Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives

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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.

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On this day in music history: September 20, 1986 - “The Rain” by Oran “Juice” Jones hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also peaking at #9 on the Hot 100 on November 15, 1986. Written by Vincent Bell, it is the biggest hit for the Harlem, NY based R&B singer. Jones is the first R&B artist signed to the famed Def Jam record label. The song starts off as a conventional R&B track until Jones, feeling that the song is lacking something goes back into the studio and performs the now classic monologue verbally chastising his cheating girlfriend, which is recorded in a single take. At first, writer and co-producer Bell does not like the spoken monologue at the end of the song, but be overuled when co-producer and Def Jam founder Russell Simmons approves of it. Columbia Records R&B & Jazz VP Eddie Pugh will play an important role in the records’ success. Recognizing the song’s hit potential, he will champion the record, leading the charge in it receiving the promotional support necessary from CBS’ Black Music Division to get it on the radio. It will break quickly on R&B radio which will lead to it crossing over on to the pop chart. “The Rain” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: September 20, 1980 - “The Game”, the fifth album by Queen hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 5 weeks, also peaking at #8 on the R&B album chart on October 4, 1980. Produced by Queen and Reinhold Mack, it is recorded at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany from June - July 1979 and February - May 1980. Issued as the follow up to their previous album “Jazz”, it will differ noticeably from their previous album sporting a more stripped down pop/rock sound. Recording in Germany at producer Giorgio Moroder’s Musicland Studios, as well as working with engineer/co-producer Mack will contribute to the band’s change in musical approach. Queen will make a break with their “no synthesizers” credo when they utilize an Oberheim OB-X on the album. It is well received by fans and critics alike upon its release, and will go on to become their most successful album. It will spin off three singles including “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” (#1 Pop) and “Another One Bites The Dust” (#1 Pop, #2 R&B). Original vinyl pressings of the album will feature the album cover art with an aluminized foil finish. The expensive printing process will be discontinued after the initial press run of the LP, switching to a flat grey ink finish to save on manufacturing costs. “The Game” is certified 4x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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