Director: Rob Hedden
Writer: Rob Hedden
Starring: Jensen Daggett, Scott Reeves, Barbara Bingham, Peter Mark Richman, Martin Cummins, Gordon Currie, Alex Diakun, V.C. Dupree, Saffron Henderson, Kelly Hu, Sharlene Martin, Warren Munson, and Kane Hodder
Before the film entered production different ideas where being floated around for what the eighth entry to the Friday the 13th series would be. A full-on sequel to Part VII was on the table, with Tina returning to fight Jason once again, but that was thrown away and instead, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan was given to Rob Hedden who’s main idea was to get Jason away from Crystal Lake, while also harkening back to the original, done through visions of Jason drowning as a child.
Jason is back yet again, brought back to life with electricity like Frankenstein yet again, but this time he’s left Crystal Lake and is in Manhattan. Well for a little bit at the end he is, for the most part Jason is on a boat and it’s as stupid as that sounds. To be honest a cruise ship that a school is taking its graduating students on to travel to New York. We get to spend an hour and three minutes going out of our minds with boredom as Jason kills student after student on the boat, and then they arrive at Manhattan and things start to get a little more interesting, but don’t worry, it’s still mind-numbingly dull. Apart from a couple of scenes on Times Square, this could have been set anywhere. It completely wastes the potential of the location. Writer and director Rob Hedden actually had much bigger and better ideas for Manhattan, but due to budget constraints these didn’t happen, with more time instead, being spent on the boat.
God, that first hour is so dull. There’s literally nothing good about it. The kills are beyond bland, that they’re not even trying. It could be really scary and claustrophobic to see Jason chase and kill a group that has no where to run to, but it doesn’t get close to being tense. The tensest thing about it is wondering if you’ve died and hell is just watching this never-ending trash. When they eventually get off the boat onto a small rowboat heading for Manhattan there’s a brief moment of relief where it feels like the film could be over, and then you realise that Jason hasn’t even reached the holy titled destination. It honestly feels like more than ninety minutes has passed at that point, but we still have forty to go.
It’s not all complete trash though, because the Times Square scene is good, and shows that the film could have been really great if the budget wasn’t so restrictive. There’s another scene on the subway that could have been tense if the film wasn’t so tedious before it. The rooftop scene is probably the highlight, when Julius (V.C. Dupree) is stuck and tries to fight Jason, who just stands there and takes punch after punch, before decapitating Julius in one punch. It’s really drawn out, which makes the kill that much more satisfying. The small snippets of a good film are just hidden under layers of absolute toxic waste. Which segues into Jason dying by melting in waste in the sewer, in possibly the stupidest ending of the series, or slasher history.
Jason just isn’t scary here at all. The kills look rubbish, a lot worse than they did in previous entries, and the bad comedy is insulting. Part VI had some really great funny moments and didn’t take itself seriously, why didn’t it’s two sequels build on that? All we get is stupid things happening with rubbish gore and effects, maybe the idea was that the audience would be too bored to notice. Jason just pops up, even if it breaks the continuity of the previous shot. At several points when he’s chasing someone he just magically appears where they are going next, even though he was behind them moments before. The effects are so disappointing. There’s a moment when Jason slits someone’s throat and it honestly looks worse than the throat slitting in the first one did, from nine years prior.
Another strange thing that is really highlighted in this entry, and I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not important, is when does this take place? New York is presented as the 1980s for sure, there’s even an advert for Tim Burton’s Batman in the background, that was released in 1989 (the same year that this one was released as well). But the film can’t be set in 1989. The first film says it’s set in the modern day, so 1980, it then skips five years for Part II, and then there are multiple other time jumps throughout the series with children turning into adults, so VIII at the very earliest is the late 90s, and more likely the mid-2000s, and yet the characters and setting are very much stuck in 1989. It’s not a big issue at all, but when you’re so bored in the film that you’re trying to figure it out instead of being scared, it’s a sign that that actual film isn’t working as entertainment either.
It may take Jason away from Crystal Lake, but Jason Takes Manhattan isn’t fun to watch. It takes way to long to get going, and by the time Jason gets to Manhattan it’s really not worth the wait. It’s genuinely amazing that this series had so many sequels given that most of them are so bloody awful.
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