Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives
directed by Tom McLoughlin
(Paramount, 1986)

After Friday the 13th, Part V: A New Beginning, this once-proud franchise was in dire need of an even newer beginning, and writer/director Tom McLoughlin really came through -- basically, as far as I'm concerned, saving the series. Not only do we get the real Jason back, he's bigger and badder than ever. We also return to Camp Crystal Lake (now renamed Forest Green in a rather transparent attempt to excise the whole Jason "legend" from the area), where we not only have camp counselors but -- for the first and only time in the series -- actual campers.

Naturally, there's no way to resurrect Jason without resorting to some kind of hokey miracle -- after all, the dude's been rotting in his grave for several years now. Apart from that, though, the script is surprisingly good, and the kills are very good indeed (even though the best parts of many of them were once again toned down and edited in order to secure the film an R rating). On top of all that, McLoughlin was able to sprinkle in some scattered bits of humor in ways that actually worked -- which is no small feat in and of itself.

It's best just to pretend that A New Beginning never happened -- and the fact that Tommy Jarvis is now played by Thom Matthews (the third Tommy in as many movies) makes that a little easier to do. It seems that our boy Tommy has been released from whatever mental hospital he had been living in over the last few years -- but he still has nightmares about Jason (quite understandable). Well, he's sick of all that and returns to the scene of Jason's crimes to dig the monster up and make sure he's thoroughly destroyed. Unfortunately, his little plan backfires and he accidentally brings Jason back to life. Not surprisingly, no one -- least of all Sheriff Garris (David Kagen) -- believes his "Jason's coming" song and dance. No one, that is, except the sheriff's daughter Megan (Jennifer Cooke) -- and that's only because she thinks Tommy's cute.

Well, people start dying in gruesome ways as Jason makes his way back "home," and Tommy takes it upon himself to stop Jason once and for all, a feat which requires a little something extra since Jason is now super-strong and sort of dead and alive at the same time.

Boy, psycho killer-murdering guys fresh out of mental institutions really get the chicks. Who knew? Megan may well be the best-looking girl in the whole series, and she's willing to disobey her sheriff father (and who knows how many laws) just to go Jason-hunting alongside Tommy; heck, she even risks her life for the guy. Looking at the larger picture, though, you can't help wondering why Green Forest (nee Crystal Lake) keeps reopening its camp sites. How many dozens of innocent lives must be snuffed out in that area before people start thinking it might not be safe to send little Johnny to camp there?

On a final note, I have to say that this film features some of the best moments in the entire series. I love the James Bond-inspired opening credits, which come after a surprise appearance by Welcome Back, Kotter's very own Horshack (Ron "Don't Call Me Ronald" Palillo). Then there's the manner in which Jason rearms himself with a machete -- that's probably my favorite part of the entire movie. Of course, there are more subtle moments, as well, such as the sight of one little girl camper sitting up in bed reading Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit. And who could forget the great deadpan line delivered by one of the two "dead meat" boys as they wait to see if anyone can stop Jason from coming in and slaughtering them and everyone else in the room. It's pretty easy to see why many a Jason fan considers this the best Friday the 13th film of them all.

review by
Daniel Jolley

18 September 2010

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