This is an ancient enmity. I liked Halloween. I despised the first Friday the 13th, which was a monstrous mega-hit, and which spawned something like a hundred copycats in the next two years. This is a continuing pattern in my life; back when I was an avid gamer, I preferred RPGs, and suffered through a wave of side-scrolling shooters, then a wave of fighters. Good thing Zelda and Final Fantasy took a chunk of time, because there was precious little else available for folks like me.
So it was with slashers. A friend of mine hated horror movies until I forced him to return to and watch The Howling to its conclusion (he had left early upon discovering it was a werewolf movie oh jesus don’t get me started), and then found myself dragged by this new convert to every slasher that came out. He was hoping to catch that makeup effect buzz again, you see, but not every movie could afford Rob Bottin or Tom Savini, nor did they try.
My major problem with slashers is they’re just so mechanical, quite often not even bothering to switch up the proceedings from the last slasher movie you saw. At their very worst, they earned the charge of misogyny directed against the genre as a whole. The fast track to horror is to menace or victimize a woman, which allows first-time directors and hacks to get the response they want, simply and lazily. Do the same to a man and the audience response tends toward “Why isn’t he fighting back? What a wuss!” So when men fall into the victim column, they tend to get killed quickly, suddenly.
I know slashers have their fans. I’m not one of them. Twilight, Glee and Dancing With The Stars also have their fans. I am not one of them. And yet, I have seen all the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th movies. Nightmare because I appreciated the fantastic elements, and Friday because… I’m an optimistic idiot. (Didn’t watch any of the Halloween movies past III because I’m not a complete masochistic moron)
I watched Jason Lives because Hollywood finally caught up with me and Forever Evil by realizing that an unstoppable killing machine needed to be a zombie. I was almost charmed by whichever one was Jason vs Carrie. I was pissed off all over again by Jason Takes Manhattan because, finally! A new venue! Jason takes a walk through Central Park at night! Jason versus a New York SWAT Team! Annnnnd then I saw it and it was just another body count flick and a wonderful opportunity squandered.
But say what you will about Jason and Freddy, at least they didn’t discriminate in their activities. Men and women were grist for those gruesome mills. Which brings us to Jason X, the by-now almost inevitable “Jason in Space” movie.
Jason’s been captured, and since multiple attempts to execute him have failed, it is decided to simply cryogenically freeze him. All well and good until David Cronenberg (literally) shows up to study his regenerative abilities instead, just in time for Jason to bust loose and kill everybody except for Dr. Final Girl (Lexa Doig), who despite being mortally wounded, manages to freeze Jason and herself.
Regenerative abilities nothing, they should study how Jason gets that machete so frickin’ sharp, punching right through the reinforced steel door of the cryogenic chamber.
455 years later, a spaceship crew discovers the cryo chamber and take Dr. Final Girl and Jason on board. This is some sort of archeological enterprise with an eye toward profit, manned largely by (horny) students and some
cannon fodder soldiers. Dr. Final Girl is healed by nanotech, and though she’s not ideally profitable, Jason would be, as even in the future he is a notorious killer. So of course they let him thaw out.
This set-up from The Thing isn’t the last movie they’re ripping off here, either, as the soldiers on board quickly shift into Aliens mode and try to track down Jason in this astoundingly cavernous ship. They also sling around an uncomfortable amount of bullets for a pressurized space vessel, but since Jason also dismembers the pilot so they crash through a space station that supposedly represented salvation, I have to say that this particular ship was built to last. At least until the story necessitates it breaking up to move the story along.
I remember absolutely none of the character names because they’re all going to be dead in a drastically short amount of time – this has the highest body count of any of the Friday the 13th movies – though I do remember the female android Kay-Em 14 (Lisa Ryder), who has a Pinocchio complex (she’s in love with her creator and vice-versa). She has all the good lines, and when she’s upgraded to a well-armed warbot, actually takes Jason out. She is every nerd’s wet dream, and I am a nerd. Then Jason is repaired by malfunctioning nanotech, so we now get to rip off The Terminator.
All this borrowing from other movies actually works in Jason X‘s favor; the filmmaker’s hearts are in the right place, and the borrowings actually feel like homage rather than desperation. It does stray into the realm of the too-cute, though: one of the characters on the chopping list in the Alien segment is named Dallas, the doomed space station is the “Solaris Station”. My favorite part. though, is going to remain the holodeck replica of Camp Crystal Lake the survivors rig up to distract Jason; it even includes vixens with 80’s hairstyles indulging in the exact actions which always spelled doom in the earlier movies. “Do you want to have pre-marital sex? We looooooove pre-marital sex!”
So Jason X is that oddity for me, a Friday the 13th movie that actually entertained me while still managing to be a slasher movie. Still terminally stupid, but it never thought I was stupid, which gets it a higher grade, in my book.
(I’m trying to remember if “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor” was already a cliche by this point)
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