A fan-favorite installment of the Friday the 13th franchise and the last installment of the “Tommy Trilogy”, Part VI gets the ball rolling on a whole new era of the series. Not only does Part VI revive the character of Jason Voorhees, but it also revitalizes him, breathing new life into the franchise.
Personally, I love the direction Part VI takes Jason’s character. He was always ugly and unstoppable in the past, but now he’s all those things to a whole new extreme. The whole “zombie”-thing may sound stupid, but the zombie-era of Jason actually has many of the best films in the franchise and the majority of the best kills. The only real downside about the zombie-era is that the Friday the 13th franchise eventually becomes a series relying solely on movie-to-movie gimmicks, having Jason fight a telekinetic, Jason visiting Manhattan, Jason going to Hell, Jason in Space, Jason fighting Freddy.
Part VI adds a mix of humor to the atmosphere of the film, as if it’s self-aware of how ridiculous the story is. The humor isn’t tremendously blatant and shouldn’t throw you completely out of the experience, but it is entertaining. The tongue may be well and truly wedged in cheek throughout Jason Lives but it also works as a straight ahead horror movie because Tom McLoughlin was actually a fan of the Friday series. A more cynical director might have ruined this approach, but you get the feeling that he is good-naturedly ribbing the conventions of the films whilst enjoying them at the same time. No more so is this evident when a group of paint ballers fall foul of Jason, and wear prophetic ‘dead’ headbands. There are also many nicely comedic touches, such as one kid turning to another as Jason rampages through the camp ground, asking “What we’re you going to be when you grew up?”.
Much like Part V, this installment is really many set pieces strung together with either Tommy Jarvis or Jason bursting into shot. This, of course, is a tool for upping the bodycount, no more so than the engaged couple and the gravedigger that all bite the machete in the space of a few minutes. To be fair, McLoughlin was forced to add these scenes to beef up the slaughter at the behest of the producers. The kills are quite good, with people being broken in two, shish kabobed together, having broken bottles crammed down their throats, speared through the mouth and drowned in a puddle, faces crushed through walls and so much more. Jason was always brutal in the earlier films, but he’s a freakin’ machine in the zombie-era films. It’s somewhat ironic that whilst more bodies hit the floor the grue on display was becoming more and more truncated. Of course, the long running battle between the filmmakers and the American censors the MPAA has been often documented. McLoughlin shot three versions of all the kill scenes in Jason Lives knowing full well that the goriest ones would probably end up on the cutting room floor. As it stands in its current version, the gore in this Friday certainly doesn’t have visceral shock power of the first film, nor even the immediate sequels. It would be nice to finally see it how McLoughlin intended it.
Perhaps having sat through so many of these films, so many times, the side characters don’t make much of an impression here, of course, character development isn’t exactly high on the agenda. However, Tommy and Megan make an engaging on-screen couple, her with her ballsy disregard for authority and him with his puppy dog eyes and hyperactive state of fear. Unshackled from the is-he-or-isn’t-he-evil spectre of the previous sequel, in Part VI you can feel safe rooting for him, and this sequel remains a relative oddity in having a more-or-less final boy as opposed to final girl. Of course the main character remains Jason – and let’s face it, it’s always about Mr Voorhees. It was good to have him back.
Friday the 13th part VI is one of the most important films in the franchise, taking the series in a whole new direction. It’s also easily one of the series’ best installments.