A New Beginning is bad…but there’s more to it than that. Yes, it’s The One Without Jason, but it’s also the one without standards, any regard for pace, storytelling, or even its own audience expectations. It’s the one that threw the series over a bridge. The point where casts and crews stopped even pretending to care about quality and settled for last place in the Generic Slasher Movie Olympics.
It’s the kind of film you don’t review so much as describe, like the scene of a horrible industrial accident. It could be a nuclear meltdown, or a poison gas leak on a day when the wind blew the wrong way, annihilating a major American movie franchise. It’s the point where the series stopped taking itself so dang seriously, signing its own aesthetic death certificate. It’s a film that circles back around the loop in the my critical scale and becomes so unforgivably awful…it’s actually rather fun. At times.
Like our pre-credit sequence. We watch young Tommy Jarvis (still a young Corey Feldman, on lone from something called The Goonies) trudging through the woods, up to the grave of one Jason Voorhees. The grave marker is a headstone made from three wooden slats with the killer’s name written on it in white paint…as if it were done by a hurried set design crew ten minutes before the cameras rolled. Two anonymous fools enter the scene, dig up Jason’s corpse, and meet the end reserved for all anonymous fools in Slasher movies. Tommy retreats in the face of Jason resurrected, but before the hockey masked maniac can make his pint-sized antagonist pay for what happened at the end of The (ahem) Final Chapter…
…a now-adult Tommy wakes in the back of a van, on his way courtesy of the Unger Institute of Mental Health to whatever awaits us on the other side of the credit sequence. Ha! says the film. It was all a dream. Oh, if only…
At least Henry Manfredini finally retooled his score to the point where it no longer sounds like a straight rip-off of Jaws…though his instrumentation still wears John Williams on its sleeve, veering a little too close to Indiana Jones for comfort…with a little Peter and the Wolf throw in for thematic resonance…or maybe I’m projecting.
Yes, that’s it. Watching these films in sequence has driven me stark raving mad. Mad as Tommy (John Shepherd) now that he’s lived seven or eight years with the memory of what he did to Jason in the last film. He lands in Pinehurst, an assisted-living facility/half way house/farm that runs on (you’re kidding, right?) the Honor System.
You see what privatizing mental health services leads too? Bullshit, hippy-dippy ideas like that. What community’s so rural it’d allow something like that inside? Certainly not the community of Crystal Lake. The first thing I would do is get Tommy the fuck out of those woods. The second? Put him on better drugs. Whatever he’s now isn’t working, obviously. Tommy’s reality (by which I mean the film) has a bad habit of flitting from vignette to vignette with no real regard for anything that might be called flow. Oh, and he’s plagued by spectral visions of Jason.
I’m not even sure what kind of drugs he’s on…and from the look of things, neither is John Shepherd. It’s hard to really gauge our leading man’s performance here, since I know that his blank stare and monosyllabic diction are intentional choices…but that doesn’t make Tommy any more interesting. He speaks narry a word to Pinehurst’s director, Matt (Richard Young) or the hot, blond AD, Pam (Melanie Kinnaman)…I call Final Girl, incidentally.
No time to consider any of that now. Here comes Sheriff Tucker (Marco St. John), hauling in two horny “kids” he recently found on the farm of one Ethel Hubbard (Carol Locatell). Ethel arrives in short order, riding bitch on her son Junior (Ron Sloan)’s bike. She demands Sheriff Tucker close Matt’s “looneybin” before she and Junior storm off with a one-fingered salute. Congratulations, Ethel. By flipping off the rest of the film, you’ve just become my new favorite character. Oh, sure, you’re clanking, clattering, cliched excuse for a character…but so is everyone else here. At least Ethel and Junior are honest about their Odious Comic Relief status, existing only to break the tension this film believes it’s capable of inducing. Joke’s on your lazy ass, Friday the 13th Part V. I’m too bored to be tense.
So, of course, we won’t be spending any more time Ethel and Junior for awhile. Time to hang with the loonies. Fat Looney Joey (Dominick Brascia) asks Serious Spice Looney Robin (Juliette Cummins) and New Wave Spice Looney Violet (Tiffany Helm) if he can help with the laundry. They decline with the usual level of politeness teenage girls exhibit in Hollywood horror films from the 1980s. Joey then asks Just Plain Looney Victor (Mark Venturini) if he can help with the wood chopping. Vic freaks out and chops Joey down because being overweight in Slasher film (or even slightly puffed – recall Shelley from Part 3-D) is akin to showering after sex while mainlining heroin in the eye. On Halloween. In Haddonfield, Illinois.
Two ambulance attendants – Roy (Dick Wieand) and A Dickhead – arrive to cart Joey’s body away as Sheriff Tucker carts Victor off to the jail. Dickhead, showing callus disregard for every emotionally-damaged kid in who’s gathered on Pinehurst’s front porch to watch the light show, pulls back the bloodstained sheet off of Joey’s corpse…and calls everyone pussies when they react in horror. What an ass. I hope he dies.
Wait…I’m supposed to be hoping for that, aren’t I? Why, yes, I do believe I am. And I believe Friday the 13th has just jumped its last shark, no longer even pretending to be a horror film. It’s a full throttle ride down Misanthropy Avenue from here on out. Expect the film to trot out one unlikeable character after another, the better to pick them off in turn like so many syrup-filled clay pigeons.
As if we didn’t have enough extraneous New Meat already, let’s jump-cut to two Greasers with car trouble, Vinnie (Anthony Barrile) and Pete (Corey Parker). Pete leaves to take a roadside dump. Vinne gets a road flare to the mouth from the Evil POV cam, which suspiciously transforms his head into a hollow prop the camera lingers on for far, far too long. Pete gets his throat slashed by a mysterious someone who snuck into the back seat as he ambled back from wherever…but after all those Tom Savini specials, I know an inferior throat-slashing when I see one.
There’s a callousness running under things in this film, a playful disregard for good taste that thinks its a whole hell of a lot funnier than it is. Attempting to be cute, the film ends up jamming its head up its own ass…and considered this a selling point. Why else would you pad the film with so many extraneous deaths?
The next day, Violet makes the mistake of setting too many places at table. Time to meet the rest of the New Meat. Stuttering Jake (Jerry Pavlon) will be our Looser Spice for the remainder of the film. Tina (the wonderfully-named Debisue Voorhees) formed one half of that horny pair Sheriff Tucker hauled off Ethel’s place. Eddie (John Robert Dixon) formed the other half, and he reveals himself to be the unintentional Odious Comic Relief by stealing one of Tommy’s homemade masks and trying to pull a cheap practical joke.
Tommy, who’s spent the morning reliving the end of The Final Chapter, is in no mood for Eddie’s shit. He responds the way I wish every main character would respond to their film’s Odious Comic Relief: with a savage beatdown that’s meant to insinuate he might be our film’s Killer…though all it really does is endear him to me.
Back on the highway, Sheriff Tucker finds those two dead Greasers. “Looks like we got a psycho killer on the loose, Sheriff,” Deputy Obvious puts in as the two stand around, looking impotent. Before the Sheriff can slap him, we quantum leap to a diner…somewhere…and it’s night again, so no one can accuse this film of not moving forward. I just wish it’d warn me next time. Whiplash, you see.
Here’s Billy (Bob De Simone), the jerk from the Unger Institute who dropped Tommy off at Pineherst. Billy’s come to pick up a waitress named Lana (Rebecca Wood-Sharkey). Lana just has to get ready…it’ll only take a sec. Billy passes the time with some nose candy and that “psycho killer” who’s very much “on the loose,” thank you. Lana passes the time flashing her boobs at the diner’s bathroom mirror…and with a Spring Loaded Cat…before she’s literally axed. We’ll never see these two again, they’ll have no connection to the overall plot, and all their deaths do is pad out the running time. Do I even need to say that at this point?
Back at the ranch, Tommy’s having another freak-out. Don’t think your horrible, cloying, cheap-scare-tactic music can drown out the voices in my head, Friday the 13th. They know a Halloween rip-off when they see it. At least you ripped off one of the good scenes…but still…
For no reason, we jump to Sheriff Tucker as he endures an ass chewing from the Mayor of…Wherever-The-Hell-We-Are-Ville (Ric Mancini). Sheriff Tucker postulates the most likely suspect in this recent string of murders is Jason Voorhees. The Mayor (of Crystal Lake? Really? Really-really? They dumped Tommy back into that haunted forest after all the crap he went through? Okay, movie, why not?) counters that Jason is not only dead but cremated…something this movie’s five-and-counting direct sequels would rather we forget.
Let’s. Time to “enjoy” a sex scene, courtesy our two Horny Spices, Eddie and Tina…incidentally, what the hell is it with Slasher movies and characters named “Tina”? This is, like, the third one we’ve seen in the series so far, if not the fourth. Did “Tina” suddenly become the most popular girl-name in America at sometime in the middle-60s?
Thankfully, Ed and This Tina’s romp is one of the quickest quickies in the history of quickiedom. They soon die – she via garden sheers to the face, he via a leather strap across the eyes, twisted until his cranium yields with a satisfying, crackling squish. Not bad, movie…but I still want Dickhead the ambulance-jockey dead…Except he’s probably The Killer isn’t he? Shit.
Yes, Jason’s ash in someone’s can, Vic got hauled off to jail, and Tommy’s the Obvious Suspect. Which means he can’t be the killer, since he’s nominally Our Hero, and thus the Final Boy once again. The only other likely suspect is that Dickhead…unless Vic managed to escape his captors…somehow…Or, hey, it could be Roy, the other ambulance jockey. We don’t know anything about him.
Back at the ranch, Pam, Tommy, and Token Black Kid Reggie “The Reckless” (Shavar Ross) depart Pinehurst for a nerves-soothing trip. Can your heart stand the shocking driving to town scene? Instead of discovering the diner full of dead waitress and her boyfriend, or our two dead Horny Spices, this comically-mismatched threesome finds Reggie’s brother, Demon (Miguel A. Nunez Jr.), and Demon’s girlfriend Anita (Jere Fields) in their trailer park home. Tommy wanders off to stare at a neon sign and be in the right place at the right time…allowing Ethel’s son, Junior, to try to “get” one over on him.
We all know where Tommy’s sense of humor is at, and he responds with another righteous whupping. (Must’ve spent all those years at the asylum training with Bruce Lee’s ghost.) Inexplicably horrified by his capacity for violence, Tommy reacts the way other protagonists in these films react to the maimed-but-artfully arranged bodies of their friends and coworkers: he runs off into the woods. Our Hero, ladies and gentlemen! He doesn’t take jokes – he brings pain! And then he runs away like a little bitch at the first sign of trouble…all because the film’s still – inexpertly, stupidly – trying to play coy with the identity of its Killer.
That’s why Pam and Reckless return to Pinehurst and find Matt gone ,along with Tommy, Eddie. and Tina. But there’s a film to pad here, so let’s stay with Demon and Anita for a moment. There’s is the most scatological sequence we’ve seen in a Friday film so far, and I mention this only in an effort to mention something, mention anything, about this deadening waste. Seriously, this film’s circling the Ed Wood Singularity at this point. There’s no reason for Demon and Anita to die. Hell, there’s no reason for them to exist. They add nothing to a story already overflowing with death and tits…save two more bodies and five more minutes.
Who would even want a new beginning for this series…apart from nepotist poster boy (and series producer) Frank Marcucio Jr.? It’s not as if the world wept for its passing. I’m weeping right now, at this film’s refusal to pass before my eyes any damn faster.
The only thing really worth noting about Junior, Ethel, Jake, Robin and Violet’s exits from the film are their slavish similarity to previous deaths in the series. We get blades to the face, blades poked up through beds and torsos, machetes to the gut…we play all the hits down here at the bottom of the barrel. All in the service of slavishly restaging The Final Chapter‘s end, with Reggie and Pam standing in for the Siblings Jarvis.
This could’ve worked…if we’d spent even the minimal amount of quality time with Pam and Reggie that we spent with Trish and Tommy. That wasn’t much, but it’s more than this film can spare for its Final Girl and her Object of Devotion. And anyway, Pam is a whimpering waste of a Final Girl, a disgrace to Alice, Ginny, and Chris. She’s not even in the same league as Trish Jarvis, and Laurie Strode wouldn’t piss on her to put out a fire.
Incidentally, whatever the hell happened to Trish Jarvis, anyway?
Despite not being Jason Voorhees, our Killer absorbs a surprising amount of damage of the course of chasing Pam and Reckless over hill and down dale. He also wears a hockey mask…for no particularly reason, I guess. Just completing the look. Maybe it gives him mystic, damage-absorbing powers, allowing him to get right back up from a backhoe to the stomach and shrug off a chainsaw wound to the arm, courtesy Pam.
Yes, she eventually gets herself a weapon after allowing herself (and Reggie) to be cornered in a barn. At least it doesn’t die on her in the middle of the fight like Ginny’s did in Part…oh, wait. There it goes now. Dying. In the middle of her fight. Are you fucking with me, Friday the 13th Part V? Can you hear these sarcastic comments I’m making? Now there’s a freaky thought.
Much freakier than the Final Boy fight between Not-Jason and a Tommy who inexplicably returns just when the plot needs him to stand frozen like the simpering trauma victim he is…before going down with one casual machete swipe. It falls to Pam and Reggie to save their own asses, kill The Killer…and expose him for Who He Really Is.
Apparently Roy the ambulance attendant was Joey the Fat Spice’s father. Gave him up years ago and went all looney when he saw his long-lost boy hacked all to pieces. Sheriff Tucker shows up (finally) at the end to explain all this to Pam before another bullshit twist ending carries us off down another dead road this series (thankfully) never chose to explore.
A New Beginning is a lot like a Greatest Hits album: a bunch of already-did-it kills leading up to a derivative end…staged inside a barn…just like Part 3. Featuring a girl with a chainsaw…just like in Part II. It’s a horrible cinematic centipede stretching back into the past, when the series was…well…not good…but at least it seemed to believe in something…other than the profitability inherent in its title.
Three writers share credit for this abomination. No surprise Martin Kitrosser also slung words for Part 3-D and The Final Chapter before taking a break from the series to write Meatballs II. I suppose we can blame him for all the “comedic” bits of the flick, and blame the other two writers, David Cohen and director Danny Steinmann, for everything else.
A monument to unmitigated awfulness, an exploitative tits-and-gore fest that doesn’t even bother to stage any creative (or even interesting) deaths, a complete waste of my time and yours, Friday the 13th Part V is the deathknell of a series that, like Jason himself, never should’ve existed in the first place…so what did Paramount do for Part VI? Bring Jason back to life, of course. I agree with their decision…but, then again, anything would’ve been an improvement upon this. It’s a film even Friday completists completely dismiss, and that really should tell you all you need to know, right the fuck there.