I was barely a teenager when Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan premiered. Too young to buy a ticket. Not that I wanted to. By that point, slasher films were passé.
And yet, I remember this movie’s release. Word spread fast. Despite the title, Jason didn’t reach New York until the final twenty minutes. They should have called it Jason Takes a Cruise, the joke went, as most of the film took place aboard a boat.
For many fans, this perceived deception was reason enough to skip the film. They didn’t miss much.
The movie opens with a teen couple fooling around on Crystal Lake. After an obligatory resurrection sequence, Jason makes short work of the teens and reclaims his trademark hockey mask1.
Fast-forward to the following morning. The local high school’s graduating class sets sail for New York City aboard the Lazarus, an old ocean liner. As they depart, Jason sneaks aboard.
While Jason disappears passengers, we’re presented with a series of subplots involving the students. Our protagonist, Rennie, has visions of a child drowning. The captain’s son, Sean, disappoints his father by fumbling the nautical equivalent of backing the car out of the garage. The prom queen tries to blackmail her biology teacher by seducing him on video.
After thinning the supporting cast, Jason kills the captain. Sean discovers his father’s body and alerts the others. In a refreshing twist, the kids arm themselves and prepare to go on the offensive. But a contrived series of events sinks the ship.
Sean, Rennie, and a few others escape and row to New York City. Jason is, of course, right behind them.
The finale sees Rennie and Sean fleeing Jason through a sewer tunnel due to be flushed with toxic waste.
This isn’t a good movie, but it’s better than its predecessor, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988). Although the script saddles its protagonist with an overwrought subplot, it finds time to pepper the supporting cast with personality and even offers some chuckles. Granted, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) had a more memorable cast, and Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986) had wittier humor, but I can appreciate the effort.
And yes, Jason spends more time prowling the Lazarus’s corridors than Manhattan’s streets, but so what? After seven films set at Camp Crystal Lake (or a reasonable facsimile), isn’t any scenery change welcome?
The film’s biggest disappointment isn’t Jason’s meandering journey to New York, it’s that, once he’s there, he gets tunnel vision. He walks through swaths of pedestrians and ignores them. Aside from some street punks, he’s only interested in the Lazarus survivors.
Jason should be a one-man apocalypse, killing anyone within reach. Why else transplant him to the country’s most populous city?
To that end, Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan is more disappointing than awful. Aside from a change of scenery, it offers little we haven’t seen done better before.
It even includes the axe-crack from Friday the 13th Part III (1982). What an amazing coincidence. ↩