Producers of popular film franchises sometimes deviate from the pattern and experiment with new ingredients to the formula only to face fans’ backlash that would force them to return to well-established path. This, to a certain degree, happened with last few among Star Wars films, but much earlier and clearer example could be found in Friday the 13th series. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, 1985 film and fifth instalment in the series, had solid box office success but nevertheless became most infamous and least popular for simple reason of not having iconic Jason Voorhes among its characters.
His absence could be explained with events depicted in previous film Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, in which the iconic killer got killed by twelve-year old Tommy Jarvis (played by Corey Feldman in brief cameo). Years later Tommy, now teenager (played by John Shepherd), is still traumatised by the ordeal and spends most of his time in various psychiatric institutions. The latest one is Pinehurst, rural institution which functions more like halfway house than actual hospital, and where most of the patients can do what they please. Soon after his arrival, Tommy witnesses one of the patients brutally hacking the other to death with an axe; although the perpetrator gets arrested and taken away, this is only the beginning of the nightmare. Soon afterwards locals, Pinehurst staff and patients become targets of vicious killer whose looks and modus operandi resemble Jason Voorhes. One of the last surviving patients of Pinehurst is Jarvis, who is still haunted by visions of Voorhes and who would ultimately have to confront them while trying to rescue two fellow survivors.
Whether someone will like A New Beginning depends on whether someone likes slasher films or, to be more precise, whether someone can enjoy trashy exploitative slasher films as guilty pleasure. Most fans of Friday the 13th didn’t like this film because of Jason Voorhes’ absence, but also because they felt that they were being taken for a ride by film’s creators. Script, like the first film in the series, doesn’t reveal the true identity of the killer until the end and instead hints that Jason Voorhes might be indeed risen from the grave or, alternately, that Tommy Jarvis went insane and took Voorhes’ identity. When the mystery is revealed, it look underwhelming. Director Danny Steinmann is more interested in quantity than quality, and this could be seen in rapid pace which allows introduction of many unusual but dislikeable characters whose only purpose is to be killed in ingeniously gruesome ways. This results in A New Beginning having unusually high body count, which looks more fitting to war film than horror film. Another exploitative aspect of the film is relative large number of scenes featuring female nudity, although Steinmann later claimed that most of such scenes were actually censored by prudish MPAA. Acting, like in most Friday the 13th films, isn’t anything to write home about. John Shepherd, despite actually visiting psychiatric hospitals to prepare for the role, looks bland, just like Melanie Kinnaman as obligatory Final Girl. Viewers are more likely to remember Deborah Voorhes (who, coincidentally, actually shares last name with series’ main character) simply for being nude in one of the scenes, as well as Shavar Ross who provides somewhat effective comic relief in the role of boy who hangs out at Pinehurst. Despite solid box office results, producers decided to stop the experiment and resurrected Jason Voorhes in next film Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.
RATING: 5/10 (++)
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