Continuing my review of the Friday the 13th film franchise, today I find myself reviewing the 8th film in the series, 1989’s Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. As opposed to my previous reviews, this is going to be a short one because, quite honestly, there’s not that much you can say about this film.
As I discussed in my reviews of both Jason Lives and The New Blood, Jason Takes Manhattan is the product of Paramount’s attempts to revive the Friday the 13th franchise by adding in a gimmick. This time, the gimmick is pretty much spelled out in the title. Jason leaves Crystal Lake, goes to Manhattan, and maybe even get a chance to make his Broadway debut in a revival of Forever Plaid. Seriously, you look at that title and you imagine that Jason going up agaisnt the Taxi Driver and or maybe taking Al Neri’s place as Michael Corleone’s personal bodyguard. Unfortunately, as is detailed in Peter Bracke’s excellent book Crystal Lake Memories, any plans for truly having Jason take Manhattan were abandoned when it became apparent just how expensive it would be to film in New York. As a result, this film is less Jason Takes Manhattan and more Jason Floats Around Aimlessly Until He Somehow Ends Up In Times Square For Two Minutes.
And, in the film’s defense, Jason Takes Manhattan is a catchier title.
As Jason Takes Manhattan begins, we find Jason (played again by Kane Hodder) once again coming back to life as the result of his corpse floating into an underwater power line. Or something like that. To be honest, it’s kind of hard to figure out just why exactly Jason has come back to life. All that matters is that Jason comes back to life and ends up stowing away on a cruise ship that is carrying the graduating class of Lakeview High to New York City. Needless to say, Jason is soon killing everyone on the boat, most of whom apparently die off-screen. (Either that or Lakeview High had a graduating class of 12 students.) The few who survive the massacre (including aspiring final girl Jensen Daggett and her boyfriend Scott Reeves) end up in a row boat and float around aimlessly until they arrive in New York. But guess who is waiting for them in the city that never sleeps?
Several critics consider Jason Takes Manhattan to be the worst Friday the 13th of all time. While I still think that Part 3 is the worst of the series, Jason Takes Manhattan is still pretty bad. Among the film’s many flaws: 1) characters that are underwritten even by the standards of the slasher genre, 2) bloodless kills that, for the most part, fail to make much of an impact, 3) very little of the action actually takes place in New York, and 4) this film features perhaps the most ludicrous and nonsensical ending to be found in a series of films that were famous for their refusal to make sense.
Still, Jason Takes Manhattan is not a total disaster. Jensen Daggett and Scott Reeves make a cute couple and Kane Hodder, as always, makes for an intimidating Jason. As well, even though very little of the film takes place in New York, just the idea of Jason actually taking Manhattan is amusing enough to be occasionally effective. If nothing else, the title inspires you to imagine a better film than the one that you’re watching.
Jason Takes Manhattan was the lowest grossing of the Friday the 13th movies. It’s disappointing box office performance would lead to Paramount selling the franchise to New Line Cinema and to a major change in the character of Jason Vorhees. That’ll all be dealt with tomorrow when I review Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday.