[We're celebrating some of the most memorable horror and sci-fi movies of 1989 this month in Daily Dead's Class of 89 retrospective series! Check back on Daily Dead throughout the rest of August for more special features celebrating the 30th anniversaries of a wide range of horror and sci-fi films!]
Whew! Now, that is a long movie title! We can't close out the 1980s without discussing Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. Coincidentally, Part VIII would be the last movie released in Paramount’s original Friday the 13th timeline (with New Line Cinema releasing Jason Goes to Hell, Jason X, and Freddy vs. Jason, and Paramount returning to unleash the reboot in 2009), and it was released in 1989, the last year of the decade. But, let's not talk so much about the end and focus instead on celebrating what I believe to be one of the most GIF-able slasher movies ever.
Rob Hedden's Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan follows the senior class of Lakeview High School as they set sail towards the bright lights of New York City. It's not long after the Lazarus takes off that good ol' Jason boards the ship to do what he does best: terrorize and kill the unsuspecting passengers on board. Side note: I can't help but notice that the ship's name is Lazarus―a biblical character who was resurrected from the dead―much like Jason after being accidentally electrocuted (for the second time in this franchise) at the beginning of this movie.
Part VIII gets quite a bit of heat from some horror fans, which is completely fine, of course, but it holds a special place in my heart. As I always say, a mediocre slasher film can be enjoyable as long as there are good kills, and Part VIII has a few, including one of the most iconic kills in the series. Played by Peter Mark Richman (Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Twilight Zone), Charles McCulloch―Rennie's (Jensen Daggett) uncle as well as a science teacher at Lakeview High―has an excellent demise by way of drowning in the grossest-looking green sewage imaginable. It's as if Jason was also tired of Charles' overall creepy behavior throughout the movie's runtime. The slow dip of Charles' body into that ooze is still hard to watch.
Then, there is the death of Miles (Gordon Currie), who is somewhat of a redshirt, to be honest, but getting thrown off the top of the ship's mast by Jason and landing sideways on a weather vane is pretty creative. Lastly, the pièce de résistance: Julius' (V.C. Dupree) literal deathmatch with Jason on a NYC rooftop. After fighting as hard as humanly possible, Jason punches Julius' head clean off his shoulders, sending it rolling down into a conveniently open dumpster. And thanks to the documentary Camp Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th, we know that actor V.C. Dupree reminisces fondly on shooting that scene and even kept the mold of his head after the movie wrapped. Witnessing his enthusiasm just adds another layer of enjoyment to a moment that people who don't even enjoy this movie discuss in "Best of" lists.
The last 30 minutes of the movie―you know, when Jason finally takes Manhattan―makes up for what is admittedly at times a rough watch. Some of the story gets bogged down by Rennie's odd hallucinations and some of the acting isn't all that solid, but all those GIFs you see from this movie on social media happen right around this time. There is still nothing like watching Jason Voorhees in the heart of Time Square looking up at brightly lit marquees. It is everything that the movie poster promised. This shot from the movie should be looped just for its sheer awesomeness.
Of course, I cannot forget the GIF given to us straight from Crystal Lake Heaven that I like to call "The One With the Escalator." After arriving at the 8th Street and Broadway station, Jason, now in hot pursuit of the students, begins to aggressively knock down people who are casually riding up the escalator that he is so hilariously riding in the wrong direction. There is also the go-to scene where Jason exposes his face to a group of punk kids listening to rap music on the sidewalk. While I’m not sure why he kicks their boom box over, it could be because he doesn't agree with the song's lyrics that suggest, "Living in the city is no big deal." It's New York City in the late '80s—living in the city was more than a big deal. It was rough, to say the least.
Although Jason didn't actually turn back into his child form after being burned by toxic sludge, Rennie's hallucination does bring his character as well as the eighth installment in the Friday the 13th series full circle. Presumably dead, he is hopefully free from the curse of his trauma and wrath, and hopefully, so are the residents/visitors of Crystal Lake.
Check here throughout the rest of August for more special features celebrating the Class of 89!