Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) **1/2
D: Rob Hedden
C: Barbara Bingham, Vinnie Capone, Gordon Currie, Jensen Daggett
Plot Synopsis: Jason hopes aboard a cruise ship heading to Manhattan to slaughter yet another round of teens.
Review: Out of all the entries in the Friday the 13th franchise, this is the one that fans generally dislike. The reason is two fold, the first being that it doesn't live up to the promise of its title. The second is that it attempts something new and, in the process, it alienated its core audience. However, we can't talk about all of this without talking about the plot.
This time around, Jason hopes aboard a cruise ship heading to Manhattan. One of the passengers happens to be a teenager who encountered Jason when she was a kid. She happened to survive Jason's attempt at drowning her, but it left her psychologically scarred. Now, with Jason on the same ship as her, she must face the very demon that plagues her.
That's what gives this eighth entry a point of differentiation, is that it expands upon the story and that they use Jason as something other then as literal killing machine. Jason is now a metaphor for facing our problems. When Jason is stuck on the same ship as the heroine, she would rather not acknowledge it, but she can't since Jason is killing those around her. Eventually, the heroine gets off the ship and runs around the streets of Manhattan with Jason disposing of what few friends she has left. No matter how hard she runs, Jason keeps coming & coming. The metaphor is that no matter how hard you try to run away from your problems, they'll keep coming after you and they'll destroy your life in the process.
By the time this metaphorical approach came to be, fans had gotten accustomed to the producers remaking part II, but with minor variations such as Jason getting a mask in part III, Jason dying in part IV, etc. etc. They kept doing the same thing, because it made money. When this entry was released, viewers weren't used to a sequel that featured a bit more plot, depth and consideration then any of the sequels before it.
Stating the obvious, for anyone familiar with this, it is overlong. Much of the promised action that's supposed to take place in Manhattan is regulated to taking aboard a cruise ship heading for Manhattan. When they arrive at Manhattan, it's obvious that filming took someplace other then Manhattan. Fans will argue that you can't promise something and then not deliver upon that. As a result, this was one of the least financially successful entries in the series and was the one sequel that almost all fans have directed animosity towards.
However, that animosity is pointed in the wrong direction. The story isn't about Jason taking Manhattan. It's about someone having to address the problems in their life whether they want to or not. That animosity should be pointed towards the marketing department, towards Paramount, towards anyone that dreamed up ads proclaiming how Jason was going to slice & dice his way through Manhattan. However, the film shouldn't be held accountable for not living up to whatever gimmick was used in marketing it.
While Jason Takes Manhattan isn't perfect, there's a level of ambition here that's been missing in the previous entries. They actually have the guts to go against the grain and take on something other then mindless death sequences. That alone makes it far more worthy then its predecessors. [R] 108 mins.
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