It was the end of a decade, and a last-ditch effort to keep an ailing franchise from sputtering out. The producers of the FRIDAY THE 13TH series had given us a decade of mass murder and gratuitous nudity courtesy of one Jason Voorhees and a little vacationing spot called Camp Blood. But seven films later apparently camp was old-hat, and it was time to take the series to a whole new level. The producers’ solution to this was sending our beloved mongoloid to New York City for FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN.
One thing I will say is the teaser trailer and poster for JASON TAKES MANHATTAN were fantastic. Once it was revealed that our antihero would be moving from Crystal Lake to NYC—the idea was fairly exciting for some, and desperate to others. In our last ‘Friday’ adventure, telekinetic Tina TKO’d Voorhees to the bottom of Crystal Lake with a little last-minute help from her dead father whom she TKO’d to the bottom of the lake years before. You’ll have to check out THE NEW BLOOD to understand what I just wrote—I wouldn’t make shit like that up. Since apparently nobody wanted another “Jason at camp” movie (which I think never gets old), JASON TAKES MANHATTAN loses the signature and classic Harry Manfredini score, and instead gives us a credit-sequence that feels like it’s out of 21 JUMP STREET with some asshole DJ talking over a hilariously 80’s soft-rock song. Is this really a FRIDAY THE 13TH movie? You bet. It just sucks a little more than the rest.
Eventually we dissolve from the really awesome soft-rocking credit sequence to familiar territory and see that when not camping, horny high school seniors pilot yachts on the waters of Crystal Lake. The couple– who both look like girls– drop anchor and hit a power line that happens to be resting right under Jason’s ass. One electrical current later, and Jason’s topside picking off the chicks in his greasiest outfit to date. Watch for how Jason never dries off and manages to collect more mud as he walk around on dry land. It’s a shame really because John Carl Buechler’s makeup job in PART 7 was so magnificent that this film should have followed suit and capitalized on it. Instead, the costume department proved that being at the bottom of a lake for extended periods of time actually gives you MORE layers of clothing. Fascinating.
In one of the most notorious “what the fuck?” moves in Friday the 13th history, the film cuts to a bunch of graduating high schoolers boarding a massive cruise ship for a trip to New York City. Is this Crystal Lake? Does Crystal Lake empty into the Atlantic? Who really shot JR? All we can understand is that Jason happens to be catching a ride on the same boat so he can arguably take Manhattan. WARNING: if you board this particular ship you will more than likely engage in skeet shooting or spontaneous bouts of dancing. This pisses Jason off. He quickly starts tearing through the forgettable kiddies in uninspired, bloodless fashion. We get deaths by guitar, bathroom mirror, sauna rock, radio antenna… and my personal favorite: death by choking! The MPAA really neutered this one. So much happens offscreen, or is cut so quickly you miss it if you blink. This is the closest FRIDAY THE 13TH ever got to a PG-13 rating without being the television series of the same name.
Oh yeah, there are a few subplots surrounding the lead heroine (who looks like a mentally challenged Amy Grant) being afraid of the water which may or may not have something to do with Jason’s childhood. BTW: the actress (Jensen Daggett) is featured on the new doc HIS NAME WAS JASON… and she’s smoking hot.
Anyway, after what feels like an eternity—Jason and the kids finally manage to set fire to the boat and sink it—killing everyone onboard minus a few of the “leads”. I’m going to go out on a limb her and say this FRIDAY might have the largest body count of them all because I think an entire senior class got taken out by either fire or drowning. This leaves the survivors in a lifeboat who then row it to Vancouver, BC… er, I mean New York City. Jason is in tow of course. In staying true to most people’s first visits to the Big Apple, our characters are mugged 30 seconds after making landfall. Jason is not amused by any of the clichéd New York jokes that ensue, nor the foul-mouthed assholes that populate its streets, so he goes on a super-fast killing spree while still trying to kill off the survivors of his awesome cruise.
JASON TAKES MANHATTAN is the third worst FRIDAY film behind JASON GOES TO HELL and JASON X. Fred Mollin’s musical score is horrendous, Jason’s makeup is so bad that he looks like a water-logged muppet, and only 30 minutes of the movie is actually based in Manhattan. That’s right campers, we were promised the Big Apple but got Jason’s Big Gay Boat Ride. To add insult to injury, the characters win the day with the help of toxic waste in the city’s sewers. The resolution is so fucking ridiculous that you really want to seek out director Rob Hedden’s commentary to try and understand the thought-process here. Apparently there is no thought process. Oh yeah, and there’s no fucking bloodshed–Kane Hodder even looks bored and he’s wearing a hockey mask. I don’t necessarily hate this entry because I can still have a good time making fun of it, and even though it’s visually a departure from the previous films, it still feels like part of the series. Paramount gave us eight Jason movies in nine years—seven of which still rock the party to this day. Too bad they had to end the decade with such a resounding thud.
IF TOM ATKINS WAS IN THIS MOVIE: he would have got so loaded on cheap beer the night before that he would have missed the cruise and instead given all of the female counselors at Crystal Lake mustache rides.