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, Jason meets his match (in the form of a psychokinetic twentysomething) in Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)!
In the horror genre, there’s a tradition of pitting franchise icons against one another when their solo flicks start getting a little long in the tooth. In fact, the first crossover/versus horror film dates back to the Universal Monster movies and 1943’s Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man. Taking such a novel approach to existing franchises draws the audience in due to curiosity. As with all genre trends, there is a resurgence of them from time-to-time. Such was the case by the late 1980s; audiences wanted to see two of the sultans of slash go head-to-head.
Consequently, the original idea for Friday the 13th, Part VII pitted the two horror icons of the 1980s against each other in a Freddy vs. Jason like plot. At the time, though, Freddy Kruger and the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise were owned by New Line Cinema while Paramount owned the franchise in review. Sadly, these respective studios were unable to come to terms at the time, and thus, the slasher brawl had to be scrapped. It would take New Line acquiring the Friday the 13th series from Paramount in the 90s and over a decade of development before Freddy vs. Jason would finally come to fruition in 2003. So in the interim, Paramount, along with screenwriters (and newcomers to the franchise) Daryl Haney and Manuel Fidello, decided to move forward with what was essentially pitched as Jason vs. Carrie.
Initially titled Friday the 13th, Part VII: Jason’s Destroyer, the story for what became The New Blood is once again set at Camp Crystal Lake. Not only is the campground the scene of mass murders, it’s also the site of Tina Shepherd’s (Lar Park-Lincoln) childhood trauma. Now in her early twenties, Tina has returned to confront her past. During one of her intense therapy sessions with an unethical therapist, Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser), Tina accidentally taps into her psychokinetic abilities — of which previously unaware — and unshackles Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder) from the bottom of Crystal Lake. Now, the water-logged, undead killer intends to slash his way through not just Tina, but the partying college kids next door!
Before I get into my critique of this flick, I must say that I wish they would have retained the original subtitle of Jason’s Destroyer. I’ve always found the title of “The New Blood” too similar to the earlier sequel, Friday the 13th, Part V: A New Beginning (1985). Furthermore, Jason’s Destroyer is, frankly, just a bad-ass subtitle!
No matter this sequel’s title, an inspired and logical choice was made when it came to finding the director to bring it from page to screen. Having made his bones in the horror special effects and makeup work, John Carl Buechler had also taken his seat in the director’s chair by the late 1980s with the creature features Troll (1986) and Cellar Dweller (1988). With such a background in the industry, there’s no doubt Buechler would be an ideal helmer for this sequel.
Confident in his various crafts, Buechler knew that he could bring the makeup effects and kills that we fans craved. Oddly enough, though, he was also intent on making the movie more about stunts as opposed to prosthetics. Despite his preference, I feel The New Blood features makeup effects and stunts in equal measure. For example, not only does this film feature the most extended appearance of an unmasked Jason Voorhees on screen (in very extensive makeup) up to this point; it also touts a stunt that is the longest on-screen, full-body burn scene to date. Alas, many of the effects and kills had to be cut back. See, by the late ’80s, the MPAA had an extreme bias against not only this franchise, but the whole Slasher sub-genre.
For as much as Bob Barker encouraged us to spay and neuter your pets, the MPAA of this particular foregone decade forced filmmakers to execute the cinematic equivalent of such. Like Friday The 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives (1986) before it, The New Blood also had to be submitted to the ratings board nine times to secure an R-rating. Moreover, the film was the victim of more severe edits than any of its predecessors in this series. As a result, you can see and feel the forced nature of these edits in a few of the kill scenes. Even still, it still sports my favorite death of the entire franchise — the notorious sleeping bag bashing! This particular kill is such a fan favorite that we’ll see homaged in the future in Jason X (2001), but more on that down the line.
Of course, the kill scenes and stunts in this film might not be so powerful if it weren’t for stuntman/actor Kane Hodder’s participation. In the eyes of most Friday fans (myself included), the man provides the definitive portrayal of Jason Voorhees. Not only is Hodder passionate about the character, he also truly brings Jason to life through every movement made and bit of body language he uses. The hockey-masked killer is mute, but somehow Hodder manages not only to emote; but truly embody the character for the undead homicidal brickhouse he is!
For better or worse, Hodder is also one of the stronger performers in the entire cast. As mentioned earlier, The New Blood consists of two separate households of characters. Alas, every one of them is flawed for a couple of reasons. The characters in the therapy house are played by cast members who can act. Unfortunately, though, every scene that takes place in that abode feels like it’s merely the latest inferior take on Carrie. Meanwhile, the neighboring party house is filled with characters who feel like they’re uninteresting rejects from a Brat Pack flick. As a result, they are so flat that I don’t know if it’s the cast’s fault or a simple lack of characterization at the script level.
See, that’s the problematic disconnect here. Ultimately, none of these characters seem to be in a Friday movie until Jason is on-screen! And anytime he’s not, I find myself checking my watch. Friday the 13th, Part VII: The New Blood is a sluggish Franchise Implosion that just does not come together. In the end, I think this script needed a few more drafts to gel. Granted, the movie works from a technical standpoint, but that’s only half the equation for a film. Perhaps that’s why ol’ Jason will finally feel the need to take a vacation from the campground next time around.
Like many of the latter sequels in the box-set, The New Blood looks and sounds as good as it probably ever will. The cinematography by Paul Elliott (976-Evil) looks fairly crisp on this 2K transfer. The picture does have a little bit of softness to it, but based on other films I’ve seen shot by Elliott, I think that’s just part of his style. The disc also sounds excellent, but I would expect nothing less from the fine folks over at Shout/Scream Factory! — disc authoring problems aside, although I haven’t noticed any issues in my set yet. I should also note, that the cover art for this film features the original part on one side and a still of Jason on the reverse.
(*NEW EXTRAS INDICATED BY *)
- Jason’s Destroyer: The Making of Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood— This 15-minute making-of featurette is packed with interviews from director John Carl Buechler, cast members Lar Park Lincoln, Kane Hodder, Kevin Blair, Diana Barrows, Elizabeth Kaitan, John Otrin, editor Barry Zetlin, and composer Fred Mollin. Like most of the other making-ofs in this set, this one hits the highlights. Thus, if you’re just looking to hear the hits, as it were, you’ll get them in this featurette. However, I would recommend checking out the commentaries on this disc as I found them much more informative.
- Mind Over Matter: The Truth About Telekinesis — This novel little featurette runs 7 minutes in length and features interviews with parapsychologist Dr. Barry Taff, Ph.D., who has investigated 4,500 cases of telekinesis throughout his career, and psychic Jack Rourke. While I wouldn’t say either of these gentlemen can back up the phenomenon with enough science, I found this be an interesting watch nevertheless.
- Makeover By Maddy: Need A Little Touch-Up Work, My A** — This fun but ultimately pointless 2-minute featurette showcases a makeover day with actors Elizabeth Kaitan and Diana Barrows.
- Slashed Scenes with Introduction by Director John Carl Buechler — 14 minutes of deleted scenes taken from a VHS workprint. It’s a shame the MPAA ratings board demanded these scenes be cut down or excised as all the kill scenes add a little something.
- Theatrical Trailer
- *TV Spots*
- Posters and Behind-the-Scenes Gallery
- Still Gallery
- *Vintage Fangoria Magazine Article* (REQUIRES BD-ROM)
- Commentary by Director John Carl Buechler & Actor Kane Hodder — While I find the film itself a bit dull, this commentary for The New Blood is anything but. Both Buechler and Hodder, who you can hear have a long and friendly working relationship, provide plenty of entertaining and informative anecdotes here.
- Commentary by Director John Carl Buechler & Actors Lar Park-Lincoln and Kane Hodder — This is one of those spliced together commentary tracks in which the participants are separately recorded. (In this case, Buechler and Hodder are together once again, while Lincoln’s solo commentary was recorded at another time) I must say that the two cut together commentaries work quite well in this instance. Despite sitting down for the other commentary track, Buechler and Hodder cover plenty of new ground here. Then there’s the ever-enthusiastic Park-Lincoln, who’s an absolute pleasure to listen to. Unlike many cast members who have worked in this franchise, she seems to appreciate the horror genre legitimately.
The Friday the 13th Collection is currently available on Blu-ray!
In the next installment of Franchise Expansion (or Implosion), Jason takes a cruise in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)!
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):
Friday the 13th, Part V: A New Beginning (1985):
Friday The 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives (1986):