Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen
I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a huge fan of the slasher subgenre. No movies better exemplify the genre than the Friday th 13th series. Like any series that goes on long enough, we’re going to have high points and low points. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (also called Friday the 13th: A New Beginning) is widely considered one of the lowest points in the franchise. Lucky me.
There are a lot of problems with a movie like this for someone like me, who genuinely prefers to write about narrative and aspects thereof. This movie has a narrative, technically, but there’s not much more to it than “people discover big, scary dude and are then killed by him.” There are bigger problems here for the entire franchise, though. Friday the 13th: The New Beginning exists in many ways outside of the continuity of the rest of the franchise.
How is that the case? Well, first of all, Tommy Jarvis (played initially by Corey Feldman and then in the bulk of the movie by John Shepherd) is the person who more or less killed Jason in the previous film. He’s back this time, but he’s also back in the next film without any evident memory of this one. It’s like this film exists in a different timeline from the rest of the series. It’s also problematic and outside of the rest of the franchise timeline in the sense that our killer is not Jason Voorhees or his mother. In that respect, this is very much like the out-of-continuity ridiculousness that was the first Nightmare on Elm Street sequel.
So let’s talk about what little plot there is. Tommy Jarvis, we learn, has been in and out of halfway houses and mental institutions since he dealt with his Jason Voorhees problem. As the movie begins, he’s been remanded to Pinehurst Halfway House, where we meet all of the other troubled teens and the staff. Should I name them? Well, let’s mention Reggie (Shavar Ross), who is younger than everyone else, so is a prime candidate for surviving; and Pam (Melanie Kinnaman), the assistant at the facility and our obvious final girl. Everyone else is machete fodder, almost.
I say almost, because we’re actually going to have a non-hockey mask killing right away. House member Vic (Mark Venturini) puts an axe into the back of fellow housemate and resident fat guy Joey (Dominick Brascia). From there, we’re going to get murders that are more in the line of what we expect, at least in the sense that they are being committed by someone wearing a hockey mask.
And really, that’s pretty much it. Everyone we see who isn’t one of the two characters mentioned above or Tommy is going to be fair game and grist for the Jason mill. However, this movie also manages to punk out on the two things that make most people who watch these movies want to watch these movies. There’s limited nudity, and what there is isn’t that great. Second, and a much bigger issue for a slasher film, the kills are surprisingly tame. What I mean is that in virtually every case, the camera pans away from the money shot. I’m not a gorehound, but seriously, the reason to watch these movies is the body count. When we get little more than a raised machete, a sound effect and then, maybe, a body, it’s disappointing on that front—which is the main front for a slasher film.
There are also problems in terms of the characters. Many of these characters are pure caricatures. These are not believable people, but extreme character types that are played for a kind of desperate comic relief. For instance, the foil for the halfway house is the mother/son pairing of Ethel and Junior Hubbard (Carol Locatell and Ron Sloan). These two are as close as you’re going to get to backwoods stereotypes. When we first meet our axe victim Joey, he’s shoving chocolate bars into his face, and he’s covered in chocolate like a six-year-old. It’s so low rent and amateurish.
I don’t love this series as a general rule, and I haven’t been that shy about saying this in the past. Slashers aren’t really my cup of blood as a rule; I tend to like my horror movies a lot more cerebral and a lot more psychological. But I understand the appeal, and while I’m going to like these less than the average person in a lot of cases, I’m also able to recognize what makes a slasher good. There’s pretty much nothing here that makes this movie good.
Why to watch Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning: Well, if you’ve watched the first four…
Why not to watch: In a series with a lot of low points, this is in the running for the lowest point.