Go back to bed: A critical review of “Friday the 13th: A New Beginning” (1985)

In ancient Greece, Plato reasoned that outside of our dynamic and unreliable reality was another layer, one where perfect versions of everything we encountered here was represented in higher, more abstract or idealistic forms, which existed forever. This had a profound impact on how we perceive Truth–the big truths with capital Ts–in the Western world.

Part of Plato’s theory was the concept that anything created or observed on Earth, no matter how perfect it appeared, was only a shadow of its ideal form. However, it is our duty as human beings to strive to create or perceive or communicate as close to those forms as possible, whether through instruction or intuition.

That grossly reduced philosophy lesson is to introduce one point. This blog cannot guarantee that “Friday the 13th: A New Beginning” is the worst slasher thriller that has ever been made–that is, the ideal form of bad slasher movie–but it’s probably comes as close to that as humanity deserves, or at least deserves to see.

The sixth film in the series is actually an interesting “Friday the 13th” movie for someone like me, who is not a frequent watcher of the series, to start with because it opens on two men digging up Jason Vorhees’s corpse, so it’s obvious they haven’t seen a “Friday the 13th” movie in a while either.

Of course Jason awakens and murders them, of course a child is watching and of course it’s all just a dream–digging up the monster and “it was all a dream”: two cliches for one–by one Tommy Jarvis from the last film, now a young adult portrayed by John Shepherd, who is heading to a psychiatric retreat for teens.

It seems Tommy is plagued by recurring nightmares of Jason, who is presumed dead. But when people start disappearing, Tommy starts to wonder where his nightmares end and reality begins.

The idea of a psychiatric retreat being the location of the murders is actually kind of cool, but the film wastes it by populating the retreat with cliched stereotypes. There’s a too-cool black dude, random biker kids from down the road, a grumpy retreat employee and his hot girlfriend, and a fat kid with chocolate running down his chin, all of whom are at the retreat for no better reason than to be killed by Jason as soon as he shows up.

The murders weren’t even entertaining for the most part. There’s a murder in an outhouse that’s kind of fun, and there’s a murder with a belt at a picnic gone quite wrong that packs a graphic punch, but those were countered an ax attack on a car and a “can’t hear the killer” killing, along with that sleepy climax involving Jason, a barn and people who have apparently forgotten how ladders work.

The climax is clumsy and confusing, with young people flailing away uselessly at Jason, who does not use their clumsiness to his advantage. Then it’s all capped off with an unnecessary twist that felt divorced from the plot, and I found myself wishing for a stereotypical sheriff in a hospital to explain the whole thing. That’s when the scene shifted to a hospital, where a stereotypical sheriff explained the whole thing. I had been kidding, but thanks anyway movie.

The film is largely professional otherwise. There’s some fine horror photography, some decent thriller editing and was directed by Danny Steinmann, who rarely took credit for his films. The score, by series veteran Harry Manfredinin, is almost too professional, creating a sense of bombast that’s not mirrored by the goofy action on screen.

And therein lies the problem, folks, the reason why this is an idealistically, Platonically bad movie. It’s not bad enough to be funny. It’s a purely professional example of a bad thriller. In other words, the film is not a train wreck. Far from it. But it is a bus ride, and over the course of its 92 minutes, that bus hits every cliche on bad slasher thriller lane.

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