Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning

Check your calendars!  It's Friday the 13th and that means it's time for another Friday the 13th movie review!  Try to stay alive, we're looking at Friday Part 5!

When Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter was released in 1984 it was meant to be, well, the final chapter in the Jason Voorhees slasher saga.  Of course it ended up being the most successful film in the series (at the time) and since it made a ton of money there was no way that the producers wouldn't want to make another Friday movie.  The only problem was, Jason was dead.  So what do you do?

You make A New Beginning.

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985) opens with a dream sequence featuring a cameo by Corey Feldman (as young Tommy Jarvis) watching two wild teens dig up Jason's grave, only to get killed.  When Older Tommy (John Shepherd) wakes up in the van of an institutional hospital, we learn that it is eight years after the events of The Final Chapter and that Tommy is on his way to Pinehurst Halfway House, an outpatient group home for troubled youth, to hopefully aid in his recovery.
All the patients and staff at this halfway house are your basic Friday camp counselor types; you got the horny couple, the dork, the hunk, the punk, the final girl, you know the types.  However, right after Tommy arrives, there is a murder, as crazy Vic (Mark Venturini) kills his housemate Joey (Dominick Brascia) for being an annoying fuck.
Soon after, more dead bodies start piling up around the group home, and since Tommy is haunted by visions of Jason, it seems like he might be the killer.  But is he?  Or is it one of the many red herrings introduced?  Or is Jason somehow back from the grave?

To answer that last one, no, Jason is not back from the grave.  In fact, the Jason that does the killing in this one is often referred to as "fake Jason."  You can tell he's a fake because his mask has blue marks on it, not red.
Fake Jason

So who is doing the killing?  SPOILER WARNING:  at the end of the movie, when Jason is killed, his mask falls off and it's revealed to be. . . some guy.  Actually at first you're really not sure who it is, so the filmmakers wisely add a scene of the sheriff explaining who the killer was and why he did it, which by the way was Roy (Dick Weiand) the weird paramedic and he did it because Joey, the murdered patient at Pinhurst from the start of the movie, was his secret son.  Seeing him dead, and blaming those around (?), he snapped and later donned the identity of Jason to start killing people.  It's kind of dumb, in fact, it's really dumb, but I give credit for trying something different, even if it doesn't totally succeed.  Either way, I'm glad real Jason comes back in the next movie.

Random Notes:

The opening credits have the Friday the 13th logo EXPLODING with Jason's hockey mask, revealing the subtitle A New Beginning.  I've said it before, but exploding credits are the best.
A New Beginning takes place eight years after The Final Chapter, which was set in 1984 (as were  parts 2 and 3, for that matter).  That means A New Beginning, released in 1985, takes place in 1992.  It's a future movie!

When Tommy arrives at Pinehurst, he's met by Pam (Melanie Kinnaman), the director of the program.  By the end, she would become the film's final girl, which, even though she's maybe a little bit older than previous Friday final girls, totally works because she brings this maturity and responsibility to the role that really freshens up the character type.  Plus, later she gives Jason a good run for his money, attacking him with a chainsaw in the barn.
Totally badass.

When Tommy's unpacking in his room he meets this kid who tries to scare him with a fake spider.  This practical joker goes by Reggie the Reckless (Shavar Ross), although I think everybody just calls him Reggie the whole movie.  Nobody humors him with that Reckless shit.

Reggie doesn't live at the Halfway House, he's just there visiting and staying with his granddad George who works in the kitchen.  Sometimes kids in movies can be really annoying, but Reggie has a lot of charm that goes well with his attitude.  Plus his all-red sweatsuit is a pretty cool look.

Being so young, Reggie does have an embarrassing moment though, when he screams like a little boy when encountering Jason out in the rain:

(this video has stupid Mario Bros. sound fx at the end, but the scream is intact, that's the important part).

Despite being so young, Reggie does become the secondary protagonist, facing off against Jason alongside Pam, and even getting a big action moment when he drives a tractor through the barn door and hits Jason square in the stomach.  Tractor Punch!

While Tommy is the main character in the movie, he's actually a suspect in the killings most of the time, and the audience isn't sure if he is or not.  He conveniently disappears sometimes, casting further suspicion, but when he shows up at the end to help Pam and Reggie fight Jason in the barn, you know what's up.
However, even after his heroic moments, in the last scene of the movie, Tommy wakes up in the hospital from another Jason dream and then slowly walks to his dresser and pulls out a hockey mask (how did he get that?), puts it on, grabs a knife (and that too!?), and sneaks up on Pam a seemingly stabs her.  I say seemingly because the camera goes into a slow zoom-in on his eye as the film fades to black and credits roll.  So it's implied that Tommy killed her and will probably pick up Jason's mantle, but thank god that doesn't actually happen, as heroic Tommy shows up for Friday part 6 (although played by a different actor).
Note:  Tommy still makes his masks like he did as a kid, but that skill doesn't come into play during the movie (except for a couple cheap scares).

There are a lot of kills in this Friday movie, 22 I think, which is one of the highest for a Friday film.  Since there are so many, some are only okay-ish (your basic throat slashes or stabs to the stomach or head) and there are quite a few offscreen kills.  My favorite kills in this one are the flare to the face, the skull crushed against the tree using the leather strap, and the decapitation while riding a motorcycle.

Overall, while I find the special effects perfectly serviceable, I am left wanting a bit more.  I feel quantity outweighed the quality here.  Also, it seems as if some of the scenes were cut or edited down (which happens with these Friday movies), and I've read that some parts (like Violet's death) were reshot to be less graphic.

Speaking of Violet (Tiffany Helm), she's the punk girl in the house.  She's got a goth attitude and colored hair, pale skin, you know the type.  There's a scene later, right before she gets killed, where she's dancing in her room. . .it's hilarious.  She's doing this strange interpretive robot dance. . . it's great, definitely one of the highlights of the movie:

Let's talk cast and crew:

Director Danny Steinmann had previously directed Savage Streets (1984) starring Linda Blair before getting the Friday gig.  Going back even further, Steinmann's first movie job was writing and directing a hardcore porno called High Rise (1973), on which he used the name Danny Stone.  This porno background is interesting because Steinmann wanted to push the sex in A New Beginning, particularly in the sex scene with Tina (Deborah Voorhees [!]) and Eddie (John Robert Dixon).  Apparently they shot a pretty hot and heavy sex scene, but it was later cut down and the peeping tom weirdo Raymond was added in (and killed) to cut the scene down.

Co-screenwriter Martin Kitrosser, who also worked on Friday part III (1982), would write and direct Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toymaker (1991), but has since become a successful script supervisor in Hollywood, most notably working on all of Quentin Tarantino's films.

Harry Manfredini once again provides the score, although this is his first original score since Part 2 (parts III and The Final Chapter just recycled music cues from the first two).  There's some slight variation to some of the themes and, all in all, it's a good score.

Other than being Reckless, Shavar Ross also played Gary Coleman's best friend on TV's Diff'rent Strokes, not to mention similar "friend" roles on Growing Pains and Family Matters. As an adult he has become a born again Christian and has started his own production company, Tri-7 Entertainment, that specializes in films and whatnot aimed toward that market.

In the movie, Reggie goes with Pam and Tommy to visit his brother Demon (Miguel A. Núñez) at a trailer park.  Demon is a real cool dude, smoking weed and hanging out with his lady in his super cool van (he doesn't live at this trailer park, I think he might just be passing through or something, I'm not sure.  Maybe he lives in the van...), but of course he does get killed, in an embarrassing way no less:  while trapped in an outhouse bathroom he gets stabbed with a metal pole.
"Them damn enchiladas!"

This is one of Núñez's first roles and, along with Return of the Living Dead (also 1985), he would establish himself a nice little genre following.  He would go on to be a prolific character actor, appearing in tons of movies and TV shows, including Tour of Duty (series that ran from '87-90), Lethal Weapon 3 (1992), Street Fighter (1994), Scooby-Doo (2002), and Black Dynamite (2009).  He also had the lead role in Juwanna Mann (2002).

After Vic slaughters Joey, he is carted off to jail and not seen again in the movie.  I guess the idea is that once more killings start, he would be a suspect or something, but really, at the end, I'm left wondering why Roy didn't go after Vic and why he murdered everybody else instead?

Putting his talents of meat-headed dickishness to more use, Mark Venturini would also star in Return of the Living Dead, in which he played lead punk, Suicide.

Carol Locatell played the crazy neighbor lady Ethel who rides around on a small motorcycle with her not-bright adult son Junior (Ron Sloan).  She owns the property next to the Halfway Home and is mad that Eddie and Tina keep sneaking over to her land to have sex.

A lot of comedy mileage is gotten out of Ethel swearing and verbally berating her son.  At one point she calls him a "big dildo."

Locatell is a very prolific television actress, but I noticed she also starred with Pam Grier in Coffy (1973), which is pretty cool.

Final Thoughts:

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning is just that, a new beginning for the Friday films.  They tried to do something a little different in trying to work around Jason being dead from the previous movie, and while only half successful, I do appreciate the mystery element that hasn't been seen since the first film (who is the killer?), even if the payoff is weak.

This movie gets a lot of flack for the fake Jason, and I guess for also being the start of the decline in the series, but I found it more fun this time around than I have in the past.  This is definitely a second-tier Friday movie, but for the second-tier it's not too bad, and for not having Jason in it, it could be a whole lot worse.

Luckily we never find out, as Jason returns in Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI.  Look for a review next month.  It'll be on a Friday.

Hey, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning is 30 years old this year!  Happy Birthday, Roy!
"Real" Jason
Fake Jason

Check out the previous Fridays:
Friday the 13th
Friday Part 2
Friday Part III
The Final Chapter

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