“There’s a legend ‘round here. A killer buried, but not dead. A curse on Crystal Lake. A death curse. Jason Voorhees’ curse.”
On paper FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD seems very promising. It has a wild premise: what if instead of just having to contend with a bunch of young people having sex in a cabin, Jason has to contend with a bunch of young people having sex in a cabin and also the next door neighbor who has CARRIE-like telekinetic powers? HUH? THEN WHAT?
And it’s directed by John Carl Buechler (TROLL, CELLAR DWELLER), who’s an FX makeup legend (FROM BEYOND, DOLLS, GARBAGE PAIL KIDS THE MOVIE, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4, HALLOWEEN 4). But it doubles down on all the sins that started in part IV and got worse in V and VI. We’ve returned to part IV’s “two stories about two cabins next door to each other” format, with even more assholes in this sex cabin than ever before. And according to the late Buechler in many interviews before he died, the movie got completely screwed by the MPAA, who by this point saw this series as their arch-nemesis. They were forced to lose most of their gore, throwing off the rhythm of every important beat in the movie. It definitely seems that way – lots of killing, but either the camera doesn’t point at it or it cuts after a couple frames. And tragically the original footage was not preserved in such a way that there can ever be a restoration. Thanks alot, Movie Prude Asswipes of America.
A nice touch at the beginning is that the “Previously on FRIDAY THE 13TH” montage has folksy narration, like a local telling you the story. “They say he died as a boy, but he keeps coming back.” In fact it’s Walt Gorney, a.k.a. part I and II’s Crazy Ralph, maybe back from the dead to get us up to speed. I love that! But the synth-heavy score sounds cheesier than what we’re used to in these introductions; some of the music is in this one is by the great Harry Manfredini, but some is by Fred Mollin (SCREWBALLS II, The New Gidget). So… rough waters ahead. It does have a decent (if too brief) title sequence, with dramatic light beams projecting from the holes of the hockey mask (much like the JASON LIVES poster) before it splits in two and reveals the title.
Like so many horror movies it begins in the past, and turns out to be a dream, but a dream that seems to accurately represent the past. A little girl named Tina (Jennifer Banko, who later played “Little Girl” in LEATHERFACE: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III and “Spike” in BARB WIRE and was on Pacific Palisades and Sunset Beach as an adult) is arguing with her dad (John Otrin, The Orkly Kid) outside their cabin on the shore of Crystal Lake. She yells “I hate you! I wish you were dead!” and then watches regretfully as the dock he’s standing on buckles and collapses and he drowns. You see, she has telekinetic powers that she doesn’t really know how to control.
Tina wakes up from the dream, grown up, played by Lar Park-Lincoln (HOUSE II: THE SECOND STORY), and fucked up by what happened all those years ago. (If this came out now the reviews would say “it’s about trauma.”) So her mom (Susan Blu, voice of Stormer on Jem) is taking her back to the cabin at Crystal Lake (they seem to have given up on calling it Forest Green) for some unorthodox therapy from one Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser right before WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S). Just like Tommy digging up Jason’s body to deal with his hallucinations, this misguided method of treatment will end up resurrecting Jason.
The cabin next door is being used by some youths to hold a surprise birthday party for their friend Michael (William Butler, GHOULIES II, LEATHERFACE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD ’90, director of GINGERDEAD MAN 3: SATURDAY NIGHT CLEAVER), and much more than in earlier FRIDAY THE 13THs they’re a group of harsh stereotypes that don’t really seem like they would intentionally hang out together. The most extreme are pearl-necklace-wearing Melissa (Susan Jennifer Sullivan, CLICK: THE CALENDAR GIRL KILLER), who we know is a classist rich girl because something about Tina’s outfit makes her say, “There goes the neighborhood” when she pulls up; Sandra’s boyfriend Russell (Larry Cox, HEATHERS), who complains about the cabin being messy by comparing it to “closing time at the stock exchange;” and sci-fi geek Eddie (Jeff Bennett, who soon became a top animation voice actor who has played the Batcave computer, the villain in Phantom 2040, Johnny Bravo, Mr. Smee, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Sylvester and Daffy Duck), who makes everyone back away slowly by pitching his book ideas or emphatically declaring that “BATTLE OF THE GARGANTUAN THRONG is Derrick F.Z. Simms’ greatest film. A work of genius.”
(Side note: I have always hated that fake sci-fi and horror movie titles in movies almost always sound like ‘50s drive-in movies. Even to this day. Stop that, writers.)
Birthday boy Mike hasn’t shown up yet (R.I.P.) but his cousin Nick (Kevin Blair, THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART II) is there and is immediately attracted to Tina, so he invites her to the party, where everyone is mean to her, calling her “Marilyn Munster” and saying she should be in a strait jacket. But it’s a good break from her therapy sessions, where Bad News Crews (as she calls him) videotapes her and purposely says mean things to her because he’s figured out that her powers manifest when she gets emotional. It all brings back her guilt and she runs out to where it happened and says, “I’m sorry Daddy, I wish I could bring you back.” But whoops, Jason is still chained up at the bottom of the lake, and she brings him back instead of Daddy.
So Jason goes around stalking and killing people, and Tina starts having visions of the murders, but everyone assumes it’s the trauma talking, not the psychic powers. This is notable as the first time Kane Hodder (also stunt coordinator) played Jason. He had done an important makeup gag for Buechler in PRISON (the movie, not the institution) that showed he was capable.
Birthday boy Michael and his girlfriend Jane (Staci Greason, TERROR NIGHT) break down on the way there and camp out, where Jason finds them as well as another couple, Dan and Judy (Michael Schroeder and Debora Kessler, no other roles). Judy is in a sleeping bag when Jason picks her up and slams her against a tree, a kill that became legendary even though it was censored from the original version where he slams her multiple times. Also Sandra (Heidi Kozak, SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II, SOCIETY) participates in the locally popular activity of skinny dipping, and Jason joins her, but clothed.
Nick is nice enough but seems about as smart as a pile of fire wood. When Tina tells him about seeing her father die and being “really messed up” he says, “So? You’re okay now, aren’t you?” Which is supportive, but he kind of says it like she just had to flip a switch from messed up to okay.
I would say the most hateful part of the movie is when Melissa tells a shocked Eddie that she thinks he’s “cute” and takes him to bed, but then stops and cruelly tells him she doesn’t really think he’s attractive and was just hoping Nick would see them together and be jealous. Eddie reckons he can take it because he’s “been rejected by some of the finest science fiction magazines in the continental United States,” but angrily says he’s “going to take a cold shower” and has “a date with a soap on a rope.*” Eddie is of course the wronged party here, by a cartoonishly cruel woman, but you can’t help think of him when he’s a proto-incel when he’s sitting around ranting about her being a “c-word” and then hears Jason behind him and assumes that it’s her, having changed her mind and wanting to have sex with him after all.
(*In Crystal Lake Memories, Bennett says that he ad-libbed that line in his audition and they wanted to use it in the movie. Screenwriter Daryl Haney complains, “I didn’t write most of those fucking lines, like that horrible thing where the kid goes, ‘personal penis enlarger’ and, ‘I’ve got a date with a soap on a rope.’ I died a million deaths when I heard that, because people are going to think I wrote something so stupid. It was horrifying.)
The movie does pick up steam for the last act. Dr. Crews gets the honor of being killed by the weirdest weapon: a gas-powered buzzsaw on the end of a long pole. And Tina finds a bunch of her acquaintances’ bodies, HALLOWEEN style, which triggers her emotions enough for her to finally go CARRIE on his ass. Her psychic attacks include making roots pull him into a puddle where a power line shocks him (she doesn’t know that an electric shock brought him back to life previously), throwing furniture and furnishings at him (a couch, a potted plant with Eddie’s head in it), etc. A great part is when she and Nick tell Melissa about Jason and she thinks they’re full of shit and says, “Fuck you both!” and goes to storm out the door, but Jason is standing right there. He sticks the ax in her head, grabs her neck with one hand and hurls her across the room, over the TV, smashing a lamp in the corner.
Being directed by makeup man Buechler they had to follow the FINAL CHAPTER idea of unmasking Jason in the final battle, and they gave him even more of a monster face this time. (The mask, intended to still be the same one he obtained from Shelly in part III, is completely destroyed. That would be funny if it was stitched together in the next one.) Tina knocks light fixtures into him, knocks him through the floor, hangs him with wires, shoots a fireball at him from the furnace. There’s a great fire stunt in full monster Jason makeup. They run onto the dock as the entire house explodes (a cool model shot, I think).
But then Jason is there again! What finally does him in is when Tina’s powers bring the correct guy back to life – her dad (not rotted) – and Dad puts a chain around Jason’s neck and pulls him down. It’s silly but I like that it reverses the shock ending of the first film. Finally some balance – a long dead person emerging from the lake and grabbing somebody is shown in a positive light. They mix things up by making it basically a happy ending, with Nick waking up in the ambulance to say, “Jason! Where’s Jason?” and Tina just says, “We took care of it.”
But then they have an awkwardly timed “Ki-ki-ki” to make sure we know that Jason is still out there. Oh shit, yeah, I had forgotten! This one actually feels like it should’ve had rock song credits like the last one, so it would have kind of a victorious feel. Instead it’s that scary synth score that’s no Harry Manfredini.
The best thing about THE NEW BLOOD is that it’s CARRIE VS. JASON, but of course that just means a generic troubled young woman with telekinetic powers. They can’t just rip off the character of Carrie White. And the problem there is that the telekinetic powers are not the only aspect of Carrie that makes her a great character, and (as with Tina here) she mostly unleashes them in the last act. What makes CARRIE a great movie is how much we feel for this girl who struggles against her zealous and mentally ill mother, wants to have her own life, make friends, do normal teen things. And she’s so awkward and unequipped for the social world and dating rituals of high school, and she’s bullied and doesn’t always know when to trust people and when not to, but she wants so badly for things to be better and she tries to make them that way. Which is to say that the idea of Tina fighting Jason with telekinesis is cool, but she’s no Carrie, and this is no CARRIE, and not just because Buechler is no Brian DePalma.
The screenplay is credited to the aforementioned soap-on-a-roap disavower Haney (DADDY’S BOYS) and Manuel Fidello. Fidello has no other credits, but Haney’s subsequent works include CRIME ZONE starring David Carradine, LORDS OF THE DEEP, ONE MAN ARMY starring Jerry Trimble, XTRO 3: WATCH THE SKIES and a bunch of erotic thrillers (DANCE WITH DEATH, MIRROR IMAGES II, EMMANUELLE: FIRST CONTACT, ANIMAL INSTINCTS II, FORBIDDEN SINS). Buechler directed several more movies, but the best known of them are GHOULIES GO TO COLLEGE and WATCHERS 4. He continued to work in effects makeup, including with Hodder for the first HATCHET.
Here’s an odd tidbit: editor Martin Sadoff only cut two other movies: PINK NARCISSUS and GRADUATION DAY. But he was the 3-D supervisor for FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III. So he’s a genius.
Let’s say some nice things about this one. There are some good qualities. I like the telekinetic method of reviving Jason from his floating underwater grave. I like that he is now officially a literal zombie, with Dino Damage exposing ribs, vertebraes, even one side of his jaw bone visible behind a conveniently missing chunk of mask. (Did fish eat it?) I like that he still has a piece of chain around his neck, and you can hear it clinking when he pursues people.
They continue with the tradition of Jason loving to throw people through windows, with a pretty good redo of that stunt. He does a very good jump through a window, and also tears through a wall. There’s a cool part where he grabs Tina by the arm and just one-armed tosses her.
I kind of like that he has a monster face when his mask is torn off. I don’t know why he does. Does being dead cause your teeth to grow really long, like your fingernails do? I guess it is pretty much a rotted version of the previous design, and the teeth were pretty crazy there too. But it’s pretty crazy that he supposedly looks like that under there, and I like crazy. I will never be able to picture that being the face behind the mask when I’m looking at him wearing it, but I will appreciate it when he whips it out. And although I’ve always thought this chapter was weaker than I wanted it to be, I didn’t think it was terrible this time around. I like some of it.
WORM ON A HOOK notes:
This one has a scene where Maddy (Diana Barrows, THE ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE) is trying to hide and suddenly Jason’s arms break through the wall behind her and grab her. Years ago, when I came up with the basic concept of WORM ON A HOOK, the very first image that came to me was of this scene if Maddy could turn around, put her own hands through the wall and strangle him back. At that point I figured the unnamed Florence character would have some kind of super powers, which I later abandoned, but I still used a version of the idea in the final book.