Certain movies must be judged by different standards, as they are trying to elicit a reaction from a specific niche within the public, and not create cinematic history or even a quality film. If a comedy is truly funny, then it is a success. If the tenth installment of a tired horror franchise that was nothing more than a rip-off of another tired horror franchise is enjoyable and gory, than it is a success.
“Jason X,” the latest installment of the “Friday the 13th” series, is a success. It wallows in its own exploitive, low-budget, gore-as-pornography glory, taking every opportunity to thrust long metal objects through the supple flesh of whoever happens to be in the area. It is self-conscious and obnoxious, and it holds no pretense of being anything but an awful movie, which it is. But for all the right reasons.
While the previous installment (1993s “Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday”) saw villainous protagonist Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder) destroyed “once and for all,” it is quickly revealed that Jason survived that and several other encounters with the reaper. The avid viewer meets up with the hockey-masked hero in 2000, the year the movie was finished and ready for release, and finds him chained up in a cryogenic laboratory awaiting his own government-sanctioned deep freeze.
This is all spoiled by a creepy doctor (cult director David Cronenberg in a cameo), who shows up in the dead of night (when most government-sanctioned cryogenic research is performed, I’m told) and attempts to take Jason for research. Long story short, Jason kills everyone except the beautiful Doctor Rowan (Lexa Doig), and the two accidentally end up freezing one another, only to be roused in the year 2455.
That’s right, like his erstwhile fellow slashers Pinhead and The Leprechaun, Jason leaves behind his old stomping ground of Crystal Lake to find out just how claustrophobic he can make a spaceship feel.
Conveniently, there are lots of neo-halter-top-wearing young space coeds and anonymously attractive solders for Jason to eat through in his first few minutes of re-animation. The ships inhabitants are the students of Prof. Lowe, (Jonathan Potts) and the military cohorts of Sergeant Brodski, but none of this really matters. Ultimately, theirs a few hot chicks, one of them “the sarcastic one,” another a kick-ass robot. None of them were hired for their prior Shakespearian experience.
Once on the ship, the plot becomes sub-“Alien” garbage, with the crew accidentally destroying a space station, and Jay-bird slowly moving through (or pushing drills through) each character. The joy of the movie is in the gleeful cheesiness director James Isaac moves the film from one spectacularly brutal kill to the next.
Since Jason began slaying salacious teens in the early ’80s, he has always been the most extreme of the “Halloween” rip-offs. He walks and stalks just like John Carpenter’s Michael Myers, and his faceless mask is even less expressive than the backwards prosthesis of Captain Kirk. Yet where the Halloween films (which gets another treatment later this summer with “Halloween: Resurrection”) have clung to the notion that they can replicate the success of the original, the “Friday” folks have decided to embrace the bizarre.
Ever since Jason got out of the woods and into Manhattan in the eighth installment, the filmmakers (including Sean S. Cunningham, director of the original and executive producer on this installment) have understood that Jason, as a concept, has gone from a premiere bogeyman to camp of Liza Minelli preportions.
The reason that “Jason X” works is not because it’s a good movie but quite the opposite, because, like an old-fashioned exploitation movie, it gives the audience what it wants: Blood, gore, terrible one-liners and attractive astronauts not afraid to get down and dirty, even if it results in decapitation.