*. This movie is sometimes said to be the one where the franchise got back to its roots, meaning it brought Jason literally back from the dead instead of pursuing the possibility of copycat killers. In fact, I find it an even bigger deviation from formula than the previous film, which was (supposedly) A New Beginning.
*. A bigger deviation and a much worse movie. Apparently, however, it enjoys a respectable reputation, with many critics considering it the best film in the series. It is also credited for having influenced the Scream franchise with its self-referential humour. I think this is way overstated and there is nothing remotely clever, witty, or funny about the script at all. I also think this is one of the worst Friday the 13ths.
*. But back to what’s different. In the first place Jason himself is now a supernatural force that cannot be killed by any means. Second: gone is the sleaze and moralizing. There are no tits in this film (the only film in the series, including the reboot, with no nudity), only one scene of casual sex (with the partners partially clothed), and no drug use. So the victims aren’t being killed because they’re bad but just because they’re in Jason’s way.
*. There’s an interesting point on the DVD commentary where writer-director Tom McLoughlin says that one of his big influences was Frank Capra because he wanted the audience to like the characters so that we would care about them when they were in danger. This is very different from what’s standard in these dead teenager movies where you hate the idiots so much you want them to die. In the end I think McLoughlin fell into the middle. I didn’t hate the victims in this movie but I didn’t like or care about them either.
*. Then there is the humour. McLoughlin wanted to make a funny movie and was told he could do so as long as he didn’t make fun of Jason. The results don’t strike me as being funny at all, in large part because there’s nothing scary going on either. For horror-comedy to work I’ve always felt that there has to be a certain amount of real tension or suspense as well, to highlight the humour and have it come as more of a relief. But here absolutely nothing works.
*. I’m not even sure McLoughlin stuck to the rule of not making fun of Jason. The opening credits are introduced by way of a silly nod to the Bond gun-barrel iris and later the deathless one has a paintball pistol fired at him. So he’s set up as at least a semi-comic figure.
*. So: more jokes and no boobs. And very little gore to go with it. Some of this was due to the MPAA still being on the warpath, but based on the deleted scenes included with the DVD I don’t think there was that much splatter in the first place. Audiences were spared the heads hitting the ground in the triple decapitation scene but that’s about it.
*. This is not to say there weren’t a lot of cuts, and additions. The sense I had was that the movie was made in a very slapdash manner. They even had to add one set of kills after the rest of the film was shot because there weren’t enough (according to the commentary, despite the tight budget “there was always money for a new kill”). Also the character of the caretaker at the graveyard was supposed to play a bigger role and not be killed (introducing us at the end to Jason’s father). Though I haven’t heard it discussed, I thought it strange that the deputy is safely locked away from Jason and his pistol with the laser scope is never actually utilized. That seems as though something else was dropped from the script at some point, though McCloughlin says on the commentary that he never thought of putting the red dot on Jason.
*. One of the problems with trying to be funny is that you lose all those magical moments where the movie isn’t trying to be funny but you still have to laugh. These make up a number of the most memorable scenes in this franchise. As, for example, when the two characters sing “Baby, Baby” to each other through the outhouse walls in A New Beginning. There are no moments like that in Jason Lives because all the laughs are written as gags, which means they’re not as funny.
*. I can understand some people liking this one, but I think what they like about it are things that make it different from a traditional Friday the Thirteenth movie. Some of the changes I didn’t mind (the lack of nudity, for example), but turning Jason into an immortal demon from hell, while perhaps inevitable, was a leap into stupidity I’ve never approved of. And as I say, the jokes all fall flat.
*. So while I give them credit for trying to do something different, at the end of the day this one just isn’t scary or funny or even that interesting. It was, however, the shape of things to come.