Jason lives. Not Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, but Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI. After the disappointing grosses of Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985), Paramount wasn’t taking any chances.
This entry more-or-less ignores the prior film’s events. It opens with Tommy Jarvis determined to rid himself of the specter of Jason. En route to Crystal Lake, he plans to dig up Jason’s corpse and incinerate it. He’s even brought a buddy along for help1.
Tommy and his friend dig up the corpse all right, but a lightening strike reanimates the maggot-filled carcass. Undead Jason makes short work of Tommy’s pal but Tommy escapes to warn the local sheriff. Of course, the sheriff doesn’t believe Tommy and runs him out of town.
Meanwhile, Jason resumes his murderous ways. He offs some corporate paintballers and a few teen camp counselors before Tommy gets back to town. Thinking Tommy committed the murders, the sheriff puts Tommy behind bars.
Not to worry though, the sheriff’s plucky teen daughter soon frees Tommy from his cell. Then, using a plan Tommy gleaned from reading a book on the occult, the two head to Camp Crystal Lake to confront Jason.
This entry cements Jason’s transition from deranged madman to supernatural monster. Jason now has super human strength. Bullets can’t kill him. Early on, Tommy looks to incinerate Jason, but the skies open and the resulting rain prevents Tommy from striking a match. It’s a nice nod that casts Jason as something of a force of nature.
This installment also sports a nice streak of self-referential black comedy. As Jason stalks a group of children, one boy asks another in a deadpan tone: “So, what did you want to be when you grew up?”
Indeed, when Jason’s on-screen this entry’s a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the plot revolves around Tommy.
A better script would have killed him off during the opening sequence. Instead, we suffer through a tired “boy who cried wolf” plot that never pays off, while cringing at the stilted melodrama with the sheriff’s daughter. A stronger performer could have risen above the material. But Thom Mathews’ wooden performance as Tommy kept reminding me of Michael Dudikoff in American Ninja (1985). Minus the ninja bad-assery.
The focus on Tommy handicaps the supporting cast. Most of Jason’s victims are forgettable. The female camp counselors, in particular, feel like interchangeable fodder.
This isn’t an awful movie, but the forced melodrama and bland supporting cast drag things down. Whenever Jason’s off-screen, Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI is a snooze.
Ron Palillo, TV’s Horshak! ↩