Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)
Once in a blood moon, a franchise will come along that redefines a subgenre and takes it to the next level. Such is the case with the Friday the 13th franchise, which essentially created the horror subgenre of slasher flicks as we know them to this day. While it’s unlikely that we’ll get a new installment in the series any time soon, now’s still the perfect time to review this franchise as it celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. To commemorate the occasion, the fine folks over at Scream Factory have released The Friday the 13th Collection on Blu-Ray! As such, I’ll be reviewing not only the movies in this franchise but these new Blu-ray releases as well. In this installment, a premature death leads to something more, Friday The 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)!
As the old saying goes, “Dead men’s money spends fast.” Sometimes, the cash is spent by audiences at the box-office in such large amounts that it resurrects a supposedly dead film franchise. Such was the case with the previous, prematurely titled, Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984), which grossed $32.9 million worldwide. Thus, Jason didn’t stay buried for long as Paramount Pictures and executive producer Frank Mancuso, Jr. were keen to step back their previously concrete cinematic suicide into a thwarted attempt. At the same time, though, Mancuso, Jr. wanted to ensure they could bring a new angle to the series as he was tired of his franchise being repeatedly accused of being the same movie over-and-over again. As a result, the producer chose to take a more ceremonial position and let other folks take their place on this production’s frontlines.
Decisions often have a domino effect, particularly when it comes to creativity and filmmaking. Phil Scuderi was one of the uncredited Boston-based investors who had put money into the Fridays since day one. Along the way, Scuderi made many unattributed suggestions that would be significant in the series. And when it comes to finding someone to foster A New Beginning, Scuderi would ultimately make the call that makes this entry what it is. Of course, I’m referring to the fact that Scuderi recruited his pal, director Danny Steinmann, to helm this new era of Friday the 13th.
In doing this, the franchise continues its tradition of giving fresh talent a go. At the time, Steinmann’s directorial efforts were limited. Like many directors in the horror genre, Steinmann began his career directing a 1973 adult film entitled High Rise (which he made under the pseudonym of Danny Stone). Following that project’s success in its respective part of the industry, Steinmann was able to parlay that success to transition into the more legitimate world of low-budget exploitation film with the horror flick, The Unseen (1980). Ultimately though, the director’s name does not appear on his first narrative effort as he chose to use the pseudonym of Peter Foleg after claiming the studio took the movie away from him. However, Steinmann put his actual name on his next exploitation picture, the rape-revenge flick Savage Streets (1984) starring Linda Blair. Steinmann’s work in the exploitation film subgenre paid-off when Scuderi got Steinmann a two-picture deal at Paramount to write-and-direct a couple of exploitation horror sequels.
The first of these was to be Last House on the Left, Part II: Beyond the Last House on the Left. Now, why a major studio like Paramount would want to make a follow-up to Last House besides to simply cash-in on the horror craze is beyond me, especially considering the original film’s finite ending. Still, Steinmann came up with a ridiculous pitch that would get the job done. Beyond the Last House on the Left was to be set at a summer camp and would find a resurrected Krug (which would once again be played by David Hess, who admittedly was not too keen on this idea) and his new gang letting loose with their perverse brand of terror on camp counselors. Thankfully, this silly concept which was so out of keeping with its predecessor never came to pass due to ownership issues. Not only would Last House writer/director Wes Craven not give his consent to move forward with the sequel, but it also turns out the studio didn’t have all the sequel rights in place they needed. Thus, Beyond the Last House on the Left, thankfully, never came to pass.
But, thankfully for Steinmann, a fifth Friday the 13th was a sure thing despite the promise made by The Final Chapter. As such, Steinnmann quickly brought in two screenwriters to help him cook up A New Beginning — friend of the director, David Cohen, and the writer of Friday the 13th: Part III (1982), Martin Kitrosser. The trio began their work on a screenplay with one strict mandate from the producers: a jump scare or (preferably) a kill needed to be written into the screenplay every 8-10 minutes (or every 8-10 script pages).
Initially, A New Beginning was to be more a direct follow-up to the premature Final Chapter and was set to star Corey Feldman with his character taking up Jason’s mantle. Alas, the child actor was only able to return for an opening cameo which was shot in his neighbor’s backyard with the extensive use of a rain machine. Of course, this special appearance resulted thanks to Feldman landing the part of Mouth in The Goonies (1985). With Feldman only available for the brief scene, A New Beginning had to take a new direction to give us the story we have today.
The film picks up five years after the previous entry and finds a grown-up Tommy Jarvis (John Shepherd) still reeling from the trauma of his childhood encounter with Jason Voorhees (In the world of Friday the 13th, the narrative timeline either consists of a few days or five years). Since then, Tommy has been shuffled around from institution-to-institution and prescribed every conceivable form of treatment for his severe PTSD. Now, a mostly silent Tommy finds himself at a strange halfway house for troubled young adults located at Crystal Lake of all places! Not long after his arrival, Tommy and the rest of the halfway house residents become prey for a killer who could be a reborn Jason Voorhees!
A New Beginning is, without a doubt, the most divisive film in the franchise among fans. Most of us love or hate it, with one of the primary reasons usually being the film’s “twist.” But many other fans — myself included — will tell you their opinion of this sequel likely has to do with its overall tone. See, the movie feels like it was made in a gutter and is exceptionally scuzzy on every level. No doubt this is because Steinmann brings his particular experiences in adult and exploitation filmmaking to the franchise. As a result, this entry is the nastiest and most exploitative to date.
Using Part V to re-frame the franchise as a more hardcore exploitation film series could have been a brilliant move. Alas, doing so didn’t work for me or the movie for two reasons. First and foremost, the best exploitation flicks tend to feature charismatic characters whom you either love or hate with a passion. That’s not the case with the characters here, though, because most of them aren’t characters. Instead, they are exaggerated stereotypes, all of whom I only enjoy watching in small doses.
The only legitimate characters in this flick are Tommy and Reggie “The Reckless” (Shavar Ross). Shepherd gives a decent performance as Tommy despite it being a virtually dialogue-free one (He only has 24 lines in the movie). Moreover, the story chooses not to focus on him as the protagonist. Instead, the film concentrates on final girl Pam (Melanie Kinnaman) and the victims. Such a focus might be fine-and-dandy if Pam didn’t just seem to be an empty shell of a character. Granted, Kinnaman doesn’t appear to give a damn about delivering a performance anyway. Thankfully, Ross is a pleasure to watch as Reggie “The Reckless,” who serves as a replacement for young Tommy from the previous picture.
Then there’s the second and more prominent issue with A New Beginning. Aside from having a lack of interesting characters or even very entertaining characters, the content measures here are just off. What I mean by that is a good exploitation flick has to have an equal mix of sex and violence. Or, it at least needs to lean in whichever direction lends more to what the story demands. Since the MPAA essentially stripped all the graphic kills, Steinmann ultimately seems much more interested in showcasing sex and nudity. To me, it should be the other way around — concentrate on the violence and gore, and make the sex and nudity a bonus of sorts. Not that it matters as we, the audience, get short-changed in both regards.
The movie required nine screenings with the MPAA ratings board and a plethora of cuts before it secured an R-rating. The edits involved trimming back every kill to the point where it featured little to no gore — so much so that it feels like you’re watching an edited-for-TV cut of the movie. Furthermore, this film’s big sex scene initially ran 3 minutes but was ultimately forced back to less than a minute by the MPAA. Thus, it feels like we’re being teased only to get no payoff, particularly in terms of an exploitation film.
Growing up, I watched the actual edited-for-TV version of A New Beginning on rainy days at my grandmother’s house. Therefore, I will always have some amount of nostalgia for it. Despite that nostalgia, though, Friday The 13th, Part V: A New Beginning is most definitely a Franchise Implosion! It essentially has all the same problems as Friday the 13th: Part III, but amplified. As I said, I think moving the franchise in a darker and more exploitative direction could have worked. But the move into that style was just not handled correctly here. Worse yet, I find this film to be somewhat dull.
However, I have no issue with the film’s surprise conclusion.
Upon its release, audiences did not care for A New Beginning; it’s only in recent years that this sequel has garnered love within the horror community. Still, it did made money back in the day as it was produced for $2.2 million, had an $8 million opening weekend, and ultimately grossed over $21.9 million worldwide. That was enough of a profit margin for Mancuso, Jr. to compare its box office success to “the golden days of the franchise.” Thus, a sequel was inevitable with or without Jason.
Part VI was initially intended to pick-up where this movie ends, with Tommy taking on Jason’s mantle and starting to pick-off patients at the hospital. Kinnaman, Shepherd, and Ross were under contract to reprise their roles. But between the poor fan reception at the time and Shepherd’s choice not to return as Tommy Jarvis, that concept was scrapped in favor of going in a different direction…
Unlike the previous discs in this set, a new 4K transfer was not made for this film. Instead, it’s merely the same 2K transfer featured on the previous Blu-ray release of A New Beginning from a few years ago. While this would typically disappoint, I’m okay with the previous transfer in this case. I don’t think the film would significantly benefit from a 4K transfer due to the grimy cinematography by Stephen L. Posey. As with the other discs here, Part V does feature a reversible sleeve, both of which sport vintage poster art. Alas, the iconic VHS cover art is not featured anywhere on this artwork or disc art.
(NEW EXTRAS INDICATED BY *)
- Lost Tales from Camp Blood: Part 5 — This fifth installment in writer/director Andrew J. Ceperley‘s short fan film series clocks in at seven minutes in length and is a direct follow-up to the previous installment. I found this entry pretty enjoyable, and I’m glad to see that these fan films are increasing in entertainment value as they go along.
- The Crystal Lake Massacre Revisited: Part II — Clocking in at 10 minutes, Daniel Ferrands‘ true crime mockumentary seems to lose some of the charm the previous installment provided. Fittingly, though, this portion of the mockumentary focuses on the New Beginning era of Tommy Jarvis’ life. Such content would have been interesting if there didn’t seem to be an odd effort to inject more humor into the proceedings. As such, these attempts at humor and the characters delivering them became very grating, very quickly.
- New Beginnings: The Making Of Friday The 13th Part V — This is one of those featurettes that hits all the highlights. Particularly the ones regarding the beloved cult status this sequel holds for many fans of the franchise and having to cut the film down severely to secure the necessary R-rating. While I wouldn’t call this an overly-informative making-of, it is entertaining and does pack in a lot of facts and anecdotes from its interview subjects — director/co-screenwriter Danny Steinmann; actors Tiffany Helm, Shavar Ross, and Dick Wieand; as well as stuntman and uncredited Jason, Tom Morga — for its scant 11-minute runtime.
- Theatrical Trailer
- *TV Spots*
- Movie Stills Gallery
- Posters And Lobby Cards Gallery
- *Vintage Original Fangoria Magazine Article *REQUIRES BD-ROM DISC DRIVE**
- *Commentary With Actors Melanie Kinnaman, Deborah Voorhees, and Tiffany Helm, moderated by Author Peter M. Bracke* — As with most of the other cast commentaries included in the set thus far, this was reasonably informative and entertaining. Although, I must admit that I found Kinnaman challenging to listen to for one simple reason. To my ear, at least, she didn’t seem to enjoy making the movie and complained about it quite a bit. Thankfully, though, the other cast members on this track seemed to have a contrary experience to that of Kinnaman’s and were fun to listen to.
- Audio Commentary With Director/Co-screenwriter Danny Steinmann and Actors John Shepherd and Shavar Ross — This is one of those commentary tracks that is not only very informative, but also a helluva’ lot of fun to listen to. Both the actors bring plenty of stories and humor to the proceedings; which I was happy to hear, considering Shepherd had, at one point, renounced his work in this movie due to his personal beliefs. However, he seems glad to be on this commentary, which was originally recorded back in 2009. The same can be said for Steinmann, who is the life of this commentary even if his sense of humor is often a little too off-color (and if I say that, it must be quite blue.)
- *Fan Commentary By Filmmakers Adam Green And Joe Lynch* — Unlike these unaffiliated filmmakers’ previous fan commentary on The Final Chapter disc, they have a lot of fun while pointing out the joys, flaws, and overall oddness of A New Beginning instead of merely being fanboys. This track was a lot of fun to listen to with an interesting tidbit about movie wardrobes and a running gag about an automatic air freshener.
The Friday the 13th Collection is currently available on Blu-ray!
Next Time, Franchise Expansion or Implosion will witness Jason’s resurrection in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
The Franchise’s Body Count Thus Far-
Friday the 13th (1980):
Friday the 13th: Part II (1981):
Friday The 13th: Part III in 3-D (1982):
Friday The 13th, Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984):