Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director: Danny Steinmann
Writer: Martin Kitrosser, David Cohen, Danny Steinmann
Producer: Timothy Silver
Stars: Melanie Kinnaman, John Shepherd, Shavar Ross, Richard Young, Marco St. John, Juliette Cummins, Carol Locatell, Vernon Washington, Dick Wieand, Corey Feldman
Tommy Jarvis struggles with nightmarish visions of Jason Voorhees when a new series of murders begins at Pinehurst Youth Center.
“A New Beginning” is the “Friday the 13th” sequel that fans watch out of obligation only while doing a marathon viewing of the entire series in order. In choosing a random “Friday the 13th” movie to watch, no one ever says, “hey, let’s do Part V!” Unless the person making the suggestion wants to hear a confused response of, “isn’t that the one without Jason?”
Spoiler Alert! Yes, “A New Beginning” is the “Friday the 13th” movie without Jason, dream sequences excluded. “Part V,” a Roman numeral which was added to the title later, comes from an odd time in slasher franchise development when extracting the main attraction seemed like a good idea for a different direction. Whereas “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” had the courtesy to be upfront about having no relation to Michael Myers, “Friday the 13th Part V” adds insult to injury by pretending Jason Voorhees is lurking about when it is really someone else behind the hockey mask.
“Part V” has something in common with the original “Friday the 13th” that none of the other sequels have. And that is a murder mystery missing the latter half of that term. The first “Friday the 13th” was a big cheat as a whodunit because Mrs. Voorhees was not introduced as a character until minutes before her reveal as the murderer. No point racking the brain over the killer’s identity when the story is not playing fair about presenting the possibilities.
“A New Beginning” sets itself up with the same “who could it be” scenario when a fresh crop of teenage slaughter plagues an adult Tommy Jarvis at Pinehurst Youth Development Center, which is basically the same thing as Camp Crystal Lake. “Part V” does an even worse job than the original at creating intrigue since the movie is never entirely clear about there being a mystery to solve in the first place.
Apart from the annoying fact that hands are the only part of the killer ever seen until the finale, there is no definitive reason to assume it is anyone other than Jason Voorhees wielding the machete. The sheriff’s investigation into the piling bodies carries barely a whiff of police procedural. And if “Friday the 13th Part V” does want to hide its stalker’s true face, it does an embarrassingly disastrous job of it.
The first murder occurs when troubled halfway house resident Vic takes a wood-cutting ax to sad sack Joey. Ambulance driver Roy Burns then makes his appearance exactly twelve seconds after camp counselor, excuse me, Pinehurst director Matt says about Joey, “I don’t know what the hell happened to his father.” Roy then has the exaggerated reaction of dropping his jaw and turning in horror at the sight of Joey’s body, which is curious behavior for a supposedly seasoned paramedic. As the scene fades to black on a closeup of Roy wearing an expression like he is about to transform into The Incredible Hulk, only the brain dead could miss seeing Roy’s fuse being lit.
Roy appears just once more between then and the “surprise” reveal. When the next pair of bodies is discovered, the sheriff rhetorically asks out loud, “what the hell’s going on here?” Roy pops his head into frame like a sitcom character on cue to respond, “you talkin’ to me sheriff?” Flashing neon arrows would have more subtlety.
Bungled thriller aside, “A New Beginning” is mediocre even as an average horror film. Often refusing to speak when spoken to, the perpetually mute behavior of hero Tommy Jarvis meant to make him emotionally broken only distances him from the audience as someone worth caring about. Ditto for pretty much everyone else in the film. Bland teenage meat puppets are a staple of the series, but “Part V” brings empty personalities to new levels with characters whose only reason for being is to serve as pincushions for a machete.
“A New Beginning” cannot even capitalize on a simple cameo opportunity. Decades later, having Corey Feldman appear in a horror movie for a few minutes and wasting his presence on a throwaway role would be par for the course. “Friday the 13th Part V” has Feldman at its disposal during the peak of his child star fame, yet all they have him do is catch flies with his mouth while pelting his face with raindrops.
The last leg to stand on relates to what the film delivers in the memorable murder and scares department. That too is a lackluster disappointment. Even in 1985, mirror reflection gags and jumping cat frights were already played out as passé, yet here they are in full force. Either out of an unspecified intention to be an homage to itself, or simply because the script is out of original ideas, “Part V” also recycles previous “Friday the 13th” moments including an under the bed stab and a body thrown through a window. Even the outhouse shaking sequence is stolen right from “Part III.”
Such a throwback sensibility to buffoonish hillbilly characters, mid-eighties ridiculousness, and questionable moviemaking efforts can give “Part V” a modicum of charm if tackled in a certain mood. But under a light where that goodwill is exhausted and the movie is taken for what it is, “A New Beginning” falls to the bottom on the list of worthy “Friday the 13th” sequels, and falls even further as a slasher film overall.
Review Score: 40
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives Review