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

Director: John Carl Buechler

Cast: Lar Park Lincoln, Terry Kiser, Kevin Blair, Kane Hodder

Screenplay: Daryl Haney, Manuel Fidello

88 mins. Rated R.

 

You’d think people would just start avoiding Camp Crystal Lake on Friday the 13th by this point. I mean, it doesn’t happen that often, right?

Tina Shepherd (Lar Park Lincoln, From the Dark, TV’s Knot’s Landing) has bad memories of her lake home, which is located near Camp Crystal Lake. When she was younger, her father drowned in the lake, and Tina blames herself. Tina was born with mental gifts, and she’s returned to the lake home with her mother and Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser, Weekend at Bernie’s, The Kingsbury Run) in order to come to terms with her abilities and her guilt, and while there, she inadvertently awakens a sleeping Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder, Daredevil, An Accidental Zombie (Named Ted)), who is waiting at the bottom of the lake for his chance to return. Now, Jason is back and unleashed upon a group of youths that have congregated in a nearby cabin for their mutual friend’s birthday, and Tina may be the only one who can stop the hockey-masked killer.

Somewhere out there is an old VHS cassette tape that contains the unrated cut of The New Blood, but it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a version of this film from before the MPAA and the studio tore it to pieces, which is too bad because there’s a lot to love about this installment of the franchise. John Carl Buechler (Saurian, The Eden Formula) was an inspired choice as a director as he understood both how to use effects and how to create tension and shocking horror in his films. The idea of finding someone more on equal ground with Jason works pretty well, and though there’s been some calls for the silliness of a Carrie White-style character, I would argue that you’ve seen Jason drown as a child, almost decapitated, and rise from the dead due to a lightning bolt; if this is what loses you, that’s pretty strange.

Lar Park Lincoln doesn’t do so well as Tina, as she just kind of spazzes a lot and shakes. There’s not a lot of depth to the character, and the screenplay from Daryl Haney and Manuel Fidello doesn’t give her a lot to do outside of reacting. If anything, the most interesting character is Dr. Crews, played menacingly by Terry Kiser. Crews is a scumbag to end all scumbags, the prime example of a character you want to see mercilessly ripped to pieces by Voorhees.

Speaking of Jason Voorhees, this installment is the first appearance by the man who became synonymous with the machete-wielding psycho, Kane Hodder. Hodder would go on to play Jason three more times before he was unceremoniously tossed aside for being too big to play Jason Voorhees. Hodder’s Jason is the first time I remember feeling like Voorhees was an actual person at one point, and that he’s an actual character. He’s a presence on film with a performance, one that is not dissimilar to a hungry shark. There’s a hunter mentality to Jason here instead of a generic boogeyman. It’s the best Jason performance to date.

Alas, the studio had a bit too much hand in this one, as well as a producer who didn’t have a handle for what the film was aiming for and didn’t take time to work with the filmmaker on helping his vision, and The New Blood, for all its campy fun, struggles to reach the level of Jason Lives. It’s still one of the better installments, but most of its characters are not well-performed, well-written, or even likable. There’s also a building of expectation that we are headed towards an incredible and intense finale unlike anything we’ve seen before in the franchise, and what we get is a bit middling. Sure, it’s unique, but having studied the film, I can see the way it was supposed to end up in my head, and it’s not what we ended up getting.

The New Blood is good but it should have been incredible and jaw-dropping and a success in forever changing the landscape of Jason Voorhees and the Friday the 13th series, but director John Carl Buechler was almost set up to fail. As frustrating as that is, it features a solid performance from Terry Kiser and an incredibly nuanced Jason as played by Kane Hodder. This one will still please genre and franchise fans, but we’re left with the wonder of what could have been.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th, click here.

For my review of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part 2, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part III, click here.

For my review of Joseph Zito’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, click here.

For my review of Jack Sholder’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, click here.

For my review of Danny Steinmann’s Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning, click here.

For my review of Chuck Russell’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, click here.

For my review of Tom McLoughlin’s Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI, click here.

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