It All Happens In The Dark

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Just because the whole thing is crazy doesn’t mean it won’t make it on Broadway!


Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)

“We live in claustrophobia, the land of steel and concrete, trapped by dark water. There is no escape, nor do we want it. We’ve come to thrive on it…you can’t get the adrenaline pumping without terror, good people…our lure is a great one young friends, but beware the city of lights has many shadows indeed.”

Oh, Crystal Lake gets deep. The film opens with that voice over (from a radio DJ) and shots of the darkest looking “New York” (we’ll get to that later) since Taxi Driver. A businessman is mugged, druggies are shooting up, everything is steaming and covered in graffiti, rats are swimming in slime, and the lady with the eye patch wearing an afghan at the greasy spoon can’t get the waitress to give her enough coffee.

Before it gets too gritty for us to take, we cut to Crystal Lake. A boat is floating right in front of the ruins of the old camp and two young lovers are inside – Jimmy (Todd Shaffer) and Suzi (Tiffany Paulsen). They are part of the senior class of Lakeview High which is graduating on FRIDAY THE 13TH! and taking a senior trip/cruise to New York city. When Jimmy and Suzi say “I love you” to each other, I wonder – is that a Friday the 13th first? It is quite possible, I believe. Jimmy goes outside to throw the anchor over and wouldn’t you know it, the anchor gets snagged on a big underwater power line. When  he returns Jimmy decides to tell Suzi the history of Camp Crystal Lake since they’re so damn close to it. Strangely in the flashbacks that illuminate Jimmy’s story of Jason drowning, the boy flailing in the lake does not look Jason at all – that is to say he is not Mongoloid in appearance – he looks like a rather “normal” boy. Hmmm.

Surprisingly, the anchor pierces the power line and sends out a surge of electricity which resurrects Jason, whose corpse just happens to be right on top of the power line. And boy is he slimy gross. As luck would have it Jason is able to get a new hockey mask from Jimmy (who brought one along so he could scare Suzi, duh). Isn’t taking something like that to Crystal Lake just asking for a lot of trouble?

I really dug the creepy Jason synthesizer-y water-y sound they used as he swims up from the bottom of Crystal Lake.

I noticed that in this film Jason heaves his chest and shoulders up and down a lot – as if he is breathing heavily. Does he breathe? Is he a zombie, or does he now have a reanimated, working body?

I don’t want to shock anyone here – but what do you think happens to Jimmy and Suzi when Jason wakes up and find them making love right on his lake? Yeah, they’re not going on the class trip.

I don’t dislike this film as much as most people do. One of the major complaints is that we doesn’t even get to “New York” until the second hour (and then it is Vancouver) but I found the bits in “New York” to be the weakest – they are such super fake and over the top interpretations of the city. Yes, Jason Takes Manhattan is bad, but I don’t think it is as BAD as its reputation.

On the day of the cruise, just before the SS Lazarus departs to “New York” with the seniors of Lakeview High, an eye-popping deckhand – a student of the crazy school of Ralph if ever there was one – sees Jimmy and Suzi’s boat drifting nearby with bloody windows. Jimmy and Suzi never showed and douchey guy in charge, Charles McCulloch (Peter Mark Richman) is annoyed by it. (Actually, he’s annoyed by everything – and is annoying.) Chaperon and fellow teacher Colleen Van Deusen (Barbara Bingham) says not to worry too much because the two are probably just exploring each other rather than the city. I like her.

Old McCulloch is also miffed because Colleen has brought along McCulloch’s niece (and graduating senior) Rennie (Jensen Daggett) and Rennie’s dog, Toby. He’s not actually that upset that Toby is on board, more so that Rennie is. McCulloch and Colleen get in a tiff about it – he’s her legal guardian, she thinks Rennie should be able to decide what she wants to do for herself (and Rennie likes her more – maybe because Colleen never tried to drown her).

Amid this discord, Jason just avoids missing the boat! (Why exactly does Jason want to stowaway on this ship? Why does he want to leave the comfort of Crystal Lake? Is his blood lust so great that he simply cannot allow a vessel full of young nubile flesh to pass him by? Or is he in the grip of something greater, something like…wanderlust? Remember when  he visited Alice?)

The captain’s son Sean (Scott Reeves) and admirer of Rennie runs into the soothsayin’ deckhand who declares “This voyage is doomed!”

Those crazy sailin’ kids partake of shuffle board, and clay pigeon shooting and dancing in the disco – and even making music videos! Wayne (Martin Cummins) is a “filmmaker” and J.J. (Saffron Henderson) is a “musician.” They do some shots on deck and then J.J. wants to go down below and check out the acoustics. I am pretty sure J.J. is actually Jem in a dark wig.

Sean and Rennie meet each other on deck and make googly eyes – Sean got her a present – a really cheap looking Statue of Liberty necklace and of course she loves it.

McCulloch finds Rennie and says that it isn’t too late to take her back – I guess he doesn’t want her going to New York or something? She is afraid of water, you see, and can’t swim but she says she doesn’t even know why she is afraid anymore and when it started. McCulloch says facing your fear doesn’t always conquer it.

Rennie begins having visions of Jason as a young boy. Why? Because McCulloch pushed Rennie into Camp Crystal lake when she was a young girl, trying to teach her how to swim and Jason grabbed her and pulled her under and she almost drowned. It was all very traumatic. A better question would be – over the course of the film why does the young Jason go from looking “normal” to deformed?

The adult killer Jason is really cutting his way through the passengers and he takes out J.J. and a student in the sauna, the prom queen and the captain.

Then Jason teleports around the disco and kills Eva (Kelly Hu) on the dance floor. The “teleporting” didn’t bother me – the killers in these films always seems to be everywhere at once anyway – but what did take me out of the moment was when I noticed, as he is strangling Eva, the gloves Kane Hodder is wearing to make Jason appear all corpse-y end midway up his arm and you can quite clearly see the non Corpse-y real skin beneath (which the tattered ends of his shirt are supposed to cover but here don’t).

Sean finds his father dead and declares an emergency, calling everyone to meet at the helm. McCulloch thinks that the deck hand is responsible since he has been spouting off about Jason Voorhees since they got aboard. The few students who remain decide they are sick of listening to McCulloch and leave to gather weapons and look for the killer on their own. Wayne goes down below where J.J. said she was heading and some steam blows off his glasses. It is just like those episodes of Scooby Doo in which Velma would lose her spectacles – and she couldn’t see anything! Not a damn thing! And just like Velma always did, Wayne shoots an innocent person.

Is Wayne one of our first examples of a kid with a camera in a horror film?

Wayne stumbles upon the body of J.J. – and look at that guitar! Jason used it to smash her head in and it doesn’t have a mark on it. That is some fine craftsmanship. Though it is probably now haunted and will turn up in the little shop on Friday the 13th: The Series.

Jason kills Wayne and throws him into a control panel, which causes a fire and sets the whole ship ablaze. But Jason is thoughtful and he sets off the fire alarm.

McCulloch has locked Rennie “safely” in her cabin, where she is having another vision of a young Jason – who is looking more and more deformed. The grown Jason attacks her, shattering the window of her port hole and reaching in to strangle her. The fakest broken glass I have ever seen is featured in this scene.

How many people were there in the graduating class and on the crew of this ship? There are like four non-main characters left at this point – how many people has Jason slaughtered? And how does Jason’s mask suddenly get the ax mark in it from the previous films when it was a brand new mask he got from Jimmy’s boat in the beginning? Did someone take an ax to him on the Lazarus that we didn’t see? Maybe one of the many missing Lakeview High graduates?

As McCulloch is sneaking around with a flare gun in the kitchen you can see the reflection of someone’s head on something metal in the background. I never notice this many goofs in Friday the 13th movies! What is going on!

Rennie is such a poorly written heroine – she’s flaky, she’s all wet (literally) – the slightest provocation or the littlest deluge and she’s whipped. I want more backbone! She made me yearn for some of that crazy old Dana Kimmel Mormon spunk.

The restaurant below deck where Colleen left the four nameless, inconsequential characters is flooded so the group decides to just leave – don’t bother looking for them. Jason probably got them.

The few left – Rennie, Colleen, Sean, McCulloch and Toby the dog – crowd into a lifeboat and we see Jason above on the ship looking directly down at them. Why doesn’t he jump in? Throw his ax? He just decides to stand there and watch them patiently? And how did Julius (V.C. Dupree) survive all that time after Jason threw him overboard? He pops up and climbs in.

Now the film turns into Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat and McCulloch pulls off his mask and reaveals he is really Tullulah Bankhead. OK, so that didn’t happen. But it should have. Why don’t they toss that stupid McCulloch overboard? He’s such a grouch and he won’t stop with the complaining already.

The “survivors” row-row-row their way to Vancouver New York and look! It is the Statue of Liberty! McCulloch checks his watch like he has somewhere to be. At the one hour and three minute mark they arrive in the city.

And how exactly does Jason get there? By swimming? As he gets out of the water and stands on the dock surveying his new surroundings he sees a billboard for hockey – a big blown up image of his mask looks back at him. I wonder if he thinks – is there really someone else like me out there? Do I have a brother? Why did mother never tell me? I wonder if Mrs. Voorhees ever warned Jason about the big bad city. He is just a simple country boy remember. And look how far he has come!

The group of “survivors” have been in “New York” for two minutes and they’re already getting mugged. Even though Julius was thrown into the ocean and floating around for God knows how long, he still has his wallet in the front pocket of his jacket. The thugs decide to drag Rennie off and shoot her up with drugs and rape her.

Stupid McCulloch tells everyone to split up, because obviously they are not doing well as a group – a killer is after them, they’re in the ghetto of a strange city – it is alone time!

Jason saves the day and kills the thugs before they can have their way with Rennie.

In another obvious homage to Hitchcock – this time by way of The Birds (they even used the old jungle gym set from that film in Jason Goes To Hell, you know – which I think is a bit of blasphemy) – Julius is in a phone booth attempting to call for help when Jason appears behind him and punches through the glass.

What follows is a long drawn-out sequence with Julius (who is a boxer undefeated) attempting to hold his own against Jason on a rooftop. What do YOU think happens?

The group somehow reassembles (minus Julius – where could he be?) and they find a cop with a very non-New York accent – they tell him their story and the cop says: “You’re right, I find it a tall tale indeed, but you seem like honest folks, so I’m inclined to believe at least some of what you say.” Really!

They all cram into the cop car and…

… Julius’s severed head is on the dashboard! Ahhhhh!

Why isn’t Sean phased by this?

The cop gets killed, Rennie jumps into the front of the vehicle and speeds off, hitting Jason and crashing into a wall. Sean and Rennie and McCulloch stumble from the wreckage, considerately leaving behind Colleen who perishes in the explosion. Rennie, who through all this still has perfectly coiffed hair, now remembers when her mean old uncle threw her into Crystal Lake. He says he saved her life, but since he was also the one who put it in jeopardy doesn’t that kind of diminish it?

In the end Sean and Rennie and Jason (hmmm…no McCulloch) get to take in all the notable sights of “New York” – Times Square! The Subway! Sewers! – and Rennie stands up to Jason, who morphs into his non-deformed young boy self again. None of it makes sense. There is also magic lightning that strikes the Statue of Liberty. And they are reunited with Toby! It is a happy ending!

Except…yes, they are safe from Jason, but if I was Rennie I’d really be worried about the Hepatitis I probably just contracted from the needle those thugs used on me. And what the hell are she and Sean and the dog going to do now? They don’t have any money since they were robbed and are without their luggage – where will they stay? How will they get home? Will they ever see the real New York? C


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