FRIDAY 13th Part VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989)
Dir. Rob Hedden 96 mins
Paramount Home Entertainment
As part of July’s SLASHER month on UKHS, us toiling writers were given the exciting challenge of three slasher themed reviews. I did my first last week with Humongous featuring as a slasher that I’d always wanted to see but never got round to. This is part two – a favourite slasher. The word to emphasise here is undoubtedly ‘a’. Friday 13th Part: VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (or F13:VIII for the sake of my word limit) is far from my favourite slasher – but it is ‘a’ favourite simply because it took my slasher cherry.
You always remember your first time, and with it being with Jason it makes it even more vivid. Imagine it, a 13 year old teenager home alone with the big box Paramount release of F13: VIII on VHS. It’s undoubtedly the film that takes sole credit for me wasting… sorry, having my life enhanced for the last 23 years by daily interactions with horror films of every sub-genre, but predominantly slasher movies.
With an opening credit sequence that firmly shouts “this is the 80s”, we join high school students Jim and Suzie aboard a boat cruising Camp Crystal Lake where Jim handily provides us / his girlfriend with a brief yet informative back-story of Jason Vorhees. At this point we are about to embark on the greatest re-animation sequence in movie history. As the boat drifts along, it happens to snag an electricity cable lying on the bed of the lake causing it to rupture, sparks fly everywhere including onto the rotting corpse of Jason Vorhees who is jolted into life. It is indeed a miracle.
Jason however appears to be without his mask. Fear not though, Jim up on the boat there happens to have a spare hockey mask with him that he’s left lying about after trying to scare Suzie with his fabled Vorhees impression, and it’s not long before the legendary killer had seized possession of it and is masked and ready for murder. Needless to say poor Jim and Suzie are victims #1 and #2, and we progress on to the crux of the story and the voyage of the SS Lazarus and its passengers who are graduating students from Lakeview High School. There’s some great characters amongst them too, including a crazy rock chick with a penchant for on deck guitar solos, and a nerdy guy who’s insistent on recording a video diary. It is 1989 though, so the video camera he carries around is about three times the size of his head.
The voyage progresses but not before some cautious words from a Crazy Ralph imitating naysayer who announces “this voyage is DOOMED”. Thankfully no-one listens and we engage in 90 minutes of slasher gold as the trip, as expected, grinds to a halt mid-point due to several casualties. The few survivors manage to row ashore which happens to be New York City, to engage in a very memorable finale.
This isn’t a good film. It has some of the most convenient exposition you could imagine, terrible acting, and has also dated immeasurably. That said, even all these years later it’s a really fun watch. Kane Hodder is awesome as Jason Vorhees, as he always was with that intimidating frame, an aspect often missing from contemporary horror. The ingenuity of the kills is great as well which is some achievement considering we’re on the eighth film in the series.
Overall though, even after so many years I’m still very happy to call this a favourite horror of mine. It’s an ideal starting point for the newbie horror fan too, although admittedly that may also be from the point of view “if you can get through this, you can get through anything”. 1989 was not a vintage year for horror, and this exemplifies why, in saying that though that’s also what makes F13: VIII a cheese-fest worth watching.
Actual Rating – 4 out of 10
Dave’s Biased Rating – 9 out of 10