There’s an old song by Crosby, Stills & Nash which sagely urges that “if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” With so many horror films in recent years failing to deliver the sort of thrills that made us genre fans in the first place (Consider the bulk of this year’s theatrical output, if you need proof!), the Schlockfinder General has long labored to heed the advice of those old hippies and try to love even the least lovable of contemporary scare screeners. Of course, some movies are just so awful that they’re destined to be shunned and ignored until they fade from existence. Another old song declares that “you’re nobody until somebody loves you,” and some celluloid stinkers wholly deserve to remain nobodies forever. But often, even the most seemingly indefensible clunker has merits which can be appreciated – and even savored – by an open-minded, fun-loving fright fan. For this reason, I give you THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE… The second defendant in this court of public opinion? JASON X!
When it comes to the critical and financial failure of JASON X, it’s easy to play the blame game. Screenwriter Todd Farmer and director Jim Isaac blame New Line Cinema for not letting them make the film they wanted to make, and for shelving the finished film for two years after its completion. New Line blames Farmer and Isaac for delivering an inferior product, and persons unknown for leaking both the script and the film online during the extended interim between post-production and release. Fans blame the filmmakers and the studio equally – the latter for making the questionable decision to send Jason Voorhees into space in the first place (while the long-awaited FREDDY VS. JASON languished in development hell), and the former for turning in a film that was more comedic than horrific.
Frankly, everyone listed above has a legitimate case.
But the Schlockfinder General has no intention of pointing his bony, calloused finger at anyone in this (or any other) edition of the DEVIL’S ADVOCATE. The fact is that, in spite of its numerous and undeniable flaws, I love JASON X.
For one thing, the film features Kane Hodder giving his best performance as Mrs. Voorhees’ pride and joy since his initial turn in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD. In Hodder’s first go around behind the mask, he was all rage and fury, and fans welcomed his more animated reanimated Jason with open arms. Unfortunately, lackluster writing in JASON TAKES MANHATTAN and body-hopping inanity in JASON GOES TO HELL prohibited him from further showcasing his rampaging take on the role. Despite the liberties it takes with the character’s physiology in the third act, JASON X restores the Man from Crystal Lake to his full, seething, blood-crazed glory. Nowhere is this more evident than in the film’s opening scene, in which a chained Jason stares a hole right through a frightened guard with his one good eye. Nowhere, except perhaps the scene where he drowns a woman in liquid nitrogen and then can’t resist the temptation to smash her frozen head into a brain slushee.
JASON X is also very funny. Now I know that many horror fans cringe at the idea of comedy in their fear flicks, but some of the greatest fright films of all time have been brimming with uneasy laughs. Would THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, DAWN OF THE DEAD, or EVIL DEAD be the unforgettable classics they are without their twisted sense of humor? Of course, JASON X is neither a classic nor on a par with those films. However, it does treat its absurd premise with a fitting amount of silliness. While some gags fall flat (in particular, the “final” words of Sgt. Brodski as he’s skewered through the back, and the infamous “He just wants his machete back!” line), others are spot on. The sleeping bag callback alone is worth the price of a Netflix rental for a viewer willing to relax and enjoy the show.
Of course, no FRIDAY THE 13TH film would be complete without nubile eye candy, and JASON X has that in spades. There’s blonde Kristi Angus as Adrienne (the blood-sicle), busty Melody Johnson as the useless but delightfully jiggly Kinsa, Lexa Doig as our resident shapely but stalwart homicidal maniac expert Rowan, and Lisa Ryder as the gun-toting, scene-stealing sexbot Kay-Em 14. No, none of these ladies are going to earn themselves an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award with their performances here (or anywhere else, for that matter). But they’re all very pleasant to look at for 90 minutes, and Ryder does have a lot of fun chewing up the scenery.
For me, though, any discussion of the space-babes of JASON X begins and ends with Melyssa Ade, a petite brunette who ably tackles the “bitchy sexpot” slasher film archetype with her hip-swaying, sharp-tongued performance as Janessa. It may be superficial to so willingly forgive a movie’s glaring flaws because of a chick in said movie, but I have to confess – Ade/Janessa has the Schlockfinder General wrapped around her dirty little finger the second she takes off her space helmet for the first time. She flirts, teases, taunts, sashays, seduces, and struts her way through the ridiculous goings-on with such soap opera sex appeal that it’s almost a shame the filmmakers didn’t choose to go against convention and let the bad girl survive in the end. Certainly her “Why don’t you stick your head out and have a peek?” quip is the movie’s best line, and she delivers it with gusto. And while her nipple-twisting, cock-teasing “extra credit” scene might not be as revealing as other salacious moments in FRIDAY THE 13th history, it isn’t likely to be forgotten by any red-blooded male in the audience anytime soon. If JASON X had nothing else going for it at all, Miss Ade would still make it wholly worthy of the DEVIL’S ADVOCATE treatment.
However, the tenth screen outing for Jason Voorhees has more going for it than a sexy Canadian actress in futuristic dominatrix wear. It’s the FRIDAY THE 13th series’ equivalent of a Godzilla movie – an iconic cinematic monster is resurrected in an outlandish and often shamelessly self-referential plot, to wreak havoc on helpless humanity in an orgy of low-budget special effects carnage. It’s cinematic carnival food – a gooey, deep fried concoction comprised of hot babes, cool deaths, corny gags, frozen heads, boiling libidos, and gallons of crimson-colored Karo syrup. Yes, one has to cast away any affinity for logic, realism, or serious horror to appreciate its goofy, gory charms. Honestly, though, how hard is that to do once your mind has had a few seconds to fully absorb the phrase “Jason in space”? Perhaps the blame for this movie’s failure should rest squarely on the shoulders of anyone and everyone who went into it honestly expecting it to be anything other than the ridiculous romp that it is. Whatever the case, I believe it’s time to stop assigning guilt for what’s wrong with JASON X and learn to enjoy what’s right with it.