THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
Directed by Danny Steinmann
“A New Beginning has a giant pair of balls.”
Look, I’ll try to get to the point here. The Friday the 13th franchise has always seemed pretty damn generic. It has always felt cheap and quick, without much studio support in terms of care for the fans or budget. Sure, the same could be said about Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street (and really all horror franchises), but overall, Friday doesn’t match overall in quality. It’s always been the bronze in the horror Olympics. Always good for what they were…B slasher goodness.
With that said, I don’t want to knock the franchise. Overall, it has consistently delivered what the fans what…namely Jason Voorhees slicing folks up with a machete while Crystal Lake sits somewhere in the distance. That’s about it. A simple formula for success. But by the time part four rolled around, producers seemed to have run out of ideas on what to do. The story had run its course with a little kid (Corey Feldman) defeating the unstoppable monster. So instead of allowing something to go gently into the night, the powers that be decided to squeeze a little more blood from it.
For the fifth installment, they went the route of Halloween III and decided to just forget everything that worked before. This is the one without the real Jason Voorhees. Yeah there’s a dude in a hockey mask that kills folk but it’s not really the same. It just feels different and that not because the man in the mask is barely scene. Actually, A New Beginning continues the story from part IV, but really, it’s simply a part of it. They took Feldman’s character Tommy and made him grow up which in essence is a great idea because there’s a point to make with Tommy. Part IV ends with everything being ok. With Tommy defeating the evil monster and living despite the odds. But you know, that would really f*ck a kid up. He’d never be able to function in society again after his family is slain and he was terrorized. A New Beginning gets that right and shows the psychological horror. There’s no way that poor dude could be working his summers at Dairy Queen and trying to make out with Susie from down the street. Nope, the kid would have nightmares that nightmares would have.
Anyway, A New Beginning has a giant pair of balls. It takes a lot to steer the fifth installment of a franchise in an entirely different direction. Yeah, I already said Halloween did it, but in a way it made sense when they did it. John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis’s storylines were complete, and Carpenter had the idea of telling a new “Halloween” based story every year, thus making it the Tales of the Crypt of the cinema. But for Friday, Jason Voorhees was a household name. He was the franchise because the storyline was so damn thin which is why they still needed the man in the mask and not allow room for a random killer with a new mask. Hell, they only show him in dream sequences for the first 70 minutes of the movie! Most of it shows the killer's hairy arms, which actually increases the tension. We assume it's Jason (his face is on the poster), but we really don't know.
Now if there’s one thing about the Friday the 13th movies it that there’s plenty of bad here. The acting is absolute shit. I know it’s the 80s and all, but man, is it crap: the fat kid, the black kid, the stuttering kid, the punk girl, the nerd kid, the tough kid, the psycho kid…all goofy bad. It doesn’t really matter what role because they’re all awful in terms of acting. The worst is the redneck mom and son who live outside the boundary of the camp for damaged kids. Their scenes are painful because they’re so over the top that it takes me out of a horror movie and into a Porky’s film. But my favorite bad moment is the rebel who is killed while waiting to pick up his waitress girlfriend. Talk about bad casting. The guy is like 42 with a mustache, balding, sporting a demin jacket, and snorting blow. What a loser. Seriously, watch that scene. It’s like someone owned him a favor on the set and gave him a role. (My second favorite is Reggie's (the black kid) older brother. He's like a rejected extra from Purple Rain who really loves enchiladas.) But its not all bad. John Shepherd, who plays the teen version of Tommy, is convincing. He nailed the tormented, no where to turn teen. Without him, I don’t think this movie could have been saved.
On the same note, without Jason appearing in 80% of the movie, the film remains completely dependent on the deaths, which deliver in a simplistic manner. Nothing really elaborate here. When I rewatched it, the scenes were actually pretty refreshing. Not everything has to be so over the top. Simple sometimes is more effective. Just solid gore and machete work. Very blue collar. And you know, as the credits rolled part of me almost wants to see this remade with Feldman in the role. It’s not that far fetched really. Give the golden child another shot at the big time. I'm surprised he hasn't been brought on board one of the many remakes out there, it'd be fun to see what he could do. Then again...maybe not. However, one thing is for sure. We need Jason back on the big screen.
Disagree? Buy the DVD and discover for yourself.