David CronenbergYani GellmanLisa RyderLexa Doig
Jason X
Medium: film
Year: 2001
Director: James Isaac
Writer: Victor Miller, Todd Farmer
Keywords: horror, slasher, SF
Country: USA
Actor: Kane Hodder, Lexa Doig, Chuck Campbell, Lisa Ryder, Peter Mensah, Melyssa Ade, Derwin Jordan, Jonathan Potts, Dov Tiefenbach, David Cronenberg, Boyd Banks, Melody Johnson, Kristi Angus, Phillip Williams, Yani Gellman, Robert A. Silverman, Barna Moricz, Dylan Bierk, Todd Farmer, Steve Lucescu, Thomas Seniuk, Amanda Brugel, Kaye Penaflor, Tania Maro, Roman Podhora, Mika Ward, David Cook, Jeff Geddis, Markus Parilo
Format: 93 minutes
Series: << Friday the 13th >>
Url: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0211443/
Website category: Horror modern
Review date: 28 January 2010
Is it good? Don't be ridiculous. It's a sorry excuse for a film, but on the upside at least it looks glossy and you can't accuse New Line of not shaking up the formula. Parts 9, 10 and 11 were all completely different to anything that had gone before and all three have a decent probability of being someone's favourite film of the entire series. For me, it's Freddy vs. Jason that's clearly the best.
Anyway, by Friday the 13th standards, this is certainly different. Jason in space! It's the year 2455! However by moronic slasher movie standards, it's been done before. Leprechaun 4 and Critters 4 went into outer space too, although I don't think they jumped into the future. Admittedly the Critters had been extraterrestrials to start with, but their previous three films had all been earthbound and I don't think anyone's accusing the Leprechaun of being an alien. If Jason X really had been following in the latter's footsteps, by the way, then we would have been heading for 'Jason In the Hood' and 'Back 2 tha Hood' until they rebooted the franchise. Mind you, if anyone's desperate to see what happened to Robo-Jason (or Uber Jason as he's called in the credits), then check out the young adult books (eh?) from Black Flame or the comic books from Avatar Press. The latter included Jason vs. Jason X, which pitted the two versions of Jason against each other and sounds very slightly fun.
Anyway, Jason X. The film begins with a glimpse at some hilarious backstory, in which Jason's in custody and the U.S. government doesn't know what to do with him. He's indestructible. Apparently they first started trying to execute him in 2008, but nothing worked. Right now we have a scientist played by Lexa Doig trying to freeze him cryogenically, but some idiot military types want him for weapons research. Guess how that plays out. Fortunately Doig manages to get him into the cryogenic facility in time, but there's a leak and the whole lab gets locked down. You know, because otherwise cold air might have escaped and everyone would have had to wear sweaters. Jump 450 years into the future and it seems that the Earth is a dead planet, incapable of supporting life, but fortunately it's being visited by an expedition from Earth 2. They unfreeze both Lexa Doig and Jason, whereupon... d'oh.
The film looks glossy. By the standards of moronic slasher SF sequels, it's lovely to look at. There's some genuinely interesting design work here, such as the shuttlecock-shaped dropships or the guys with the googles, masks and extreme trenchcoats. I quite liked spending time in this universe, especially given their women's fashions like the top that doesn't do up. At least the movie doesn't look as cheap as the Friday the 13th franchise has in the past.
The characters are above average for the franchise. They're ripping off the 'Alien' films, so there's a Ripley-a-like (Lexa Doig), an android (Lisa Ryder), a Carter Burke figure (Jonathan Potts) and a cool marine sergeant (Peter Mensah). Oh, and the pilot in the cowboy hat is funny. These characters range from "perfectly acceptable" to "actually quite cool". In case you were wondering how obvious the film's homage to 'Alien' was, the scriptwriter Todd Farmer even named one of the characters Dallas and then played him himself. Admittedly there's also lots of cannon fodder, but that's to be expected and I actually found it mildly interesting to have slasher movie stereotypes (horny teenagers) running around on a spaceship. The kinky (but chaste) sex scene was a particular surprise. Oh, and there are also crossovers here with Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda and the Stargate TV universes, thanks to Lisa Ryder (Andromeda), Chuck Campbell (Stargate Atlantis) and Lexa Doig (who's done both).
My only problem with the casting would be the military. Mensah looks so convincing that for a while I was confusing him with Tony Todd and imagining Candyman vs. Jason, but most of the soldiers are barely distinguishable from the goofball teenagers. Well, I suppose they don't live long enough to be a serious drag factor. There's also a small role for David Cronenberg. Yes, the real one.
All this is fine, or at worst passable. The problem frankly is the fact that it's still Friday the 13th. The story is "Jason kills teenagers". That's it. It's as stupid and pointless as all the rest of them, with no themes that I noticed and no characters who could be said to have depth. It's just ninety minutes of stuff that looks cool. Bizarrely it's not even trying to be a horror film, with the filmmakers instead being intent on creating a new SF action breed of Jason, despite not having the budget to do the big action set-pieces they'd wanted to do. There's no attempt at creating suspense, although there are a few surprise entrances. Jason's key appearances often tend to be action scenes, which eventually annoyed me in his fight with the android. Don't believe the lunatics who call that the movie's best scene. Personally I just wanted to see them both fed into a nuclear reactor. Furthermore the director has admitted that he doesn't really like gore and so this turned out to be the least MPAA-affected film in the series, since it had precious little to cut in the first place and what it does have tends to be CGI. Occasionally one sees the aftereffects of Jason's actions, e.g. the guy who's been cut in two, but don't expect to see much of the machete going in.
There are some good jokes. There's self-aware commentary on eighties slasher cliches, most obviously in the very funny VR Crystal Lake scene. I also liked "how does he function with a brain that small?" I think anyone who enjoys this film is likely to be watching in Genre Awareness mode, so that'll fit in nicely.
This film made me worry about series dating. This is ironic because you'd expect 2455 to be far enough into the future to be safe from nerds like me, but let's go through what we know. Jason was born in 1946, then drowned aged eleven in 1957. The first one-and-a-bit films are set in 1979, then Parts II-IV are crammed into a long weekend in 1984. This brings us into the Tommy Jarvis films, so the actors' ages suggest that five years elapsed between IV and V and then another ten before VI. Jason spends a further decade underwater during Part VII, so by now we're up to 2009-ish and Jason should be claiming his free bus pass and old age pension. Now it gets tricky. Part VIII claims that Jason drowned only forty years ago and Freddy vs. Jason apparently has a construction site with a sign saying "Occupancy Spring 2004". Urgh. This seems to give us a series movie order of 1-9 and 11, the rest of 7, captured by the government and executed a few times, then finally Jason X.
At one point someone claims that Jason killed 200 people back on Earth. That sounded like an underestimate to me, but maybe they didn't have a complete count.
Nudity count: poor. However on the upside, you do see an android's nipples fall off.
I don't like this film, but I can see why some people do. You could choose to watch it as a slasher movie, a parody of slasher movies or as an unusual kind of genre mash-up. Personally I like it best as the latter, but I can't get away from the fact that the story isn't doing anything for me. I didn't believe the scene where they lost their shuttlecraft, for instance, partly because of the culprit's terminal stupidity and partly because I didn't buy the reaction shots afterwards of people who've just lost their route to safety. We also have a ship which on sustaining a hull breach will be destroyed in a core implosion less than 30 minutes later. Those are shoddy safety protocols, my friend. Besides, at the end of the day, we're talking about the lowest-grossing film in the series. I'm grateful for the fact that they weren't just churning out more of the same, but that in itself doesn't make the resulting film good.
Overall it's on the level of a lesser Aliens vs. Predator film. It hasn't made it up to the level of Paul W.S. Anderson's one, but it's a pretty fair match for AvP: Requiem. If that's not faint praise, I don't know what is.