Tagline: If Jason still haunts you…you’re not alone.
Director: Danny Steinmann
Writers: Martin Kitrosser, David Cohen, Danny Steinmann
Starring: Melanie Kinnaman, John Shepherd, Anthony Barile, Carol Locatel, Ron Sloan, Shavar Ross, Richard Lineback, Tiffany Helm, Miguel A. Núñez Jr.
18 | 1hr 32min | Horror
Budget: $2,200,000 (estimated)
It took producers a whole year to renege on the promise that Friday the 13th Part IV would indeed be The Final Chapter, and the $22,000,000 it raked in at the box office ― more than ten times its allocated budget ― tells you exactly why. In reality, no one truly believed that The Final Chapter was the end for the madman in the hockey mask. Back in 1984, pressure was mounting in the form of moral panic as the MPAA and BBFC censoring boards helped to pass laws which would regulate the pre-censorship home video boom, a technological revolution that had given birth to an abundance of cynical, dead-eyed slashers, ‘snuff’ movies, and all kinds of exploitative trash that put the fear of god in a generation of parents weaned on horror of the more traditional variety.
Buoyed by a tabloid media demonising independent filmmakers, the UK Conservative party would capitalise on the furore as a way to sway public vote in the latest campaign to strip society of its civil liberties. What followed was the Video Recordings Act of 1984 and the infamous ‘Video Nasty‘ scandal, a list of 72 films deemed unfit for public consumption. In the US, influential critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert would lead a similar crusade. Although it was 1984’s festive slasher Silent Night, Deadly Night that would prove the proverbial straw that broke the reindeer’s back, it was Jason Voorhees who became their poster boy for moral outrage, and those at Paramount had no choice but to respond, however fickle their sentiments.
Jason was far too big a draw to put to bed in 1984, and you have to believe that the studio was aware of this when promoting its ‘series-ending’ declaration. In all likelihood, Jason’s demise was nothing more than a cynical marketing gimmick, a trend that would continue as Jason was resurrected time and time again under his post-Jason Lives zombie guise. So surreptitious was Paramount’s eventual backtracking that A New Beginning was cast under the fake title Repetition, and many of its actors were unaware that the movie was in fact a Friday the 13th instalment until after they were cast in their roles. Lordy, lordy!
Technically, Paramount did stick to their promise ― at least for another year―because this time Jason is not the culprit, and only appears through the twisted mind of franchise mainstay Tommy Jarvis. Tommy is now an adult, despite the fact that A New Beginning is set only a year after The Final Chapter, a movie in which he was no more than 12 years old. This unforgivable oversight notwithstanding, the film at least stays true to the Tommy character, who is understandably not doing so great after the events of the previous instalment, suffering from horrific nightmares in which Jason attempts to enact his revenge after having his head impaled on a machete.
In light of this, Tommy has been sent to the Pinewood Home for Delinquents, a decidely lax institution that never thinks to search the knife-possessing Tommy upon his arrival, and even allows the more deranged of its residents to wander the grounds with an axe, leading to the murder of a puerile creature named Joey, who although harmless and rather dull-witted fully deserves to be hacked to pieces for no apparent reason. Surely Messrs Siskel and Ebert saw some justification in that particular slaying!
Two more cretins ripe for the choppin’ are local yokels Ethel and Junior, an incestuous pairing whose dissentient ravings threaten to have the institute closed down. Strange then, that they fail to capitalise on Joey’s brutal and very public murder only hours later. In fact, not only does Pinewood go unpunished for its fatal acts of negligence, its workers barely receive a telling off and are allowed to continue on in a manner that will spell the end for a whole bunch of spuriously indifferent teenagers.
Though Tommy takes meds to calm himself down — the kind that don’t need digesting and for some reason work instantly — he continues to have visions of Jason, and wanton acts of destruction and violence are designed to have us suspecting him as one of the movie’s possible culprits; and there are so many to choose from here, including the most useless red herring in franchise history in an unnamed man who randomly drops by offering to work for food.
Ironically, A New Beginning features the only sheriff in the entire series who actually puts two and two together and suspects that Jason is in fact responsible for the community’s spate of murders, a refreshing concept for a Friday the 13th instalment. For those of you disappointed by this nugget of logicality in an infamously illogical franchise, you needn’t worry, as this is the only film that doesn’t take place at the infamous Camp Crystal, making his assumption even more spurious. Even when this movie attempts to be rational it fails miserably.
A New Beginning was met with a tumultuous critical backlash upon its release, not only from the usual high-brow naysayers crying foul and instigating the kind of moral panic that proved infinitely more dangerous than any of Jason’s fictional antics, but from a cheated fan base who paid to see Jason and instead got someone else entirely. It didn’t matter than the plot was identical to pretty much every other instalment. There were lies and there were lies, and for many this one stepped way over the creative line.
When I first experienced A New Beginning‘s infamously backhanded revelation, I was one of those fans, but over the years it’s kind of grown on me. A tonal variation on the usual summer camp slaughterhouse, it’s actually a bundle of goofy fun, something reminiscent of a Scooby Doo crime caper in which a masked killer roams with a level of nonsensical camp that is really quite charming ― if you’re able to overcome the fury of feeling cheated. More than three decades after the movie’s release it’s easier to sit back and embrace the commercial skulduggery that would become the hallmark of the series at large. At least for me.
In the end, it is left up to resident hottie, Pam ― played by a positively enchanting Melanie Kinnaman ― to reveal the murderer’s true identity and ultimately save the day. That someone is a character you might not expect, mainly due to the dubiously minuscule screen time afforded to them, but unless you’re completely vacuous you will be able to guess the culprit in no more than ten minutes thanks to one of the most obvious vengeful-eyed close-ups you are ever likely to be subjected to. Correction: two vengeful-eyed close-ups.
You have been warned!
Unfortunately, it is pretty slim pickings in perhaps the most edited-for-gore instalment in the entire series, but one unlucky teen gets pinned to a tree with a leather strap which is then tightened until his eyes and head are crushed. At least I assume his head is crushed. Thanks to those God-fearing bastards at the Motion Picture Association of America, we will sadly never know.
Most Absurd Moment
Coming to the increasingly alluring Pam’s rescue, Pinewood’s resident prepubescent, Reggie, uses a tractor to smash through a barn, chugging forth at all of 2mph and somehow managing to take ‘Jason’ by surprise in the ten minutes our killer has to move out of the way before being mowed down.
I mean, really!
Most Absurd Dialogue
Subjected to a bout of insufferable son Junior’s nonsensical babbling, backwoods mother Ethel shoots from the hip as he grotesquely slurps from a bowl of broth.
Ethel: You big dildo! Eat your fucking slop!
I couldn’t have phrased it better myself.