Friday, August 13, 2021

Retro Movie Review - "Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives" (1986)


It’s Friday the 13th and You Know What That Means
When the thirteenth day of a month lands on a Friday it goes without saying that any good fan of horror flicks knows what they are supposed to do.  Luckily for us here at Uphill Both Ways, Popcorn Frights Film Festival is screening Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives for its 35th anniversary which provides us an extra reason to visit Crystal Lake.  Who says the number 13 is unlucky?!?

Picking up after an unspecified length of time from the events of the preceding entry (in which paramedic Roy Burns adopted the Jason Voorhees persona after going off the deep end following the death of his son at the hands of the real Jason), Tommy Jarvis (Thom Matthews) has been released from the mental hospital in which he’d been placed since the ending of the fourth movie wherein he killed Jason with multiple machete chops). 

Seems that Tommy, along with his buddy Allen (played by Ron ‘Horshack’ Palillo), figure that Jason being buried isn’t good enough and only once his body is utterly destroyed will he truly be gone. However, as often happens when digging up a corpse, a thunderstorm rolls in and, just as Tommy freaks out at seeing Jason’s body and begins ramming a metal fence post into his body, a bolt of lightning strikes the metal post and reanimates Jason a la Frankenstein’s Monster.  Thanks a lot, Tommy!

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 35 years since Tom McLoughlin brought us the sixth - and some may say best - installment in the Friday the 13th franchise.  There’s nothing remarkable about Part VI in that it’s not a genre-defining film. It doesn’t feature Oscar-worthy performances, it doesn’t introduce some heretofore seen cinematic stylings, and it doesn’t feature scripting or dialog that future writers would use as shining examples of how to write a movie. 

What it DOES have are a few things that most slasher films don’t;  It bucks the trend by having no nudity (a minus in some people’s books, probably), and what sex there is isn’t treated like an act that deserves punishment by way of impalement, disembowelment, or decapitation.  Heck, it’s even got shootouts and car chases!  By taking a slightly different route to get us to our destination, McLoughlin manages to make the movie fun, yet still incorporating the expected sub-genre tropes.
It tells you, right as the movie starts, that this is going to be a bit different as we see Jason stroll onto the screen like a slasher version of James Bond, stopping to turn and slash with his machete instead shooting with a Walther PPK.  Things even get a bit meta when, after discovering the now-empty grave of Mr. Voorhees, the graveyard groundskeeper says “Why’d they have to go and dig up Jason?" before looking directly at us - the viewer - and adding "Some folks have a strange idea of entertainment”.   Purists of the sub-genre might not approve of the unexpected path, but there is still plenty of expected blood, gore, and kills to keep them happy.
All-in-all, Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives is a breath of fresh air for the franchise - something it sorely needed after the previous film - and it brought Jason into the realm of the supernatural which allowed for wiggle room in following entries when it came to explaining some things (except for that ending to Jason Takes Manhattan, but the less said about THAT, the better).  If you’ve never seen this, or maybe just haven’t seen it in a long time (it HAS been 35 years since it came out in theaters), now is a perfect opportunity to rectify that.

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives screens as part of Popcorn Frights, which runs on both the big screen in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and online nationwide from August 12-19, 2021. For more information, visit www.popcornfrights.com

reviewed by Mike Imboden

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
Directed by: Tom McLoughlin
Written by: Tom McLoughlin
Producer by: Don Behrns
Genre: Horror
Starring: Thomas Mathews, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen, and C.J. Graham
Runtime: 86 minutes
Rated: R
Release Date: August 1, 1986

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