Director: Adam Marcus
Writer: Jay Huguley and Dean Lorey
Starring: John D. LeMay, Kari Keegan, Allison Smith, Steven Culp, Billy Bush, Kane Hodder, Erin Gray
After the abysmal Part VIII to the Friday the 13th series it took four years for Jason to make it back to the big screen, which was the biggest gap between films in the series up to that point. During that time the rights reverted to the financiers of the original film, who then sold it on to New Line Cinema (who were making the A Nightmare on Elm Street series), in order for original director Sean S. Cunningham to make Freddy vs. Jason. Production on that film didn’t start straight away and in that time Wes Craven started working on New Nightmare, delaying the intended crossover even further. Due to this Cunningham started working on a film that would set up Freddy vs. Jason in order to bend the studio’s arm to make the actual film.
Ironically the disappointing box office of both Jason Goes to Hell and New Nightmare delayed the crossover even further and it would be another ten years before the pair would meet fully, although the ending to Jason Goes to Hell does tease Freddy’s arrival. Another interesting thing to note about the rights moving to New Line from Paramount is that New Line only acquired the rights to Jason the character, the name Friday the 13th was kept by Paramount, which is why part IX is called Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday and the sequel would be called Jason X. It’s strange that it happened that way, but eventually Paramount reclaimed the rights to make the remake in 2009.
Now that some backstory is out of the way, it’s time to actually write about Jason Goes to Hell. In all honesty this is one of the best, if not the actual best, entry to the Friday the 13th series. Up to this point the series was running on fumes and the God-awful Part VIII had really run the series into the ground. Moving the series into new hands, the Cunningham coming back as a producer, and a different take on the Jason story really breathed new life into the series. It’s actually engaging, tense and fun to watch.
It starts off in a standard fashion, Jason’s back again with no explanation and he’s back in Crystal Lake. We follow a lone woman who has a shower, because what’s a Friday the 13th film without pointless nudity (and this scene is especially pointless with what’s coming). Jason attacks her and then she runs out of the house, escaping the masked killer. It turns out that she is actually an FBI agent who is luring Jason to his doom. Attacked from all sides Jason is killed, all before the opening credits appear on screen. It’s during his autopsy that things get interesting when the coroner Phil (Richard Gant) is processed by the spirit of Jason, after being mesmerised by his still beating heart and eating it. Jason, using the body of Phil, travels back to Crystal Lake in order to be fully resurrected.
Instead of Jason just murdering a group of teenagers, due to an old grudge that somehow was the driving force for seven sequels at this point, he has an actual motive for what he’s doing. The body that he’s possessing won’t last long, and he needs to go back to his home town to find a permanent way to survive. Just having an actual goal makes this film a lot more engaging than most entries to the series. As Jason is just in another human’s body he’s scarier. People feel safe around him, they don’t know who they can trust. And most importantly when he attacks, the other characters are able to fight back without immediately dying and that ramps up the tension, which had been missing massively in the series.
Yes, there is the usual high body count, but a lot of the kills are a lot more memorable and entertaining. It’s also great to have actual characters as the heroes instead of walking targets for Jason to attack. They’re likable and you actually want them to survive. This is the first time since Alice faces Pamela Vorhees back in the original, that it feels like there’s actual stakes. That it’s not just bland characters being hacked down.
It may not be as funny as Part VI, but it’s a really decent slasher film that’s actually enjoyable and entertaining to watch. By far the strongest sequel in the series, and arguably even tops the original. It took nine films for an original idea to be introduced into the series, but it really works. Jason as a spirit possessing others is worth the wait.
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