Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)

New York has a new problem

Undead killer Jason Voorhees hops aboard a cruise ship bound for New York and begin to slaughter the teenage passengers who have hired the boat for a graduation party.

 

Probably the Friday the 13th film that gets the most stick from the fans, Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan continues the series tradition of managing to create almost exactly the same film around the most flimsy of stories and formula. Like most of the others, this one hundred-minute slash ride features a variety of one-dimensional characters get sliced, diced, maimed and mutilated by a massive, zombie-like killer who is resurrected in some of the most highly ridiculous ways imaginable and still harbours a grudge from the sight of his mother being beheaded. Suffering from the hands of the censors who demanded plenty of cuts before release, this last true entry into the series seems to have entirely run out of steam and creativity. But do you know what – it’s one of my favourite entries into the series.

You’ve got to hand it to the filmmakers though for trying something new – after all it did take them until the eighth part to get away from the summer camp setting! It’s a very misleading title as most of the action takes place aboard the ship – only the final third is based in New York and even then most of the action takes place around abandoned docks, back streets and sewers. Taking the story away from Crystal Lake does make the film a little bit fresher. It’s just a shame that getting Jason out of his comfort zone wasn’t capitalised on to the greatest extent. The film goes through the same motions as the rest – introduces us to a cast of pretty bland teenagers, throw in an odd adult, a crazy old guy who warns of everyone being doomed and then proceeds to strike off the cast as quickly as possible by Jason. To say that this is a graduation party, there are only about eight teenagers aboard so it must be some expensive private school to be able to fund a cruise ship.

The cast don’t really need discussing in films like this. Their characters, especially the main ones, seem to have too much back story going for them to link them in with Jason’s past and it gets confusing and pointless. Only Peter Mark Richman as the overbearing principal Charles McCulloch manages to eek something out of his character but that’s only because you want to see him meet a grisly end as soon as possible. The minor characters simply fill up the roles of geeky guy, slutty chick, rocker, jock, crazy doomsayer, etc without any so much as an attempt at characterisation.

The real star of the show though is Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees. He IS Jason now (much the same way that Robert Englund has personified Freddy Kruger) and his various deadly poses and hulking frame give the character much needed menace and personality. Just look at the way his shoulders move up and down whenever he breathes or when he cocks his head to side as if he’s taunting his victims and telling them to bring it. He has a real physical presence which makes the character even more intimidating and frightening than the weak make-up has any right to be.

As I stated earlier, the censors clearly had a field day before this got released and a lot of the death scenes have been trimmed down so that there’s hardly any blood at all, even in some death scenes which demanded some creative make-up effects. Death by burning hot rock to the abs needed to be gorier than it was! Without the camp setting, Jason is without his usual array of tools to kill people with so here there’s death by guitar, harpoon, flag, heroin needle, spear gun and he even drowns some poor git in toxic waste in New York (the film presents the fact that barrels of toxic waste are in every back alley in NYC, ready for psychotic killers to use). There’s a body count of around seventeen here so you’ll never be bored. But the deaths lack panache like they did before – the lack of gore is a true shame. Nudity was also a massive ingredient of the series yet we’re not given much here. The token sluts in the last few episodes have kept their clothes on which has been a travesty.

Finally if there was one thing to really take the fun out of this film, it’s the terrible ending in which Jason drowns in toxic waste in the sewers and reverts back into a small boy. It makes no sense at all and you’ll shrug your shoulders at just how poor the writing is, not just with the finale but with the whole back story of Jason. In an attempt to flesh him out and flesh out the ‘final girl’ they’re given some connecting storyline from when they both young.

 

If you don’t like this sort of film then you won’t even be contemplating reading this review. If you love slasher films you can do a whole lot worse (believe me, this is like a masterpiece compared to some). And as far as Friday the 13th films go, you can do a lot worse as well. It just suffers from bad writing and bad censorship. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan is one of my favourite slasher films.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

 

 

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