Who ever thought we'd see three releases of Friday the 13th Part V?! Following a 2001 edition with just a trailer and the 2004 box set From Crystal Lake to Manhattan--which included a five-minute interview with Corey Feldman (not included here)--we now get a new transfer, a new 5.1 track and some new bonus features. Is it worth the upgrade? Read on...
Call me crazy, but never in a million years would I have believed that Montgomery Clift--the greatest actor ever--would make an appearance in (are you kidding me?!) a Friday the 13th film. But there he is, ominously rowing away with Shelley Winters in one of my all-time favorite movies as two kooky kids watch from the couch, unaware that they're about to be slaughtered. And the critics said director Danny Steinmann didn't have any taste!
Welcome to Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, the entry where things started to get trashy--even by Friday standards. If it weren't for the superlative Jason Lives, I'd say the franchise jumped the shark here when Dudley from Diff'rent Strokes--wearing that damn bright red sweat suit as "Reggie the Reckless"--bursts out of a barn driving a tractor (?!) to run down Jason. The absurd sequence is set to...oh dear god...action music?!
But that bout of silly doesn't begin to describe just how cartoonish this Looney Tunes entry is. If you thought Chuck, Chile and the three bikers from Part 3 were out of place, just wait until you get a look at the characters here. Carol Locatell overacts as Daffy Duck--sorry, I mean local yokel Ethel Hubbard, a loud, foul-mouthed freakshow who shouts "Hiii-ya!" as she chops up supper for her arrested-development son Yosemite Sam...I mean Junior (Ron Sloan): "You big dildo! Eat your fuckin' slop...ain't I make the best God-damn stew in the whole wide world?" (Porky Pig also shows up in the form of the lovelorn Jake, a stuttering bundle of nerves played by Jerry Pavlon--who is smitten with Psycho III's Juliette Cummins.)
Then there's Demon (Miguel A. Núñez Jr.), who comically struts to the outhouse after his diet of enchiladas, egg rolls, tacos, pizza and beer doesn't sit well with his stomach. How about the headphone-clad Violet (Tiffany Helm) with her absurdly large Walkman, crimped hair and highlighted tips? And what's with Vinnie and Pete, the tools who waltz into the woods on their way to a sock hop? The bulk of the characters here are drawn even thinner than usual for the Friday franchise, and the acting befits the film's campy tone. (Did I mention there's a sequence at a trailer park?)
I make fun, but I love Part V, a dark, demented and dirty entry with a sick sense of humor. Filmgoers realized they were in for the long haul after the confusingly titled Final Chapter hit theaters the year before. After all, how the hell could Jason still be on the prowl after a machete pierced his skull? But the bigger question is, how could Corey Feldman refuse a lead role in this because he was too busy filming...The Goonies?! (Hmm...maybe we're better off. I'm not sure how much Feldman I can take...)
After the young Tommy Jarvis makes a cameo in the opening dream sequence, a slightly older Tommy (John Shepherd) awakens while being transported from a state mental institution to the Pinehurst Youth Development Center--a house hidden in the middle of the woods and run by doctor Matt (Richard Young) and assistant director Pam (the gorgeous Melanie Kinnaman, who photographs beautifully). Tommy's stay doesn't get off to a good start when fat orphan Joey (Dominick Brascia) gets hacked to pieces after a misunderstanding over a candy bar with the clearly demented Vic (the late Mark Venturini--amazingly creepy and underused here--also appeared in Return of the Living Dead along with Núñez the same year).
Things go from bad to worse when the body count starts to rise, and we realize we're smack in the middle of a mystery with a handful of suspects: The sheriff thinks Jason is back from the dead, but we begin to think that Tommy may have finally snapped after his visions start to drive him insane. Or maybe it's someone else--is Junior protecting his mom's honor?
While the script tries to pass off the halfway house (a nice, albeit slight, change of pace) as a place to help Tommy re-enter society, we all know it's just a convenient story device meant to excuse awful acting. If all of these troubled kids are cuckoo, how can we say they're not doing a good job?
But it's hard to criticize Shepherd's acting, because...well, see for yourself. Not counting a few groans and grunts, he has exactly 10 lines (!), made up of just 19 different words (!!!):
Young is the closest thing this entry has to a natural performance, but his talents are wasted as he disappears at the end (but what the hell is up with his boots?!). Kinnaman is also solid, but by this installment the role of the "final girl" has been diminished, so she isn't given as much to do. Instead of a "final girl" (Parts 1-3) or "final girl and guy" (Part 4), we get "final girl, guy and comic relief sidekick". Sadly, we aren't treated to one of the staples of the series--an extended battle between Jason and the tough chick. (Instead, we get lines like "Man, you are one scared cat!" and way too much red sweat suit...seriously, in what world are Dudley and Demon considered tough?)
Lots of Friday diehards cry foul with Part V, saying that the Jason here--a.k.a. Blue Diamond Phillips--doesn't really count (Tom Morga--who is the only Jason to also play Michael Myers--does a decent job, his eyes frequently coming to life). But I love the route Steinmann took with this (he's one of three writers), and the idea is a nice change. But it isn't executed as well as it could have been, and (for anyone with a mild amount of intelligence) the killer is obvious thanks to some not-so-subtle editing ("Looks like we got a maniac on the loose, huh sheriff?").
Speaking of editing, Part V includes the blunder that drives me insane every time. Yes, I'm talking about Pam's pink sweater, which magically reappears twice (!) during her run through the woods. I'm surprised Steinmann wanted her to wear it at all considering that without it, her thin, white, rain-soaked shirt compliments her heaving, ample--and yes, braless--chest. In case you forgot, Steinmann also directed porn. There's also a sex scene in the woods between Eddie (John Robert Dixon) and Tina (the conveniently named Debi Sue Voorhees) that was cut down for apparently being too raunchy, and a "Sex, Drugs & Rock 'n Roll!" sequence at a diner. ("It's showtime!")
But where Part V fails the most is in the suspense and gore department--this one is all about quantity, not quality. The kills here are some of the most boring of the entire series, and I'd barely call the carnage "special effects"--it's all cheap smoke and mirrors, which is probably the MPAA's fault. Virtually all of the deaths are off camera in one form or another--there's an overwhelming supply of shocked expressions with cuts to a deadly weapon, followed by an aftermath shot or an actor's contorting face. There's also an ample supply of missing characters discovered post-kill, including a string of them bunched together in the final chase (yawn!). There are too many boring stabs, and the closest this entry as to a signature kill is the off-camera hedge clipper gouging.
Even worse, the aftermath shots are surprisingly dry: a slashed throat, a severed head and a speared stomach are just a few of the bloodless images. It's like they weren't even trying; even some of the lame "action deaths"--like a retractable machete into the stomach--are lacking in blood flow. Sure, some of the shots are cool (I particularly like the final shot of Lana), but it just gets boring. And since so many of the kills happen so fast and come out of nowhere, there isn't any time to get nervous, scared or excited--there's no build-up. The drifter's death is as dull as the character, and Vinnie's demise--which is immediately cut to from another scene (?!)--is another example of lazy pacing and editing. (Even the cat fake-out is mishandled!)
And the copying of previous installments--while certainly nothing new to the series--gets a little overboard: the knife from below the bed (done better in Parts 1 and 3), the malfunctioning chainsaw (Part 2), the barn standoff (Part 3), the crazy Tommy ending (Part 4, although the final image here is a lot stronger), the outhouse prank (Part 3), the body through the window (all of the above)...I just wish there was something more unique that this installment owned all by itself. Unfortunately, one thing the film doesn't copy is the Crystal Lake mystique, which disappears completely.
But A New Beginning is still part of the family--despite my complaints, this is dirty fun. Part V is one of the installments I can throw it at any time and enjoy; it has some of the spirit reminiscent of the better franchise films. Steinmann, who directed the equally trashy Savage Streets a year before (then disappeared from the industry after this effort), injects small doses of humor that sometimes work--for some reason, Pam's off-camera discovery via lightening and Kinnaman's delivery of a curse word when a door won't open always make me laugh. But it's the gum in a dead paramedic's mouth that slays me every time.
The director also has some cool sequences and shots, like Violet framed in Jason's legs pre-kill (I also love some of the film's color schemes). Speaking of Violet, she is responsible for Part V's lasting image--and it isn't even bloody! Her groovy moves to Pseudo Echo's "His Eyes"--the coolest song ever in a Friday the 13th film--automatically give this entry added cred. Take it away, boys!
He had a look so hard, I'd never seen him smile
I could've told you then, you'd heard it all before
And now you're in suspense, you'll have to wait for more
In all those mysteries you're taken by surprise
When I reviewed the deluxe editions of Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 earlier this year, I ranked the films in the series. Keep your eyes peeled for an update soon, because there's some slight shuffling in store after recent repeated viewings...
The anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer is mastered in high definition, and while this is a slightly cleaner print than the 2004 disc from the box set (some black lines are no longer intruding in the opening sequence), overall it's not a drastic difference or improvement. That's not really a bad thing, because overall the 2004 disc looks pretty good. There's grain here, but detail and colors are overall fairly sharp.
'cause I'm looking at these kills, and they're not good."
- director Danny Steinmann
While the previous two releases had virtually no bonus features for A New Beginning save for a brief Corey Feldman interview, the recent documentary His Name Was Jason gave us a little something to nibble on. Unfortunately, that makes the relatively light extras here not nearly as exciting as they would otherwise be.
New Beginnings: The Making of Friday the 13th: Part V - A New Beginning (clever title!) clocks in at a disappointing 10:40, and doesn't cover much new ground (the secretive nature of the script, the MPAA cuts, the two Jasons). Director Danny Steinmann and actors Shavar Ross, Dick Weiand and Tom Morga all appeared in His Name Was Jason, and they aren't given enough time to share anything new or of real substance (oddly, John Shepherd--who also appeared in that documentary and participates in the audio commentary here--doesn't appear in this segment). But we do get one new participant, which turns out to be the best part of the featurette--Tiffany Helm talks about her memorable turn as Violet, and about the popularity of her dancing, "a cross between a pantomime and a robot." (She also notes she got to pick out the song, which she deserves major credit for if true.)
Ross talks about his love for the red sweat suit ("I think they had 100 to 150 of those suits just on hand because there was a lot of fake rain"), and Steinmann tries to defend the lengthy sex scene that got butchered by the ratings board: "It would have been something the audience would be able to relax for a while and watch two people just having fun with each other." (Okay, Danny!) He also notes that he was mandated to provide a "jump" every seven minutes, while composer Harry Manfredini talks about the challenge of the score.
Also on hand is "horror guru" Michael Felsher, who doesn't have many intriguing things to say. He oversells the film's humor and bad reputation: "Friday the 13th Part 5 has the worst reputation bar none of any of the sequels, and it's absolute bullshit!" he says (apparently he never saw Parts 8, 9 or 10), adding that people "weren't ready" for the pitch-black humor, "as dark a humor I've ever seen in any horror film." (Really, Michael?!) The segment also has a quick but cool "kill count" montage.
In addition the film's theatrical trailer (which gives away too many shots, including the last barn jump--something that angered me when I saw it as a kid), you get Lost Tales from Camp Blood Part 5 (6:22). The short fan film from Andrew Ceperley is a tad better than its predecessors, which isn't saying much. It's a quick stalk scene set to Friday music and featuring a slasher without a hockey mask.
Equally avoidable is The Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited Part II (9:43), a mock news report/documentary from His Name Was Jason director/producer Daniel Farrands. The piece talks about the slayings and tries to bridge the gap between Parts 4 and 5. It opts for humor, which turns out to be a bad idea--an interview with Reggie's cousins--rap artists Dudley D. and Rodney Ross--yields this quote: "He pushed the old cracker off the barnyard! You don't mess with Reggie like that...he might scream like a little bitch, but he'll fuck 'yo ass up, even in that little red suit!"
The biggest draw here is the audio commentary with Steinmann, Shepherd, Ross and (unfortunately) Felsher, who joins them via phone (?) and is more distracting than enlightening (no, Michael...Ethel is not "one of the greatest characters ever", and did you forget that Amy Steel used a chainsaw in Part 2?). If you saw Steinmann in His Name Was Jason, you know he's a mildly cantankerous curmudgeon--you're never quite sure when he's joking or when he's being serious. He frequently creates a nervous energy that's sometime uncomfortable and sometimes hilarious:
But the less spastic co-commentators are just as entertaining. Shepherd is fantastic, and was one of my favorite contributors from His Name Was Jason. His humor is more subdued but equally funny, his intelligent observations and comments always a treat to listen to (I wish he spoke more, but his attention-hogging companions don't give him much opportunity). He frequently jokes about his minimal dialogue: "I thought, 'Gosh, I have one of the leads and I have no lines. I'm gonna be Robert Duvall! Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird! This is amazing!'"
Shepherd is also the recipient of a cruel question from Steinmann, who I'm guessing didn't intend to be an ass: "How couldn't you get work after this?! This is a good performance...you shoulda' been a star!" Ross also prompts a few chuckles when he chimes in about his Uta Hagen technique, the film's Jheri curls, the difficulty of lighting black actors, and how some of the characters just walk into their kills.
They all wonder aloud where Kinnaman is these days (c'mon, Melanie! Why won't you participate in any of these bonus features? We love you!), and the gang loves to make fun of anything and everything in the film: the characters (Vinnie and Pete look like they "wandered in out of The Outsiders"), script deficiencies ("I question letting having kids in a halfway house have an axe," says Shepherd), the number of shots with Shepherd framed in a window (make it a drinking game!) and the technical mistakes (Steinmann gets slightly sensitive about the pink sweater, saying "You know, I'd drop that..." as the guys joke about the "Melanie Kinnaman Sweater Watch").
The director also gets irritated at other questions, like why some characters have weird accents and how Tommy would have access to a knife and mask in his hospital room: "You know, when you guys pick and choose and everything like that, it demeans the work...forget about that stuff! What's important was there were people getting killed, and you saw a few breasts!"
Steinmann makes frequent reference to the kills being cut by the MPAA, and how many of the scenes were longer and gorier--but he says nothing about where that footage is. Even Ross comments on how lame some of the kills are (Violet's death "looks like you just stabbed a pillow"). But since this is Paramount we're dealing with, we get none of the cut sequences (it's hard being a Friday fan, isn't it?). The two also discuss the infamous alternate take of Violet's death, which I'm betting we'll never see--even Steinmann thought it was too much ("I tried to make it happen...I just thought I would be banned...").
Let's hope somewhere down the line, a true Deluxe Edition of A New Beginning gets released. In the meantime, this kooky, funny and sometimes uncomfortable commentary will have to tide you over...even if none of the contributors can remember the name of Pseudo Echo or A Place in the Sun (Bastards!).