Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; eat up while it’s still free! If you are unfamiliar with this column, congratulations on retaining all of your IQ points. Junkfood Cinema is where, every week, I bring the cinematic pain in the form of some truly bad films. While these movies lack a certain…everything, there are aspects of each of them that I can’t help but enjoy. So I will do the boring, objective critic thing and deconstruct the problems with the film first. But then I will giddily sing the film’s dubious praises for your reading discomfort. The idea here is that I know the film is bad, but I enjoy it anyway; much like junkfood, no? You see what I did there? To wit, I will also provide a weekly snack food suggestion that should not only complement the film, but give your personal trainer an aneurysm. Today’s stinker is none other than Jason X.
Basic premise here, our beloved Crystal Lake slasher is cryogenically frozen in the lab where he is inexplicably being housed. Centuries pass before a group of young researchers land on the now desolate planet Earth and bring his frozen corpse back to their spaceship. They find it appropriate to thaw him; major error in judgment! Jason then wreaks his familiar brand of havoc and leaves a trail of carnage all over the cosmos.
What Makes It Bad?
When a horror franchise exists as long as has Friday the 13th, a few go-to conventions are bound to rear their ugly heads. The first of these conventions is the “I want your baby/I want to be reborn through you” shtick (see Nightmare on Elm Street 5 or Halloween 6). The second and only slightly more outlandish convention is the “go to space” angle. What’s interesting about Jason X is that it was one of the last ponies to cross this nefarious finish line; beaten to the galactic punch by Critters 4 (1992), Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), and Leprechaun 4 (1997). Jason X may have well been bad enough as to quell the tide of this already inherently hackneyed plot device because there hasn’t been another franchise to attempt it. My money is on Saw IX featuring Jigsaw torturing the inhabitants of the International Space Station but that remains to be seen.
Sending Jason to space makes just as much sense as putting Jaws in an aquarium (which also happened). When you make the decision to put him into orbit, you take a one note character out of his only definable element. Jason stalks campers in the woods, that’s his m.o., so to put him anywhere else deludes the strength of that character. They did send him to New York once before, but one could make the argument that it was then he who was metaphorically “l0st in the woods” which provides an interesting, ironic angle to the franchise. Putting him in space was the series’ last stitch effort to regain some kind of footing. But a bargain basement, Canadian production featuring our machete-wielding hillbilly blasted into orbit may not be the best way to accomplish that.
The setup to Jason X is about as flimsy as it gets, even by F13th standards. Never mind the fact that the previous film is called Jason Goes to Hell, and that he does indeed go to hell at the end, this sequel plays the ever popular “ignore the story arc” game and has him locked away in some bunker at the beginning. An evil corporation wants to harvest whatever it is about Jason’s biological composition that allows him to regenerate so easily. Jason just stands there, held by rickety chains, complacent in his imprisonment until the company’s founder pays a visit and then he breaks out. I guess, as a conservative woodland-dweller, Jason truly hates yuppies. Also, why would anyone leave a sophisticated spaceship in the hands of these morons? There are one or two competent flesh bags on the ship, but for the most part it appears to be a transport for brain-dead tubeworms…who have dialogue. And I can’t help but assume that the weird, futuristic fashions of the passengers on this ship were simply representative of what kids in Canada were actually sporting back in 2001. I apologize to all my Canuck friends; the jokes at your country’s expense are just far too easy.
The music in Jason X is horrendous. It sounds as though it wasn’t so much written as it was purchased from a score-in-a-box establishment. All real instruments are replaced by their digital keyboard equivalent in an effort to underscore the entire film in abject blandness. It sounds like a made-for-TV movie except that instead of dealing with alcoholism or abusive spouses, it’s about a mutant redneck killing people in space! Hooray!
Jason X is a virtual planetoid of nonsense. I really don’t know which piece of b.s. technology I should rip on first. I guess it would have to be the nanite robots that serve as the ultimate MacGuffin as they can fix any malady, injury, or downright return people from the dead. Interestingly, the nanites return Jason from the dead twice, but none of the dolts on the ship think to put one his victims through the nanite treatment. Hmmm. Or how about the virtual reality simulator that somehow has a composite of every other F13th film queued up despite the fact that no character in this movie would have been alive at the time? Nope, I have to give the award to the cyborg that is obviously a cyborg from frame one but we are still expected to be surprised when she turns out to be a cyborg. The trickery used to make us believe her head is still working after being detached from the rest of her is akin to the kind of wizardry utilized in Sunday school puppet shows. The ending is also mind-meltingly stupid as Jason somehow survives falling to Earth and returns to a futuristic Crystal Lake. Oh the absurdity!
Why I Love It!
Friday the 13th is my favorite of the bloated slasher franchises. These films represent my slow acclimation to the horror genre as they were the first I ever rented on VHS. I watched the first entry and then went back to the videostore every weekend for another until I had seen the whole series. When they seemingly killed him for good in Jason Goes to Hell, I was bummed. But then my interest in the series waned as I discovered more and more horror avenues so I skipped Jason X in theaters. But when I saw it after college, when my horror chops were much sharper, I loved every mentally-challenged second of it. I won’t deny a certain amount of nostalgia is at play here, but is there any better foundation for appreciating a terrible film?
Talk about jumping the shark, Jason X hyperspace jumps an entire planet of sharks. Yes, all of the things I mentioned previously make this an insipid movie, but that’s not to say I don’t chuckle out loud as I watch Jason’s body falling like a homicidal sack of potatoes through the Earth’s atmosphere. Not to mention the gags employed during the virtual reality segments are sinfully funny in their adequate homage to the rest of the series. The fact that the computer-generated girls are flaunting the criteria for becoming a Voorhees victim is funny, but the fact that no matter what he does he can’t kill the VR floozies is downright hysterical. The sleeping bag pummeling is my favorite part.
Say what you want about it being desperate and stupid, but I love the hell out of Uber Jason. When the intergalactic voyagers manage to kill Jason, they really should have made sure all their nanites were secured because what they rebuild is a half-hillbilly-half-Terminator beast. It’s a bit rubbery and Schumacher-ish, but I really enjoy the new suit. It makes Jason look like a comic book villain who silently butchers innocent people. How can you not love that?!
There are some truly fantastic kills in Jason X. By the time the franchise hit part V, it really became about little more than the kills, and X delivers with a vengeance. I think my favorite has to be the murder I like to call “freeze face.” The lab worker who thaws Jason has her head shoved deep into a vat of liquid nitrogen which instantly freezes her visage solid. Not satisfied with that, Jason then smashes her head onto a counter and breaks her face into tiny pieces. Disregarding the fact that this is a “real” scientist who thinks it wise to leave open containers of liquid nitrogen around, it’s a pretty awesome kill. I also love the badass drill sergeant character who gets a spear shoved through his chest and proudly boasts, “it’s gonna take more than that to kill me!” When a second spear pops through, he candidly retracts, “yeah, that outta do it.” It is hilarious.
Junkfood Pairing: Poutine
I know it seems extraneous to hone in on the nationality of a production. But the fact that it is the first Friday the 13th film to be shot entirely in Canada (the interiors of VIII and all of Freddy vs. Jason being the only other two to utilize our neighbor to the north) is pretty interesting. Not only that, but if it weren’t for the fact that Jason X was a Canadian production, we might not have gotten the awesome cameo by David frickin’ Cronenberg! He plays the seedy corporate executive and it’s amazing to see him get decimated by Jason Voorhees. So in his honor, I will wolf down this horribly disgusting decimation of the great American…French fry.