Jason X is an empty vessel with no soul and a noticeably bad soundtrack whose light, ethereal touch is seriously misplaced.
Six Billion Served
R for violence, language, sexuality
-->Giving this film a bad rating in a review is a bit like being a food critic who suddenly takes on a Happy Meal at McDonalds.
Like McDonalds,Friday The 13th is one of the most visible contemporary franchises America offers. It even surpassesPolice Academy (which also spawned a TV series but, then again, so didFriday The 13th).
For “regular” folks who wouldn’t even think of seeingJason X, let’s just give it the dutiful “one star” rating (and I’m guessing over six billion people will be served in this department). I’ll skip the talk of how every level of the film is bad because you can go to any other review for that. For horror film fans, let’s give it “two stars.” And I’ll explain that rating next.
A Month of Fridays
The firstFriday The 13th gets credit for, well, being first (plus the twist of the killer being the mom, plus an early role for Kevin Bacon, plus special effects by Tom Savini).Friday The 13th Part 2 gets credit for establishing Jason as the killer, plus the effects were still pretty good (this time by Carl Fullerton).Friday The 13th Part 3 gets credit for having some of the best 3-D effects ever committed to film.Friday the 13th – The Final Chapter (yeah, right) gets credit for having both Crispin Gloverand a pre-drug-addled Corey Feldman (oh, and Tom Savini came back for the special effects).
After that, it starts to get pretty zany. Jason gets revived by lightning bolts, fights off telekinetic heroines, goes to Manhattan, goes to Hell, and, now, Space… the final frontier (again: yeah, right). It’s all gotten so campy that any chance of a real scare is pretty remote. So the filmmakers try to compensate by at least delivering on two other fronts: gags and grossouts.
Gags and Grossouts
The gags are bad and so obvious you can see them coming a mile away. The in-jokes give horror fans something to do while the prosthetic and CGI department gets warmed up: David Cronenberg has a walk-on cameo and the space ship is named Grendel (which is a decent reference to the first boogeyman of English literature and shows someone at least remembered their Cliffs Notes.) Actually, horror films are notorious for being self-referential and this one is no exception.
As for the grossouts, people get macheted, get their faces smashed against walls like rotting fruit, and so forth. Dying characters deliver jokey one-liners and the proceedings never escape the shallow gravitational orbit of a video game. I should also explain that the sci-fi trappings allow for “coming back to life” scenes that make the whole death thing seem kind of moot. Of course, this was always the case for Jason himself, but allowing his victims to also regenerate adds to the video game mindset.
I’m guessing that selective horror film fans would, if presented with this DVD in the future, consult two amusing scenes regarding the holographic deck and then readily trade it in toward something with more merit, say Mario Bava’sTwitch of the Death Nerve (1971), one of the first “body count” films that had a direct influence onFriday the 13th.
But wait! I just dismissed the gags and only gave it some credit for the grossouts, so I haven’t explained giving this “two stars” for the horror fans. For this, you will have to indulge me one last tangent, this one goes back to 1899.
Most horror fans have heard of the “Theatre du Grand Guignol.” Some schools of thought point out that this form of theater may have started out respectably enough, but when the people putting on the theater productions noticed how the “effects” (e.g., staged decapitations) were getting the biggest physical reactions from the audience, the productions slowly but surely slid from being straight-on dramas toward being little more than a string of grossouts to astonish the crowd. Let’s hear it for the free market!
As the serious drama took a back seat to the special effects, the upper class became scarce and pretty soon it was just the riff-raff. The thing that’s interesting is that the audiences for the Grand Guignol theater belonged mainly to the working class, and that this form of theater flourished until its audiences starting attending films instead.
Jason X is the epitome of contemporary Grand Guignol. The young audience in attendance knew what it was there for, and contemplative cinematography, the written word, and high caliber acting were not on the menu. When the grossouts began there was “ooh”-ing, “aah”-ing, and laughing. And, while I’m sure this reaction would appall many, there is no reason for such disdain. The kids are alright. They can talk just as fluidly about Dario Argento’sSuspiria as they can about Jacques Tourneur’sOut of the Past (the kid in front of me was talking about just those two films). This audience knowsJason X is just a movie – and a bad one at that.
The shame comes when filmmakers have a captive audience of the working class and the future of America, and they don’t even take a stab at some sociological discussions about the nature of who we are or the times we live in, the way George Romero did inDawn of the Dead or John Carpenter did inThey Live. The latter film consciously even used pro wrestlers as actors in its appeal to the working class, beating last week’sThe Scorpion King by 15 years.
And speaking of wrestling, memo to the studio: next time, give your Jason fans what they really want: Jason vs. Freddy.