With fans not all that keen on the idea of a Jason imposter, as seen in the last installment, the studio immediately course-corrected and not only brought back Jason as the franchise’s chief antagonist but they also amped up his power level by making him an explicitly supernatural and nigh-unstoppable force, and this undead powerhouse would become the default Jason Voorhees for the remainder of the series.
In a page right out of the classic Universal Horror Movies we find Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews), possibly fresh from a mental institution, on a road trip with fellow nuthouse alumni Allen Hawes (Ron Palillo) to the cemetery where Jason Voorhees is interred, but for what purpose could such a journey have? Well, it seems Tommy needs some closure and the desecrating and burning of Jason’s corpse is apparently the best way to achieve this and, needless to say, things go horribly awry. After digging up the worm-ridden corpse of Jason our “hero” stupidly uses an iron fence post to impale the body which allows Mother Nature to have the last laugh as two bolts of lightning strike the metal post and before you can say “It’s alive!” Jason is brought back to life as some kind of undead monstrosity. Poor Allen is brutally killed – having Tommy as a friend was never going to end well – and then Jason dons his trademark hockey and we’re off to the races.
We then get a credit sequence that puts Jason in the stylized gun barrel logo of your typical James Bond opening and it’s at this moment that we know this entry will be more tongue in cheek funny than actually scary – not that the previous films were all that scary to begin with – and the first two kills following this opening solidifies this comic aspect. The new head camp counselors, Darren Robinson (Tony Goldwyn) and Lizabeth Mott (Nancy McLoughlin) find the roadway to Crystal Lake blocked by Jason’s imposing figure and the girl’s response is “I’ve seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly” which is a nice meta-moment and this aspect would continue throughout the rest of the film. The plot of Jason Lives is pretty basic, we get a panicked Tommy trying to convince the local Sheriff (David Kagen) that Jason is alive, while the Sheriff’s daughter Megan (Jennifer Cooke), who is also one of the new camp counselors, believes him from some inexplicable reason and becomes his partner on the hunt for Jason. The rest of the movie is these two bumbling idiots trying to avoid her dad and the police all the while Jason is racking up a body count in a variety of amusing ways.
• Tommy Jarvis brings gasoline to the cemetery to burn the corpse of Jason Voorhees but in the previous movie we were told his body was cremated. And what happened to Tommy donning the hockey mask at the end of that film? Continuity thy name is not Friday the 13th.
• In fact, this film actually works better if considered as a direct sequel to the fourth film.
• Jason’s tombstone has no date on it, most likely because the time jump between the fourth and fifth movies would make it hard to nail down.
• The county changed the name from Crystal Lake to Forest Green to distance themselves from the history of camp blood, which I can understand, but opening up another children’s camp on the lake was really asking for trouble.
• This movie apparently takes place in 1989 but that’s only nine years after the events of the first film so the idea that Jason is a myth or a legend is ridiculous as even the teens in this movie would have been old enough at the time to be aware of the events at Camp Blood.
• Six films into the franchise and children finally show up at the camp, but as this is a vastly lighter entry none of them are going to die.
• As all the death and carnage can solely be placed at Tommy’s feet he really should have died at the end of this film and as his character never returns to the franchise it wouldn’t have mattered if he was the last victim in the film.
Note: I’m still fuzzy as to how setting the surface of the lake on fire aided Tommy in any way, fire certainly doesn’t have any effect on Jason and it’s not like fighting a burning corpse is easier, basically he’s an idiot throughout this entire film.
The strong comedy aspect of this installment isn’t the only thing that sets Friday the 13th Part IV: Jason Lives apart from its predecessors as this movie also has very little gore and absolutely zero nudity, which is far from a detriment because a shift away from the “Have sex and die” trope is nice, even though a couple do get offed post-coitus, and Jason (C.J. Graham) as an undead monster is an imposing enough threat that you really don’t need that extra bit of gore to sell the horror. This entry didn’t just level up the comedy but the action was beefed up as well, for the first time we see Jason Voorhees tangling with the police and shrugging off bullets as a walking corpse would do. Seeing Jason wiping the campground up with the group of deputy dumb-asses was easily one of the better moments in the film.
Writer/director Tom McLoughlin had a deft hand with the subject matter, balancing both the comedy and the horror elements quite well, and he doesn’t get bogged down in explaining any kind of “Jason Mythology” – the film’s tag line “Evil Never Dies” is all that was really needed – even how Jason is ultimate defeated doesn’t make a lot of sense, and we don’t care, it’s all about the fun. Friday the 13th Part IV: Jason Lives breathed a little fresh air into the franchise in a humorous and entertaining way that would change things forever.
Question: Jason is literally a few feet below the surface of the lake, how is it possible that his body isn’t found immediately by the police who, one assumes, would be responding to the events of the night?
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
Movie Rank - 6/10
The fun satire route they take, one that never goes too far and never makes fun of Jason himself, was definitely the way to go and the action and kills were enough to keep any fan of the franchise happy.