Eric D. Snider

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning

(Reviewed in 2002 as part of a retrospective on the "Friday the 13th" series.)

While it is safe to say none of the "Friday the 13th" movies was particularly worth making, I believe Part 5 -- "A New Beginning" -- is the one that brought the least for our collective edification.

(Note: "Friday the 13th: A New Beginning" should not be confused with "Little House: A New Beginning," which is what "Little House on the Prairie" was called during its last season. One was badly written, virtually unwatchable dreck; the other was about a killer with a hockey mask.)

Instead of picking up where Part 4 left off -- with Corey Feldman playing a now-psychotic 12-year-old with the potential to become the new Jason -- Part 5 serves merely as a derailing. In fact, you could drop Part 5 altogether and parts 4 and 6 would still fit together (especially since Part 5 adds the detail of Jason having been cremated, which becomes an awkward bit of information in Part 6, when his non-cremated corpse is dug up from its grave). It adds nothing to the mythology of Jason, and is certainly no more or less scary than its predecessors. (It is, however, the only film in the series in which a character says, "I'll be right back" and then actually comes back.)

You see, Jason does not appear in "Friday the 13th: A New Beginning," except in the ludicrous dream sequence that opens the film. Instead, we are subjected to the work of a copycat killer. There are similarities between this and the first film, in that we do not know until the finale who the killer is. Well, unless you have ever seen a movie before, in which case you narrow it down to two possibilities quite early. One of those possibilities would have made it a good movie; the other one -- the one the filmmakers chose -- makes it very, very stupid.

The identity of the killer is telegraphed in an obvious manner, thanks to some hamfisted directing from Mr. David Steinmann. Steinmann had previously directed "The Unseen" (1981) and "Savage Street" (1984), notable for featuring a nude Linda Blair. After "Friday the 13th: A New Beginning," he literally never worked on another film. He is now roaming the forests of New Jersey, I believe, murdering teens at random.

Part 5 takes a bold new step in the field of teen-murdering. While its predecessors dealt with teens staying at a cabin in the woods, Part 5 is about TROUBLED teens who live at a HALF-WAY HOUSE. OK, so it's a half-way cabin, and it's in the woods, but we'll take any bold new steps we can get.

Part 5 also returns to the formula established by the previous films (and temporarily abandoned in Part 4), where the non-killing scenes serve only to line up a bunch of characters whom we hate and wish death upon. There's a foul-mouthed redneck woman and her loathsome, pig-screwing son; a pimpy black man named Demon; a pseudo-jive-talking black kid played by Shavar Ross (who played Arnold's buddy Dudley on "Diff'rent Strokes"); and others too numerous to mention. We want them to die.

And die they do! Tommy Jarvis, now a bit older and no longer played by Corey Feldman, keeps seeing hallucinations of his old nemesis, and now it would seem someone is actually posing as Jason and killing folks. This does not ease Tommy's neuroses any, as you might imagine, and he lashes out here and there against people who deserve it. (Honestly, it's hard to know who to root for in these things. The murderer, who is heartless, cruel and evil? Or the people he hacks apart, each of whom is offensive enough to deserve a fate far worse than a mere hacking? I never thought my sense of justice and morality would be tested by the "Friday the 13th" series, but I certainly think twice now before condemning accused murderers I read about in the paper. Sure, I think, maybe this guy did slay a few innocent people. But maybe some of those "innocent" people said the F-word a lot and accused local teens of "screwing their heads off" before riding off on a filthy motorcycle driven by their filthy sons.)

I'm guessing David Steinmann was traumatized after seeing Linda Blair naked in "Savage Street," because in this movie, he has a trashy diner waitress standing in a public restroom, primping before a date, then flashing her boobs at herself in the mirror and saying, "Show time!" A clear-thinking director does not make his actresses do this.

"A New Beginning" features classic dialogue such as this:

LOATHSOME PERSON: I have to take a crap!
OTHER LOATHSOME PERSON: Crap, my a**!

There are 21 murders in this installment, the most so far. By the end, the people are dying so quickly, there's not even time to show the murders. We just stumble on the bodies and assume the faux Jason is responsible. This would have been a good time to kill someone randomly, because you could have written your name and phone number on the victim, and the cops still would have blamed Jason for it.

The end is a serious letdown, either because you hadn't figured out who the killer was and were disappointed when you found out, or because you HAD figured it out and were disappointed to learn you were right. You should know that in the end, the killer's Jason-like hockey mask is placed in someone's hospital room, apparently as a souvenir, which is questionable enough already, but really just as an excuse for setting up the "creepy" final shot, which is even more askew. We really should permit only grown-ups to make movies.

Grade: F

Rated R, a guy saying "Crap, my a**!," among other things

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