"Jason X" (IMDb listing) is a thoroughly wasted opportunity. I know what you're saying to yourself: "Brian, you're not even a fan of the 'Friday The 13th' series!" No, I'm not. In fact, most of the installments are basically unwatchable. But "Jason X" represents a larger picture. It's rare to have a long running franchise such as this (22 years and counting) getting the chance to reinvent itself. "Jason X" has the prospect of taking this stale property and making it viable again. But director Jim Issac and screenwriter Todd Farmer drop the ball, and in place of reinvention, they get all silly on us. Wasteful!
Jason Voorhees has finally been captured in the near future and is being readied by the government for tests to see what makes him tick. When trouble arises, and the famed killer is set loose in a military base, a lone agent (Lexa Doig) manages to lead Jason into a cryogenic containment area to freeze him, and inadvertently herself. Flash forward to the year 2455, and a salvage team stumbles upon the pair while making their rounds. The team defrosts them both, setting off Jason in a whole new environment, but with the same pesky sexually amorous kids and functionally retarded civilians to kill.
With this scenario for the new "Friday The 13th," the filmmakers have an open shot at making probably the only good sequel in the entire series. It's ingenious of Farmer to take the action out into space, as it leaves such a wealth of advantages to open up the story and the Voorhees character and twist them around in ways the audience won't expect. It's a perfect chance, as there hasn't been a Jason film in nine years, and today's moviegoing crowd has left this saga behind a long time ago. The tee has been set, the ball is in place and there is no wind to speak of. Issac and Farmer have literally the perfect shot all to themselves with "Jason X."
The film starts off promisingly. The filmmakers set up the story with utter self control, only letting a comedic comment slip by them occasionally. The film's opening 30 minutes are as tension-filled and narratively stable as a horror films gets. Farmer sets up the picture intricately, introducing us to characters that are passable and the story that's fresh and bountiful like an apple tree during a crisp autumn afternoon. I was lulled into euphoria, as it seemed that finally I would get the Jason film I was hoping for: serious, inventive and epic.
Cut to about a 1/3 into the picture, and suddenly the one-liners start. Then the effects get incredibly cheap looking, Suddenly the screenplay goes into the toilet, as the characters start spouting lines that I'm not sure will still be here 455 years into the future ("What, are you high?" is a typical witty exchange). Then, ultimately, "Jason X" turns into a full-fledged comedy, and believe me, it's fully intentional. It's terribly spineless and cowardly of Issac and Farmer to do this to a film with such great promise. They lose their nerve in trying to mount a true horror film, and they're not even subtle about it. By the end, the film almost turns into a "MAD TV" sketch, that's how broad this picture becomes. Today's kids are tough to scare, but it can be done if the subject is taken seriously. By using comedy, Issac and Farmer take the wind right out of the film. They limit the movie's fun factor because they're trying too hard to be liked. It's such an asinine decision on their parts, and one the film doesn't recover from.
Granted, they don't have much to work with. By using the $14 million budget to its limit, Issac tries to get the most out of his money. But maybe more should've been spent. In place of real actors, "Jason X" features a troupe of no-name talent that really hurts the ears to listen to. Granted, the script turns into manure in a matter of blinks, but a more seasoned cast could've made the film sparkle a little more easily. Also, by hiding behind this disastrous wall of self-conscious humor, Issac takes away from some interesting make-up work for Jason, and his more high-tech reincarnation for the climax. As always, Jason maestro, actor Kane Hodder, plays Jason exactly like he should, and gives the best performance in the picture, if only because he doesn't speak any dialog. In fact, Jason's biggest battles seem to be fighting the hilariously undernourished special effects, the ugly minimalist score, the wacky costume design (the "futuristic" clothes seem to be Old Navy clearance items with the sleeves cut off) or eventually, the film's own self-destructive nature. Those elements seem tougher to kill than any sexed-up teenager.
It's fruitless to cry over spilled blood, but an opportunity like this will not come again. The "creative" minds behind "Jason X" have done more damage to the series, and even to modern horror, than I think they realize. Even for die-hard Jason Voorhees fans, this film is a insult to masked mass murderers everywhere.
Filmfodder Grade: D