Summer Flashback 1988 continues with one of the staples of 80′s movie summers: slasher flicks. As my memory serves, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street (neither exactly upper tier popcorn fare) had competing films for several seasons in a row. In August of 88, we would get Nightmare 4: The Dream Warrior, which my 12 year-old self preferred to this one. What do I know, though? I’ve not seen over half of this series, and am probably absent on 2 or three of the Fred films too. Never was quite my thing. Frank Whitecastle on the other hand, is our go-to specialist of the macabre and has written a well-reasoned and colorful assessment of Jason’s 88 frolic. Check out those sleeping bag pics at the bottom. Hilarious.
Release date: May 13th 1988
Reviewed by: Frank Whitecastle
Aahh, my beloved Friday the 13th series. If I were stuck on a deserted island and had to pick one Friday the 13th film to watch for the rest of my life, it would definitely be Part VII: The New Blood. Why this particular installment you ask? The 80’s cheese is so prevalent it’s as if the script was dipped in liquefied Velveeta, and there’s a real nemesis for Jason in this one. Yeah, yeah, I know you are probably saying to yourself, “What about the Tommy Jarvis trilogy Frank? Tommy beat him multiple times!” Fair enough, but Jason’s never had to fight someone with actual “powers” up to this point, so I consider this a bit more interesting than the previous installments.
This film continues the (unnecessary) tradition of a handy-dandy intro recapping the events of the last few films, (this time it sounds like it’s been voiced by a crazy hobo-man) complete with the shot of the exploding headstone from Part VI: Jason Lives. After the title sequence rolls past, the movie opens with our heroine, a young Tina Shepherd, terrified of her abusive, alcoholic father and filled with rage at his violent treatment of her mother. She runs from their lakeside cabin to escape the shouting match inside, jumps into a boat and tries to get away while her drunken dad attempts to call her back to shore from the safety of their dock. Unfortunately for him, Tina’s latent telekinetic abilities manifest, calling on the mighty power of bubbles (!?!?) to reduce the dock to splinters, somehow causing him to drown to death.
Flash forward about 10 years and Tina is now on a trip back to that same cabin by the lake with her mother and her doctor (“bad news Crews”) so they can work through Tina’s deep-seated mental issues from witnessing/participating in her father’s death. Dr. Crews has ulterior motives, however, and is mostly interested in agitating her so she can light matchbooks and chuck TVs with her mind, documenting her case all the while in order to move his own career forward. Luckily for Tina, it’s not all bad as there happens to be a cabin next door filled to the brim with teenagers who want to party all night and shag like bunnies.
It’s at about this point in the film that a disturbing memory causes Tina to awaken Jason, who’s been dormant since the prologue 20 minutes ago. Once more the psychic bubbles come into play, this time snapping the chain holding Jason underwater, the remnants of which he wears for the rest of the movie as if it were some sort of twisted necktie. Actor Kane Hodder channels his inner Lon Chaney Jr. again and plays the hulking monstrosity to a tee, with the FX team working double time to make Jason look like he’s been rotting away in his lake prison all this time, as his spinal column and ribs are showing gruesomely.
The rest of the movie plays out very predictably, with a nice mix of Jason working with his hands (featuring a head squish and a punch that goes through a victim’s chest) and other tools (unfortunately for the kids, that darn tool shed is pretty well stocked). Some of the highlights include a sleeping bag smash against a tree, death by weed whacker, the creative use of a party blower, Oh and of course, there are a few interesting uses of tent stakes. The crowd-pleasing machete is prominent in the film as well since a pair of campers decided to bring one with them on their weekend getaway. Seriously though, who brings a machete on a camping trip to Crystal Lake? Very convenient you script writer guys; I see what you did there.
Tina has premonitions of some of Jason’s kills, which cause her to freak out at opportune times for Melissa, the snobby rich kid to make cruel jokes and try to move in on Tina’s man, Nick. Unfortunately things never work out for her, from her pearl necklace being psychically snapped by an upset Tina to ending up as fodder for Mr. Voorhees. For those who think Melissa would look better with an axe in her face, you aren’t wrong.
Eventually the film heads towards an inevitable final confrontation between this girl with psychic powers and the monstrous serial killer. The viewer won’t be disappointed by the various action sequences, from Tina chucking sofas, potted plants and light fixtures at Jason with abandon, to frying him in a puddle of muddy water, to shooting a jar full of nails at his head. The filmmakers have one final WTF moment as Tina’s long-dead father surfaces (having been summoned by more bubble power) to grab Jason and bring him back down to his watery resting place at the bottom of the lake. Oddly enough, the special effect choices for Poppa Shepherd weren’t the wisest, as he looks no worse for wear other than a little greenish-brown paint on his face.
As with every film in the entire series, there are moments of bad acting, bad dialogue and less-than-stellar cinematography but I would argue that you already knew that was going to be the case when you picked up the DVD or Blu-Ray, and that’s probably your least concern. The basic requirements for a Friday the 13th movie are all here, from campy killings to skinny dipping scenes but what separates this one from the rest is the aforementioned protagonist with telekinetic powers, so that this time there can be more of a battle for survival rather than a cheap last minute ploy to trick an unstoppable killer. All in all this is one of the more entertaining entries in the Friday the 13th franchise and though it’s not rocket science it certainly is one I can return to for beer and pizza night again and again.
Check out that sleeping bag scene in motion!
Read our other Summer Flashback articles:
Other PCN reviews by Frank Whitecastle: