Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director: John Carl Buechler
Writer: Daryl Haney, Manuel Fidello
Producer: Iain Paterson
Stars: Lar Park Lincoln, Kevin Blair, Susan Blu, Terry Kiser, Susan Jennifer Sullivan, Elizabeth Kaitan, Jon Renfield, Jeff Bennett, Heidi Kozak, Diana Barrows, Kane Hodder
A telekinetic teen inadvertently raises Jason Voorhees from his watery grave, kickstarting a new Crystal Lake killing spree.
Fans give “Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood” a great deal of guff, a fair bit of which is rightly deserved due to a slipshod production. Not all of its criticisms are earned necessarily, as the movie does get a few things conceptually right, even if execution is off.
For one thing, “Part VII” is the first Jason-centric entry in the series to have a throughline someone can definitively put a finger on. It’s a poorly plotted one, yet still more than can be said of other “Friday the 13th” sequels where conveyor belts simply send partying teens into Jason Voorhees’ machete blade.
To be sure, “The New Blood” has plenty of that too. But the lead’s motivation to redeem herself for her father’s inadvertent death provides a loose theme that actually makes this movie ‘about’ something.
Some years ago, young Tina Shepard’s dormant telekinetic powers came to life when she shouted, “I wish you were dead!” to her abusive father standing on a Crystal Lake pier. Tina’s wish came true. The pier collapsed around dear dad, trapping him underwater to keep company with Jason, still attached to the sunken stone Tommy Jarvis chained around his torso.
With Tina now a teen, Dr. Crews wants to get to the bottom of these psychic abilities by having the girl confront her guilt at its source. When her frustration boils over, Tina wills her father to rise from his grave, but unwittingly resurrects Jason instead. If Tommy Jarvis has blood on his hands for bringing back Voorhees in “Jason Lives” (review here), imagine what it will do to Tina’s mind when Crystal Lake’s killer takes his terror tactics to love interest Nick and his party guests next door.
From the Carrie White clone to the cheap coincidence of a conveniently populated cabin a few feet away, “The New Blood’s” setups are admittedly silly. What else was anyone going to do to freshen the formula six sequels deep in the series? Send Jason into outer space? It would take a trip to New York and another one to Hell before producers would be desperate enough for that far out idea to take flight. All premises being relative, telekinetic teen is one of the more grounded ones.
“The New Blood” certainly isn’t without problems, though they’re generally the same ones hamstringing every “Friday the 13th” film. Secondary character development is as cursory as ever. Never mind names. Outside of “sci-fi geek” and “girl with glasses,” it’s nigh impossible to note anything distinctive about anyone. Not only are several partygoer personalities redundant, they’re hitched to barely there love triangles or troubled romances that don’t do a single thing to create a connection.
“Part VII” also has some of the dumbest excuses for scene changes ever seen in a horror film, which is really saying something. If you watch the movie with an eye for when people suddenly decide to change locations or why, none of their movements have any sensible reasoning behind them.
One scene has Tina and Nick debating her need to find her mother against his desire to gather his friends. Despite knowing a murderous madman is loose, Nick willingly leaves Tina alone at her cabin, because she insists on waiting to see if her mother returns, to jaunt over to the neighboring house. Nick finds the first body just a few feet from the front door, prompting a quick 50-yard dash back to Tina’s place. Somewhere in those two minutes, Tina scrapped her plan to stay put to venture somewhere else. At least Melissa, who sneaked away from that other cabin some incalculable time ago and had been who knows where since, serendipitously arrived within that window, though she and Tina never crossed paths.
The movie makes it seem like Crystal Lake’s layout puts large lengths between each landmark while establishing shots show the geography putting everything within easy shouting distance. This makes believability an even bigger issue, although when isn’t it in slasher cinema? No one ever hears anything whenever someone is murdered. This includes one girl inside a van who doesn’t hear Jason crushing her boyfriend’s skull on the other side of a door.
The MPAA infamously did more butchering to “The New Blood” than Jason does onscreen in the film. Nearly no blood is seen and the camera habitually cuts from any impact or penetration when a metal implement meets a body part.
This doesn’t excuse errant editing elsewhere. “The New Blood” was just as notoriously a rushed project, which is a better explanation for why cuts occur in the middle of a moment only to return minutes later, picking up from the precise point where an interaction was interrupted as if nothing broke the rhythm.
What’s “good” about “Friday the 13th Part VII” then? Well, it’s the first franchise appearance of Kane Hodder, commonly considered fans’ favorite Jason despite his four appearances being in the four “Friday the 13th” films commonly considered the fans’ least favorite. And in spite of 1988 R-rating restrictions, a couple of well-directed scenes and iconic kills, like the brutal sleeping bag beatdown, leave a lasting mark.
Fred Mollin’s touch additionally accentuates Harry Manfredini’s music with deepened gravitas that isn’t as dated to the early 1980s. Then again, it is dated to the late 1980s and practically overdoses on extended audio stings.
“Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood” is not a particularly well-made movie. Nonetheless, I appreciate its abandonment of “Part VI’s” jocularity and attempt at adding a much-needed new dimension to the fiction.
Even though it is technically sloppy, I have to award it the same score as “Jason Lives” because canon-wise, “Part VII” plays straighter, and plays a bit better. Maybe it will only be remembered as “the Friday the 13th with Carrie in it,” but that’s more of a distinguishable impression than what makes previous installments memorable.
Review Score: 65
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