Mike’s Review: Friday the 13th Part VIII (1989)

★★.5 out of ★★★★★

Is this really too good to be true?  Too bad to be believed?  So ridiculous we all laugh with it? Or so horrible we curl up in a cringe-worthy ball of shame?  Answer:  All of ‘em. 

Directed by Rob Hedden

Friday the 13th Part VIII – Jason Takes Manhattan — is a wonderfully messy mess of a film that makes little sense, has laughs a plenty, and most importantly doesn’t really take place in Manhattan. Of course, the entire bloody affair begins where it always ends — promiscuous teens getting randy at Camp Crystal Lake.  Yes, that Camp Crystal Lake.  In Part VIII, two hot and bothered teens set sail for an evening of romance on the lake, but to make sure that they’re properly moored, they arbitrarily drop anchor – no pun intended.  Unfortunately, they drop anchor right on a power line running across the bottom of the lake – and we’re not making this up – the anchor pierces the power line and inadvertently sends 500 kilovolts of juice in to a serendipitously positioned Jason Voorhees.  Jason, as so often happens, was chained up and dropped the bottom of the lake to live out his time on planet earth as evil fish food.  Turns out that 500 kilovolt jolt was all Jason needed to kick start his nasty ways and getting to killing licentious and loose teenage floozies.

ATMOSfx! Woo!
Jason looking for the elusive Hamilton tickets.

Set in the raucous late 1980s, Friday the 13th Part VIII, follows a gaggle of acid-washed teens who jump aboard a cruise ship in Vancouver, BC, and set sail for Manhattan, NY.  Now we here at the Scariest Things Podcast by no means claim to be maritime professionals, but by our count, that’s a 30+ day graduation ceremony cruise, by way of the Panama Canal. Um…sure.  Unfortunately, but predictably, the boozy teen denizens are followed by sinister stowaway, Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder in his second appearance as Jason).  Again, and predictably, Jason decides to fixate on a single teen as the object of his hacking and slashing obsession.  In this case, it is the hyper-academic and somewhat prudish, Rennie (Jensen Daggett).  Rennie, whose only crime was once being forced to learn how to swim in Crystal Lake by being brutishly thrown in to the lake and forced to encounter the corpse (?) of a very young, yet peculiar-looking Jason Voorhees.

Of course this very thin plot point is quickly undone by a routine and mundane killing checklist.  Not killing by numbers, mind you, but killing by stereotypes: the stoner, the rocker, the jock, the tramp, etc.  All get theirs with a variety of implements, including shards of glass, guitars, the hands of Jason, etc.  However, the best and most gruesome implement is the hot sauna rock thrust right in to the gut of the jock.  Fried jock-gut stew.  

The remaining teens and their teen chaperone, are forced to jump in a life boat and start rowing for their lives, but thankfully their teen graduation cruise was nearly at the end and unbeknownst to them they were just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from their final destination, the port of New York.  It should come as no surprise, but the remaining teens and their teen chaperone are followed by the relentless Jason Voorhees.  Apparently, Jason’s been treading water for the last several hundred miles just looking for the perfect chance to jump at these unwitting dummies.  The rather odd aspect of the film is the fact that Manhattan is in the title, but they don’t actually make it to Manhattan until an hour in to the film.  Given that the film’s promotion was rather New York-centric you’d think the filmmakers would try to through the audience a little more New York and a little less cruise ship.

When the intrepid teens do finally reach a pre-Giuliani grindhouse-era New York, it’s everything you’d ever hoped for and wanted, completed with drug addicts, gangs, weirdos, sewers, and Jason!  The implausibility meter hits a solid 11 when Rennie and some throwaway teen lothario do battle with Jason in the grimiest sewers New York has ever seen.  Of course these aren’t plain old sewers with human waste and water runoff, oh no, they’re filled to brim with face-melting toxic ooze. 

In 1989, Friday the 13th Part VIII was the most money that had been spent on a Friday the 13th film and the great thing about that is that it is both obvious that they spent a good chunk of change on the film, and demonstrably incredible that those dollars would turn out such a bawdy and unbelievable thud. Friday the 13th Part VIII is a rambling and senseless clump of celluloid, but it’s also a hearty film packed with intentional and unintentional laughs and gaffs.  While Rotten Tomatoes has this film listed with an eight percent rating, that’s easily rectified by a) a couch, b) a couple of your sicko friends, c) a half case of beer. 

Friday the 13th Part VIII – Jason Takes Manhattan is Rated R and available for streaming everywhere. There is also a fairly good chance you can find a cheap VHS copy at Goodwill.

Review by Mike Campbell

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