It’s been a number of months since I’ve written something here at NickPeron.com. That’s because I’ve been working on a secret project, but more on that some other time. Still, since another Friday the 13th just passed, I — like other horror movie fans — have spent the entire day binge watching the Friday the 13th movies. That’s no easy task since there are 12 full movies to pile through. I started at noon and as I write this at 9:30 PM on Friday night, I’m only at Jason Lives. Still I felt it necessary to take a break from my secret project to write about one of my favourite movies in the series. That movie is Friday the 13th Part 5: A New Beginning.
A lot of Friday the 13th fans capital H hate that movie. I think that’s really unfair, particularly when you hear the reasons. Most of the reasons for the hate is because it’s not Jason in this movie, but an imposter. However, this is the same fan base that also hates Jason Goes to Hell but gives Jason X a free pass (and that movie is unadulterated shit) However, if there is one thing that Friday fans cannot be accused of, it’s having an appreciation for anything different.
But hey, I’ll meet fans at least half way by saying that, yeah, A New Beginning, isn’t a good movie. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t an enjoyable movie. Here are 5 reasons why I thing this movie deserves some love:
5) It Brought the Franchise Back to Its Roots and Tried to Change the Game
When people talk about Friday the 13th they always focus on Jason. Which isn’t hard to do, since he is the star of every movie — except for the first one. Jason wasn’t the killer, it was his mother Pamela. The magic of the first movie, a plot point we’ve all know by heart — and one that has become cliche at this point — is that you don’t know who the killer is until the climax of the film.
The original Friday the 13th wasn’t just a slashed movie, it was a whodunnit movie as well. It kept you guessing the identity of the killer. If you went into the movie cold, with no prior knowledge of the franchise, the movie leaves you guessing who the real killer is. If you watch the movie it leaves you thinking that it might be Steve Christy, or Ralph, they even throw some shade on Bill, the male councillor that’s not Kevin Bacon and not that other really fucking annoying guy who played Ned. They pull a fast one by revealing it to be Pamela Voorhees since she went unmentioned during the whole movie other than a vague reference to Jason drowning at the beginning of the film.
A New Beginning went back to that original premise, the whodunnit, with this movie. Through the course of the movie a number of people — Tommy Jarvis being the most obvious one — they are all a lot of red herrings, very convincing ones, but red herrings none the less. However, the real killer is under your nose the whole time since Roy — the real killer of the film — is lurking around after every killing.
This movie at least remembers that this franchise wasn’t just a mindless killer stalking and murdering teenagers, it was a mystery killer going around and murdering said teenagers. Part of what makes it interesting is finding out who the killer really was.
Also, Roy’s motivations for killing is the same reason Pamela Voorhees killed - He blamed the people at Pinehurst for allowing his son Joey to get killed. You have to admit, the people running Pinehurst were really bad at their jobs, I’d even go as far as say they were the real villains of the movie due to their criminal negligence, but I digress.
This is a re-visitation that hasn’t been done since unless you count that blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene from the Friday the 13th remake that was somehow the worst of the whole franchise.
Let’s also not forget that this movie was going to be an origin story that would see Tommy Jarvis becoming the new Friday the 13th Killer. In retrospect, and after seven other movies, I would have found that a more interesting narrative point than doing the same old Jason-comes-back-from-the-dead-and-kills-everyone trope they’ve been doing ad nasuem for 35 years after the fact. Making Tommy the killer would have allowed for a lot of the same but also new wrinkles to the franchise.
4) It is Over the Top 80s
When you compare the Friday the 13th movies to the Nightmare on Elm Street films one thing could be for certain: You watch an Elm Street film it is so 1980s it hurts. It’s so 1980s it’s the cinematic equivalent of having one of the Thompson Twins sitting on your face and ordering you to eat their ass. When it comes to the Friday the 13th movies, they’re 80s for sure, but not to that sort of level.
That was until A New Beginning. You’ve got Violet with her New Wave music and tu-tone hair, massive walkman, and doing the robot. Then you’ve got Demon, the taco scarfing Thriller era Michael Jason wannabe. Even the over the top and nearly constant barrage of bare breasts puts the movie in the same league of sex comedies of the era, only with more blood and gore. Then there’s the whole scene at the diner where the balding sleazeball is going on a date with the blonde bimbo waitress. It might seem unnecessary except for showcasing that this coupling could only be possible thanks to the miracle of a bunch of cocaine because that’s how greasy guys got laid in the 80s.
How this movie doesn’t get any love for being so quintessentially 80s is beyond me. This movie is about over-the-top 80s as Nightmare on Elm Strreet 3 (or 4 even).
Speaking of this movie being so 80s it hurts, it brings us to our next point….
3) This Movie Has Fun
After the second movie the Friday the 13th franchise started taking a step away from trying to be serious all the time. Some of it was corny and campy, but until A New Beginning was the first movie that was self-aware. It recognizes the fact that, after five movies, nobody is watching these things to get scared. They want to body counts, they want bouncing boobies, they want outrageous kills. These movies were gross fun. This movie starts dipping its toes in to some Troma-esque humor.
The scene where Joey tries to buy friendships with chocolate bars only to get hacked to bits with an axe by Vic is so over the top ridiculous it makes me laugh every damn time. It’s hilarious. The late Dominic Brascia (who played Joey) really sells this whole scene. Right down to scolding Vic for being way out of line.
Then there’s the scene where Demon has to run to an outhouse before he shits himself because of those damn enchiladas. THOSE DAMN ENCHILADAS!
There’s this delusion out there among Friday fans that the only way a Friday the 13th movie can be good is if it’s “serious” all the time. Halloween fans are kind of the same way. I don’t know where this idea comes from because that is seldom the case with these movies. Even after A New Beginning humor became a go-to with these movies until Jason Goes to Hell.
I’ll be the first person to say that when it comes to humor, I like Jason Lives better because Tom McLoughlin does some very great gallows humor, however Martin Kitrosser and David Cohen writing Part 5 is about as close as you could get to having Lloyd Kaufman write one of these movies as we’re likely going to get.
If you can’t enjoy a scene of a due with a Jheri curl taking a taco fuelled dump in an outhouse then I say that you are incapable of experiencing anything resembling joy.
2) The Kills are Just as Brutal as Jason
If you want to go stroke-for-stroke on brutality, Roy was on par with Jason in that regard. In fact, his killing patterns weren’t all that different. Like Jason, he went was actually quite repetitive since most of the kills were done by machete or some other cutting instrument. Stabbing people through the guts or cutting of the throat being the most common ones.
However, it’s the times he gets creative where his brutality really starts to show through. Roy’s first kill in the movie is shoving a fucking road flare into a dude’s mouth. Roy also has a real hate on for people’s eyes when you think about it. There were three characters that were fatally wounded in some way involving their eyes. Tina’s got stabbed through the eyes with an pair of garden sheers. Eddie had a leather strap wrapped around his head and tightened until his head was crushed. Where did the strap rest? Over his eyes. Then there’s sweet old George, that gentle old man had his fucking eyes gouged out.
All of this all kind of comes together for my last point…
1) Roy is a MORE BRUTAL Character than Jason
And the above point also makes Roy a more interesting character and multilayered character than Jason Voorhees or even his mother. The only similarities between he and Pamela are the fact that they wanted to avenge the death of their children. However, consider things this way: The movie leaves us to assume that Roy was a single parent and unable to raise a developmentally challenged child left him in the care of apparent medical professionals who were woefully negligent in the death of Joey. Why Joey (or any of the other Pinehurst kids) were in close proximity someone as violent as Vic just goes to show how bad that facility was.
Here’s the thing: The people running Pinehurst weren’t horny camp councillors, they were professionally trained experts in dealing with troubled children. These were adults. It also makes Roy a more complex character: Do you feel sympathetic for the guy? I mean he could have abandoned his son. But on the other hand, he could have been incapable of raising the child on his own and put him somewhere he hoped the boy would have a better life. ETMs don’t make a whole lot of money despite the fact they’re supposed to save lives, especially somewhere in some rural part of New Jersey. Then when you consider how brutally he murders the people he blames for Joey’s death. They’re so brutal and visceral they had to have come from a grieving parent that genuinely cared about the child. If he didn’t really care about Joey, why murder all of these people after his tragic death?
Then there’s the deaths themselves in this movie. I’m sure the writers of the movie didn’t put much thought into it, but damn is there are lot of subtext there — accidental as it may well have been. There were three consistent types of kills in this movie:The first two were characters getting stabbed in the eyes or having their throats slit. Maybe this is Roy’s way of expressing the ways he failed his son. Nobody knew about his relationship with Joey until the end of the movie because he never said anything. Maybe all the slit throats were an extension of his guilt over being incapable of talking about his boy. The eye gouging was, maybe, the fact that he feels shame for not being able to watch over his son until it was too late. Then there’s the stabbing in the stomach. Most of those kills were done to women. Perhaps Roy was exhibiting his resentment for Joey’s mother not being there. We never know what happened to her, but maybe she left him, or maybe she died giving birth and resented her for getting an “guilt free out” on dealing with Joey. Even the seemingly random deaths have subtexts. He kills Reggie’s grandfather and brother, that could have been intentional. Maybe Ray wanted Reggie to suffer like he has.
What I’m trying to say is this: While most people write Roy off as a one-off character of no consequence, there is actually a lot going on there. But again, you’d have to stop hating on this movie long enough and pay attention to see it. However, another thing you can’t accuse Friday the 13th fans for is recognizing, understanding, or appreciating subtext. Nobody is calling the Friday the 13th films high art, but they aren’t necessarily the mindless slasher movies most people (fans and critics alike) dismiss them as.