Horror fans are a very particular bunch with particular taste. Not to say we’re picky – you need to watch everything to reserve the right to bitch, but, man, will we have opinions about it. The more consistent debates come with horror franchises like Halloween, Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday The 13th, aside from the former. We all know that the original film stands tall in that series but we’re always raising the question “which one is your favorite?” Well, this week one of these films is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary and provided me with the perfect opportunity to gush over it.
When the question is posed about Friday The 13th, the answers are varying. Some will say the first one, which sets the tone without the main monster of Jason Voorhees appearing until the end. Others may opt for The Final Chapter for the first appearance of Tommy Jarvis or Jason Takes Manhattan which takes the scope of this franchise to a new level. A word to the wise and a general rule, if anyone says A New Beginning you should remove them from your life. You don’t need that kind of person In your life. My favorite film in the series is none of these. Instead, I opt for Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood, a film that tried so much to set itself apart from everything that came before it and, unfortunately, got kind of buried.
Why do I adore this film? Well, the first reason is simply the fact that Kane Hodder made his first outing as Jason Voorhees in this film and added a whole new dimension to the character. His walk was far more menacing, an unstoppable beast with a palpable yet silent determination and that head tilt he would add to his mannerisms is nothing short of iconic now. The man, as much as he could, lived the gimmick. Heck, he’s known to get all “hulked up” on set and chasing actors even after the cut had been called, a dedication to the gimmick and a love for the monster that flows through every fibre of Kane Hodder.
Secondly, John Carl Buechler made this film and if you’re unfamiliar with his work, you need to pick up copies of From Beyond, A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, and Ghoulies because he’s the mastermind behind the effects on that. In his directorial and special effects capacity behind New Blood, he added unique and original kills, great atmosphere and a fantastic look at a water decayed Jason that we hadn’t seen up to this point. Buechler fought for many things in his vision of a Jason Voorhees film, which included pushing for Hodder to replace C.J. Graham in the role and the multiple cuts he begrudgingly made to save the movie from an MPAA enforced X rated cut. Thinking about all that we didn’t see really makes me long for a director’s cut, which, thirty years later, feels like a dream that will go unfulfilled.
Lastly, this entire story really took a chance on being different. Jason finally goes to battle with an opponent who is formidable, even if she doesn’t think so at the start of the film. Tina Shepherd, played by Lar Park-Lincoln, is a psychokinetic teenage girl who inadvertently awakens a chained and water buried Jason from an over ten-year slumber with a psychic nudge. As she slowly gets a grasp on her abilities, the potential battle goes from being very one-sided to an even playing field as this “Carrie versus the monster” type story progresses and that final battle between Jason and Tina on the lake is pretty awesome, even now. Paramount was pushing for a high concept version of Friday The 13th and I think it was delivered on, even if the mainstream doesn’t agree. If only more franchise sequels took a chance like many of these did between 1985 to 1990 and we’d have a different horror landscape today. That’s right, I just called Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood a landmark film. Fight me.