Thoughts on “Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning”

On Hallowe’en, let me continue following through the original “Friday the 13th” series. Part 2s through 4 were pretty bad, with 4 being the worst. “A New Beginning” picks up from Part 4, bringing Tommy Jarvis — who killed Jason in the previous movie which has clearly caused him some mental issues — coming back to play a prominent role.

Or, rather, a pseudo-prominent role. The first Friday the 13th movie’s charm was that it was aggressive in ignoring any kind of character arc or mystery plot, despite having some of those elements present in the movie. They kept trying to hide the killer’s face, for example, but never made any kind of big deal out of it at all and, for the most part, at the end of the movie and even at the big reveal we not only didn’t care, we were pretty sure that the movie not only didn’t care either, but also didn’t want us to care. What was important was the murders and everything else was there just to be there or to provide a break from the murders. The next movies diminished the focus on the murders, but only replaced it with boring character arcs that they never really paid off. The fourth movie was the worst for this as the murders seemed perfunctory and the teen drama the most prominent features, which doesn’t really work in a slasher movie.

Out of all of the later movies, A New Beginning is the best one at handling the murders. The murders come fast and heavy, and are probably the most creative out of all of them at times. Thus, in terms of crafting a slasher flick, it’s pretty much the best one. But I not only found that it didn’t have the charm of the first movie, I found it uninteresting and not engaging at times. It was, again, better crafted than the other movies, but wasn’t any more entertaining. I noted how the structure worked, but just didn’t care about what it was doing.

One of the reasons for this is, I think, that it suffers both from being the fifth movie and also from being an older movie. All of the things it’s doing have been done before, both in previous movies and, for me, in later movies. So there’s no real surprise or shock. Stuff happens, but it’s stuff that’s become heavy tropes of the genre so it comes across as uninspired. At the time, it might have worked better, and it might have worked better if you hadn’t just gone through the previous four movies, but it really did come across as same old, same old.

It doesn’t help that all of the victims are either annoying or underdeveloped. Now, I do like to complain about movies stopping to develop characters that are going to die horribly because we shouldn’t need to develop a relationship with them in order to feel bad for their horrible deaths. But I think this movie goes overboard with that. Many of the victims only get any development from acting like jerks, and the ones that are left generally get only minor scenes to show us who they are. This means that the ones that get the most focus tend to be the ones that we want to see die, and the ones that we should feel sorry for are the ones that we don’t know anything about and so don’t have any connection to. Even the Final Girl gets only a few scenes, none of which let us get to know her in any way as a person. So for the most part it really comes across as “some people are getting killed”. If the murders feel uninspired and the characters little more than simple victims that the killer has come across, there’s not much there to make us interested in the murders.

Which returns us to Tommy, and something the movie did that flopped miserably. With him being in the movie, we weren’t going to be able to get a simple movie that was uninterested in anything other than simply having slasher-style murders. Surely he was going to have to play some prominent role in the movie. And yet he spends most of his time doing nothing, only to have a — mostly failed — Big Damn Hero moment at the end and then a seemingly rather odd transformation into a slasher-killer in the Jason-mold himself. The reason for this, I think, is that what was supposed to be in the movie was a mystery over who the killer was, and importantly over whether Tommy was the killer himself. The ending can indeed be hinting that while the one they caught killed some people in revenge for the death of his son earlier in the movie, Tommy himself killed some of the others. There were indeed some victims that seemed to be unrelated to the death but were people who annoyed Tommy, and seemed to be people that were directly targeted. The problem is that if you are going to do something like that you need to do something to get the audience thinking about this, and the movie never did. And it doesn’t have to be direct. If the movie wanted us thinking this about Tommy, in the scene where the mayor (I guess) and the sheriff are talking all you need is to have the sheriff keep his line about it being Jason, and then add to the deputy “Strange that these are starting up right when the guy who killed Jason showed up”. If you want to hint at this in the ending, just have the sheriff find out, right at the end, that some of the killings were ones where the purported killer had an alibi. If you want to keep it vague, just have him comment that he had to be running around like a madman to get to some of those places in-between killings. But the movie never draws our attention to any of this, so all we have are musing over odd things in the movie that might indicate something that the movie intended, or might just be our own idle speculation. For all the time spent on scenes that seem to serve little other purpose than to hint at issues like this, that they couldn’t do little things like these to make this clear is really to the movie’s detriment.

Structurally, A New Beginning is one of the best in the series. But it left me fairly cold. I could watch it again, but then I might want to watch “The Final Chapter” again, and watching the two of them again isn’t of much interest to me. Let’s see if “Jason Lives” can finally return the series to something like form.

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One Response to “Thoughts on “Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning””

  1. Thoughts on “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] Like the fifth one, Tommy Jarvis returns in this one. However, in this one they tie his presence directly into the Jason plot, as he’s the one who reawakens Jason through a set of odd occurrences, and then Tommy makes it his mission to track down and finish Jason once and for all in recompense. This works better than the previous movie because his scenes are always relevant and his quest is paid off in the end with him sinking Jason into the lake to purportedly — or almost, since that doesn’t finish him — end his terror. So instead of the things either being irrelevant or things that the movie wants us to clearly consider important for a plot line they don’t pay off, it’s relevant and it pays off. […]

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