“Better Swim, Rennie, Before Jason Pulls You Down.”

Hello again! Apologies for my long absence–it’s been pretty chaotic here. Part of that, certainly, is because of the Northern California fires that hit my community pretty hard. But it’s also because I’ve been working on a novel all year, and I’ve spent the past month editing it into something that I can show people and not instantly die of shame. The novel is currently with awesome people, so in between anxiously awaiting feedback and eating leftover Halloween candy, I finally have some time to devote to the blog!

And you know what that means: more Jason Vorhees! When we last left off, Jason was battling a telekinetic and thoroughly annoying teenager. Now that’s he been resurrected (again), he’s going to Manhattan to kill other equally annoying and less telekinetic teenagers!

Well, eventually. He’ll get to Manhattan eventually.

DISCLAIMER:

As always with these reviews, SPOILERS abound. (There will also be exactly one spoiler for the 2005 remake of House of Wax. You’ve been warned.)

SUMMARY:

Hydrophobic Rennie (Jensen Daggett) reluctantly goes on her senior graduation trip, a cruise to New York City. Unfortunately for her and everyone else on board, Jason also attends.

NOTES:

1. Let’s just start with the most obvious complaint: in a movie that’s only an hour and 40 minutes long, we don’t actually see Manhattan until 1 hour and 3 minutes into the film.

Nope. That’s just unacceptable. I don’t care if there were budget problems. You can’t call your movie Jason Takes Manhattan when Jason takes more than half the movie to get to the damn place. Jason’s Quest for Manhattan would have been more appropriate. Or maybe Jason Takes a Cruise.

2. Sadly for all of us, the movie actually gets worse once Jason hits dry land. But let’s leave that for now and go back to the beginning.

We’ll start with the opening titles, which are terrible.

Like, they don’t explode or anything. Come on, people. The opening titles are easily one of the best things about this franchise, as you can see from this compilation that someone helpfully put on Youtube. (Jason Lives remains a personal favorite.) Not here, my friends. Not here. From the very beginning, this doesn’t quite feel like a Jason movie, even if our favorite masked murderer does reanimate when an anchor hits a cable or something, electrocuting him underwater. Fucking electrocution, man. It rarely kills you in movies, but it may bring you back to life, give you strange powers, temporarily incapacitate you with no side effects, or make it look like you’re dead for a plot-appropriate amount of time.

3. Our first victims are typical first victims: a guy and a girl having sex on a boat. Honestly, I wouldn’t even bother discussing them, but there a few things worth mentioning:

3A. The guy takes off his shirt first, which feels like a novelty, until the girl quickly gets way, way more naked. She also gets a whiny “I mean it” moment when the dude goes off to investigate a spooky noise and doesn’t respond when she calls. So, in case you were worried that feminism may have accidentally slipped into this 80’s slasher film, fear not. Gender roles are firmly in place.

3B. The boyfriend–in what he clearly thinks is a hilarious prank–dons a Jason mask and stabs the girl with a fake knife. Personally, I think that’s break-up material myself. At the very least, dude ain’t getting any tonight. The girl, sadly, quickly forgives him and they get to the lovemaking.

3C. On the bright side, the girl takes off and leaves her boyfriend’s ass behind when Jason comes to play. Unfortunately, she hides in this little crawlspace, which of course Jason quickly finds. Now, admittedly, the girl doesn’t have a whole lot of options here and is probably going to die. Nevertheless, Jason takes, like, twenty seconds to slowly–painstakingly slowly–lower this harpoon down and impale the girl, while she just wiggles her legs around and squeals “no” over and over again. It’s hilariously bad.

4. We must now discuss our final girl, Rennie.

Actually, Rennie’s not all that interesting. She’s neither a great heroine, nor a terrible one. She’s just sort of there. (I now feel the need to order the Friday Final Girls. Ginny is obviously, obviously at the top, while Chris, Tina, and Megan are all competing hard for Absolute Worst. Rennie is somewhere bland and middling, like Pam. Pam may be the blandest of all final girls.)

Like a handful of the heroines in this series, Rennie has a traumatic, Jason-related backstory: when she was a child, Terrible Guardian McCulloch (Peter Mark Richman) took her out on a boat, told her there was a dead kid living at the bottom of the lake, and then pushed her into the water, taunting her to swim or Jason would get her. (Jason does, in fact, get her, though Little Rennie clearly survives. We’re not actually shown how, but Terrible Guardian later says he pulled her out and “saved” her. Yeah. You’re a hero, dude.)

And man. I thought my dad’s “hold your kid underwater” exposure therapy ideas were lousy. (They backfired spectacularly, by the way. I still don’t swim underwater.) This, though, this is just awful on a whole other level. Who even does this to a kid?

5. Speaking of Terrible Guardian McCulloch, he is a serious contender for Chief Asshat of the Year, and not just because of his A+ parenting skills. He’s also an unbelievable asshole to Rennie’s Love Interest, Sean (Scott Reeves).

People. I haven’t felt this bad for a love interest since Jared Padalecki got turned into an actual living wax sculpture in the 2005 remake of House of Wax.

So, Sean has clear daddy issues. His father is the skipper, and if memory serves, he’s disappointed that his kid either isn’t so great at this whole sea-faring gig, or just doesn’t want to do it for a career. I can’t quite remember the specifics. Point is, they’ve got issues, issues they don’t get to resolve before Dad bites it. Sean, of course, finds the body, but is given absolutely no time to deal with this due to Jason’s murder shenanigans. (At one point, Rennie–who’s had a hallucination or two due to a) her repressed childhood trauma, and b) a particularly cruel prank–tells Sean she doesn’t understand what’s happening to her, something I’d be much more sympathetic about if Jason wasn’t currently running around the boat killing people. Sean doesn’t respond with “well, there’s a murderer somewhere on board who just killed my dad. I really don’t have time to psychoanalyze your feelings right this second,” but he absolutely should.)

Anyway, Sean repeatedly saves Rennie’s life, and each time he does, Terrible Guardian McCulloch yells at him for it. Later, when a handful of survivors escape the cruise ship in a little rowboat, McCulloch icily snipes, “I hope you can find shore soon, Captain.” Like, DUDE. This kid is maybe 18. He was nearly just murdered. His dad was just murdered, and he’s in a dinky boat with no navigation equipment. Maybe hold off on the judgment, especially when your life kind of is in his hands? Plus, are we now automatically assuming all kids should be proficient in their parents’ professions? Cause I’m 31, I’ve worked in a hospital for over ten years, and I’m still very much not qualified to help intubate someone or perform a bronch just because my mom’s a respiratory therapist. McCulloch even bitches when Sean finds them dry land because it’s not in a good part of town. Like, seriously, WTF?

Oh, and did I forget to mention that when one of the teenage girls decides to fake seduce McCulloch for blackmail material, he initially goes along with it? Ugh, creep. This dude is officially the worst.

6. I won’t discuss all of the teenagers who die on the cruise ship, but to mention a couple?

Baby Kelly Hu! This was Hu’s first feature role, and she’s pretty adorable with her 80’s hair, yellow shorts, and little suspenders. Hu is, of course, the only Asian actress in this movie. Honestly, I think she might be the first Asian person in the entire franchise. (Correct me if I’m wrong on that. I couldn’t find anyone else.) Hu plays Eva, the mean girl’s considerably nicer, total pushover friend. She’d probably grow up to be a fairly decent person if she wasn’t murdered by Jason first.

Her death is pretty dumb: after being chased, she ends up alone on the dance floor. Somehow, Jason appears to be at every possible exit, like, he’s teleporting or something. I can’t explain this. Then he suddenly goes invisible. I can’t explain that, either. Then he pops up and just strangles her to death.

I don’t approve of this, and not just because I like Kelly Hu: one of the best things about this franchise is how Jason will use just about any weapon of opportunity to kill people. For instance, earlier in the film he kills a dude with a hot sauna rock. And he doesn’t just bash in the guy’s head, either, like I’d assumed; no, he smashes that thing down through the guy’s bare torso. It, like, sets the dude’s insides on fire. Strangling just . . . doesn’t feel creative and/or cheesy enough for this series.

We also must discuss Baby Martin Cummins.

Unlike Hu, I had no idea Cummins was in this movie. His long hair and big glasses and 80’s film dork status are all pretty hilarious. Sadly, he dies even more quickly than I expected, when he gets thrown into an electrical box or something, which abruptly explodes. (There are a couple of super abrupt explosions in this movie. Also irony kills: the boxer gets boxed to death–more on that in a moment–the pretty, mean girl gets stabbed with a mirror shard, and the rocker girl gets killed with her own guitar.)

7. After Jason kills most of the people on board, Rennie, Sean, Terrible Guardian McCulloch, Kindly Teacher Van Deusen, Boxer Teen Julius, and the dog make it to shore. (Oh, I forgot about the dog. Okay, Rennie has a dog. Happily, he lives.) They are, of course, immediately set upon by of a couple of gangbangers who abduct Rennie, shoot her up with drugs, and plan to rape her. Meanwhile, the others decide to split up and randomly walk around looking for a cop. Clearly, nothing can go wrong with this plan.

Julius (V.C. Dupree) is the first to go. He gets into a boxing match with Jason on a roof, which means he wears himself out trying to K.O. an undead serial killer impervious to pain. And obviously this was never going to end well, but he basically just keeps doing the same thing over and over, like, dude, maybe try to angle him towards the side of the roof or something. Admittedly, I don’t know much about boxing, but it seems like variety and improvisation would be good skills for a fighter to have. Anyway, an exhausted Julius allows Jason a free shot. Jason punches his head off. It flies into a dumpster.

I don’t really know what else to say about that.

After decapitating a guy with his fist, Jason murders the two dudes who have Rennie, not to mention the cop that someone actually does manage to find. Rennie, Sean, Terrible Guardian, and Kindly Teacher try to escape in the police car, only Rennie–who’s presumably still high–crashes the car. Both the love interest and the guardian help Rennie out, which means that no one’s around to help Kindly Teacher. The car promptly blows up with her still inside. Why it explodes so quickly after merely hitting a wall is hard to say, but still. Division of labor, dudes. Look it up. Kindly Teacher could totally have lived if you people had your shit together.

8. Properly traumatized now after sort-of killing the only nice adult figure in her life, Rennie immediately has that flashback to Crystal Lake, cluing us all into why she’s so scared of the water. Shortly after that, Terrible Guardian drowns in a helpful barrel of toxic waste, so obviously that’s enjoyable.

Jason chases our final two around for a while. He gets distracted by the city for half a second, but then returns to his single-minded pursuit, mostly ignoring anyone who gets in his way. (Except, I think, for one unfortunate person. I have no idea why he specifically gets singled out for death, but that’s life in a horror movie for you.) There’s a story in this somewhere about the connection between a masked murderer and his targeted prey, but I really need to finish this review before I can write it.

9. With that in mind, let’s just skip to the end, shall we? Jason dies, once again, by drowning. Kind of.

Here’s what happens: Jason tries to reach Rennie and Sean in the sewers. A flood of toxic sludge water comes pouring through. We hear the voice of Child Jason: “Mommy, don’t let me drown! Mommy!” and it’s unclear to me if Jason’s hallucinating, or if his own ghost voice is emanating from the water. Regardless, Jason gets swept away. He pops up for one last scare, but then sort of just melts or burns or something. Lightning strikes the Statue of Liberty–yes, really–and Jason is transformed back into a drowned child.

So. You might be asking yourself what does this mean for my ongoing theory that Jason Vorhees is secretly a Warrior of God? (Shush. Of course you are.)

Well, there a couple of ways to look at this. It’s possible that God has finally turned his back on Jason and wants him dead once and for all–presumably for killing Kelly Hu, who I wanted to live, despite knowing full well that she wasn’t going to make it. (And not just because of usual horror movie rules. I did some research last year on both the inclusion and survival rates of Asian-American characters in horror movies. It’s . . . not good.)

Alternatively, God may have decided that it was simply Jason’s time to rest and allowed him to die in his human form . . . although it can’t be ignored that the next film in this franchise is NOT titled Jason Goes to Heaven: The Final Friday. A third theory–and obviously my favorite–is that Satan sent the toxic sludge (they are underground, after all), which killed God’s chosen warrior. God couldn’t stop this, and the lightning is a sign of his wrath–but also his mercy, as it finally returns Jason to his true form in death.

Stuff like this is why my reviews are gold, by the way. Sure, you can get more concise reviews at some sites and more intellectual reviews at others, but mine are out-of-the-box. They’re maverick reviews, goddamn it.

10. Finally, some random notes:

10A. The cruise is a graduation trip . . . and yet for some reason, Mean Girl has a biology project due? I find this confusing.

10B. Jason manages to pull a girl’s bathrobe off through a door. Because of course he does.

10C. The cruise ship is named Lazarus, which is obviously unfortunate. On the upside, one of the guys who works on the ship has the hilarious tendency to pop up and yell at everyone that this voyage is doomed and that everyone’s gonna die. He does this like three times. It’s just the best.

10D. I don’t think Jason rearranges or moves a single body. It’s kind of sad. Did this filmmaker not understand the franchise at all?

10E. Prior to his drowning in toxic waste, Jason gets electrocuted. This temporarily knocks him down, but obviously not for long: after all, electrocution usually brings Jason back to life. Dude lives on that stuff.

More importantly, when this happens, there’s a sign nearby that says “good volts.”  I’ll admit to openly snickering at that.

CONCLUSIONS:

Meh. The cruise ship stuff is actually fine, but the whole time you’re confused and impatient about the fact we haven’t hit the titular Manhattan yet. Then we finally do get to Manhattan, and everything just seems slow and dumb.

This isn’t my least favorite in the series, but it’s definitely near the bottom of the list.

MVP:

Er. Do I really have to pick someone? I guess Peter Mark Richman was a convincing schmuck. Sure, I’ll go with him.

TENTATIVE GRADE:

C

MORAL:

There are many valid ways to teach your child how to swim. Throwing them in a lake and saying that a monster will kill them if they don’t learn faster is probably not one of them.

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