One year after a telekinetic teen sentenced Jason back to the depths of Crystal Lake, Paramount released the next installment of the Jason Voorhees franchise. Friday the 13th: Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan starts on a cruise ship with a slew of graduating teens and then follows Jason as he terrorizes a few throughout Manhattan. This film is the final sequel for Paramount; Jason Goes to Hell and Jason X are released through New Line Cinema. Rumor has it the underwhelming sales for this film led to Paramount selling the rights and to be honest, I’m not surprised. As with the Halloween franchise, a drop-off in quality this late in the game is expected. Jason Takes Manhattan delivers this drop-off with flair; it has worse than ever acting, a horrifying portrayal of New York City and a plot that left me searching for a book to read while the movie was on. The only thing this film has going for it are some wicked awesome death sequences, but even that’s not enough to save this film.
I’ll start with the one good thing this film had - wicked awesome death sequences. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Jason is my favorite villain for many reasons but one of them is because he is great at utilizing nearby objects for weapons. Sure, the machete is Jason’s weapon, it’s what he’s known for. Lucky for viewers, though, he has no problem shaking it up and using other items. In this film, Jason’s wields a guitar, a fishing spear, a syringe... the list goes on. This is also the first of his films to feature Jason strangling someone. Viewers will appreciate the creativity; it makes the film fun and unique.
I’m no fool - I know the Friday the 13th horror franchise isn’t exactly a breeding ground for Oscar-winning performances. While a few gems sparkle throughout (Kevin Bacon, Corey Feldman...), these films are always lacking in great performances. However, many of the films do a fine job with acting and the story and fear is somewhat believable. Part 3 and 6 come to mind. This, though, wasn’t one of those films. The cast of this film is terrible and their performances are nearly as horrifying as the villain stalking them. At times, I felt as though I could see the actors thinking to themselves “This is really stupid, who would buy this?” as they were screaming, allegedly in fear. Horror films, more than any other genre, require solid acting if they hope to appear at all believable. This film didn’t have that, and my experience suffered heavily because of it.
I’ve read online that initially, the creators wanted to feature many more sequences in New York City, but it was too expensive. As a result, the first half (or more) of the film is on a cruise ship and the last part is running through the ghetto of Manhattan. While the writers may have been saddened by this structure, I actually wished they’d gone more in that direction. The scenes on the cruise ship were fun and much more in tune with a Friday the 13th film. Once the drama moved to the streets, I was bored. Gone were the days of Jason stalking down the halls and tormenting teens. Here were the days of watching him chase only a few people around the most disgusting city I’ve ever seen. That’s another thing, the portrayal of New York City in this film is horrific. I’ve never lived in NYC, and I certainly wasn’t living there in the early 90s, but I have to think the city didn’t look like this. In the film, the city is gross and graffitti-filled and ridden with druggies, thieves and rapists. It was incredibly distracting and did nothing for the film.
Overall, this is one of my least favorite Jason films, which is tough to accept because I love him and his antics. This film was far from believable and the plot was one of the worst. A few unique death scenes kept the first part of the film afloat, but it wasn’t enough to keep the entire thing going. Plus, with the horrifying portrayal of NYC, I found myself wondering who the villain was - Jason or the big apple?
If you liked Friday the 13th Part 8, you might also like Jason Goes to Hell, Jason X and Freddy vs. Jason.