Happy Friday the 13th, Doc! After watching that zombie/stripper film, I found myself in the mood for more of the risque. Well, as luck would have it, Jason X isn’t one of those “adult” parodies I enjoy so much… but it fits with the day, so what the hell. Widely regarded as the worst (and certainly the lowest grossing) in the series, the tenth “stab” at a Friday the 13th flick is so painfully putrid that even the Downtown Cinema’s audience couldn’t resist throwing their rum ‘n cokes at the screen (a.k.a. my TV set – more on that later). But is it really that bad? Aren’t these films kind of an easy target because there are so many unnecessary sequels? Am I just kicking a dead horse by reviewing a decade-old stinker?
Jason X is actually a historical film, of sorts. It was the last Friday the 13th film to star Kane Hodder as Jason Vorhees as well as the first major studio release entirely rendered in digital (celebrate that however you’d like.) There’s also the fun fact that it’s the only “Jason” film to feature a cameo by David Cronenberg. That doesn’t boost its art-house appeal, but it could win you a free round at a sports bar trivia night.
If you’ve skipped this colossal attempt at a money grab, let me give you the run down. The previous film was “Jason Goes to Hell”, before that was “Jason Takes Manhattan”. Running out of fresh places for Jason to visit was getting harder than coming up with fresh mishaps for Madea. So they brought him to space. And the future. But not in that order. It’s the year 2000 (though the film came two years later) and Jason (Hodder) is contained at the Camp Crystal Lake Research Facility. Unable to be executed, he’s about to be forever contained in a cyrostasis chamber. That’s when a certain Videodrome director decides to bust him out and exploit his regeneration abilities for some cold, hard cash. Naturally, Jason kills everyone except for sexy facility worker, Rowan (Lexa Doig), who finds herself critically wounded by the big lug. She manages to trap Vorhees in the chamber, but is frozen along with him as he stabs through the door. 455 years later and a team of students discover these frozen relics as they scour a now uninhabitable Earth for ancient artifacts. Bringing both bodies aboard their spaceship, the team revives Rowan, while Jason is studied. The morally challenged Professor Lowe (Jonathon Potts), realizes he can make a quick buck from the corpse of the famed 20th century killer and tries to bring him back to Earth 2. Except the film turns into Alien and people start getting slaughtered.
On paper, this must have looked good to someone. Refreshing a dead franchise requires a little “out of the box” thinking. However, turning America’s favorite murderer into a futuristic cyborg trapped on an intergalactic fieldtrip feels more lazy than inventive. It never stands a chance at restoring the series to its former glory, as late director James Isaac (Pig Hunt) makes the film feel like the unholy spawn of Star Trek: DS9 and The Young and The Restless. The acting is completely soap opera-esque, while the set design looks like a primetime sci-fi series from the late 90’s. Most likely an effect of shooting digital so early on, colors are too vivid and bright. I felt like I was watching Batman and Robin the whole time. Thank God Uber Jason never sprouts nipples to accompany his new mask (which OBVIOUSLY came straight out of The Mighty Ducks cartoon series). The CG effects have certainly not aged well, if they ever sufficed to begin with. To watch Jason X today, one has to wonder how it ever got into theaters – but the answer is pretty simple.
The home video market has changed a TON in the last decade. Disney showed with 1994’s The Return of Jafar they could crank out straight-to-video sequels on the cheap and make a killing. Other studios were a bit more reluctant to do this with larger movies (especially a high profile franchise like Friday the 13th) so long as they could still turn a profit in theaters as direct to video titles tend to carry that stigma of lower quality. I’m sure the reasoning behind Jason X was that it was so cheap to make, it would off-set the cost of distribution and allow the film to profit – thus breathing new life into a nearly decade-dead series.
It might’ve actually worked had the dialogue not been so laugh-out-loud awful. One character yells after being stabbed through the chest, “It’s gonna take more than a poke in the ribs to put down this old dog!” When he’s stabbed a second time he says, “Yeah, that oughtta do it.”… and dies. Another yells “This sucks on so many levels!” before meeting her doom. I might actually put that one on my gravestone. It’s not hard to imagine why the film was barely profitable. On the other hand, it probably would’ve done FAR better going straight to video and DVD as the Hellraiser series started doing a few years earlier.
With lower expectations (or none at all) the movie could be somewhat enjoyable. It doesn’t look any worse than most DVD exclusives today and the cheesiness lends itself well to group watchings (read: mockeries). I created a drinking game where each of us chose 3 characters (in case one or two died early) and had to take a gulp after every stupid thing they said or did. Everyone had overlapping character picks, but there was so much lameness among them all that nearly our entire audience died of alcohol poisoning. There was even a refusal to drink at a certain point with one individual pitching his drink at the screen. He was ejected, of course… just as Jason should’ve been when he started causing trouble on that damned spacecraft. Four hundred+ years into the future and humans are no smarter than the buffoons I pal around with. No offense, Doc.
Jason X earns 3 out of 5 reels. You obviously can’t shit in a bowl and expect people to think it’s chocolate ice cream – they can smell it a mile away. It’s the NINTH sequel in a series of bad sequels – if you ever went in expecting genius, you deserve to be disappointed. That said: I’d be pretty angry spending $12 per ticket on this thing, so yes… one expects a little better. Now that you can bring it home for $8 on Amazon, it’s a little more fun(ny). Just keep a taser handy in case your buddies start to riot.