Paramount // 1989 // 100 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // September 3rd, 2002
The Big Apple's in BIG trouble.
It was an idea of epic proportions. Since 1980, Jason had been so busy slaying teenagers at Camp Crystal Lake that he hadn't had a chance to take a vacation. When 1988 rolled around, the producers of the series decreed that old hockey head needed to get away from it all...but where? Paris? Hawaii? The Yukon? How about the ever-relaxing New York City? And so in 1989 it was with great fanfare (and tiny box office receipts) that Jason finally took a big bite out of the Big Apple in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. The final installment in the Paramount series (until New Line picked up the tab years later), Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan slices its way onto DVD!
Lakeview High School's graduating class of 1989 is about to embark on the cruise of their dreams...which will soon turn into a voyage filled with nightmares! When the cruise ship Lazarus takes off for sea from Crystal Lake (huh?) one passenger won't be handing over a ticket: Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder, returning once again). It seems that the night before departure Jason was resurrected from his watery grave by a faulty power line, thus paving the way for a trip of terror that rivals being stuck aboard a Carnival Cruise with Kathie Lee Gifford. Aboard this ship are a gaggle of teenagers who love exposing their breasts to the camera, drinking heavily, and snorting cocaine. In Jason's book, this is a big no-no, so he decides to trim the guest list one by one. On par with the rest of the series there's a lone heroine, Rennie (Jensen Daggett), and not surprisingly she harbors a secret link to Mr. Voorhees. Also aboard the ship is a stuffy teacher (Peter Mark Richman), a snotty rich girl (Barbara Bingham), and a wacky deckhand who enjoys telling everyone that "this ship is doooooooooooomed." After sinking the ship and watching a few survivors escape on a life raft, Jason and his new friends all head into the heart of New York City (i.e., Vancouver, Canada) for a race around the subway sewers and one final confrontation between good and evil!
If nothing else, you have to give the filmmakers praise for attempting to try something new, even if they ultimately failed at their goal. The teaser trailer and promo campaign for Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan looked as if we'd finally see Jason leave Crystal Lake and encounter something vastly more terrifying than himself...New Yorkers. Alas, the ads were kind of a cheat -- by the time Jason finally reached the city that never sleeps, the movie was nearly 3/4 over.
So does this make Jason Takes Manhattan bad? No way, Jose. Fans who still want to see Jason hack his way through dense teenagers will be delighted to know that this movie provides the same backdrop as all the other movies, only this time it's on a boat. Jason spends a good deal of time hunting down stupid folks ("Hey, let's split up...it'll be faster that way!") who wander around dark passages practically begging to be slaughtered. And he uses such eclectic items as harpoon guns, control panels, and other blunt objects. Hey, never let it be said that the guy wasn't resourceful.
Then we come to the scenes in New York. Most of the NY scenes were filmed in Canada because...well, because frankly the backdrop of New York wasn't needed. Most all of the sequences take place in either the back alleyways of the city or below the streets in the winding sewage tunnels (I can visualize the producer's discussing this with the writers: "Boys, we don't have the cash to film in New York, so have the action take place somewhere that's dark and cheap to film!"). There are a few scattered shots that take place on the streets, but these are few and far between. Even sadder still is the glimpse at the possibilities had the filmmakers utilized the city more often -- in one scene Jason kicks over the boom box of a street gang, then lifts his mask to scare them away. This is easily the funniest moment of the entire series and it also provides the audience with proof that Jason does have a sense of humor (little known fact: he really likes Boy Meets World).
The cast is once again filled with young teenage faces whose only purpose is to be meat for Jason's grizzle mill. The standouts (no laughing) include Peter Mark Richman as the anally retentive Charles, Jensen Daggett as the cute heroine, and of course Kane Hodder as the ever-present Jason. By this point fans of the series were warming up to Hodder and starting to think of him as the actor to play Jason. Not that it really matters much. I've seen Hodder at horror conventions (yes, I am a big fat geek) and I think the guy takes his job WAY too seriously ("In this scene I was playing Jason as understatedly pensive yet thoroughly melancholy...").
For many fans (myself included), they consider this to be the true end of the series. Both Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday and Jason X feel more like afterthoughts than actual story continuations. If you liked any and all of the previous entries into the series, you'll end up liking Jason Takes Manhattan. Tourist T-shirts not included. ^l Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Out of all the Friday The 13th films, this one looks the best. With solid color patterns and dark black levels, this is an exceptionally fine looking transfer by Paramount. The only quibble I have with this print is a small amount of dirt that shows up every once in a while. Otherwise, fans will be very happy to see Jason looking better than ever!
And now we backtrack. Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood was presented in a newly created 5.1 sound mix. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan goes down a notch to Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround in English and French. Actually, this is a pretty decent mix sporting dynamic range and medium fidelity. Composer Fred Mollin's score comes in loud and clear (Harry Manfredini, where have thou art gone?) and the bulk of the track is free of any hiss or distortion. This mix won't win any audio awards, but for the film it's supporting it works just fine. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
Paramount should be taken to Times Square and beaten repeatedly by crack dealers and hookers for the exclusion of even a single theatrical trailer on this disc. Fans of this final Paramount installment get nana in the way of extra features.
A single tear rolls down my cheek at the thought of this being the last Halloween for Friday the 13th on DVD. The final two films in the series (Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday and Jason X) are being released a month after these Paramount titles which means collectors will finally have the entire library on DVD. Happy happy, joy joy!!! Once again Paramount's work on this title is only mediocre at best -- while the video and audio presentation is fine, the lack of extras will be a sore point for fans.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan is free to go, though deceptive advertising about it taking place in NYC wasn't very amusing.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Rated R