Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)

Friday the 13th Part VI Jason Lives (1986)

Kill or be killed

Tommy Jarvis continues to be haunted by memories of Jason. So to prove to himself that Jason is finally dead, Tommy digs him up from his grave in order to destroy what remains of his body. However, a freak lightning bolt brings Jason back to life and he immediately goes on a killing spree at the local summer camp. It is up to Tommy to try and convince the locals that Jason has returned. But they don’t believe him and actually think that Tommy is the one behind the murders.

 

Back in the 80s, making a Friday the 13th film should have been one of the easiest directing jobs in the business. With a stripped down and very basic formula and no sign of originality, these films used to make themselves almost like clockwork. But what can you do when you’ve killed your main antagonist three times over already? What more is left for him to do apart from the same old? Why bring him back to life as a zombie of course! Jason is back (after the impostor stole his glory in the previous flick) and he’s back with a vengeance as an uber-angry zombie-like bringer of death.

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives isn’t original nor is it scary but, like the couple of films that followed, it’s fun and hugely entertaining. It’s not meant to be a spoof but the film certainly heads in that direction with plenty of throwaway lines and tongue-in-cheek moments. After seeing how badly the surviving teenagers are doing against Jason, a couple of kids at the summer camp exchange such classic lines as “we’re real dead meat” and “so what were you going to be when you grew up?” The title even spoofs the James Bond introduction as Jason throws a machete at the screen.

But let’s face it, this series has always been about one thing so let’s get down to it. Anyone who gets in Jason’s way is dispatched in the most violent way possible. However the death scenes aren’t as elaborate as in the previous films. Here we get people being killed off-screen or with very little blood. It looks like the censors have been to work on this with a carving knife as one or two kills demanded that they show everything but the film cuts away from the point of impact. There is one of the best kills in the series though as Jason forcibly breaks the sheriff’s back by bending him in ways he shouldn’t be bent. The body count is still massive though (eighteen in total, which would be a series record until Jason X broke it with twenty eight). There’s a parade of nameless characters who get introduced into the story only minutes before meeting an untimely and usually entertaining death.

If it was anyone else barring Jason in this role, this would be a terrible way to structure a film. But because it’s Jason and his mission in life is just to kill, it’s the best way to go because its exactly what we’ve paid to see. We don’t need minutes of character exposition and development if Jason and his machete are going to cut the party short. He doesn’t lurk around in the shadows anymore, waiting to kill people or scare them a bit first. He just goes in all guns blazing. There are a few decent moments here including when he slowly walks up behind someone driving a mobile home. With the shredding of Alice Cooper’s ‘Teenage Frankenstein’ blazing out from the stereo, the scene sets the tone for the rest of the series – kind of self-referential, more tongue-in-cheek and more light hearted.

There is no nudity which is a crying shame! What are the producers playing at! One of the key ingredients to the series was nudity and when there isn’t any, you’re just asking to anger the die-hard fans (who are the only people who watch these anyway). The acting isn’t great again but Thom Matthews as Tommy Jarvis isn’t bad – he’s something of a 80s stalwart when it comes to horror. Carrying on the Jason Vs Tommy theme for the third film in a row was a bit unoriginal but managed to pay off as we can see the emotional toll it has taken on Tommy.

CJ Graham as Jason manages to make the character seem more human than most of the other actors – sort of a forerunner for the brilliant Kane Hodder who would play Jason in the next few films. The way in which he moves Jason’s head during certain scenes (like when he is shot with a paintball, looks slowly down to his chest thinking it was a real bullet and then slowly looks up to his unlucky victim) really give the character a lot of depth and intelligence. There is something about Parts 6 – 8 which I like more than the other films but I can’t put my finger on it. They just look more professional than the drive-in quality of some of the previous films. Production values have certainly improved and the films are all the better for it.

 

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives was a great start to the second half of the series and is one of the stronger entries into the series. The lack of blood and nudity really harms the film though, considering these are two of the biggest ingredients we look forward to.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

 

 

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