Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
★★★ / ★★★★
Completely ignoring the embarrassment that is “Friday the 13th: A New Beginning,” writer-director Tom McLoughlin takes control of “Jason Lives,” a riotously entertaining slasher flick that offers not only blood and guts but also self-awareness of how stale the series has become. It needed new life. And so it takes a tongue-in-cheek approach right from the opening scene. Tommy Jarvis, now an adult (Thom Mathews), wishes to ensure that Jason is truly dead and has zero chance of coming back. His plan: Dig up Jason’s body and cremate it. But childhood trauma gets the best of him and the angered Tommy impales the corpse with a metal pole. Lightning strikes and the undead Jason rises from the grave. How’s that for irony?
The energy is on a high level right from the get-go—a trait that is new for this long-running series. It moves briskly so it gives the impression that it knows precisely what it wishes to accomplish in each passing scene and when to reach its final destination. It just so happens that the journey is peppered with satirical jabs aimed at the more laughable aspects of the franchise. For example, we meet a pair of counselors on the way to Camp Forest Green, formerly Camp Crystal Lake. They become lost somewhere in the woods (naturally). The passenger claims, half-jokingly, that they should get out of the car and start screaming for help. Meanwhile, the driver sees a figure wearing hockey mask and insists that they drive away immediately because she has “seen enough horror movies” to know that it wouldn’t be a good idea to proceed.
There are multiple examples of the screenplay poking fun the series as a whole. The joke on top of the joke is this: Due to the nature of the film, a slasher movie will unfold exactly how we expect it to—given that the viewer has seen enough of them. There is a reason formula exists. Because it works. It is not cynical, just aware of the unwritten rules. In other words, what matters more is the execution. In “Part VI,” the filmmakers embrace the rules, laugh at them occasionally, and stretches it a bit. The occult angle—zombie and super-powered Jason—is a risk that is made to work through sheer forward momentum. Notice there is not a single slow part in the movie. In previous installments, particularly “III” and “V,” at least half of the picture drags.
Mathews is a solid Tommy Jarvis. I felt as though he watched the Corey Feldman role closely as the young Tommy in the enjoyable “IV: The Final Chapter” and made it his own. What he retains is that vivacious spunk that made Feldman so lovable and memorable. It is the correct decision to drop the tortured adolescent schtick that made “V” such a slog. Here, we get a determined Tommy who just so happens to share funny moments with Megan (Jennifer Cooke), the sheriff’s daughter, who appears to fall for him from the first time she sees him… behind bars. Megan is one of the counselors of Camp Forest Green. Children are due to arrive the next day—which ups the ante because up until this picture, kids never showed up at the camp. Something about the counselors ending up dead a week or so before camp officially starts.
“Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives” may not boast the most brutal and gory deaths, but it is the most fun, arguably alongside “IV,” up until this point. Unstoppable Jason—one who doesn’t feel pain, who doesn’t die—is introduced here. And so due to the occult elements being more pronounced, I felt a certain level of freedom here that is absent from its predecessors. Six movies in and the series is able to offer freshness. That’s a rarity and shouldn’t be overlooked.