FRIDAY THE 13th PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN
Director: Rob Hedden
Year of release: 1989
Country of origin: USA/Canada
Running time: 100 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: As far as I know it's DVD only.
Taglines: "New York has a new problem" and "Life in the city is murder".
Also known as: Friday the 13th 8 and Friday the 13th part VIII: Jason in New York
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: The last graduating class of a closing high school situated near the Crystal Lake area has arranged a trip to Manhattan as a treat for the graduating students. The group will be making their way to Manhattan by cruise ship which is where much of the action takes place. Things begin to go awry when two students making their way to the ship on their own small boat accidentally revive Jason after dropping anchor near the fiends watery grave. Making short work of the pair Jason soon finds himself as a stowaway on the cruise ship as it begins its journey to Manhattan.
Also boarding the vessel is shy student Rennie who is afraid of the water and plagued by visions of a drowning boy. These visions stem from a past summer Rennie spent in Jason territory as a girl while under the supervision of her guardian and uncle Charles. Charles is now the strict and uptight teacher in charge of the cruise and trip to New York.
As Jason starts doing away with those on board and generally causing havoc a group of survivors, Rennie, her boyfriend and Charles among them escape on a lifeboat to eventually find themselves in Manhattan. It soon becomes apparent however that Jason has followed them to dry land.
Good points: *With this eighth entry a lot of people complain about how so little of the film is set in New York and were initially disappointed as a result but for me I found the setting to be a good thing. I came to the film late only seeing it for the first time about five years ago so after reading for years about how it all took place on the boat I was actually pleasantly surprised when the last quarter of the film actually did take place in Manhattan. Once there I think they used the city well and it was worth the wait. It certainly brought a freshness to things as did the boat scenes from earlier on which in themselves felt different enough from everything else in the franchise in terms of backdrop to feel new and exotic. I can understand peoples frustrations with the setting as the title is misleading but from reading peoples complaints I’d always assumed it was just five minutes or so in New York but in actuality it’s more like fifteen to twenty so not too shabby in my book.
*I liked many of the characters in this one in particular Rennie as the final girl and her uncle Charles who I found to be very entertaining as the gruff, straight laced stuffy school teacher. Other characters who stood out for me as well were Tamara and Julius as well as the deckhand guy who seemed patterned on old favourite Crazy Ralph. This character in particular was a neat inclusion as a cool throwback to the first two films.
I have read criticism for the film in regards to the characters as well with people saying they are very similar to those in part seven. Charles for example being perhaps another version of Doctor Crews. I can see where critics are coming from in this area but for me it wasn’t a problem as I liked part seven’s cast for the most part anyway.
*Jason takes Manhattan has quite a light hearted vibe running through it which makes it enjoyable to watch. Things like the aforementioned Crazy Ralph homage character, Tamara trying to seduce Charles, JJ rocking out with her guitar and in particular the scenes near the end in New York were all a hoot in my view. There’s a lot of fun to be had here.
*Spoiler: Going back to the Rennie character I liked how they gave her a bit of a backstory connected to both Jason and Camp Crystal Lake. This provided her with an extra layer which was passed on to Jason himself in a supernatural sense with how he reverted back to being a child at the very end. It tied in with Rennie’s visions of a young Jason throughout the film.
Speaking of the supernatural Jason’s newfound power of teleportation was on display here. Again this can be a cause for irritation for some but at least it gave us something new we hadn’t really experienced before which is welcome in a long running series like this with a tendency to re-tread over old ground. Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t have wanted to have seen this in the early films where Jason was more a normal man (of a fashion) but seeing that he is pretty much a walking zombie at this stage anyway I didn’t have a problem with it.
Bad Points: *There are a few small things that don’t make sense like why Suzi and Jimmy at the start are travelling to the ship by boat. Firstly it’s just very unlikely that they would be travelling by boat in the first place especially taking into account their age. Secondly they are supposed to be passing through Camp Crystal Lake which by definition would be a lake and as such almost certainly not connected to the sea. Despite this their small boat still somehow manages to drift down to the ocean.
Mild spoiler: Another thing I thought was really silly was how the sewers in NY appeared to be periodically flushed with some sort of toxic waste type substance. What on earth would be the point of that and wouldn’t it just do a tonne of damage down there corroding pipes and such?
Shortly before the main characters escape on the lifeboat we see some other kids left in the restaurant/disco area of the ship but they just disappear and we don’t see them again. They are briefly mentioned I think with someone just saying that the area in question had been destroyed but you would think the teachers would at least go and check to make sure they couldn’t save anybody. In general I felt that too many of the kids just disappeared without explanation. I guess we’re supposed to assume they just went down with the ship (assuming it did sink) but some clarity would have been nice.
*The dog Toby is a redundant addition that barely adds anything and is completely out of the picture for large periods of the film only to reappear as if by magic in the lifeboat. He could have been better utilised if he had of attacked Jason at one point in an attempt to help Rennie but as it turned out he proved to be a rather cowardly useless inclusion.
*Much like with The New Blood the deaths again are disappointing more often than not with little gore or with the camera cutting away at the key moment. (Spoiler: JJ being killed with her guitar would be a good example of one such underwhelming death scene). To be fair though it isn’t all bad news in this area as there are several standout kills that elevate things such as one involving a barrel of sludge and another boxing related kill which is arguably among the best in the entire series. With that in mind this is only a very minor bad point with the deaths being a mixed bag. If being kind you could even list them as a good point. It’s just a shame there wasn’t a bit more blood.
Verdict: This for me is a bit of a guilty pleasure type film and perhaps one of my favourite entries in the Friday the 13th franchise. I appreciate the effort made to change up the setting and it feels unique and fresh to me as a result and is helped along by a handful of likeable or entertaining characters. Spoiler: I also rather liked the supernatural touches and how Jason went full circle returning to a boy at the end.
I can understand people’s frustrations with much of the film not taking place in New York which you wouldn’t expect to be the case going by the title. The ending with the sewer waste is also a bit silly. On top of this you have to try your best to overlook some dubious parts such as the boat on the lake in the beginning finding its way to the sea. Overall though its good fun and a more than worthwhile entry into the series.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Jimmy: Harpoon through the chest pinning him to the wall.
2)Suzi: Stabbed in the chest with harpoon spear.
3)JJ: Bludgeoned with guitar.
4)Boxing opponent of Julius’: Hot sauna rock plunged through chest.
5)Tamara: Stabbed with pieces of broken mirror.
6)Admiral’s assistant/engineer: Impaled through the back with harpoon.
7)Admiral Robertson: Throat slit.
8)Eva: Strangled in the disco.
9)Deckhand/ship crew member: Shot by Wayne in a case of mistaken identity.
10)Wayne: Thrown onto a control panel and electrocuted.
11)Miles: Thrown from ship’s rigging mast to be impaled on antenna/ship equipment.
12)Crazy Ralph type deckhand: Axed in the back.
13)Gang member #1: Syringe thrust through his body.
14)Gang member #2: Head bashed into pipe.
15)Julius: Decapitated with his head punched clean off his shoulders.
16)Cop: Dragged away to be killed off screen.
17)Teacher Colleen Van Deusen: Killed in car explosion.
18)Charles: Drowned in a barrel of dirty liquid/sludge.
19)Sewer Worker: Bashed in the head with a wrench.
Note: I’m not counting the kids presumably left for dead on the ship as the exact number is unclear.