Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) review

Friday The 13th Part VIII posterDirector: Rob Hedden

Starring: Kane Hodder, Jensen Daggett, Todd Caldecott, Tiffany Paulsen

“I think the time has come for your first swimming lesson. You don’t wanna end up drowning like that Voorhees boy, do you? He never learned how to swim, either. And he’s still at the bottom of this lake.” (Charles, Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan)

By the time the Friday The 13th series had reached its eighth incarnation it was clear ideas were running a bit thin on the ground.

After all, there’s only so many times you can recycle the whole ‘masked killer stalks horny teens through the woods’ routine without eventually jumping the shark.

By this point though, Friday The 13th had jumped more sharks than Evel Knievel at a poker tournament.

Get it? As in card sharks. Because they're playing poker. Look, don't look at me like that, I'm giving you fucking gold here
Get it? As in card sharks. Because they’re playing poker. Look, don’t stare at me like that, I’m giving you fucking gold here

Audiences had already been treated to Jason in 3D, Jason dying ‘for good’, Jason being replaced with a copycat killer, Jason coming back as a zombie and Jason fighting a teen with telekinetic powers.

By this point Crystal Lake had seen more strange goings-on than a night out in Newcastle, so a bold decision was made: Friday The 13th Part VIII wouldn’t be set in Crystal Lake at all.

I’d keep the suspense up for longer if I could but the fact the film’s called Jason Takes Manhattan should make it clear he doesn’t end up in fucking Beirut or anything like that.

Yes, this time Jason’s running loose in New York… but he doesn’t actually get there until the final third of the movie.

Tell you what, he's getting his bloody money's worth from that hockey mask
Tell you what, he’s getting his bloody money’s worth from that hockey mask

Instead, the majority of the film follows Rennie Wickham, a teen girl aboard a ship filled with her fellow senior college students. They’ve all just graduated, you see, and they’ve hired the boat to sail to New York and party on down.

The problem is, the previous night the boat passed by Crystal Lake, where a still-dead Jason was lying underwater. The boat’s anchor dragged an electrical cable over Jason’s body, bringing him back to life. Guess where he is now.

The first hour or so of Jason Takes Manhattan, then, takes place on the ship as it heads towards New York. One by one the teens on board are offed by Jason until only a handful remain by the time their destination is reached.

There then follows some more daft hijinks in Manhattan itself before, predictably, Jason is killed for the umpteenth time in probably the most bizarre way yet.

Oh, and it involves his mask coming off again for the umpteenth time in the series. We get it mate, you've got a face for radio
Oh, and it involves his mask coming off again for the umpteenth time in the series. We get it mate, you’ve got a face for radio

To its credit, Jason Takes Manhattan tries something different and is partially successful. The problem is, much like the teens on the boat, the film itself became a victim: to the MPAA ratings board.

Many of the deaths in Part VIII are fairly tame when put next to the early Friday films (before the MPAA started getting heavily involved in censoring subsequent entries in the series).

They’re still inventive enough, mind you. One poor lass has her head caved in with an electric guitar, while another teen has a hot sauna rock plunged into their chest.

Once Jason gets to New York, a number of gang members are also killed: one is stabbed in the back with his own syringe, while another is scalded with a steam pipe then battered to death with it.

And let's not forget the classic harpoon gun, of course
And let’s not forget the classic harpoon gun, of course

Oh, and there’s also the preposterous death in which a boxer, after unleashing hundreds of blows on an unflinching Jason, is then unceremoniously decapitated with a single uppercut.

The problem is that almost all of these deaths are drastically cut to the point that most of them are ruined with camera cutaways. As a result the film loses some of the impact of its predecessors.

(spoiler in the next paragraph)

It’s also got some truly bizarre plot points, most notably Rennie’s constant visions of a young Jason in the water and the subsequent ending this leads to in which Jason is blasted with acid, is caught in a sewer flood and is washed away… in child form for some reason.

It’s a bad Friday The 13th film then and no mistake, but a bad Friday is still a relatively entertaining Friday and if you’re craving nothing more than a cheesy slasher then Jason Takes Manhattan does at least deliver in that regard.

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HOW CAN I SEE IT?
Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan is available on standalone DVD in the UK and US. Here’s the UK version and here’s the US version.

If you’re craving a more overall Friday The 13th experience you have three choices. In the UK your only main option is this DVD box set, which contains DVD versions of Friday The 13th Parts 1-8.

This same DVD box set is also available in the US, though by far the best option is the recently released Friday The 13th: The Complete Collection Blu-ray box set. This is only available in America but I can confirm it’s region-free (I bought it myself). It’s also currently the only way you can get Jason Takes Manhattan on Blu-ray.

SHOW ME THE TRAILER:

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