defibbulating Jason back to the land of the living. Jason’s body was at the bottom of Crystal Lake, and despite all the problems, kids still boat on it, it seems. To repay them, Jason must kill them, especially since they are about to do the deed, and have a hockey mask lying around on the boat. I always take a hockey mask with me when maritiming, because sometimes you just need to guard the net. The teens are killed off like the faceless teens they are, and we can get to the real story with the real characters.

It’s high school graduation time, and the senior class is getting a trip to New York, by luxury liner. The main character is a girl named Rennie, who has problems not specified immediately and is given a pen once used by Stephen King from her teacher, before she boards the boat. Rennie brings her dog with her, and we learn she’s in the custody of the principal of the school, a classic “Evil Principal” stereotype. Another character is introduced abruptly, because he’s the male lead/love interest. He’s Sean Robertson, and being a whiny teenager is his purpose in life. He’s the son of the Admiral who is captaining the boat. Why is an Admiral captaining a civilian vessel? I guess he’s a retired Admiral, but he seems to have piloted the boat all his life. So I guess he’s an Admiral entirely because some company calls him one. Whatever. Plus he’s a megajerk like the Principal. Admiral Robertson asks the kid what he’d do to take the boat out of port, and when Sean forgets one item, Admiral yells and yells at him, while Sean whines about not wanting to become a boat captain for the rest of his life then runs away.

Ignoring all the drama bombs going off above deck, Jason sneaks aboard, the only person who even suspects is the creepy boat janitor. Remember, all janitors are creepy, and all boathands are creepy, so boathand janitors are creepy to the second power. They usher in a new age of creepy. The boat shoves off (YOU shove off!) and the kids play such high school games as shuffleboard and skeet shooting. The script introduces us to several soon to be dead characters after letting us know Rennie and Sean are making googly-eyes at each other. It’s a bad girl metal band, lead by the living embodiment of what was wrong with hair bands, a girl named J.J.. Thank goodness this was made in 1989, the dying days of the decade, where this was on it’s last legs, as hair bands soon got replaced by flannel bands. Just as bad, but 3% less ridiculous. Filming J.J. and her band is camera dork Dwayne, the movie’s token nerd. J.J. decides to become the film’s next victim, and wanders off to some area on the boat that looks like an empty steel factory, and starts jamming. She’s rocking out so hard, she almost doesn’t see herself get killed by Jason. But sadly for her, Jason knows hair-metal is bad mojo, and gives his critique: a guitar to the head. Jason is officially a hero, protecting future generations from the potential devil spawn lyrics and sounds her “music” would have inflicted upon us. We all own a debt of gratitude for the sense of sound to Jason, for the music of J.J. would have caused us to jam knitting needles into our ears until the silence was deafening.

Rennie now has the first of what will be a long stream of visions of the child Jason swimming around. This is because she is crazy, not because of some badly written psychic link that will allow her to defeat Jason. No, she’s just nuts. He nuttiness causes the dog to run away, her chasing after. The High School kids engage in more high school activities: Boxing! Are there no normal sports in this high school? Watching the shirtless jocks pound each other as sweat drips down their toned bods are the Prom Queen and her friend, Token Asian. Hey, Token Asian is Kelly Hu! Complete with bad 80’s hair! In real life, snobby brain dead prom queens aren’t likely to hang around with nerdy Asian girls, but this movie needed to cram every stereotype into a small cast, so choices had to be made. Gone are the Prom Queen’s posse of evil bitch-sisters, and the gaggle of nerds, instead every-stereotype group is lumped into a single person. It’s like a UN of school clichés. Prom Queen and Kelly Hu break out the coke, the snort kind not the drink kind, and Prom Queen gets to sniffing while Kelly looks apprehensive. Rennie interrupts looking for her dog, with the girls thinking she’s a narc. Revenge is planned, as revealed is Rennie is afraid of water, but not why, as we have to wait for the non-shocking answer. Who lives in a lake? I wonder…. There is also a “psychic” on board giving “senior predictions” probably to the dozens of unseen other students. The predictions should all be “You will be dead before the night is over!”

One of the boxers gets killed by steam rocks to the chest thanks to Jason, while Prom Queen pushes Rennie into the water. Rennie is saved by the heroic Sean, while Creepy Janitor tells them “You’re all gonna die!” Thanks, Creepy Janitor! Time for the Principal to check in on the Prom Queen, demanding to know if she’s finished her science project. Prom Queen has decided to do her project on anatomy, having written names for body parts on her naked skin. Naked meaning she’s still wearing a bra and panties, so we’re denied the T&A, though we see it later… this makes no sense. The director must have been on crack, or the actor playing the Principal grossed out the snobby actress and she wouldn’t go all the way. As I don’t know, I’ll just make up some drama and say that’s what happened. After their violent off the set fighting, the actress playing Prom Queen decided she would no longer give the Principal the sweet stuff. Back inside the magic of movies, the whole incident is being videotaped by the camera dork Dwayne, as blackmail against the Principal. It probably would have just been easier to get Dwayne to do the project for her, but whatever. Prom Queens aren’t known for their brains. Principal leaves in shame, while Prom Queen gets the tape from Dwayne, then kicks him out, much to his blueball disappointment. Also, during this whole incident, Prom Queen had the painting of the heart on the wrong part of her body, so she’d fail anyway. She jumps into the shower, showing us how what let her win the Prom Queen award, then once she’s out, Jason gives her his vote of “Bye-bye.”

A STORM!!! Who saw this coming? To add to the schlock, Jason storms the bridge, killing the driver and the Admiral. Now no one is driving the boat, but Sean Johnston comes to the bridge just in time to see his dead dad. He calls everyone on the boat to the bridge, which means only about 5-6 people show up. The extras must have been hired for only one scene in the beginning. The kids figure out what is going on, despite the Principal trying to cover it up. First, Kelly Hu must discover the dead Prom Queen, and become next on the chop block. Jason chases her, and she runs into the middle of a disco dance floor. Instead of running further, she spins around and around. You spin me right round baby, right round, like a record player, right round round round. And she’s choked.

Some of the teens decide it’s time to fight back. They bring out some weapons they have because all high school students are armed to the teeth. Dwayne manages to knock off his glasses and blow away the final crew member of the boat, which really sets Jason off, as he was looking forward to slaying him. Dwayne gets thrown around, electrocuted, which sets him on fire. The fire spreads to the rest of the boat, because the boat setting is wearing out it’s welcome. Jason first must set off the fire alarm, to add to the panic. He kills another nameless teen, while tossing jock Julian overboard. A final teen is stabbed in the eye. The movie is really booking on the deaths now! The alarm to abandon ship is given by Sean, and the four remaining students of the entire class (all extras we haven’t seen before and will not see again) manage to not make it to the life boat that contains Sean, Rennie, the dog Toby, the Principal, and Rennie’s teacher. In the water, the find Julian still alive, and he swims onboard. The boat burns and sinks, and the lifeboat is lost in the fog, headed to who knows where. At some point the Creepy Janitor was killed as well, I’m sure you miss him.

So…they are headed by ocean I guess. They wind up rowing into New York harbor, passing the Statue of Liberty, and get to the docks. Finally, New York, New York. The city so nice they named it twice! They climb ashore, but seconds later Jason climbs out of the water like 5 feet from where they were. That’s a little too coincidental. To add to the surrealism, Jason quickly notices a billboard for a local hockey team, oddly enough the board has someone with the same mask he is currently wearing. The Heroes have no time for hockey billboards, they are quickly mugged by two toughs who grab Rennie for some rape-action, the Principal lets them take her without a fight. Rennie is injected with drugs, but before she can be raped, Jason appears, and kills one of the toughs with the drug needle to the head. Tough Number Two gets his face smashed into pipes. Jason is a hero! He stops rape! Jason deserves a medal for his actions here. This entire movie is Jason’s redemption, as it was all set up so he could prevent Rennie from being raped. He probably stopped countless other rapes by killing the two toughs. Jason is the defender of women that the screen has needed for decades.

After saving her honor, he gets back to the task of trying to kill her. She runs off in a drug induced haze, and Jason is distracted by Julius, who he chases onto the roof of a building. Julius tries to box Jason, punches him repeatedly, but Jason retaliates with one swift punch to the head, and Julius’s head flies clean off. The rest of the group manages to attract a cop’s attention, just so the cop can be killed by Jason. They grab the empty cop car and run over Jason while driving off, but the Teacher who is driving is having a freak out attack, and quickly smashes up into a wall. Everyone gets out except for her, and she soon is cooking as the car goes up in a ball of flames. Mmmmmm…Teacher Flambé! The burning car triggers a flashback in Rennie where we learn that her uncle the Principal threw her in the water to learn to swim and Jason as a child tried to drown her. Why a burning car reminds her of this is a mystery Freud himself could not translate. Sometimes a burning cop car is just a burning cop car.

Hey, all, Jason still isn’t dead! Principal learns this the hard way when Jason throws him out a building, then drowns him in a barrel of muck. That poor barrel of muck, I feel for it having that disgusting guy shoved in it. How tragic. I gave $200 to it’s widow. Rennie and Sean run to the subway to escape, but Jason follows them. Jason is now ignoring all the New Yorkers in his intent to kill the remaining teens. All these easily killed people, and they aren’t being killed. The tragedies in this movie just compound. The teens pull the emergency break and jump out of the cars, Jason still is chasing, but in a struggle is thrown on the third rail. The Electric third rail. Jason soon becomes a crispy critter. Well, that was fun while it…Oh, he’s not dead yet, again. Keep running, teens! Jason sees them back above ground, but some punks try to start trouble with Jason. He turns at them and lifts his mask, which makes them all run. WHY ISN’T HE KILLING THEM? I want monster death counts. Bah. At least he’s finally in New York, but only two dead New Yorkers so far. The teens try to hide in a diner, but to no avail, Jason keeps following. The cook in the diner yells at Jason, who throws him into a mirror. The cooks is played by Ken Kirzinger, who played Jason in Freddy vs. Jason! SO this was Jason vs. Jason! Finally, something interesting. Too bad it took fifteen years before it became so.

The teens now run into the unlocked sewer system, as New York just leaves their manholes open, to allow C.H.U.D.’s easier access to grab some dinner. It’s part of the Americans with C.H.U.D. Act of 1986. The teens run into a sewer worker who’s only purpose in the film is to tell them the sewers are to be flushed with toxic waste in ten minutes. Okay, number one: Weekly Toxic Waste Flush? Number Two: Why is this guy down here if it’s happening in ten minutes or so? Number Three: Toxic Waste Flush, so let’s leave thousands of access points unlocked! Number Four: Why did those teens have a hockey mask on their boat of a Minor League New York team? Sorry, just thought of that one. Okay, the Sewer Worker served his purpose, so Jason kills him. New Yorker death number three. Sean is knocked out, and Rennie throws some toxic waste on Jason’s face. Toxic waste that was just sitting around in the sewer waiting to be thrown on people’s faces. She does it without gloves, and with how corrosive it is on faces and hockey masks, you’d think she’d have her hands burned off as well. Nope. She grabs Sean and they climb up a ladder just as the toxic sludge comes flowing in. Jason is washed away, and dissolves away, turning into a little boy. This is all in Rennie’s crazy mind. Her guilt over the rape attempt came to cause her to hallucinate this entire scenario, Jason was just an average good Samaritan until her false accusations turned him into a ruthless unstoppable serial killer.

Oh, the dog’s still alive. Yippie. Crank up the POWER BALLADS! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

Where the Hell was New York for most of this picture? Well, the director himself said not enough time was spent there, he claims the studio told him he didn’t have enough money for location shots, so he had to film most of it on the boat getting to New York. A better title would have been Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes A Boat Ride, and then a Swim, and Finally Ends Up in Manhattan For Ten Minutes. I’d watch it! Wait, I just did. And that’s the real catastrophe. Go rent any other one of these instead, even Jason X for sci-fi fun.

Rated 3/10 (New York, Ugly Kid, New York!)

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Written by Tars Tarkas

Tars Tarkas

Runs this joint!