On the 29th anniversary of its release, we take a look back at Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood to discuss its place in the franchise’s history.
After killing off Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, producers alienated fans with a fifth entry in which that film’s Jason is actually revealed to be Roy Burns… a paramedic. Audience reception was so poor for Friday the 13th: A New Beginning that Paramount knew they had to bring the real Jason back in the sixth entry. And so they made him undead for Friday the 13th: Jason Lives, putting a highly supernatural spin on the series. But could the undead Jason gimmick last for another film? A lot was riding on the seventh installment, to say the least.
There was initially a cloud of confusion over what the seventh entry of the series should be (including a scramble to come up with new storylines after an attempt at a Freddy vs. Jason crossover fell apart for the first of many times), but Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood managed to inject some new life into the franchise with a storyline that essentially mashed together the worlds of Jason Voorhees and another horror icon: Carrie White.
The New Blood opened up the world of Camp Crystal Lake to other supernatural elements beyond “undead Jason” with the introduction of Tina Shepard, a telekinetic whose immense powers made her quite literally the strongest final girl in the history of the series. Tina, played by Lar Park-Lincoln, proved to be a worthy adversary for Jason Voorhees, embodying the core qualities of the traditional final girl and fusing them together with unnatural powers that rivaled the big guy’s. Simply put, she wasn’t just a final girl. She was a superhero.
Known primarily for his special effects work on some of the best horror franchises of the modern age (including Bride of Re-Animator, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master), director John Carl Buechler had only directed Cellar Dweller and Troll before making The New Blood. He proved to be a great fit for the practical effects-heavy series, as his work led to some great, seamless effects sequences in the film – from the punch through the chest to the awesome revelation of Jason’s monstrous face.
But Buechler’s contributions went further than that.
Buechler served as make-up supervisor on the Renny Harlin film Prison, where he met a stuntman/actor he would bring with him to Friday the 13th: The New Blood. His name was Kane Hodder, inarguably the most recognizable person to play Jason and the only one to play him for multiple films. His presence onscreen is imposing, and his walk and movements lent a personality to the silent, faceless slasher. You could say that Jason truly became Jason once Hodder put on the hockey mask. And we have The New Blood to thank for beginning Hodder’s reign of terror in the role.
The New Blood also gave us perhaps the franchise’s most iconic kill, wherein Jason shoves a camper into her sleeping bag, drags her through the forest, then slams her against a tree hard enough to kill her. The single smash is disturbing if not a bit comical, and made a huge impression despite being heavily trimmed by censors before release – as were many of the film’s kill scenes, which continues to anger and annoy fans to this day. Worth noting, the sleeping bag kill was so memorable that it was recreated for darkly comic effect in Jason X, wherein both the victims and the sleeping bags are doubled up!
The film’s ending, well, it’s a bit hard to defend.
In an absurdly confusing and unintentionally funny climax, Tina summons her dead father from the water to chain Jason and toss him back into the lake. Her father, dead for over a decade under the water but somehow none the worse for wear except for some muddy smudges, yanks him down into the water and then apparently disappears back into his watery grave.
Aside from the strange ending, this film is a noteworthy addition to the series that gave us John Buechler’s best directing work, the greatest performer ever to play Jason Voorhees, and one of the most iconic kills in the Friday the 13th franchise. Not too shabby, if you’re asking me.
The New Blood deserves to be remembered as, even if admittedly not one of the best Friday the 13th sequels, at least a surprisingly solid entry.
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