It's too late. No time to protest. They're rolling and he's out. CineSchlocker fave Kane Hodder, who's been the man behind the hockey mask since 1988's Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, won't reprise his signature role in New Line's long-awaited Freddy vs. Jason. A film he's greatly responsible for fostering fan support in over the past decade. Word is they want someone with a smaller frame and hound-dog eyes. Well, that ain't Kane. But whatever wimp'd-out Jason Voorhees they sashay in front of the camera there's no doubt Hodder could act circles around 'em with ONE EYE!!! That's right, when Kane's piercing right peeper slowly narrows in your direction -- it's your ass! Friday fans know it and that's part of why he's been so embraced by them. More than that, though, it's because he loves Jason as much, probably MORE, than they do. He IS Jason! And Kane's the nicest homicidal maniac you'd ever want to meet, because the guy never ONCE snapped the spine of yours truly for bugging him about his role as a steel-skinned CIA werewolf in the criminally underappreciated Project: Metalbeast. Hopefully those "We wanna new Jason" boneheads won't fair so well. For now, let's savor the long-delayed Jason X (2000, 91 minutes) that sat finished while the studio's new management first ignored it, then played musical release dates before finally allowing the flick to hit U.S. multiplexes last spring.
The movie: In 2008, Jason's remanded to the Crystal Lake Research facility where oddball auteur David Cronenberg plays a money-hungry weasel who thinks it'd be really neato to harness machete boy's regenerative powers, but finds such research difficult, especially when Jason bursts from his restraints and hurls a long hunk of metal through Davey's chest. After this typically testy display, Mr. Cranky manages to get himself deep frozen into a value-sized fish stick only to be thawed by woefully ill-prepared space cadets in 2455. Turns out they're more interested in the chick found with him who they strip nekkid and let a bunch of tiny robot ants wriggle all over til she gasps back to life. Naturally, the first thing outta Lexa Doig's mouth is how "Jason f@#%in' Voorhees" is gonna kill everyone. They just giggle and assure her he's exceedingly dead. In fact, a smokin' hot blonde (Kristi Angus) is over in the next lab busily plucking one of his eyeballs out with salad tongs. For scientific purposes -- not merely for fun. That is until horn'd up youngsters start pairing off and partaking in naughtiness which, of course, stirs the J-man from his icy slumber. His first is probably his best kill when he crams Ms. Angus' lovely mug into a vat of liquid nitrogen and then shatters her kisser against a table. It's equal parts "cool" and brutal. Sorta like in Number 3 when that kid got split down the middle whilst doing a post-coital handstand. Ouch! Anyway, now Jason's off to his usual pastime of punching tickets to hell for any fornicator dim enough to wander within sight of his one good eye. Except this time he's IN SPACE! But unlike the 200 or so unfortunates before them, these crafty folks have a secret weapon in Kay-Em 14 (Lisa Ryder) a glorified adult novelty who gets more than her usual "upload" and turns into a two-fisted carnage cyclone in black fetishwear and sporting kung fu grip. After all, SOMEONE's gotta give the big guy a serious spankin' or the whole final act would be kaput because there'd be no need for the 'roided out Tin Man affectionately dubbed "Uber Jason."
CineSchlockers are well familiar with the inherent perils when thoroughly entrenched franchises spin the Wheel O' Plots and land on "Blast the whole shebang into space." Heck, even James Bond did it! But not to worry, Jason X is no were NEAR as preposterous as Leprechaun 4: In Space, or my interstellar fave, Hellraiser: Bloodline.
Notables: Four breasts. 23 corpses. Giant eyeball closeup. Multiple decapitations. Panty snipping. Arm amputation. Nipple twisting. Electrocution. Kinky diddling. Copious CGI shenanigans. Two-fisted gun shooting. Exploding Tinker-Toy space station. Neck snapping. Multiple impalements.
Quotables: Tied for best line are "Guys, it's OK, he just wanted his machete back!" and "We LOVE pre-marital sex!" Space commando (Peter Mensah) defiantly minimizes the steel protruding from his chest wound, "It's gonna take more than a poke in the ribs to put down this old dog! [Jason impales him again.] Yep, that ought to do it." The future looks grim, "A box of DVDs is not a gold mine. I told you. I can't move 'em!" Crusty starship skipper brags, "Lucky you weren't alive during the Microsoft Conflict! Hell, we were beating each other with our severed limbs!"
Time codes: First Ki-Ki-Ki-Ma-Ma-Ma (3:00). Freeze-frame to ogle Mr. Voorhees unmasked (26:40). Jason chooses a new weapon (30:52). The howl-worthy "screw" kill (44:55). Hulking serial killer and his trusty machete are reunited (52:00). RoboChick defends her horndog creator (1:05:25). Behold, Uber Jason! (1:13:22). Best scene of the whole flick (1:22:45).
Audio/Video: This pristine anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer clearly benefits from the innovative film-to-digital process employed during post production. Blood splatters, blades clash and explosions rumble in your choice of Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1 or, for the home theater challenged, a respectably hearty stereo track.
Extras: CineSchlockers will likely bristle more than once during the commentary by director Jim Isaac, writer Todd Farmer and producer Noel Cunningham (who sounds as though his sparce comments were edited in separately). Isaac and Farmer strike an awkward balance between saying how much they admire the original Friday the 13th while lamenting most of the crimson hallmarks fans have grown to hold dear about the ever-resurrecting franchise. Speaking of, WHERE'S JASON!?! Do we REALLY need to hear the feature-length musings of a novice director on the making of a NINTH sequel? Much less the "writer" of said project? These yahoos don't even mention Mr. Hodder until more than an HOUR into the commentary and even then it's in passing. The priority seems all wrong here.
Thankfully there's "The Many Lives of Jason Voorhees" to counter this slight (30 mins). The in-depth documentary gleefully celebrates 20 years of canoodling and bloodletting with clips and insights from all manner of genre experts including the LONG overdue digital debut of the world's premiere drive-in movie critic Joe Bob Briggs (a personal hero). Fangoria editor Tony Timpone also chimes in, but his best contribution is the unintentionally hilarious '80s-era file footage of Tony defending horror pictures on a talk show. That hair! Those clothes! It's a wonder anyone survived that decade. Best of all, Kane gets to share wacky stories about how fans have come to recognize him as Jason Voorhees. He also figures prominently in "By Any Means Necessary: The Making of Jason X" (18 mins). While its title may trivialize the words of Malcolm X this featurette efficiently explains the flick's digital production techniques, highlights execution of key practical FX and explores the creation of Uber Jason. Beyond those two can't-miss extras, gorehounds will especially salivate over the "Jump to a Death" option. Where's the deleted scenes? Well, Mr. Isaac says there weren't many cuts as they shot every frame with the MPAA top of mind, sometimes even doing the gore scenes with varying degrees of grue. Still, it would have been interesting to SEE those. There's also the requisite trailer vault featuring this film, Blade II, Final Destination and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Motion-video menus with audio.
Final thought: Jason Takes the Universe!? Sure it's absurd, but it's also danged entertaining. If only Paramount produced Friday discs of THIS quality! Highly Recommended.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.