Original Release date: (International, April 26 2002)
Directed by: James Isaac
Starring: Kane Hodder, Lexa Doig, Lisa Ryder, Peter Mensah
Available now on DVD from New Line Cinema
Jason X shouldn’t exist. It’s the kind of super sequel that you could imagine a group of Hollywood screen writers all sat around planning, deciding what to do with an aging franchise. There’s the obligatory reboot, perhaps a prequel, and then eventually one bored writer would pipe up with an idea like “Hey, let’s set it in space!” , before laughing and going back to the drawing board. Fortunately for horror fans however this last part never happened.
From its initial premise all the way through until the credits roll Jason X feels like a joke that got out of hand, like a few filmmakers seeing how far they could take the punch line before a producer somewhere stopped them. What makes Jason X such a hugely fun and special film is that those filmmakers were never stopped; they were allowed to produce what can only be described as a film that is simultaneously one of the best, and worst slasher movies of the last decade. It’s a film that showcases just how enjoyable and utterly ridiculous the slasher genre can let itself become.
Jason X shouldn’t exist, but we’re lucky it does.
Opening in the ‘near future’ of 2008, everyone’s favourite hockey masked killer Jason Voorhees ( a welcome return for legend Kane Hodder) has found himself captured by the American Military who are performing experiments on the giant to reveal the secret behind his apparent immortality. After almost escaping from the brilliantly named ‘Crystal Lake Research Facility’ Jason is placed into a cryogenic sleep by plucky scientist Rowan Lafontaine (Doig) who finds herself frozen along with him. Cut to the year 2455 and Jason and Lafontaine are discovered by an archaeology team exploring the now polluted and destroyed earth.
To cover much more of the narrative would spoil a large part of the fun of Jason X, not only because there isn’t much more plot on offer but because watching the tale of Nano machines, robots and dismemberment unfold is ridiculously good fun. Half of what makes Jason X so enjoyable is watching in twisted pleasure at just how ridiculous the film makers are willing to make the entire experience. Luckily however the lunacy is delivered with enough skill and clear love for the source material that Jason X is heightened to the status of ‘cult classic’ and not ‘shameless cash-in’. It’s not going to win any awards, it’s not particularly well written or even well-acted but Jason X is earnest enough to get away with being a “bad movie” because it’s such a fun experience.
There were a few times during my 90 minute love affair with Jason X that I felt a massive Joss Whedon (of Buffy the vampire Slayer and more recently Avengers Assemble fame) vibe. There’s a kind of lighthearted approach to the film that makes it all the more enjoyable, like the filmmakers are in on the joke too so it’s okay to laugh without feeling too bad.
The plot manages to nod at Sci Fi favourites such as ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Aliens’ while delivering a number of brilliantly brutal kill scenes, the staple of any great slasher . In fact the now infamous ‘frozen head’ kill in Jason X is one of my personal favourites in all of horror cinema. The whole film is packed with enough blood and guts to satisfy all but the most sadistic of gore hounds, and the Sci Fi setting is a breath of fresh air in a genre packed with deserted schools and murky swamps.
I can’t stress enough just how much of a treat Jason X is. It may be a cheesy treat that is pretty bad for your health, but that’s what makes it all the more enjoyable, and it owes a lot of its guilty pleasure factor to its Sci Fi setting.
While it may get a lot right, there are some elements of Jason X that seem out of place in a cinematic release. Although the film had a proper studio budget the whole thing has this kind of low visual quality which makes Jason X look more like a particularly gory episode of Farscape than a full blown movie. This isn’t a major issue, and indeed a lot of the cinematography and special effects are perfectly serviceable for most of the movie , it just a shame that some parts of Jason X look more like a porno than a slasher flick. It’s simply a film stock quality issue however and in a way it just adds to the films’ campy, B movie charm.
Along with the questionable cinematography Jason X suffers from some pretty awful performances, outside of the core cast most of the actors seem like their either phoning it in or are so inexperienced they shouldn’t be in front of a camera. Of course this isn’t a huge issue when most of these people are going to be brutally assaulted by a now ‘hi-tech’ Jason Voorhees but for the few scenes where these people are trying to portray real emotions or deliver dialogue, it’s all very cringe worthy.
It’s hard to be too tough on Jason X. I love the film for what it is, a silly and completely brainless slasher flick that’s doing its best to cater to fans of the franchise. The negative elements of the film like the bad acting, laughable set design and low fi visuals are what I want out of a film like Jason X. They all combine together to make a film that feels like a true B movie slasher, the kind that was pioneered by the Friday the 13th franchise. It was for that reason that I felt right at home with the shameless entertainment that is Jason X .What’s amazing about the film is that even though it was filmed in a new millennium it stands side by side with the other Friday the 13th movies, if this is a good thing or not depends purely on your tastes as a horror fan.
We’ve seen the character in his ‘gritty remake’ and it just felt soulless. Jason X gives Voorhees his big, bloody and bombastic send-off (the ending of the film is truly a sight to behold) that will please diehard fans and series newcomers alike, I loved Jason X when I first watched it and ten years on it’s still able to put a smile on my face.