Movie Review: “Friday the 13th: A New Beginning”

   After Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, it was envisioned that Jason Voorhees and the fables of Camp Crystal Lake would finally be put to rest. However, as the saying goes, “You can’t keep a Good Guy down.” Of course, that saying refers to Child’s Play, but it could also refer to Halloween II or Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. Both were titles meant to close the storybook on Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers, and both obviously did not. Instead, money talked, and the rest was history. The same sentiment applies to the fourth Friday the 13th, which was followed by Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, only one year later.

   How wonderful were the eighties? Here we are in 2023 and it has been nearly a decade and a half since the Friday the 13th reboot, but, way back when, Friday the 13th, Halloween, and A Nightmare on Elm Street movies were pumped out like they were going out of style, and they were, … I guess, … ultimately, … which is why we don’t see them as often.

   Of course, there is a tradeoff to fast turnaround. Nowadays, the closest thing we’ve ever had to the 80s era of excess was when the Saw franchise managed to pump out a yearly film without missing a beat. Like them, you can certainly see the consequences of their swift production. As much as I liked certain Saw films (1, 3, and 6, and Spiral), the rest of them I had either a thorough dislike of or a general indifference to.

   Like the Saw franchise, Friday the 13th’s approach has result in a mixed-bag result. The series isn’t so much defined by the quality of one film, but all of the different moments that make up the franchise. It is a series that can largely be summarized in a highlight reel of kills and gore, bolstering the character’s iconography.

   To A New Beginning’s credit, it did try to do something new with the film. Instead of a straightforward Jason Voorhees roll in the hay, it does something a little different. It follows the story of Tommy Jarvis, years after the events of the last film. Since then, and as eluded to in the prior film, the cheese has slipped off ol’ Jarvis’ cracker a little bit. The character is tormented by nightmares evoking the traumatic events of The Final Chapter, making him edgy and more than a little odd. He finds himself living at a halfway house when a hockey mask wearing murderer begins to wreak havoc.

   Similar to The Final Chapter, A New Beginning has more characterization and narrative than the original three films.

   The characters, however, don’t translate over as well, nor does it really deliver the “goods” as successfully as the earlier film. The film does remain as raunchy and bloody as ever, which might be enough to keep the unassuming viewer captivated in the short term. You will be paid your money’s worth in breasts and bloodshed, but I would argue it doesn’t land as well. The kills, I mean, I haven’t really been keeping a chart on the breasts – for all I know, it might be the best in respect!

   On the subject of nudity, there is something about it that draws you in, isn’t there? I mean, besides the obvious – of being a male who enjoys the naked female body. Although, once upon a time, a young Nick(elbib) thoroughly enjoyed the flesh these films have to offer, as an adult (with working internet), such inclusions don’t really do anything for me. And yet, it sets the tone for the rest of the film, doesn’t it? That you’re about to watch a stupid film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and sometimes, just sometimes, that’s all you want from a film.

   The film itself feels more flippant than the last film. It has a lot of characters, none of them particularly good or memorable, and it fills the runtime with scenes (a criticism I had with 1-3 was that they sometimes felt like they went through the motions to reach feature length), but they all feel incohesive, amounting to an experience that ends up seeming slapped together or messy.

   There are two major payoffs to this film – one of them is incredibly predictable (involving Tommy Jarvis) and the other is incredibly lame (who is behind the hockey mask). Although the last film’s end certainly came off as cheesy, at least you could laugh at a bald Corey Feldman going crazy with a machete. 

   My favorite part of the film is that they use two different masks throughout the film – one with the classic red arrows on the hockey mask and another with blue. It was a subtle way to foreshadow the eventual reveal, as lame as it was. 

   During the casting of this film, it was kept under wraps from the actor’s auditioning that this would be a sequel to Friday the 13th until production began, and many actors actually voiced their disappointment about it – criticizing the film as trash after the fact. The director of the film Danny Steinmann claimed he “shot a porno in the woods,” and considering he made his debut directing the hardcore porno film High Rise, the guy knows what he’s talking about.

   In total, the fifth Friday the 13th leaves little to write home about. I liked it more than Friday the 13th: Part III (which I still consider right now, by far, the worst of the series), but I would rank it behind the original two and four, existing mostly as a transitional installment in a series that doesn’t yet know what to do with itself.

Rating: – 1.9 out of 5.0