Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

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

Of all the “Friday the 13th” movies — and I think there were 19 or 20 or them — “Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan” probably annoyed me the most. And that’s really saying something, too, considering Part 6 gave me the dry heaves and Part 5 killed my dad.

Part 8 has the alluring title of “Jason Takes Manhattan,” which causes one to think of so many wonderful things. At last, Jason will be out of the woods and in civilization! New York is a crazy place; will anyone even notice him? Jason is a guy who kills (or tries to kill) every person he sees. How will he react in a city with several million people? The mind reels at the possibilities. We’ve sat through seven crappy movies so far; now, finally, there might be some pay-off, some reason to have learned so much about the automated killing machine we call Jason.

And then … Jason doesn’t actually GET to Manhattan until more than an hour of the film has passed. And when he does arrive, he spends 20 minutes chasing kids through a deserted part of town that could be ANY city. We only get a few minutes of “only in New York” material, and it’s all at a point in the movie when no one cares anymore, i.e., the end. It’s the ol’ bait-and-switch. We’re lured in with promises of Manhattan mayhem, and all we get is more of the same stupid stuff.

The bulk of the film takes place on a cruise ship. Jason gets reawakened from his watery grave by a boat anchor (“I have to go drop the anchor” is what the beefy teen says, and now we go around saying “I have to go drop the anchor” as if it’s a euphemism for something), and wouldn’t you know it, he’s pissed. I admit, I’m cranky when someone wakes me up, too, and I’ve been known to glare at a roommate or snap at a coworker. But I draw the line at homicide.

Anyway, Jason winds up aboard a tiny cruise ship that is carrying the local high school’s very small senior class out to sea for a graduation trip. Somehow, Crystal Lake now leads to a river (so we’re told), which goes out to the ocean, and it all starts at a point where there are a lot of huge mountains nearby, despite there being none in New Jersey, which is where Crystal Lake is. Once again, no one’s bothering to watch the previous movies before making a new one.

There’s an evil teacher chaperoning the trip, and he’s the uncle of Suzi, the main character. She had some kind of trauma as a kid that now makes her afraid of the water, for fear dead old Jason Voorhees will drag her down to her death. Helpfully, a real snotty girl who thinks Suzi is weird (which she is) pushes her overboard, forcing her to face her fear and almost die in the process.

Then Jason starts killing people on the ship. For the first time in the history of the “Friday the 13th” movies, everyone who is still alive actually discovers that someone among them has been killed, realizes there’s a murderer in their midst, and starts looking for him. (They split up to do this, naturally.) In the past, no one ever found a body unless they were about to become one, too. Congratulations on finally wising up, you bunch of dunderheaded teen-agers.

It becomes a bedroom farce, with Jason slipping out of one room on the ship just as someone enters the one next to it. Eventually, everyone dies except for Suzi, her gayish boyfriend Jim, the evil teacher-uncle and a couple others. They get on a lifeboat that floats into New York Harbor. They land on a dock, followed closely by Jason, who either hung onto the boat like a barnacle or swam after them. In either case, you have to ask: Why? Why not just stay at Crystal Lake and wait for a new batch of victims to arrive? He apparently has some personal vendetta against this particular group of people, but darned if I know what it is.

In the end, he gets killed by a sea of toxic waste in the sewer, which melts away all the Jason-ness and leaves behind the little boy who drowned in Crystal Lake all those years ago. If this makes sense to you, then you deserve this movie.

More than any other film in the series, Part 8 has Jason defying all laws of time and space. He appears around one corner, the victim runs, and next thing you know, Jason is on the deck above them. Or he’ll appear outside a window and then come through the door on the opposite wall. It’s not sloppy editing; it’s meant to suggest Jason can move really quickly. But I’m not buying it.

He commits some pretty weak murders in this one, too. In one instance, he kills someone — really — just by strangling them. An old classic, sure, but not very exciting to watch. Another time, he throws a guy overboard, and we’re supposed to think that did him in.

Making up for the lame murders, though, is a great one where he literally punches a guy’s head off. That’s the sort of thing that SHOULD be the only reason the series was conceived: outrageous deaths done with flair. Goodness knows we’re not watching just so we can see the sights of Manhattan.

D- (1 hr., 40 min.; R, punching a guy's head off.)