"I'll just get my gear."

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives

“Jason belongs in Hell. And I’m gonna see he gets there.”


JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI opens with some lightning, a full moon and fog rolling across Crystal Lake. And as Tommy Jarvis drives by with his institution buddy Hawes (Ron Palillo, SNAKE EATER) they scare away a dog who was in the street munching on some roadkill that I’m pretty sure used to be a rabbit. And you know my theory on that. Rabbits protect us from Jason. With rabbits being treated like this of course Jason is gonna fucking live.

(Note: Hawes is clutching Jason’s mask in his lap, for no reason I can ascertain other than the narrative requiring it to be returned to its original owner. Er, I mean, to its second owner, the one after Shelly but before Tommy. But remember, at the end of A NEW BEGINNING Tommy put the mask on and seemed to have  snapped. So I’m glad that he has, for whatever reason, forfeited custody of the thing. As crazed as he is now, he seems to be in a better place.)

This time Tommy has been recast with Thom Mathews (Freddy from RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD), who frankly is much more appealing than the last version (sorry, John Shepherd – not necessarily your fault). This time he’s convinced if he digs up Jason’s grave and destroys the body he’ll stop having hallucinations about him. Hawes goes along for support even though he says he doesn’t “get the therapy here.”

The grave is a professionally made tombstone this time (here’s someone who researched how much that would’ve cost whoever sprung for it), which I think confirms my suspicion that the Corey Feldman scene from A NEW BEGINNING was a completely fictional dream and not a memory of something Tommy really witnessed. This time he finds the body thoroughly rotted, more worms and webs than man. He hears his young Corey Feldman voice killing Jason as he watches them wriggle around.

Unfortunately Tommy decides to stab Jason (C.J. Graham, HIGHWAY TO HELL) with a piece of a wrought iron fence, and then lightning strikes, ignoring the nearby tall trees and hitting this improvised lightning rod. If you’ve read classic horror fiction like Frankenstein by Mary Shelley or Worm On a Hook by some guy then you know that electricity does wonders for the dead, and you won’t be surprised that rotted corpse Jason wakes up and crawls out. Tommy fails to light him on fire because of rain, and Hawes fails to take him out with a shovel because of Jason punching his fist right through his god damn chest and emerging out the back holding his heart! Then he knocks him into the coffin he just evacuated.

This scene, with its atmospheric storm, dramatic camera angles and A+ first kill (of a former Sweathog!), already makes it clear that the filmatists gave way more of a shit this time and tried to make a movie that would be a little more like watching a fun enjoyable movie and a little less like having a piece of sandpaper rubbed in dog shit scraped slowly up and down your cheek for 90 minutes. And then when Tommy flees, Jason dons the mask and turns to the camera dramatically, and it zooms in on his eye for maybe the most audacious title sequence yet. In a perverse parody of James Bond, Jason walks into the pupil in profile, turns and slashes the screen, and blood pours out to form the title. Beautiful!

It does not fade to white though. That’s one tradition broken. Still, we’re in good hands this time.

Tommy runs straight to the Forest Green Sheriff’s Department (Crystal Lake has been rebranded) but Sheriff Garris (David Kagen, HOLOGRAM MAN) thinks it’s “some kind of prank” and locks him up. Then we meet our new group of young people when the sheriff’s daughter Megan (Jennifer Cooke, V) comes in with her friends to visit the old man. They hear Tommy’s pleas about Jason and they’ve heard about Camp Blood because they’re counselors, but they think it’s just a legend. It also happens that it’s Jason’s birthday (or at least Friday the 13th, it’s unclear) and also the day this year’s campers are arriving. I do believe this is the first time we’ve seen kids at the camp since the 1957 flashback at the very beginning of the first film.

Megan becomes inexplicably obsessed with Tommy after briefly meeting him in the jail, and keeps talking about him to everybody until she finally gets together with him. The story will alternate between those two teaming up to try to prove the existence of and/or stop Jason from killing people and the other counselors being stalked by Jason at and near the camp, with various interludes where some random people stop by to be horribly murdered. (Maybe there’s still a graph to be followed.)

One such scene is a rare FRIDAY THE 13TH incidence of witty banter. A couple, Lizbeth (Nancy McLoughlin, FUZZBUCKET) and Darren (Tony Goldwyn, GHOST, in his first movie) driving down a muddy forest road at night find their path blocked by Jason. Lizbeth says she’s “Seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly.” Darren insists the “weirdo” will move if she drives straight at him, but he doesn’t even flinch. She slams on the brakes and deadpans, “Yeah, that really scared the shit out of him.”

They try two rarely attempted methods of defending themselves from Jason: Darren tries to shoot him (he misses and gets impaled and tossed aside) and Lizbeth offers him money (she drowns in a puddle). As she dies her American Express card floats away in a shot famously held long in hopes someone in the audience would yell “Don’t leave home without it!” (This is soon followed by a scene where a caretaker pissed about Jason’s grave being dug up looks straight into the camera and judgmentally says, “Some folks got a strange idea of entertainment.”)

So yes, JASON LIVES, and he is reborn in a world where you’re allowed to have jokes. I think it all works except for a scene about some people playing paintball in the woods, which takes the movie down a notch with its overly broad acting and wacky military parody scoring. If the scene were played more straight it would’ve been a great moment when one of them tries to stop Jason by shooting him with a paintball. I guess it was worth a try.

At this point in the series they gotta keep the body count up, so there’s a wino, and a yuppie couple who ride a scooter into the woods to drink champagne together. R.I.P. Meanwhile, having actual campers arrive at the camp puts us in the weird position of wondering if they will be willing to kill off little kids in these movies. Or would Jason leave them alone since they’re not smoking joints and stuff? Hard to say. We get to know a few of these little nerds, like a girl named Nancy (Courtney Vickery, ZELLY AND ME) who cries because she imagines she sees a monster, and later actually sees Jason (not to mention finds his bloody machete and brings it inside). There’s a good gag in a montage of the kids sleeping where we see one of them fell asleep reading No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre. Later there’s a good one where they’re hiding from Jason under a bed and a kid asks his friend, “So… what were you going to be when you grew up?”

Of course it’s a Camp Crystal Lake tradition that there are some counselors sneaking off somewhere to fuck, so we have the very aggressive Nikki (Darcy DeMoss, HARDBODIES, RETURN TO HORROR HIGH, CAN’T BUY ME LOVE) riding Cort (Tom Fridley, THE KARATE KID, IRON EAGLE, DANGEROUSLY CLOSE) in an RV, demanding he time his orgasm to the end of a ten minute song. I like the gratuitous detail that the RV belongs to her stepfather, who goes by “Horse.”

Cort was a funny character even before the horror began. He has a really ridiculous monologue trying to explain Native American stuff to the kids. In this scene he ends up driving the RV, rocking out to Alice Cooper and saying, “This is great! I’m having such a good time!,” oblivious to the fact that Nikki is being mangled by Jason in the bathroom. Jason smashes her face through the flimsy metal walls and makes an impression like Freddy in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET or the poster of THE FRIGHTENERS. Then he stabs Cort, the RV hits something and flips sideways, and Jason immediately pops through the door and stands proudly atop the burning vehicle like he just slayed a dragon. You could argue that the best kill is the RV.

Meanwhile, the sheriff drives Tommy to the edge of town like he’s Rambo in FIRST BLOOD. Too bad FIRST BLOOD didn’t have Teasle’s cute daughter come pick up Rambo in her Trans-Am. There’s some brazen flirtation and sexual tension: Megan sees her dad on the road so she hides Tommy by slamming his head into her lap, and there are a couple close ups of her crotch to show his point-of-view. Then she warns him, “This is gonna be a hairy turn.”

Back at camp, poor Paula (Kerry Noonan, HOT MOVES, “Letterman’s Girlfriend,” THE LATE SHIFT) and Sissy (Renee Jones, THE TERROR WITHIN II) are stuck being the only ones taking care of all the campers. There’s a great, sick joke that Paula thinks somebody’s doin’ it and says, “You guys, try not to wake the kids,” but we know it was the squishy sound of Jason twisting Sissy’s head off. Paula seems like the top final girl candidate until we suddenly see Jason grab her, splatter her blood onto the window, smash her through the window, then pull her back in.

For the first time in the series the cops actually show up at the camp when Jason is there instead of the next day. For what that’s worth. I like the odd touch that the deputy fixes his hair in a car window reflection so the sheriff says, “Come on, handsome.” Handsome ends up shooting Jason point blank five times in the chest, but the only thing that can stop a good guy with a gun is a bad guy who grabs him by the head and squeezes real hard. In kind of a one-upping of HALLOWEEN, the Sheriff keeps shooting Jason seemingly dead, and Jason lays there but then sits up, and then he shoots him again, rinse and repeat. It doesn’t work out for the sheriff.

I like when Megan walks into the cabin and sees every wall, every surface streaked with blood. Impressive. But she still seems calm when she tells the kids in the other cabin, “It’s all right. Everything is gonna be just fine. Okay?” She would seem like a really good counselor if we hadn’t seen her completely abandon all responsibilities of the job for most of the movie.

Anyway, Jason breaks through the door like Kool Aid Man and I sure hope all those kids found good therapists.

Different style to this poster, but it’s beautiful.

Now that Jason is officially a zombie people gotta resort to magical shit to stop him, not just psychology, so we see Tommy flipping through a paperback called A Manual of Occultism to come up with a plan. He’s in a boat and lures Jason to the lake by yelling “Come on, it’s me you want, remember?” and calling him a “maggot head” and a pussy. After some amount of struggle and help from Megan and the boat’s rotor, Tommy successfully executes his genius plan of setting fire to the surface of the lake and sinking Jason by chaining him to a boulder. He believes he has to be return him to where it all started, and an archival shot of the original lake reminds us this really is the spot.

This is the first FRIDAY movie with a rock song on the end credits – “The Man Behind the Mask” by Alice Cooper. Since it has a bunch of synths it starts out sounding kinda like the Part III theme. This pre-dates A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS so Jason actually got into metal before Freddy.

Although I prefer the first four in the series, JASON LIVES is a good save after the miserable NEW BEGINNING. It has a high body count and mean attitude like that one, but the humorous tone makes it fun instead of slimy, and (with the exception of the paintball scene) it doesn’t tip all the way into comedy. It’s still legit horror with some good atmosphere and gore, though maybe less suspense than it could have. It also introduces Zombie Jason, which is often who I think of when I think of Jason even though I don’t watch these later ones nearly as much as the early ones where he’s still (somehow) alive.

Tom McLoughlin, who had done the 1982 horror film ONE DARK NIGHT starring Meg Tilly, and more importantly was a mime so he played the robot S.T.A.R. in THE BLACK HOLE and the mutated bear in some scenes of THE PROPHECY, was the first filmmaker to both write and direct a FRIDAY THE 13TH. A true auteur.

In an April 1991 Fangoria article about directing SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK, McLoughlin said of JASON LIVES, “I just looked at the movie again a few nights ago and visually it still seemed to work. It hasn’t necessarily improved with age; it’s still a kill movie. But I had two objectives going into that movie, which were to make Jason out to be this ultimate, indestructible monster and to have a sense of humor about the whole thing. I was never real big on doing a sequel to any film, but when the opportunity presented itself I felt there were some different things I could bring to the series, and I did.”

McLoughlin later directed episodes of Friday the 13th: The Series and Freddy’s Nightmares, plus the aforementioned Stephen King TV movie SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK, and created the show She-Wolf of London. He continued to direct TV movies including SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR: THE ALISON GERTZ STORY, MURDER IN GREENWICH, D.C. SNIPER: 23 DAYS OF FEAR and CYBER SEDUCTION: HIS SECRET LIFE through 2010. In 2012 he became lead singer and harmonica player for The Sloths, a reunited garage rock band he’d been associated with as a teenager in the ’60s, who had been rediscovered after a super rare 45 showed up on a compilation. I kinda wish they could’ve done the theme song.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 13th, 2021 at 10:55 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

21 Responses to “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives”

  1. Probably my favorite of the whole series, though I find it more convenient to highlight the ones I really enjoy without getting too invested in ranking them. 4,6,7,8,X,FVJ are my favorite Jason moviews. I think 1-3 are perfectly good, and I don’t think I’ve seen part 2 enough times (no hockey mask is a big deterrent for me), but didn’t Vern say that his favorite?, so, I’m probably not giving it it’s due.

    This film elevates Jason to true monster status. However dead he may have been or should’ve been, he’s definitely an undead zombie monster this time, which is visually and conceptually awesome. Plus, his resurrection gets the full universal monster type treatment. I love the way this film really embraces full zombie Jason, which just feels more honest about his inexplicable resiliency. It’s not necessarily more, um, explicable this time, but with the lightning regeneration, the filmmakers are copping to the fact that he’s really and truly been killed before and also basically copping to the fact that there is something about Jason that makes him uniquely resilient and amenable to revivification, resurrection, what have you. This basic recognition is part of the greatness of the Kane Hodder Jason that starts up in Part 7, which is a marriage of his great physicality and the intrinsic greatness of zombie Jason.

  2. I’ve always considered VI the best-made of the franchise, in terms of the various departments of filmatism. Oddly, I didn’t like it at first, because it’s fairly tame in terms of on-screen nudity and gore as compared to its predecessors, and I wasn’t on board with parodying Jason. But in the years since, after multiple re-watches, it’s become one of my top-3, jostling for position with II and IV, depending on my mood.

  3. Speaking of electricity bringing back the dead, my all-time favorite version of this has to be in THE HORROR SHOW (also known as HOUSE 3, tought it has no realtion to the other HOUSE movies). First, they have a scene where a scientist theorizes that a sufficiently evil person could somehow turn themselves into electromagnetic radiation trough the sheer force of evil and then we find out that the seemingly executed serial killer had an electric chair ins his appartment! The killer was straight up microdosing lethal amounts of electricity to prepare himself for his execution! That’s the good shit right there.

  4. This one’s my favorite of the series, because of the jokes, and overall improvement in filmatism, especially compared to its immediate predecessor. For a while I was convinced it was inspired by Evil Dead 2, until I realized it came out the year before! A good era for comedic horror.

    My local drive-in movie theater out here in the sticks still screens 35mm films, and showed this last month, with Tom McLoughlin present! Unfortunately, I was out of town.

    The script and novelization have scenes with Jason’s mysterious father, who apparently paid for the funeral. I’m surprised they did not follow up on that unfilmed plot thread in a later installment.

  5. Can you imagine if someone would make a slasher movie series (or maybe horror in general) that would go the early MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE route, hiring for every movie another director and would allow them to make each sequel their own?

  6. I am sometimes a little hard on this movie. I am not such a self-serious pearl-clutcher that I cannot abide a horror movie that occasionally winks about itself and doesn’t treat Jason (of all things) with utmost reverence and respect. But I do feel the movie is a little smug about it. Tom McLoughlin (who really does seem like a swell and agreeable human being) really leans on, “I’m going to do The Funny One, folks, so it’ll be okay if you laugh at mine!”

    That said, there are a lot of nicely staged things like the RV flip, so it’s not just an excuse to cover laziness in the horror-action by saying you made it bad on purpose the way some directors would do. Honestly, if I thought the actual jokes the movie makes were funnier, I probably even mind; it’s just stuff like, “Why’d they have to dig up ol Jason?” feels like a too-easy softball tossed to the audience.

  7. That article about Jason’s funeral expenses are why the internet was invented.

  8. “Jason actually got into metal before Freddy.”

    And the winner by technical knockout.

  9. You know how sometimes you get hung up on something in a movie and cannot get past it despite knowing it’s ridiculous? Or, in this case, there are way more ridiculous things that don’t bug me. The thing I can’t let go of is the idea of opening up a camp where multiple gruesome murders happened. I mean, this is a movie that has Jason coming back from the dead with supernatural strength and immortality, but the thing I can’t stop saying is, “They’d never open that camp again!”

    It’s because there was a real life horrendous murder of like 3 or 4 little girls at a girl scout camp once, which shut the place down and it never opened again. It was truly one of the most horrifying true crimes I’ve ever heard about.

  10. So I had a best friend in elementary school who was crazy into horror movies–emphasis on the crazy; he would cackle gleefully at the thought of the most gruesome kills; not sure what he’s up to these days, not sure I wanna know–and he made me watch this at a sleepover when I was 11.

    I made him pause at the scene where Jason was walking among the sleeping campers, but he insisted we finish watching later that night.

    I had really awful nightmares that night, and for a few to follow.

    I still really don’t like slasher films to this day.

    This is not the happiest comment in the thread, and I apologize, but this is perhaps the first Part VI review I’ve ever read and I felt like it was now or never to share my 11 yo horror movie (and probably psycho killer best friend) trauma. Thanks for listening. Tip your waiter.

    Ben

  11. I marathoned all the Friday the thirteenth movies with a house mate while real drunk one weekend, and now I honestly have a hard time telling them apart, and also if bits actually existed.

    Is this the one where he slams a dudes head into a tree really hard and it leaves like a smiley face impression in the tree?

  12. Maggie- I’m normally not one to say this kind of stuff, but while the idea of Camp Crystal Lake reopening, even with a rebrand, may have strained credulity in 1986 and long after, much like JURASSIC WORLD while it still may seem unlikely it has a tad more verisimilitude given some of the things we’ve seen over the last 18 months.

    More of an issue for me personally is that none of the deaths in the film would happen if it weren’t for the actions of the “hero” at the start of the film. OK buddy, you have to dig up Jason to check he’s dead, I can go with that, I guess. But you really have to keep stabbing him with a giant metal conducting rod and bring his hockey mask to him? There’s blood on your hands Jarvis! Or are we to take it that Jason’s evil can’t be contained by the universe and would find a way out and Tommy’s paranoia was merely the conduit? If that’s covered in JASON GOES TO HELL I’m sorry but I don’t remember it. But for now it’s a problem I have with the film, not one unique to the film either, it’s also a problem with MAN OF STEEL (probably much of Superman to an extent), most iterations of TRANSFORMERS and the SONIC movie.

    Despite that I do find this the most enjoyable and entertaining entry in the series, although I’m coming around to the idea that there is a certain je ne sais quoi to those earlier films that this one lacks, I don’t think those earlier films are as enjoyable to watch but this one is more entertaining in a way that ultimately is a little more generic.

  13. In the world of the film, I think you’re right that Jason wouldn’t be resurrected without Tommy’s actions or some other similar action — Jason actually was buried and still for an extended period of time. At the same time, his resurrection clearly is a much unintended (opposite!) outcome, and we could keep working backwards and say that Tommy’s actions were caused by what Jason did to him and, before you know it, we’re back to the campers letting Jason drown. Certainly, Tommy’s intentions were good. And if not Tommy, the rights holders would’ve found some other poor sucker to do the job.

    But now I do want the final scene to be one in which Tommy is confronted about this, then he turns to the camera, grimaces and playfully says “My bad,” freeze frame, credits roll over free frame, and cheesy dramatic 80s TV show music plays.

  14. Vern, You probably know this already but the paintball sequence was shot after production had wrapped because Paramount did indeed want more kills in the movie. This one is definitely a standout in the series for me. I think it’s enjoyable from beginning to end.

  15. Pacman, it’s true that The Current Times has made me doubt that anyone could predict how people would really behave, and specifically how low people could sink, but there’s just this pesky, probably wrong headed, tiny sliver of belief in people that I can’t seem to shake.

  16. I ultimately like this one, but it doesn’t really have the look or vibe I want from ’80s slashers, and I can never shake the feeling that it was made by someone who feels himself a little above the material. It’s trying to be a “better” and “smarter” version of this sort of thing, but whatever technical improvements it makes don’t actually make it a better or more entertaining slasher movie, and it’s not nearly as clever or funny as it thinks it is.

    Still, though, it’s an enjoyable movie overall.

  17. As nostalgia or whatever, I like all from 1-5. This, i believe was the first I saw in the theatre on first release… And I was so bummed. I think I had seen the others and the whole idea was that they were “naughty.” Then I saw this one as a kid and it was not only tame, lit was lame.

  18. Probably my favorite one of the series. The Paintballer scene does indeed go over the top (to whoever called out the head smashing the tree and leaving a smiley face – that’s the scene!) but as pointed out in the review everything else is done with panache and an understanding of what makes these films tick, without tipping too far into satire.
    When I got around to watching Scream one of the reasons I kind of hated it (beyond the fact that anything Kevin Williamson writes just rubs me the wrong way, or that it was too mainstream for oh-so-cool-and-edgy-me-in-my-20s) is that a lot of the ‘revolutionary’ wiseass deconstruction/pointing out of slasher movie tropes seemed to me were pretty much lifted from this movie.

  19. Fun fact: the TV Tropes page for this movie has been absolutely filled by someone gushing over Sheriff Gariss. I’m torn between finding it cringey and thinking what would the internet be without oddballs letting their freak flags fly and just loving the hell out of a minor character from the sixth Friday the 13th movie.

  20. Ugh, TV Tropes still exists?

  21. Definitely still my favorite of the entire series. Like if I watch one FRIDAY THE 13th around this time of year it’s this one. I actually own a few Jason t-shirts and am still surprised I can’t find one with the James Bond opening to this one on it. It’s weird I even found one with the “Bruce Springsteen is his shidoshi” quote from BLOODSPORT but one of the most iconic scenes of this very popular movie series? Nada.

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