The year is 2455. There are no more bicycles. Earth has been abandoned long ago because Al Gore or somebody made the planet uninhabitable. Humans live in ships and space stations scattered throughout the solar system. Many things have changed. And yet, some things remain the same.
According to Jason X, the culmination (so far) of the Friday the 13th saga, sex is still the best way to spend your free time. Teenagers – and androids created by teenagers – engage in this rite of passage frequently, generally before they get married. I’m not sure if there are Brave New World levels of birth control, but I’m sure they’re not stuck with sheepskin.
Another constant in the future is Death. Grisly, bone-crunching, face-squeezing, blood-spurting death, delivered by none other than the master of disaster himself: Jason Voorhees.
That’s right kids! Jason was given a gift in the year 2010. He was caught and convicted of murdering over two hundred people. The government tried to kill him, but capital punishment never really took. Jason kept coming back to life. So they tried the only option left: they froze him, hoping that a future society would be able to finish the job. Well, apparently 2455 is not far enough in the future, because Jason has a pretty easy time killing off almost every single member of the hapless ship that plucks frozen Jason from Earth.
Now, the question before us is not, “Is this a good movie?“ It is not, “Is this a great movie?“ The question should be: “Is this the greatest movie of all time?“ The answer, dear readers, is a definitive “YES.“
Usually, sending the main character into space represents the last desperate shot of a dying franchise. Not so here. Jason X turns out to be a high-water mark for the series, joining Part 4 (The Final Chapter) and Part 8 (Jason Takes Manhattan) as the pinnacles of the Voorhees legend.Jason is a fully formed character, and the makers know exactly what the audience wants. He performs the rarely-seen head squeeze (one of my favorite moves of his repertoire). Kane Hodder, the actor/stuntman who played Jason in the last four Friday the 13th films (except, sadly, not in Freddy v. Jason), makes Jason more than a hockey mask. Like a T-Rex sniffing out his prey, Jason cocks his head to the side before moving decisively. He doesn’t want food or drink – his only need is his trusty machete. Hodder makes you realize how scary it would be to have a huge guy you can’t kill chasing after you. This sounds obvious, but after ten movies, that basic truth can sometimes be forgotten.
Jason X is not without its faults. The character responsible for the thawing of Jason is a greedy, money-grubbing professor. Yes, a professor. Unfortunately his professor displays none of the hallmarks of a life in academia. He swears frequently but with none of the verbal flair of a sailor or pirate. He is obsessed with money and fame. Until someone tells him, he has no idea he has the most notorious villain of the 20th century on his ship (despite the villain being frozen with a hockey mask on and a machette in his hand). Further, he is the anti-presence. Most actors strive to make an impression in their brief flickering moments onscreen. I don’t even remember what the poor guy looked like. It’s obvious from the get-go this guy’s not going to hold up well when Jason comes a-courtin’. The professor does get the best line in the movie, though. “Everything’s under control!” It’s a cry into the ink-black night of space, and only said when the exact opposite is true.
Unlike Alien, that other horror movie set on a spaceship, you don’t get a good sense of the ship’s layout. People run, people hide, but you never know where they’re going. I never felt that tingling claustrophobic sensation, even though that is exactly what the filmmakers were trying for. The ship kept expanding as the characters ran into yet another new room or corridor. The floorplan wasn’t clearly defined in the beginning, so it seemed like the terrified crew could keep running forever.
The ending was hilarious but left me a little uninspired. The problem of “killing” Jason is allowing him to be out of commission for a while, but keeping that door open for a triumphant return. Without wanting to give too much away, I don’t know how they will carry on the series. Freddy Vs. Jason solved that little conundrum by taking place before the events of Jason X – that is, before he gets frozen in the year 2010. But what will happen next? It appears the series is set for a reboot: Friday the 13th is coming to theaters near all of us in February 2009. If all goes well, we could see many more sequels from there, none of them having to get Jason out of the distant future, a long way from Earth and Camp Crystal Lake.
It’s too bad, really. I would have liked to see the continuation of Jason, rather than starting all over from the beginning. We’ve come so far together. I do see the advantages of starting from scratch: we can build him again, but better! Yet, Jason’s baggage is part of his glory. There are certainly some stinkers in the series (Part 5, anyone?), but without them Jason is a little less war-torn. A little less embattled. With a ghoul like Jason, the more sensational the history, the better. Jason, like a crooked politician, needs his past infamies. They are what set him apart from other dark spirits and ne’er-do-wells. So, it is with a heavy heart that I conclude my inquiry into Jason Voorhees. We will see how they treat him in this new Friday the 13th, but we must never forget what has come before.
FDR, during one of his fireside chats, said, “Jason Voorhees is evil, and I have seen evil. Yet this nation, without Jason, is something less than whole. It would be a shadow of a nation, a nation where a hockey mask is just a hockey mask. Let Jason live and kill, not just today, but tomorrow, and forever more.”
Amen, Mr. Roosevelt. Amen.