HOLLYWOOD—Continuing our month long tradition of shining the spotlight on some underrated horror gems, this week the focus falls on horror icon Jason Voorhees. Yep, the guy in the hockey mask that made so many of us frightened to go away to summer camp. No, my focus is not on “Friday the 13th” or “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter,” but on “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.”
This is an entry in the franchise that I believe is so underrated it’s scary. Yes, the fourth chapter is heralded because it was the installment where Jason met his fate, at least that’s until the sixth chapter revitalized the killing machine. “Jason Lives” is the first flick in my opinion that knew how to intertwine scary with laughter. That is not something that can easily done in horror, at the same time leaving the audience still frightened. When horror does comedy, we tend to categorize it as a comedy.
This installment not only saw the return of Tommy Jarvis, but Jason in glorious fashion. This was a ghoul beyond all belief that had no possible way of being reincarnated, but through the power of Mother Nature and lightening Jason is re-born. I thought that notion alone was clever. I mean this is 1986 we’re talking about people, so go easy on the creative ideas to rebirth a killing machine.
I think the first 20 minutes of the picture really sets the stage for a bevy of screams. I mean for the first time in franchise, we don’t really get to see the face of the killer? Well he is unmasked in the first 10 minutes, but you can barely see what he looks like.
From there, we are introduced to our camp counselors and the heroine who will save the day. Yes, that is the one thing that falters in this chapter of the franchise. The heroine is too goofy, and not emotionally attached to the audience in my opinion. Megan is a blonde and she’s cute, but beyond that we get nothing else. I hate horror flicks that make the heroine so one note. However, I’d argue the flick makes up for that by interjecting elements of laughter. Not just from Jason, but the adults and even the kids who are well aware that their time at summer camp will be one they’ll never forget.
The addition of placing children in harm’s way is not commonly done in horror, but if done correctly it just intensifies the idea of sheer terror for the audience. Audiences frown upon any genre of cinema that places children in dangerous situations. It’s something that hasn’t changed as long as I’ve been a cinema buff, nor do I ever see it changing. Face it; we don’t want to see children harmed on the big screen. Period! I also like the fact that the violence is a bit tamer in this installment than other entries in the franchise. Are some of the deaths violent, absolutely, but at the same time we don’t see everything splattered in your face.
There are some great scare moments like Cissy getting yanked out the window. I mean the audience knows something is about to happen, but it’s the when it happens that startles you. The same can be said about Paula’s death. The door continues to creak, but we have no idea if Jason is really behind it or not. How can we forget that scene that informs the audience that Jason is no idiot when he bursts into the cabin filled with all the kiddies? He was well aware that Megan or Tommy would come running to their rescue and fall into his trap. Not many people pick up on that on the first viewing.
Yeah, the ending is a bit weak in terms of how Megan dispatches of our unstoppable killer, but I loved the idea of placing him back at the bottom of Crystal Lake. Things could have been a bit more intense for audiences in my opinion. Make us feel that the danger is imminent and survival is a 50/50 chance. For years I’ve always totted “Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan” as one of my favorite horror flicks of all-time.
It’s mainly because I was forbid from seeing it until I was a teen. Now that I reflect, “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives” is far better. While not perfect, it proves to be a sequel that is enjoyable around the scariest holiday of the year Halloween.