I’ve waited a long time for this (cracks knuckles). This argument has been a long time coming, but I know that I’m ready (cracks neck). I’m ready to make a case for an overlooked, often derided film from the Friday the 13th series (tapes fists). That’s right, I’m here in defense of Friday the 13th Part VII – The New Blood. And you know what? I’m confident that I’m going to sway at least a few of you (does series of calisthenics so as not to pull a muscle).
Usually mocked as “Carrie vs. Jason,” many people dismiss this entry as a sloppy attempt by an FX guy trying his hand at directing. Most know that John Carl Buechler places the blame on the MPAA for cutting out all of his beloved gore, but they are often quick to point out that the movie had nothing going for it but the gore. Perhaps there’s an argument to be made there, but I think there is still a lot of fun to be found in this movie regardless of the gore, and it starts even in the opening frames.
“There’s a legend ‘round here”
The New Blood reels me in right off the bat with the best opening montage of the series, due in no small part to hiring Walt “Crazy Ralph” Gorney to do the narration. And rather than reprising his “you’re all doomed” shtick from the original Friday the 13th, Gorney plays it straight in a way that works much better for the situation (although he does sneak in mention of a death curse).
While Gorney’s doing his thing, we’re treated to a greatest hits montage with some of Jason’s most iconic scenes from the first films (minus the original where mommy dearest was doing the killing and Part V, where it was pseudo-Jason). Of course, the focus shifts to the meat of Part VI to get us up to speed, before Walt sends us off with one last warning: “People forget, he’s down there... waiting.”
Jason’s Battle Damage
Continuing the nods to Friday the 13th mythology, Jason’s look in The New Blood is one of the best in the series. Even those who don’t like the movie often acknowledge that it’s one of the strong points, but they don’t necessarily acknowledge the respect it gives to earlier installments via nods to the various injuries dealt to Mr. Voorhees throughout his tenure as Camp Slasher. Of course, we have the propeller damage to the mask from Part VI, but we also get the ax damage harkening all the way back to Part 3. Jason’s been through the wringer over the years, and it shows here in delightfully macabre fashion.
“There Goes the Neighborhood”
The most common knock against The New Blood is that there isn’t a likeable character to be found in the movie. Many fans enjoy Friday the 13th movies the most when you have relatable characters that you can get invested in before they get bumped off. But after six movies, Jason transcends the role of bad guy and essentially becomes the star of the flick. Everyone else is cannon fodder, and we get writing that acknowledges that fact. Hell, our male lead, Nick (played by Kevin Spirtas), pretty much lays the script’s cards out on the table, sighing his entire life story out in a run-on sentence about being with a bad crowd and going to night school. Bad writing? Perhaps. But I’d argue that it was a deliberate choice to say we’re not getting into a character study with this movie, even by Friday the 13th standards.
All of the film’s secondary characters are written so delightfully horribly that it’s fun to watch (with the exception of Eddie the obnoxious sci-fi geek, perhaps the worst character in the entire franchise). Hell, even the snotty mean girl Melissa is somehow endearing in her awfulness, maybe because all accounts of the late Susan Jennifer Sullivan are that she was actually quite pleasant in real life. But, of course, none of these people holds a candle in the “love to hate them” department to Dr. “Bad News” Crews.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the fact that this movie stars none other than Bernie Lomax himself (sure, his real name is Terry Kiser, but honestly, he’ll always beBernie to me). Do I watch this movie imagining that The New Blood is actually an origin story for Weekend at Bernie’s? You’re damn right I do, and it absolutely tickles me. Look for my fan edit to come out next summer.
But, what’s more, I think Dr. Crews is one of the all-time great horror movie scumbags. This is a guy who drags a mentally unstable girl out to the scene where she inadvertently killed her father under the pretense of helping her, but of course he’s just looking to exploit her for his own personal gain. As if this weren’t enough, he uses this same girl’s mother as a human shield the first chance he gets when confronted by our favorite anti-hero.
Crews’ vibe is very reminiscent of another genre proto-dick, Aliens’ Carter Burke. Both are arguably more evil than their respective series’ primary villains. By this point, Jason, like the Xenomorphs, is just kind of doing what he does. But Crews, like Burke, is willing to put any number of people in harm’s way for his own personal gain. Put another way, at least you don’t see Jason screwing people over for a percentage.
Carrie vs. Jason Works, Damn It!
I understand that for most fans of the series, pitting Jason against a girl with telekinetic powers doesn’t just jump the shark, it then crashes into a mountain made of more sharks. And I know that this seems a poor substitute for the Freddy vs. Jason movie that was in the works at the time (hey, it only took a year or 15 for that to get off the ground). But I have to admit that I’m a Tina fan, and I enjoy the twist of having a final girl who can dole out a little punishment.
What’s more, Tina’s visions add a nice layer of creepiness to the proceedings. Picture, for example, driving down the road only to catch a vision in your headlights of some zombified goalie impaling your mother with a tree trimmer. Some people may not like having a dash of surrealism dropped into their undead slasher soup, but I enjoy seeing them shake things up a bit.
Going back to the idea that Tina gives as well as she gets, I think this element is the reason that Kane Hodder truly shines in his debut turn as Jason. A lot of people dig the rage he brings to the role over the course of four movies, but the reason he works best in The New Blood is that it’s not just rage. There’s an element of exasperation for Jason as he tries doing his thing, but now here’s this freak that can fling nails at his head and set him on fire with nothing more than an intense look on her face. This isn’t how it’s supposed to go, and Hodder’s great at conveying how much this particular turn of events really pisses him off.
One thing that seems to be commonplace among fans of the Friday the 13th series is that their favorite entries often coincide with which ones they saw first. I must admit that this kind of nostalgia likely factors into my enjoyment of The New Blood. It’s one of the earliest movies that I remember watching with my mom when I was around five years old (let’s hear it for the old USA Network Friday the 13th marathons!). But I will always maintain that while The New Blood may not be the most elegant movie in a series that was never that elegant to begin with, I respect Buechler for working within his strengths. He created a movie that features a series of fun kills that show off his impressive abilities with fake blood and latex. For that, I’ll always respect this movie that just kind of said “screw it” and managed to be an entertaining dumpster fire that still brings me joy to this day. Except Eddie. To hell with Eddie, I’m glad he’s dead.Next: Deadly Pleasures: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD (1989)