Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; if it wasn’t for bad luck, we’d have won that chicken-fried cake eating contest. You have walked under the ladder of decent web content, smashing a few mirrors on your way, and have crossed paths with the black cat of bad movie columns. Every week we step on the cracks of a schlocky film, breaking its back and spilling salt into its wounds. But then, as we’re spinning around three times like boozed-up dreidels, we offer the film the better part of a wishbone with our genuine love and affection. To put a fourth leaf on this clover, we will suggest a themed snack food item that is sure to hex your digestive track as badly as the movie hexes your IQ.
This week’s unlucky charm: Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan.
What Makes It Bad?
Jason Takes Manhattan is the heartwarming story of a sad, but sweet little lake mutant who, despite the fact that his face looks like soggy, unstirred oatmeal, travels to New York City to pursue his dream of becoming a singing, dancing Broadway star. At least, that’s what it should have been about. Instead it’s just the seventh time nobody learned a damn thing from the slaughtering of an entire summer camp in New Jersey. This eighth installment in the Tolkien-esque saga of Jason Voorhees proves that the deciduous forests surrounding Crystal Lake can no longer contain the masked maniac. He therefore boards a floating high school, kills nearly everyone on board, and ends up in New York City where, like Woody Allen and The Muppets before him, he stakes a rather presumptuous claim to the island of Manhattan. However, his escapades in this famed burrow would leave a trail of blood-splash and destruction the likes of which would not be seen again until Sex and the City 2. Funny thing about Jason’s taking of Manhattan, which mind you is only the title of the goddamn film: he doesn’t get there until the movie is more than halfway over. Perhaps the film should have been called Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes His Sweet Ass Time Getting To Manhattan.
So prior to his arrival in the Big Apple, what’s Jason up to? What is his travel itinerary? Well, first he has to be jump-started back to life like a Dodge Dart via an underwater powerline ripped apart by two horny teens who – despite knowing they are sailing along the shores of the site of a mass murder where COUNTLESS horny teens have been soundly dispatched – see no problem stopping for some ill-advised nook. So then he’s free and, according to one character, swims up river to the ocean. So yes, he begins his swim from Crystal LAKE…up RIVER (?)…to the…ocean. He then boards an ugly, rusted out Panamanian industrial freighter days away from being decommissioned. Did I say an ugly, rusted out Panamanian industrial freighter days away from being decommissioned? I meant a luxurious cruise ship apparently. This “cruise ship” is packed from stem to stern with “American” “high school” “teens” on their senior class trip. Evidently in order to afford the trip, Lakeview High (which don’t forget is on the river that leads to the ocean) had to share their cruise ship with a consignment of machine parts and a jovial cache of coke dealers eluding prosecution. This retro-fitted frigate could not be more alarmingly unfit for teen partying; the galley/dance floor featuring ceilings no more than 5ft in height and representing the first time a dancer was in real danger of headbutting a disco ball since our last Bring Your Favorite Gheorghe Muresan To The Party party.
So who does our weary traveler encounter on this ship? Only probably the worst collection of irritating youths who couldn’t even spell interesting if you spelled it for them. Our lead female is purportedly a writer, and yet through the entire movie the biggest word she uses is “experience.” Oh, yes, I kept track. In fact, it’s unfair to the denotation of the word to say that she ever has a conversation with any other character in the film, as that would suggest the involvement of two functioning brain stems. Her crippling inability to muster any audible responses makes nearly every inviting statement a waste of breath and every direct question a rhetorical. Pretty much the exact opposite quality of what you should be looking for in a movie heroine. She has this exceedingly silly extrasensory connection with Jason Voorhees, or at least little boy Jason Voorhees, which she apparently earned when she almost drowned in Crystal Lake. Two things. One, I don’t believe that anyone can have extrasensory anything until they demonstrates basic operational understanding of their regular human senses. And two, the reason she almost drowned was that the ghost of Jason pulled her under so obviously she already had this connection prior to earning it by almost drow…*chews off own foot to escape plot trap.*
We also have a “rocker” girl who “rocks” by playing “rock music” on a stereo and stabbing her chubby fingers at the strings on her guitar without making any sound while she whips her awful Joan Jett wig around like her head’s sole desire was to gain independence from her spine. Congratulations, you have effectively failed at grasping the core concept of both actual guitar-playing AND air-guitar-playing. Adding to the confederacy of doorknobs is the bitchy blond who tries to blackmail the teacher by revealing that her “biology project” is nothing more than her drawing body parts on her half-naked frame while another student videotapes it. “I want to make sure I’ve labeled all my organs correctly,” are the words that coyly fart from her stupid mouth. Well, sweetie, considering you only labeled the heart and the stomach I’d say you’re either bollocks with biology or you are a goddamn medical marvel. Oh, and don’t forget the boxer guy who dashes at blistering speed between being a stereotypical 80s black guy and being the worst 80s black guy since Philip Michael Thomas. I’ve never heard anyone flounder so spectacularly at uttering the word “motherfucker.”
So after Jason works his way through this boat of high school travesties – casting the deciding vote on who’ll be voted Most Likely To Be Electrocuted and Best Chest…For Housing A Smoldering Sauna Rock – he follows a dinghy-full of the last remaining survivors (a dinghy of dinghies if you will, or even if you won’t) to the shores of one the greatest cities in the world. And what does he find? An unwashed jungle of filthy filth-covered filth. You could watch a Troma Team film directed by Abel Ferrara and DPed by a crack-addicted prostitute who, ironically, specializes in DP, and you still wouldn’t end up with a sleazier portrait of Manhattan than that in the last act of Friday the 13th Part VIII. I’m not even sure Jason would want to take this city, he’d end up spending a fortune on machete-sized prophylactics. This is a place where the public works department just accepts it as a given that the entire sewer system is flooded with toxic waste every night at midnight and mohawked punks listen to awful, just awful, 80s soft rock; equally disgusting. Oh, and at one point our heroine is kidnapped by a couple of hoods who inject her with heroin from an old needle. At that point even if she were to survive Jason’s rampage, I’m pretty sure the AIDS will finish what he started.
In the end, after this long, arduous journey to see The Big Apple before he dies (for the umpteenth time) what is Jason’s reward? To be transformed into a quivering fat kid by a tidal wave of toxic sludge and left for dead by two asshole teens. I’m sorry, I don’t care what his grown-up version did to you, how bastardly do you have to be to leave a kid dying in a New York City sewer? So yeah, after he has suffered the killing blows of makeshift weaponry from desperate camp counselors and sinning teens across the tri-state area, Jason is foiled by a half-assed plot twist. You’d think a story device this bereft of thinkfullness would require a secondary story device (an amulet, ancient incantation, amnesia bullet, real bullet to mercifully end the life of anyone who paid to see this in theaters) to lend at least some measure of forced validity to it, right? Nope, we’re just supposed to take it on faith that despite the fact that there have been no shortage of aquatic resurrections and even littoral kills throughout this franchise, it turns out Jason’s fear of drowning will transform him into a piss-ant little chub bucket. Thanks, writers of Jason Takes Manhattan. Hey, I’m actually writing a script called Brian Takes A Chunk of Skull with a Sledgehammer. Spoiler: it’s filming at your house.
Why I Love It!
As a die-hard Voorheesian, who owes a great deal of his horrorphile status to this schlock-and-chop franchise, I can’t help but adore this most absurd entry. It was the first time Jason was taken out of the woods and allowed to wreak his special breed of havoc upon even those who were wise enough to stay the hell away from Camp Crystal Lake. If nothing else, it opened the door for his eventual trip to space in Jason X so I don’t think it’s overstatement to note that all human life on this planet owes a life-debt to these filmmakers. Seeing Jason tromping through Times Square, and actually having to divert his shark-like eyes from his prey to take in the spectacle, is an image that, for me, canonizes the allure of B-movies. Is it a cheesy and desperate gimmick? Of course, fool. But that doesn’t make it any less of a selling point for those of us who delight at seeing a concept, and a tired trope or franchise, live beyond its means.
Also people die…like a lot of people. By the time you get past the first Friday the 13th…’s opening credits, you have to admit that you are watching these movies almost exclusively for the kills. In Friday the 13th Part VIII, they know you’ve had seven courses of murder and seem intent on busting your gut with an all-you-can-eat sundae cart of carnage for dessert. It’s not simply the quantity of homicide here, but the quality as well. Kane Hodder’s Jason is angry, and these people are sinners in the hands of this vengeful dark deity. He bashes them with guitars, stabs them through the chest with dirty syringes, drowns them in sewage, and literally punches a man’s head clean off. I am convinced that once he had finished with his initial quarry, Jason would have proceeded to slaughter every citizen of NYC; stacking bodies into towers that rival the city’s iconic skyscrapers.
Yet despite the film’s mean streak (read: apparent hatred for all mankind), there is a pronounced measure of humor running through Jason Takes Manhattan. The first thing Jason sees when he reaches the New York docks is a giant billboard for hockey (no specific team mind you, just hockey in general) in which a player is wearing the exact same mask as the one he wears. Sports jokes! There is also the moment wherein Jason, when accosted by a group of dishwater dull punks, opts to simply lift his mask and frighten them away over butchering them; probably seeing it as pointless as they would be dead in a few years anyway of drugs, skateboarding accidents, or incidents involving Roman candles and their private parts. And then of course there is the ten minute pummeling Jason takes from the ethnically-confused pugilist that ends with Jason decapitating him with one punch; his head then falling from the roof and landing perfectly in an open dumpster. Touchdown, Jason! Three points! Icing! Collective Bargaining! (I don’t know sports). But I think the thing that had me most in stitches, the thing too ridiculous not to be intonational, was this exchange between said doomed boxer and his nerdy compatriot after they’d gathered weapons to fight Jason:
Nerd: What weapon are you taking, Julius?
Julius: Nothing…(LONG PAUSE)…but this gun.
Junkfood Pairing: New York Style Pizza
Embark on your own flavor trip to Manhattan by devouring a hockey-mask-sized piece of New York style pie. This delicacy is often served by the slice…just as Jason serves his annoyance that people dare to breathe oxygen without his express written consent. For most appropriate results, tell yourself all day that this is what you’ll be eating for dinner and then don’t eat it until five minutes before you go to bed.