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Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Directed by: Rob Hedden
Starring: Jensen Daggett, Scott Reeves, Kane Hodder, Peter Mark Richman, Barbara Bingham, Sharlene Martin, Kelly Hu, Martin Cummins, Vincent Craig Dupree, Todd Caldecott, Tiffany Paulsen, Warren Munson, Alex Diakun
(out of 4)
I don’t own many posters anymore, but I still have and cherish the rare one for Friday the 13th Part 8 – Jason Takes Manhattan, which features the well-known “I Love NY” logo breaking apart as Jason slices through it with a knife. That famous logo with the red heart and American Typewriter font was created by Milton Glaser in the 1970s; the state of New York has a trademark on it which it protects at all costs. When the New York Tourism Committee threatened to sue Paramount for use of the logo, the company pulled the poster quickly.
Marketing for Jason Takes Manhattan also includes this amusing trailer, which uses the theme from New York, New York mixed with a romantic saxophone riff; the mysterious figure taking in the sights of the city is revealed to be Jason himself, as the narrator exclaims “Now, New York has a new problem.”
That’s good stuff. Oh yeah, about the movie itself – it sucks. Friday the 13th Part 8 may get the crown for the most misleading title ever – it’s over an hour into the film before Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder) or anyone else even makes it to Manhattan, and then we mostly get shots inside a subway train, harbor, and dark alleys which could be filmed anywhere (and IMDB suggests they were – Los Angeles and Vancouver). So you could say Jason is never given a chance to take Manhattan until we witness the shot of him in Times Square – a good 85 minutes into the movie (and about 10 minutes before the end). If Paramount wasn’t going to allocate enough budget to actually fulfill the title’s promise, it shouldn’t have bothered at all. So no, Jason never really takes Manhattan, but he sure does take a very nice cruise vacation for most of the running time, and why not? After seven films, he deserves a break.
In an emergency, Jason Voorhees can also function as an anchor.
Now I may be a little slow, but I remember Camp Crystal Lake being fairly small and landlocked. Apparently I was wrong – writer/director Rob Hedden says that Crystal Lake feeds into a channel that somehow leads, eventually, to Upper New York Bay. That’s just the first in a long line of ridiculous assumptions made by Friday the 13th Part 8. The only time I noticed any real continuity was at the beginning when we find Jason exactly where Tina Shepard left him – underneath the collapsed dock (remember, in the Friday films nobody believes in collecting bodies from the lake). But how was Tina to know that there is a massive 3000V cable on the lake bottom (wow, that’s safe), and a boat’s anchor would tear it, and Jason would be electrocuted back to life? That’s exactly what happens, and Jason isn’t even awake for 5 minutes before dispatching two meatbags, stealing their brand new hockey mask that was just lying around, and hitching a ride over to the SS Lazarus, a cruise ship bound for NYC containing the senior class of Lakeview High (wow, again! For my senior trip, I went to Disney’s Pleasure Island by bus). Again, I must ask why a zombie killer sworn to haunting the woods near Crystal Lake suddenly decides to stow away on a cruise ship bound for the Big Apple. No matter – soon the ship is underway and Jason is free to roam, picking off victims in the same way you might hit the buffet on the Royal Caribbean.
At the center of this is Captain’s kid Sean (Scott Reeves), his disturbed girlfriend Rennie (Jensen Daggett), and her little dog, too. Chaperoning is Rennie’s uncle and biology teacher Charles McCulloch (Peter Mark Richman, really good at playing an asshole) and Rennie’s teacher Colleen Van Deusen (Barbara Bingham). There’s also your regular assortment of stock characters – prom queen bitch, nerdy girl, black athlete, A/V geek… none of who are very interesting since they are all rehashed from other Friday the 13th characters. In fact, you can almost draw a direct line from this movie’s characters and subplots to those of Part 7: manipulative rich girl (Sharlene Martin, played last time by Susan Jennifer Sullivan), geeky guy (Martin Cummins, played last time by Jeff Bennett), jerk authority figure (Peter Mark Richman, played last time by Terry Kiser), and unstable but likable final girl Rennie who has visions of the killer (Jensen Daggett, filling in for Lar Park-Lincoln). In fact, Rennie has a history of being attacked by a young Jason at the lake, which makes her character similar to Dana Kimmell’s in Part 3. Oh yeah, don’t forget the Prophet of Doom/Ralph stand-in Alex Diakun, saying stuff like “This ship is doomed!” and “You’re all gonna die!” The guy’s right – pretty soon the SS Lazarus is going the way of the RMS Titanic, but not before a few survivors make it into the lifeboat bound for New York Harbor.
Jason promptly tries out for a spot on the Rangers.
Things pick up slightly as Jason follows everybody to the city and gives chase, taking out random New Yorkers who get in his way. This includes some junkies, a cop, and a sanitation worker who helpfully informs our heroes that the sewers in Manhattan flood with toxic waste every night at midnight. Yes, you heard that right – NYC is such a cesspool that the whole place is just one big toxic waste dump. Of course, our gang is immediately assaulted by punks as soon as they make it ashore, who kidnap Rennie and inject her with heroin before Jason takes them out with the same needle (an attempted rape interrupted by a symbolic one?) By the way, Rennie is a real trooper – dealing with Jason Voorhees, dealing with muggers, even being shot up with dope and not even being affected by it! The funniest scenes in Jason Takes Manhattan involve Jason chasing away some punks by merely lifting up his mask, and another funny bit where he punches a junior boxer’s head clean off. Here’s this huge, decaying, mass of flesh in a mask chasing people down the street and in subway cars and nobody bats an eye. Rennie’s plea to a waitress “There’s a maniac trying to kill us!” is answered with the deadpan “Welcome to New York.” Haha, get it? Because New York sucks!
Jason plans an Empire State Building visit and then it's off to a Broadway show!
Everything else about Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan is a disappointment. Characters are discarded on a whim, Jason’s teleporting abilities since Part 7 have improved tremendously (one moment he’s in front of someone, exactly one second later he’s behind them – does he have a clone?), hardly any Manhattan landmarks are utilized, the scenes on the ship are extremely tedious, gore is slight, and the way Jason meets his end is equal parts hilarious and unbelievable (but I suppose it fits in with the idea that at his core Jason is still just a child). Rennie’s own drowning backstory was probably meant to give her some kind of connection to the drowning boy Jason, but it doesn’t work in practice, as was the overall idea that Jason could become an avenging avatar walking around the city, cleaning the scum from the streets like Paul Kersey and Travis Bickle would have wanted. The movie is a perfect example of missed opportunities, and on top of that there’s no tension, logic, or believability, even for a Friday film. “Take Manhattan.” Yeah, right. It’s time for Jason and the franchise to take a hiatus.
- Bill Gordon
He stayed on the M too long and ended up taking Queens instead.
After 8 movies and decreasing box office take, Paramount finally had enough, and sold the franchise to New Line Cinema. 4 years later, New Line would send Jason to hell, but that’s a story for another day. Bonus trivia: This is Kelly Hu’s first movie, in the fine tradition of actors cutting their teeth in horror (Kevin Bacon, Johnny Depp). Also watch for Ken Kirzinger playing a cook that Jason tosses against the wall of a diner. Kirzinger would later play Jason himself in Freddy vs Jason. By the way, I’m a sucker for the theme music “Darkest Side of the Night” by Metropolis – just another aspect of the production cooler than the final product itself: