(Release Date: August 01, 1986)
Oh, it's a dark and black comedy to say the absolute least, but it's also about as screwball as a Troy Percival surprise closing pitch. Oh, that's not to say it's particularly funny. The comedy here is flatter than a Ford Ltd. But Tom-boy sure as shittin' tries to make this one funny. What's my take on Zombie-Jason Voorhees? Well? It could've used some Nudity!
But, to be fair, Jason Lives isn't all that bad! Oh, it's as Goofy as that guy that's always hanging out with Mickey and Donald, but it does what it sets out to do, primarily. It advances the series reasonably (arguably more than many entries into the series) and it breaks with the stagnation many fans found in the previous entry (which... SPOILER WARNING! didn't actually feature Jason Voorhees at all, but some jackass copycat!). And... in case I didn't make that perfectly, seriously clear... This flick never takes itself too seriously... or seriously at all.
Picking up a few insane years (or minutes, I'm not sure) after parter fiver, insane Tommy Jarvis (now played by insane actor Thom Mathews) has been released (for some insane reason) from the insane insane asylum. Now, because he keeps having insane hallucinations, he and his insane friend (Ron Palillo's Allen Hawes) embark on an insane plan to desecrate the inexplicably pristine, marked grave of one Jason Fucking Voorhees... insane guy!
But wait... isn't Jason Fucking Voorhees Fucking Dead? Yep... hence the word: "Grave"! Sadly, instead of doing what most insane people would do to desecrate an insane person's grave, Tommy instead drives a wrought-iron spike through his dead-ass corpse, only to see it struck by lightening. Then, just like on the poster for (and ninth most memorable scene in) Zombi 2, Jason slowly sits up all Frankenstein-style with maggots rolling out of his bad eye socket and gives a twisted grin!
Well, Tommy, looks like you've fucked up now! No, I don't mean insane Tommy Jarvis for bringing Jason back to life... I mean insane Tommy McLoughlin for then having Jason walk onscreen in full barrel-vision, then turn and throw his Machete toward the camera. The blood flows, the camera shakes, the James Bond spoof sets the stage for the un-popped kernels of corn that roll around virtually every frame of Jason Lives.
From that point on, we see Jason going on an increasingly ironic murder-spree through his old stomping ground (now renamed from Crystal Lake to Forest Green... kids, you can't polish a turd!) starting with (and I am NOT joking) actor Tony Goldwyn! The cemetery caretaker (Bob Larkin's Martin) speaks directly to the camera, an almost Scream-like self-referential air permeates the film, a victim (Nancy McLoughlin's Lizabeth) attempts to pay Jason not to kill her... with an AMERICAN EXPRESS CARD, there's a ridiculous stretch of a scene featuring Jason interrupting a PAINT BALL FIGHT and when all else fails, the script introduces a bunch of quipping kids.
Kids? Yeah, kids... the morons at Camp Crys-... uh, Camp Forest Green have decided to open up that stupid camp, just daring their most famous (and now infamously zombified) ex-camper to show back up for some sword hockey.
If that's not all funny enough, the music by Harry Manfredini occasionally borderlines on Laugh-In territory with its cues. That is when we're concentrating on the score. There are actually three songs by Alice Cooper gracing the audio of this flick... and one by some band called Felony.
But there's more. Just like we saw before, when the bodies start piling up like lumber, all signs point to Tommy Jarvis as being the insane culprit! The remarkably inconsistent Sheriff Michael Garris (David Kagen) is occasionally positive that Jason is a myth and Tommy's the honkey in the hockey mask. However, Garris' daughter Megan (the hot-in-an-80's-kind-of-way Jennifer Cooke) is pretty darned sure that Tommy's as innocent as Mickey and Donald. He's not... but the cute little quipping kids of Camp Crys-... uh, Camp Forest Green sure are... or... were.
Although certainly not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, Friday the 13th part IV is pretty fun, somewhat inventive and definitely bloody. This film held the Friday the 13th body-count record until the wacky Jason X surpassed it by a country parsec! It surely wasn't an easy prospect to be tasked with bringing Pammy Voorhees' best boy back to life and ol' McL does okay, considering all, Zombie-Jason and everything. Plus he does lead us on to a pretty damned satisfying ending that sets up the next entry into the series quite nicely thank you very much, while still slamming the "Tommy Jarvis Trilogy" shut with a bang!
And for those who might scoff at my joking about Jason returning as a "Zombie" in this film... the French certainly considered him just that. Check out the French Title which translates to Jason the Living Dead. But then again... some places are still serving "Freedom Fries", so let's just go with "it's only a movie".
Another side note here is the hindsight humor of the firm planting in the 1980's here. The video to "Beat It!" had less Eighties motifs taped all over it. Neon and Walkmen are to be expected, as are hot chicks with huge hair, but kitsch takes a back seat to oddities like "Jasons" with vastly differing body-types. Dan Bradley was dismissed after certain dailies had Paramount execs scratching their heads and replaced with C.J. Graham, a Jason-impersonator they found in a Night Club. To be fair, they both do a fine job. If you're looking to tell the difference, if he's got a beer belly it's Bradley... if not, it's Golden Graham.
Between the certainly separate Jasons, the comedic overtones and horrific undertones, the music and the undead slasher preying on kids cracking campy at camp, Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives breaks off Two and One Half Stars out of Five. There hadn't been a Calendar-based Horror flick this silly since Saturday the Fourteenth. If Thom Mathews has anything to say about it, there may never be again. Alice Cooper, Harry Manfredini (not Mancini), Tom, Tommy, Thom... THONG... It's Friday and Jason's finally gotten CAMPY! So until we get a new Kane flippin' Hodder entry in which the formerly mute Tux-and-Mask wearing slasher introducing himself with a twinkle in his single eye as "Voorhees, Jason Voorhees" followed by a scream of "CRUSH, KILL, DESTROY!", I'll see you in the next reel.
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