By Jeffrey M. Anderson
Buy Jason X on DVD.
Sometimes our four-star rating system just comes up short. What kind of rating do you give a movie that's just plain bad, but still manages to entertain on a guilty pleasure, so-bad-it's-funny level?
I opted for the middle-ground two-and-a-half stars, but the rating doesn't really matter here. Depending on your point of view, or how much you paid for your ticket, Jason X could be anywhere from a no-star movie to a four-star movie. (Think Showgirls.)
Jason X is the sequel to Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993), and the tenth film in the Friday the 13th series, which began in 1980 and included a 1984 film called Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.
During the nine years since the last film, horror films have gone post-modern with self-aware films like Scream and parodies like Scary Movie. So what does Jason X do for its gimmick? It puts Jason in space.
It's the near future, and Camp Crystal Lake is now a dark and steely research facility where Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder) is kept locked up for experimentation purposes. Master director David Cronenberg has a cameo as a greedy scientist, who reveals that the unstoppable killer has some kind of regenerating tissue, which allows him to pop back up after he has supposedly died. But of course, the one stupid guard in charge of looking after him screws up and Jason escapes.
One cute scientist named Rowan (Lexa Doig) manages to get Jason into a cryogenic chamber for freezing, but she herself gets frozen as well.
Cut to the year 2455 when a group of science students on a field trip discover the chamber and thaw out both Rowan and Jason. The students and their professor (Jonathan Potts) load both on their ship and head back into space bound for Earth 2 (Earth 1 is now uninhabitable due to pollution -- thanks a lot, Dubya!).
During the ride, Jason gets loose and begins slashing and hacking the students to bloody pieces. Plotwise, that's about it. You have to admire a film that really gets down to basics and dispenses with any fat or unnecessary subplots. I have to admit, I was quite impressed by one early slaying -- Jason freezes one student's face and smashes it on a countertop.
Meanwhile, we're treated to a series of laughs, both intentional and unintentional, as far as I could discern. The students (who also happen to be military trained) track Jason to the bowels of the ship and a dark room containing nothing but giant drill bits and hooks -- a rumpus room for Jason. Why would a spaceship need a room like this?
We also get the classic Friday the 13th scenes in which sexually active youths are destroyed first, and the guy listening to his Walkman can't hear Jason sneaking up behind him.
Basically, Jason X borrows heavily from Aliens (1986) with the professor playing the Paul Reiser role -- the greedy twit who wants to bring Jason home alive for monetary gain, and the wisecracking, gun-toting students trying to recreate some of Bill Paxton's energy and gusto. (One character is even named "Dallas.") To top it off, the ship even has an android, much like Lance Henriksen's character.
But in Jason X the women are all button-cute and all wear skimpy tank tops and stretchy sweaters with bare midriffs. The men are either non-descript pretty-boys, muscular military types, or annoying comic relief resembling Carrot Top.
As for the intentionally funny scenes, one has a female android (a cute one, of course) named KAY-EM 14 (Lisa Ryder) pulling a Xena/Lara Croft/Buffy on Jason and blowing his head off. Unfortunately, he's later reincarnated as a cyber-Jason.
Another scene has Jason entering a holodeck (stolen from "Star Trek") and interacting with a scene from Crystal Lake, circa 1980. Two female campers pop their tops and Jason proceeds to beat one to death with the other.
I've seen most of these films over the past 20 years and I honestly can't say what their appeal might be. They're truly terrible films, but I still like them. Perhaps a level exists where art turns into artlessness and then back again -- like a pile of broken toasters becoming an acclaimed art installation. Or maybe it's just like re-creating the primitive thrill of watching a snake feed on a live rat. (The characters in these films are so dumb that they seem like rats.)
Either way, Jason X provides exactly what you'd expect from Friday the 13th Part 10, nothing more, nothing less. It's unpretentious and doesn't pretend to be anything more than it is, unlike certain movies called A Beautiful Mind. I laughed, I had a good time and I felt guilty.
To close, I'll recall a line of dialogue from Part 6 in the series: "some folks got a strange idea of entertainment."