Right off the top it should be mentioned that at no point is Manhattan taken, Jason Voorhees does eventually make it to the Big Apple but not only does he fail to take the city it barely gets a bite taken out of it. So rest easy dear viewer, for when the end credits roll the island of Manhattan will be perfectly fine and Jason’s tourist stop could best be described as an average Friday night in the big city.
The tagline for this film was “New York has a New Problem” but the real problem here isn’t a machete-wielding maniac but the fact that most of the movie takes place aboard an excruciatingly long boat cruise, one populated by a group of annoying teens. The movie opens with shots of “New York City” that are, I assume, to make it clear to the audience that the city basically consists of alleyways full of muggers and drug addicts, but before we can get too invested in that we jump to Crystal Lake where a couple of horny teens accidentally resurrect Jason (Kane Hodder) by dragging the anchor of their boat into a submerged powerline that then jolts Jason to life.
Question: Do the police around Crystal Lake ever look for bodies? Jason is pinned beneath the remains of a dock in a body of water that is literally crystal clear. It’s in the bloody name people, yet no one notices him and he is just left there?
The supposed plot of this film deals with a high school graduating class setting sail to New York City, aboard a crappy ship that looks more like the Mary Celeste than it does the Love Boat, and for some inexplicable reason Jason climbs aboard and proceeds to knock off various crew members and passengers alike – it should be noted this crew of this ship consists of only four bloody people and I’m not sure how that works – and one of these passengers is a girl named Rennie (Jensen Daggett). This poor girl is our protagonist and she suffers from aquaphobia due to her asshole uncle, Charles McCulloch (Peter Mark Richman), who while trying to teach her to swim tossed her out of a rowboat and into the deep waters of Crystal Lake, where she was almost drowned by the spirit of young Jason Voorhees. And no, I don’t know why the ghost of young Jason is hanging around the lake while his larger alter-ego is murdering campers.
The character of her uncle exists for the sole purpose of continually doubting the existence of Jason and acting like a general asshole while spouting off useful suggestions like “We’ll be more productive if we split up” and to say his death doesn’t come soon enough would be a vast understatement. The mayor in Jaws was more likable than this asshat, but then again, we shouldn’t too hard on him as every other character in this movie is either vastly unlikable or as equally forgettable. Throughout the voyage of the damned Jason kills off random people we later couldn’t possibly pick out of a police line-up – they are simply that generic – and Rennie continues to have visions of young Jason, well, that is until old Jason decides to make a personal appearance.
• Crystal Lake looks more like Vancouver, British Columbia than it does New Jersey, which makes sense considering that’s where they shot it, but they could have at least made a little effort to hide it better. The mountains of New Jersey have never looked so majestic.
• The cruise ship’s name of SS Lazarus is a little on the nose but even worse is the fact that we never get an explanation as to why Jason would decide to stow away in the first place, was he bored with killing campers and wanted an adventure on the High Seas.
• This entry brings us a new “Harbinger” with one of the deckhands proclaiming “This voyage is doomed” so he’s clearly not a member of the tourism board.
• One of Rennie’s idiot classmates hunts for Jason with a gun in one hand and a video camera in the other. Could he have predicted the “found footage” genre?
• Jason once again rising from his watery grave is more believable than his ability to wander around such a small ship unseen.
Not only does this movie fail to deliver on the promise of “Jason taking Manhattan” it also fails to provide us with a passable Friday the 13th movie, for most of the running time we have Jason stumbling around lethargically killing people as if he’d rather be doing anything else, possible hunting kids in Haddonfield or on Elm Street, and when he finally arrives in New York City we only have about ten minutes left of the movie. So to recap, we get about 75% on the bloody stupid boat, another 15% with our cast of idiots wandering around barren dock works and even the final 5% of the movie, which does take place in New York City, is either in the subway tunnels or a sewer.
I’m sure director Rob Hedden was greatly hamstrung by his budget – though strangely enough, it was the most expensive in the series up to that point – and trying to come up with new and interesting things for Jason to do can’t be all that easy, but anything would have been better than this. At one point in the film, Jason is so focused on killing our two protagonists that he doesn’t even consider killing the dozens of New Yorkers he runs past. Is he shy about killing people he hasn’t stalked before? This movie is laughable bad when it’s not being colossally boring as it produces one “what the fuck moment” after another, right up until the biggest “what the fuck” in the series, where we get Jason engulfed in toxic sewage and then reverting to his child form.
Jason Takes Manhattan is guilty of selling the audience a bill of goods and then failing to deliver on any of it, worst of all is the fact that there were parts that were vaguely interesting – Jason saving Rennie from a pair of rapists was bizarre but it did hold my attention – were lost amongst a load of incomprehensible rubbish that disguised itself as a movie. The idea of Jason Voorhees stalking the streets of New York City could have resulted in a really fun movie, and maybe someday that movie will be made.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) – Review
Movie Rank - 4/10
Maybe one should expect anything decent out of the eighth entry in a franchise but even by cheap slasher standards Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan was a dog, and even the fleas weren’t all that interested.