Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2008-05-27 12:45

Written by: Manuel Fidello and Daryl Haney
Directed by: John Carl Buechler

Reviewed by: Brett G.

"There's a legend 'round here...a killer buried, but not dead."

By the time any franchise reaches its seventh entry, itís almost expected that the series will begin to run out of steam. It happens to the best of them, and the Friday the 13th series is no exception. By 1988, the horror landscape had seen the rise of the slasher franchise, as both Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street ruled the horror world, and the Halloween series was about to get back in the game with the release of Halloween 4. While the Nightmare series was arguably at its peak at this point, the Friday series would begin to decline with The New Blood. By this point, Jason had been killed off once in The Final Chapter and subsequently resurrected in the previous entry, the aptly titled Jason Lives. So, whatís an undead killer to do as a follow-up?

By this point, it would seem that the producers were not content with the standard stalk and slash formula that had dominated the earlier entries in the franchise. There was already evidence of this in the previous entry, as it was clear that Jason was starting to be the star of the show, and, beginning with The New Blood, it seemed as though an attempt was made to place Jason in different scenarios. Thus, for part 7, Jason is charged with the task of squaring off against Tina Shepard, a teen responsible for accidentally killing her father with her telekinetic abilities as a child. Now, years later, she has returned to the scene of the accident: Camp Crystal Lake, where a certain undead killer unknowingly rests at the bottom of the lake. Tina is accompanied by her mother and Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser of Weekend at Bernieís fame) while a group of teens has gathered for a birthday party at a neighboring house. Of course, Tina unwittingly releases Jason from his confines at the bottom of the lake, and all sorts of mayhem ensues.

Of course, as the filmís tagline reminds us, someoneís waiting for Jason and is prepared to fight back, as the filmís climax features a knock-down, drag-out slugfest that hadnít been seen in the Friday series up to this point. No longer content to simply engage Jason in a final chase, our survivor girl here is prepared to go toe-to-toe with the machete-wielding maniac. If youíve ever wanted to see what Carrie White vs. Jason would look like, this is your chance. Unfortunately, however, this climax is about the only interesting part of the film, as everything leading up to it isnít nearly as thrilling.

Some might say that the film is really no different from the earlier entries for most of the film, but for this reviewer, the magic is gone, and weíre left with boring, uninspired caricatures that simply serve as Jason fodder. One might argue that this series has never been strong in this department, but this entry is particularly full of nondescript characters. Lar Park Lincoln turns in a decent performance as Tina, but none of the other characters are realized nearly as well. Furthermore, when Jason isnít around, the film simply isnít compelling despite a potentially interesting subplot involving Crews and Tina; unfortunately, this subplot is a bit muddled because Crewsís intentions are never quite made explicit.

If youíre wondering if the kills and gore are at least serviceable, then think again. If you didnít already know (and director John Carl Buechler will be glad to remind you), the MPAA truly had a field day with The New Blood, and the gore is nearly nonexistent as a result. In most cases, the camera cuts away just as the kills happen, and itís a shame because Buechler really had some gory treats in store for the film. Instead, however, we have what is essentially a watered-down Friday the 13th whose lame characters donít even receive appropriately spectacular deaths.

So, what does this film do right? The short answer: Jason himself. Fan-favorite Kane Hodder makes his series debut here, and itís clear that Jason is a force of nature. While heís not my favorite Jason actor (that distinction goes to The Final Chapter's Ted White), itís clear that Hodder infused a personality into the role that set his performance apart from his predecessors. In short, Jason seems permanently pissed off in this film, as Hodder oozes menace beneath the mask and makeup, which brings me to the filmís next strength: the effects. Jasonís look is spectacular in this film, as Buechlerís makeup takes into account all of Jasonís trials and tribulations from the earlier films. While itís certainly not enough to completely salvage the film, the makeup is a sight to behold. Finally, the film also has one of the best openings to a Friday the 13th film, as we get a narrative recap (voiced by Walt Gorney of Crazy Ralph fame) of the legend of Jason Voorhees. Itís just too bad that the film doesnít quite keep its momentum from this point on.

Ultimately, Friday the 13th Part 7 is simply a decent 80s slasher. Perhaps in the hands of another director, the film could have been something truly special. Instead, in my estimation, this was the beginning of the end as far as the series goes, as the series never quite regained its quality (with the notable exception of Jason Goes to Hell, which happens to be among my favorites in the series). Itís clear that the series could no longer adhere to its formulaic roots, so a concerted effort was made from this point forward to place Jason into a series of gimmick films. Itís interesting to note that this film was originally slated to be a crossover with Freddy Krueger; however, Paramount and New Line couldnít come to an agreement, and, as such, Freddy vs. Jason languished in development hell for the next fifteen years. Itís arguable that The New Bloodís faults lie in this fact, as Tina was essentially pasted over Freddy in the script, and Iíd imagine that following around the latter would have made a far more interesting story than what we got.

At any rate, if youíre a horror fan, youíll want to see this one for completionís sake. If youíre going to seek it out, youíve got two configurations: a standalone DVD release from 2002 that contains no special features or the From Crystal Lake to Manhattan box set from Paramount that includes the first eight films in the series. This set includes some features for The New Blood: a behind-the-scenes feature, the theatrical trailer, and a commentary featuring Hodder and Buechler, who uses most of the time to remind us just how much the MPAA cut his movie. The extras disc also contains the deleted gore scenes, including the infamous ďcoochie faceĒ death for Russell; also included is an alternate ending thatís interesting to see. As far as presentation goes, both releases feature the same transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital track (oddly enough, The New Blood is the only Friday film from Paramount to feature such an audio treatment). If youíre sitting around waiting for an uncut release, I wouldnít bother, as Buechler claims that his VHS workprint is all thatís left. Hardcore Friday fans will of course eat up the box set, but if youíre just a casual fan, your local rental store should have the single disc edition, so go Rent it!

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