Monday, October 22, 2012

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood Movie Review

This particular chapter didn't figure quite as strongly in my childhood as the two on either side of it. I'm not sure why that is. I know I saw it, or most of it, piecemeal on TV. But my memories of this were scattered.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

It becomes fairly obvious by the seventh film in the series that the Friday the 13th franchise was desperately seeking new ideas. So in Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, instead of simply unleashing Jason onto an unwitting group of youths in the woods, screenwriters Daryl Haney and Manuel Fidello decided to provide him with an adversary he’d never seen before. That’s how we wind up with Tina Shepherd, a teenager blessed (or cursed depending on your perspective) with the power of telekinesis. Her abilities are introduced in a brief prologue in which she accidentally kills her father by causing the collapse of a dock at Crystal Lake.

Still coping with the guilt over her father’s death some years earlier, Tina (Lar Park-Lincoln) returns to Crystal Lake with her mother, Amanda (Susan Blu) and her psychiatrist, Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser). His methods are more focused on harnessing her powers than helping her through her issues. His character is so repugnant we just can’t wait for him to be killed off. The fun in this story is revealed by having a character even more detestable. Melissa calls Tina a freak and plays cruel tricks on her while attempting to seduce the leading man, Nick (Kevin Spirtas) who is obviously destined to wind up with Tina.

Director John Carl Buechler came out of a special effects background and while that shows in some of the high production value set pieces, I was rather surprised to find this film particularly tame on the gore level. While he has Jason wielding all manner of bizarre weaponry sometimes to great comic effect (there is almost nothing more hilarious in the entire series than Jason suddenly coming up with an electric tree trimming buzz saw in the middle of the woods. Think about it.) he cuts back on really showing things like disemboweling and throat slashing. The masterstroke in the film is the casting of Kane Hodder as Jason. For once the producers in this series put a stunt man in that hockey mask who makes a real character and performance, albeit minimalist, out it. Note the curious way he tilts his head when first he encounters the power unleashed by Tina.

Fidello has no other writing credits to his name and among Haney’s is a laundry list films less prestigious than this one. That might tell you something about the quality on display, but it’s so clear that this sequel is not exactly meant to be taken seriously. For one thing, they can’t quite decide exactly what powers Tina has. She’s telekinetic, but she can also raise the dead. She’s the cause of Jason’s return when she attempts to raise her father from the lake. But then she’s also a seer – not only of future events, but past events that no one near her has been privy to. I’m not looking for too much logical consistency by this point in the series, so I’ll let it all go as something like, “She’s got unlimited mind powers as befits the convenience of the screenplay.”

I guess my expectations had just been lowered so substantially that I was able to sit back and enjoy this installment for not being as bad as most of the others. The acting is far better and it looks like it was backed by some real money rather than the low-budget Monopoly money that went into Friday the 13th PartIII, for example. Savor this seventh film, because it’s a steep downhill thereafter.

Deaths (with my rating out of 10)

Total deaths: 16 (all more or less on screen)
Average rating: 3.625/10
Highest rating: 8

Ratings are based on my personal reaction to the killing taking into account factors such as shock, surprise, and fear, as well as the creativity involved and how graphic it is.

1.       Tina’s father falls into the lake from a collapsing dock (3).
2.       Jane gets a hand placed over her mouth from behind, a knife to the back of the head and she is then pinned to a tree (4).
3.       Michael gets a spike thrown into his back, then he’s picked up and thrown (4).
4.       Jason puts his hand through Dan’s back and then breaks his neck (6).
5.       Judy gets closed up in her sleeping bag and Jason slams her against a tree (8).
6.       Russell takes an axe to the face (4).
7.       Sandra is pulled underwater and drowned mostly off screen (2).
8.       Maddy is grasped from behind a wall in the shed and she’s killed by a sickle mostly off screen (3).
9.       Ben’s head is crushed vertically by Jason’s bare hands (3).
10.   Kate gets a party horn jammed in her eye (4).
11.   David takes a kitchen knife to the stomach (2).
12.   Eddie’s neck is slashed with a machete (2).
13.   Robin is thrown from a 2nd floor window and hits the ground (1).
14.   Amanda Shepherd takes a hockey stick shaped spear to the back (4).
15.   Dr. Crews is gutted with a tree trimming buzz saw (2).
16.   Melissa gets axed right in the forehead (6).

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