FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES had pushed the old slasher franchise into a new direction, resurrecting Jason Voorhees as a living dead zombie from hell. and take notice. Now, along comes PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD, and it really wants to do something different. “Different,” in this case, means gene-splicing elements from another film into the familiar formula, and the result – about a face-off between the hulking masked maniac and a troubled teen with telekinesis - is fondly if not quite respectfully called “Carrie Meets Jason.” You cannot really take the results seriously, but they are fun, offering both an interesting subplot and a chance to see something never really shown in a FRIDAY film before: Jason getting his ass handed to him on a platter. “Purists” (a funny word in the contest of exploitation trash) might object to seeing their favorite anti-hero dissed so badly, but anyone looking for a good time should be able to get at least a few chuckles out of seeing Jason meet his match.
The story begins with a prologue in which Tina, as a tiny tot throwing a temper tantrum, telekinetically – albeit not quite intentionally – sends Dad to the bottom of Crystal Lake. About a decade later,* Tina is brought back to the location by her mother and a psychiatrist named Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser), allegedly so that the troubled teen can confront her unresolved guilt over daddy’s demise. However, it quickly becomes apparent that Crews views Tina as a lab rat, the study of whose unusual abilities will somehow make him rich and/or famous, and he is doing everything he can not to help her control her telekinesis but to amp it up. An unfortunate side effect of this is that when Tina wishes for her drowned father to return from the bottom of the lake, her psychic powers inadvertently resurrect Jason (who has been slumbering there since Tommy Jarvis dragged him to the bottom in the aforementioned PART VI).
This is a pretty good set-up, but the screenwriters do not quite know what to do with it. Once Jason is back in action, their main problems seems to have been how to delay the inevitable confrontation until the third act. This involves introducing another bunch of dumb, sexed up teenagers, who wander off into the woods and get killed at regular intervals.
Okay, you expect that kind of thing in a FRIDAY film. What hurts is that the main trio of Tin, her mother, and Dr. Crews are involved in something like a legitimate story that provides motivation for them to do something more than wander around in the woods like idiots, and yet they too often end up wandering around in the woods like idiots. (The real reason for this is to keep them busy while other characters are being killed.)
What this means is that, despite its best intentions, THE NEW BLOOD feels for most of its length too much like a typical entry in the series – and not a particularly distinguished one at that. We get the usual gang of idiots dying the usual deaths, and even if the scenes are not exact copies they do feel awfully familiar. (There is even a spring-loaded cat – a cheap scare device previously used in PART 2.)
By this time, it was more or less obligatory for the MPAA to demand cuts before handing out an R-rating, making it hard for the sequel to compete with the original in terms of on-screen mayhem. The irony is that, for the first time, a FRIDAY film is directed by an exerpt in makeup and special effects, but John Carl Buechler is not allowed to strut his stuff. With the shock value seriously diminished, he tries to turn THE NEW BLOOD into more of an old-fashioned monster movie, but he is no more successful than Tom McLoughlin was in JASON LIVES, and he lacks McLoughlin’s tongue-in-cheek sense of humor.
There is also a certain flatness to his work. The scene of Jason first emerging from beneath the lake was obviously supposed to be a show-stopping moment, but the image is prosaically captured, forcing the editor to overlap multiple takes with dissolves in order to let the audience know this is supposed to be frickin’ awesome. (Hint to filmmakers: when something really is awesome, you don’t need to elbow the audience in the ribs; they will figure it out for themselves.)
Fortunately, one Tina becomes the Final Girl, the film delivers the goods. Her knock-down, drag-out smack-down of Jason Voorhees is just about everything you could wish for, as she pulls electrical wires down on him hurls furniture at him, strangles him with the strap on his own hockey mask, and more. Some fans and critics have complained that Tina’s psychi power diminishes the suspense because it relieves her from grappling hand to hand with an antagonist much stronger than she.
This misses the point entirely. The FRIDAY films have never been about conventional cinematic virtues like suspense, drama, and characterization. They are dumb-hoot movies whose only reason for existence is to provide an excuse for outrageous action. Denied by the MPAA from offering up the gore that made the franchise famous, THE NEW BLOOD goes over the top in a completely different way, and it’s so much fun watching Jason get what he deserves that you would have to be a malcontent to complain.
The other highlight of the film is the debut of stuntman Kane Hodder in the role of Jason. Jason was never much of a character, nor even a particularly memorable figure, in the earlier films; if not for the hockey mask, he would be just a generic lurking figure (which is exactly how he appears during the first half of PART 3). Although it would be an exaggeration to say that Hodder can convey much characterization from behind the mask, he does provide Jason with some recognizable traits that hint at a vestige of personality, particularly the purposeful stride, with head down and slightly forward, suggesting the focused concentration of a hunter pursuing its prey.
Hodder also deserves points for registering stupified shock when Tina first turns the tables on him, sending roots shooting up from beneath the ground to enwrap his feet and trip him into a puddle (which she will shortly electrify, courtesy of nearby powerlines). It’s not the kind of in-depth emotional performance that will win any Oscars, but it is a priceless moment that helps erase memories of the film’s many weaknesses.
Bottom line: THE NEW BLOOD, like JASON LIVES, is a film that deserves points for trying to be different, even though the attempt is only partially successful and tends to neutralize the exploitation element that is the franchise’s main appeal. Gorehounds may be disappointed by the relatively bloodless kills, and only timid viewers will really find the proceedings frightening. But if you’re a general horror movie fan or someone only interested in checking a FRIDAY film out of curiosity, you could do worse.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD(1988). Directed by John Carl Buechler. Written by Manuel Fidello, Daryl Haney (based on character creatd by Victor Miller, uncredited). Cast: Kane Hodder, Lar Park-Lincoln, Terry Kiser, Susan Blu, Susan Jennifer Sullivan, Kevin Spirtas, Heidi Kozak, Elizabeth Kaitan.
- This ten year jump creates some problems for the continuity timeline. 1980’s FRIDAY THE 13TH took place in 1979. 1981’s PART II takes place five years later, meaning it was set in 1984, which is also the year for the two subsequent films. Both A NEW BEGINNING and JASON LIVES depict Tommy Jarvis (who killed Jason in THE FINAL CHAPTER) as having aged into an adult – about ten years, which would put those films in the mid-1990s. Tina’s prologue in THE NEW BLOOD seems to take place after the end of JASON LIVES, so the main action, ten years later, must take place in the first decade of the new millennium. Strangely, the hair styles and clothing are all vintage 1988, the year the film was actually made.