Friday, February 14, 2020

Friday the 13th, Part V: A New Beginning (1985)

... aka: Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
... aka: Friday the 13th, Part 5
... aka: Repetition
... aka: Vendredi 13, chapitre 5: Une nouvelle terreur (Friday the 13th, Chapter 5: A New Terror)
... aka: Venerdì 13: parte V - Il terrore continua (Friday the 13th: Part V - The Terror Continues)

Directed by:
Danny Steinmann

Even though THE FINAL CHAPTER was supposed to end Jason's reign of terror once and for all in the spring of 1984, Paramount already had this in production in October of the same year and even managed to get it into theaters a mere 11 months after the previous entry debuted! The critical reception was just as abysmal as it had always been, only this time many die hard series fans were also among the disappointed; something we'll get into further detail about here in a little bit. Though this debuted in the #1 spot its opening weekend with a respectable 8 million, it's domestic box office finish was a steep drop of over 10 million from the previous two entries. Still, on a budget of around 2 million, that's still a more than decent profit and Paramount kept on going.

At the end of #4, it was strongly hinted that the evil that is Jason Voorhees had somehow passed along to survivor Tommy Jarvis, which is something this entry plays upon. After spending some time at the Unger Institute of Mental Health, the now-teenage Tommy (John Shepherd) is sent to live at the Pinehurst Youth Development Center; a tranquil transitional living facility for troubled youth whose goal is to prepare their charges ready to reenter society. Well, good luck with Tommy. Despite a steady diet of therapy and drugs back at the mental asylum, Tommy is now quiet, despondent, withdrawn and still frequently haunted by images of Jason. Despite the best efforts of Doctor Matthew (Richard Young) and compassionate assistant director Pam Roberts (Melanie Kinnaman), Tommy also has a difficult time adjusting to his new surroundings, which isn't too surprising considering he's constantly dealing with a bunch of kooks, oddballs, obnoxious assholes and assorted crazies, both at the facility and around town.

Well-meaning but annoying ("Just fuh-get it!") patient Joey (Dominick Brascia), an orphan who's been shuffled around from home to home until being placed at Pinehurst, manages to push the already-angry Victor (Mark Venturini) over the edge and ends up getting himself chopped up with an axe. That murder then triggers a succession of other murders around town. A couple of leather clad 50s-lookin' greasers (?!) are butchered after their car breaks down and then a diner waitress and her coke-snorting boyfriend get axed. Soon, the teens of Pinehurst start disappearing themselves.

Local police, led by Sheriff Tucker (Marco St. John), look into matters but the likeliest of suspects - Jason Voorhees - can't be a suspect at all as his body has been cremated and his ashes scattered. Still, someone's copying both his look and his no-two-murders-alike killing techniques and has started anew in his place. Has Tommy snapped due to his traumatic childhood or is there another copycat murderer on the loose? And this is precisely what pissed so many series fans off. Aside from Tommy's nightmares and delusions, this film doesn't technically feature Jason at all. I would call it the HALLOWEEN III of the Friday series, except where that film really was a complete departure from the Michael Myers story line, this one plays out exactly as the other films do regardless of who's wearing the mask.

Steinmann had just made Savage Streets (1984), a gloriously trashy and crude 80s revenge flick starring Linda Blair and brings the same sleazy touch to this entry, which helps it stand out in a way. This was the highest body count yet for the series (over 20 kills) and there are many long, lingering shots of topless female cast members Juliette Cummins, Rebecca Wood and the amply-endowed Debisue Voorhees. Hell, even the finale is like the world's longest wet t-shirt contest with the otherwise reserved Kinnaman running around braless and in a flimsy, soaked white shirt during a thunderstorm.

Naturally, the MPAA forced Paramount to neuter nearly all of the killings to avoid an X rating so the camera typically cuts away before things can get too gory. Though that certainly doesn't help matters here, this at least offers up a wide variety of death scenes. Aside from the standard axe and machete murders, there's a road flare stuck in a mouth, eyes gouged out with shears, a head crushed with a tightened leather strap, a steel pole impalement in an outhouse toilet and someone getting decapitated with a cleaver while riding a motorcycle. Despite incorporating a chainsaw, a bed of spikes and even a bulldozer, this has a weakest finale of the series up to this point and the twist at the very end, which was originally meant to set up one character as the next Jason for more sequels, falls flat.

To his credit, and unlike many other actors who filtered in and out of this series over the years, Shepherd actually gives a performance here in the lead role. He's able to convincingly convey the feelings of alienation, confusion and pent-up rage, mixed with an underlying menace, that's quite effective in simultaneously making the character a sympathetic focal point and a potential suspect in the killings. Unfortunately, the whodunit nature of the plot forces him off-screen for most of the mid-section of the film. Carol Locatell also deserves special mention for her hilarious turn as the foul-mouthed, white trash Ethel; the best of many exaggeratedly repellent characters trotted out here just to get slaughtered.

The cast includes Shavar Ross as pre-teen troublemaker "Reggie the Reckless" (I suppose because Part 4 had a little kid they had to throw one in here, too), Vernon Washington as Reggie's grandpa, Dick Wieand as an ambulance driver, Tiffany Helm as a goth girl who does a memorable robot dance to the great song "His Eyes" by Pseudo Echo before getting killed, Corey Parker (Scream for Help), Caskey Swaim (Night Warning), Miguel A. Núñez Jr. (RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD) and an uncredited Tom Morga as Jason. Corey Feldman was originally supposed to star but had to pass due to the fact he was shooting The Goonies (1985) at around the same time. So he could be included, they shot a cameo role for him, used as a nightmare scene that opens the movie, which was filmed in a few hours in Feldman's own backyard.

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