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June 16, 2011

Midnight Movie of the Week #76 - Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (Guest Post by Enbrethliel of Shredded Cheddar)

(Note from The Mike: When I realized that I was going to have to leave FMWL alone for my vacation, I couldn't think of many people who would be as qualified to keep the midnight spirit alive as Enbrethliel of Shredded Cheddar.  E has long been one of the site's most dedicated readers - even though her specialty is books - and I'm stoked that she's joined us to offer up this week's Midnight Movie of the Week.  Read on to find out why she fits FMWL perfectly (HINT: THE BLOB!), and don't forget to head over to her site and check it out!)
You know that scene in The Blob (1958) when Steve McQueen’s character is trying to convince the police that a monster that has already killed one person is on the loose—and the police can’t take him seriously because when they ask him to describe it, he says it’s a “kind of like a mass that keeps getting bigger and bigger”? He already has a few pranks on his record and this story hardly sounds plausible, so they hesitate to believe him. The trouble is that he’s telling the truth.
Few other characters in horror can relate to that scenario as well as Tommy Jarvis can. When he goes running to the police at the beginning of this sixth Friday the 13th installment, to warn them that Jason Voorhees has risen from his grave and has just begun another killing spree, they not only refuse to believe him but also lock him in a cell until they can escort him out of town. They know of his personal history with Jason and the fact that he has been in institutions or halfway houses ever since; and it’s just reasonable to dismiss his crazy tale of a midnight resurrection. Like Steve before him, Tommy has no choice but to take matters into his own hands.
Thom Mathews is the third actor in a row to portray Tommy Jarvis, and he actually gives the original Tommy, a young Corey Feldman, a run for his money. Feldman was perfect as the weird little brother in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter whose unexpected insight into Jason’s psyche helps him save his sister but nearly lose his own mind. John Shepherd took over in A New Beginning, in which Tommy is supposed to be spiraling into full-blown psychosis, but never matched Feldman’s original intensity. (In all fairness, it was a very high bar.) What Mathews inherits here is a character with a back story nearly as complex as that of Jason Voorhees—and he wastes no time making the role his own. His Tommy Jarvis is a man of action: he doesn’t wait for catharsis to come to him; he drives all night to where it is buried and digs it up.
How it plays out involves equal parts courage, carnage and comedy of errors.

The tragicomic fact is that Jason would have rotted in peace for the rest of eternity if Tommy hadn’t gone to that graveyard in the middle of a storm, and then, deviating from his own plan to burn the corpse, given in to a mad impulse to stab it repeatedly with an iron fence post. That lightning happens to strike that one post out of all the others in the graveyard may be considered a freak accident, and that the electric shock completely revives a man who has been dead for years may be considered some supernaturally bad luck . . . but Tommy remains the main agent of Jason’s resurrection. The irony is that if he had got the police to believe his story, they would have been even more justified in locking him up for the part he has played!
Luckily for Tommy, however, there is someone who thinks he’s too cute to be crazy. Every teenage boy trying to save a skeptical town should be so lucky. That she is also the sheriff’s daughter is a nod to another old trope: the second parallel to The Blob, in which prankster Steve wins the trust of the high school principal’s daughter, and a cute twist that turns Jason Lives into a decent date movie. Jennifer Cooke plays the perky and exasperating Megan Garris and has great chemistry with Mathews.
Clearly, this Friday the 13th movie has a completely different dynamic from all those that have gone before. Yes, we still get our thrills and our kills: the body count is impressive without seeming excessive, and the new, supernaturally strong Jason makes the perfect dressing for this serving of Slasher salad. What we no longer have is passive waiting while the bodies pile up and the remaining survivors figure out what is going on. This time around, we get a hero as well as villain—someone else with a sense of purpose beyond self-preservation . . . someone who gives new meaning to getting the Final Girl in the end.

8 comments:

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I know you're not a big fan of Slashers, so I'm doubly honoured that you let my submission stand as the Midnight Movie of the Week. Thanks again, The Mike, for letting me be a part of your 80s Horror celebration!

Syrin said...

I can't comment on the movie because I have only gotten to Part II so far, but I really enjoyed The Blob parallels! I'm intrigued about Tommy and how he changes the franchise. One of the appealing things about Nightmare on Elm Street (1-3 is how far I've gotten in those) is the way the way the heroes are just as important as Freddy is. I would think that I would enjoy Tommy for the same reasons.

Jillian said...

If this is an 80s horror celebration, this post fits just perfectly. How can you NOT write about this franchise?

I love the fact that Tommy is a protagonist actually worth pimping out, if you know what I mean! You don't feel guilty for liking the guy and for wanting him to succeed and live in the end. There's nothing worse than an unlikable protagonist that you actually would LOVE to see get killed! LOL.

Now I have to admit I HATE slasher movies. I hate them so much that I often wonder why I find them so interesting. I can't seem to stop watching them.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Syrin -- That's a good point about the Nightmare on Elm Street movies! I think it's most evident in Dream Warriors, but you do see it throughout the franchise. Not so true for Friday the 13th, though . . . =/

Admittedly, the very next movie, The New Blood has a similar formula: we have another protagonist, this time, a girl! There are some fans who really, really like it because of that, too. (As for me: I can see its good points, but I missed Tommy too much to be objective about it this time around.)

Jillian -- I hope I don't embarrass The Mike now by saying on his blog that Tommy Jarvis is my biggest Horror crush! <3 (It was probably already obvious, though.) And you're right that it's great to have a character you can really root for--not just because you want someone to survive the carnage, but because you like having a hero you can lay your bets on!

Dod said...

For the longest time, this was my favorite F13 movie - and actually, come to think of it, it still is, with Part 2 coming in a close second (and I do have a special place in my heart for Jason Goes To Hell and Freddy vs. Jason for their goofiness).

It had a sleeker look and a definitive hero ready to take the fight to Jason, and I always dig the hero vs. supervillain matchups.

And I can't forget that great song by Alice Cooper ("Man Behind The Mask").

GREAT post!

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Thanks, Dod! =D

This is a "new" favourite for me because I didn't see it until very recently. Hitherto, the first one I ever saw--and the one I'm still most familiar with--was Part III/3D; and although I'm a Tommy Jarvis fangirl now, it will always have nostalgic value.

PS -- How did I ever manage not to mention Man behind the Mask in this post??? I love that song!

The Mike said...

E, I know I've already said it, but this is a really fantastic piece. I must admit that, while I've always enjoyed the Tommy trilogy (as commented on again in my latest post), your take on this did inspire me to pop in the DVD again and look at the film from a new perspective. Which is awesome.

On a side note (even though I hate to toot my own horn), I was REALLY psyched when I got the screencap of Megan eyeing Tommy through the bars just how I wanted it. She turns on the "holy crap, I heart Tommy" in an instant, and that sly smile really sets up the rest of the film in a perfectly silly (and, as you say, Blobby) kind of way!

Speaking of, did I give this the AWESOME BLOBNESS tag? Because it deserves it!

And, that's fixed now. :)

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Only on this blog would I be so happy to be not just awesome, but also blobby! =P

And yes, it's a great screencap of Megan--not to mention the perfect visual "bridge" to take us from the fifth paragraph's "locked up" imagery to the sixth paragraph's daughter-of-authority-figure trope. (Yeah, I notice things like that.)

Something I didn't get to write about in detail here is that Jason Lives is such a coming-of-age story for Tommy that he doesn't just "get the girl," but also experiences what I'm willing to bet is his very first kiss! (Not a bad one, either! =P He might have been in hospitals and halfway houses for the past few years, but the guy has got some slick moves! Yes, it was probably all part of their plan, but you can tell that Megan was surprised . . . and impressed!)