I must be out of step with the rest of the world, since this seems to be generally regarded as one of the better Friday the 13th films. Maybe it was false expectations? Maybe I'd accidentally misaligned my quality threshold? However if nothing else, I can definitely recommend not watching The Hidden
immediately before Jason Goes to Hell, since the rip-off loses from the comparison.
In fairness, I can see why people might like this. It's different, anyway. For five films we'd thought Jason was an inbred backwoods retard and then for three more we'd thought he was a zombie, but now we learn that he's a body-hopping alien turd... um, slug. You can shoot him, electrocute him and blow him into pieces, but you won't have killed the real Jason. He'll just squeeze himself into someone else's mouth and go off a-killing in this new body instead. You could make a good film out of this. They did, in fact. It's called The Hidden
and it had been a critically acclaimed success for New Line six years previously, so what could be more natural than for this plot device to crop up in the Friday the 13th franchise as soon as New Line bought it from Paramount?
NOTE: for "natural" read "retarded". In fairness, most of my questions got answered. However I never managed to shake off the whiff of bullshit since these answers tended to feel like nothing more than absurdities trumping other absurdities. For your edification I shall provide some of these below.
1. Why didn't Jason do any of this body-swapping until now? Did he actually like being a deformed retard? Had he been enjoying his ten years chained to the bottom of a lake? Answer: the parasite seems to be linked to the original Jason as its primary host and the film seems to be suggesting that its main motivation is to try to recreate him. When one of his temporary bodies walks in front of a mirror, for instance, their reflection will look like Jason rather than anything that might be suggested by, say, the laws of optics.
2. The body-swapping doesn't make sense. He just randomly does it, not due to physical trauma but simply because that's what body-swapping aliens do in movies. At least in The Hidden
, you always knew why the bug-monster had taken a new host. Answer: apparently the temporary bodies don't last long. The parasite has to keep changing, or it'll die.
3. In what sense exactly do these bodies get worn out, then? Jason dumps a strong black man who hasn't sustained so much as a scratch, but in later scenes isn't inconvenienced by being shot repeatedly at point blank range, being impaled on metal objects and having his brains blown out. Answer: you got me there.
4. He's targeting his relatives, who've never heard so much as a peep from him until now! How does he know where they live? How does he even know who they are? This doesn't strike me as a man who'd hitherto been keeping up much of a social network. Furthermore, why only now should they suddenly be in danger? Answer: Jason can only be reborn through the body of another Vorhees!
5. So why does he kill the first Vorhees he meets, then? Answer: he's an idiot.
6. Oi. Answer: a dead Vorhees is also good enough for his purposes.
7. Why doesn't he use her corpse immediately, instead of wasting another forty minutes' screen time, then? Answer: um.
8. What is this nonsense anyway about him needing another Vorhees? Presumably they're relatives on his family's side if they share his name, so in that case what's the deal with his mother? The Vorhees family connection is the longest-standing tradition of the series. Answer: maybe Jason's parents had been siblings!
9. I haven't mentioned the silliest bit. Jason can only be killed by another Vorhees. With a magic dagger. Come back Part 6
, all is forgiven! Answer: it's a magic spell. No other explanation is possible. Someone waved their magic wand and gave Jason an evil inner turd, which hardly seems likely but is at least more internally coherent than an alien invader discovering that a drowned retard was his biological other half. Don't forget that the film not only ends by dragging Jason to Hell but even boasts about it in the title. We have a fan theory here, but I'm not convinced that I'm not already putting more effort into this than the scriptwriters did. The movie never hints at a supernatural explanation for how Jason got this way, or indeed any explanation at all.
10. So who tells us all this info-dump? How does he know? "Through a Voorhees was he born... through a Voorhees may he be reborn... and only by the hands of a Voorhees will he die." Well, that's a perfectly normal conclusion to reach about a parasitic turd. Answer: there's a bounty hunter who magically knows everything and at one point says, "Remember me?" So that explains everything, then.
11. How did Jason get back from the end of Part 8
? Answer: don't ask.
12. Why does the coroner eat Jason's heart? It's awesomely gross and one of the freakiest things you'll see in a movie, not just this franchise. That's laudable, but why did it happen in the first place? Answer: Jason has hypnotic powers, but he's never used them again before or since because that would be too easy.
Okay, that'll do. I'll probably remember another dozen after posting this review, but you get the idea. This film doesn't just not make sense, but doesn't even give the impression that it can be bothered to do so. The Hidden
wasn't a deep film, but its plot fitted together as neatly as a jigsaw. You had a clear through-line from beginning to end. This on the other hand feels messy, with less involvement than you'd think for Jason himself and a random bunch of characters wandering around slightly aimlessly and being a bit clueless. He's a celebrity, mentioned not just on national news but on daytime TV, but no one really takes him seriously and of course our hero isn't believed when his defence is "Jason killed them". The hero's ex-girlfriend is a cliche of a kick-arse 1990s heroine, who seems to hit, kick or shoot everyone she meets. This is a lazy, half-arsed story based on a premise that can only be justified with outright magic, but even that much rationalisation is more than the scriptwriters could be bothered with.
Apart from all that, the film's really good.
The gore is awesome, helped by New Line thinking to put a Rated and Unrated version of the film on the DVD. Guess which one I watched. The heart-eating is unspeakable, while what happens to Jason's hosts after he's abandoned them is the one cool idea this film didn't just steal from The Hidden
. The "Jason as Sweeney Todd" scene was cringeworthy (in a good way) too. The only gore effects I wasn't wild about were on people who'd simply been punched or something, since they looked a bit too spectacular for the damage that seemed to have been inflicted.
I liked the cast as well. John D. LeMay is a bit of a nerd hero, but good. He'd been a regular in the first three series of the Friday the 13th TV series, incidentally. His most astonishing scene is the one where he's negotiating for information with fingers, but I also loved his relationship with that police deputy. The scene of them with their guns is adorable. Meanwhile Steven Williams is the film's badass bounty hunter and would soon become Mr X in The X Files, while Erin Gray had starred in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. There's a lot to love here, from the twist opening to the self-referential teens and the jaw-dropping coroner's scene. People were putting far more effort into this film than you'd expect of a Friday the 13th movie. I don't like its story, but I can't deny that it has some of its franchise's best scenes by miles, both for horror, comedy and sheer "what the hell".
The film also has nudity (of course) and hidden references to other horror movies (The Evil Dead, The Thing
, Creepshow). The surprise ending is also theoretically cool, although I have to admit that having had the surprise spoiled for me in advance, my main reaction was to be slightly underwhelmed at how they'd executed it.
I don't know. I've spent a lot of time slagging off this film for its plot, which is hardly a traditional strength of the franchise. All the other good stuff I've practically dismissed in a couple of paragraphs. Maybe I really had been letting my expectations get away from me. Nevertheless this script was actively rubbing me up the wrong way, striking me as the work of people who simply didn't give a shit. Plot holes are actually something new for this series, especially on this scale. Meanwhile the scene of Jason invading a police station seemed like a cliche after The Hidden
and The Terminator
, while our hero's climactic fistfight with Jason made me roll my eyes. Individual scenes of this film I loved, but I'm afraid the complete package left me slightly cold. I'm sure I'll like it better when I rewatch it one day, though.