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DVD Review: Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

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It's difficult to say which movie in the Friday the 13th franchise is the worst of the lot.  This is because there are so many candidates.  Jason Takes Manhattan (Part 8) was pretty bad, but it did at least have some campy humor to make things interesting.  Jason Goes to Hell (Part 9) had better production values, but the premise was absurd and the film itself a chore to sit through.

But my personal vote would go to Friday the 13th Part V:  A New Beginning as the worst of all.  Not only is it perhaps the most generic film in the franchise, it has few redeeming qualities at all, including a twist ending that's underwhelming to say the least.

The film begins just a few years after the end of Part 4, where Jason Voorhees was killed by young Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman).  Jarvis, now a teenager (John Shepherd), is being transferred to a halfway house for troubled teens in the middle of nowhere.  Jarvis is still haunted by Jason, whom he fears is still alive.  After one of the teens at the house murders another with an axe, the entire area is beset by brutal killings suggesting that Tommy's fears are well-founded.  Jason is back.

The characters at the halfway house are straight out of the generic horror film pantheon; a sort of C-level Breakfast Club.  There's the really fat, sloppy and annoying guy.  There's the punk rocker with headphones glued to her ears.  And there are the two nubile youngsters who — literally — do nothing but frolic and fornicate.

The actor who plays the director of the halfway house (Richard Young) seems generally indifferent, as if he were just passing by that day and was asked to be in a movie.  Also living at the house is a sassy young black child (a staple of all '80s entertainment), whose brother lives in the local trailer park smoking dope and, sadly, meeting his untimely end inside an outhouse.

To be fair, it is possible to enjoy a horror movie even with these obvious drawbacks.  The fourth part of the series (Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter) is pretty enjoyable and is easily one of the best of the franchise.  But that film at least had some charm, humor, and a tacit understanding of its awfulness.  That's very hard to find in A New Beginning.

There are some legitimately good scares in the film, but even this isn't accomplished with a great deal of skill, but rather the most conventional horror scares in the book.  The saving grace of the first four installments of Friday the 13th was getting the most out of shock value.  There isn't nearly enough of this in Part 5, except perhaps during the climactic horror sequence I like to refer to as The Grand Tour of Body Discovery.

The disc's Special Features are interesting, but leave something to be desired.  There is a short film called Lost Tales from Camp Blood – Part 5 that is just a new series of scenes showing Jason hunting people.  The Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited Part II is a "documentary" which looks back on the Crystal Lake murders from a true-crime perspective.  This is a good idea, but it loses a lot in the execution, especially since the actors look like they were chosen based on proximity rather than talent.

One feature worth catching is the behind-the scenes featurette New Beginnings:  The Making of Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning.  You get to hear members of the cast and crew share some interesting background about the making of the film.  Also included is a full-length commentary by co-writer and director Danny Steinmann.

Unfortunately, there's very little to make Friday the 13th Part V worthwhile.  It's not just that it's a bad horror movie; it also lacks the enjoyable aspects found in so many bad horror movies.  In that sense, it's mainly just depressing and a bit boring.

Which makes the final twist seem even more like a punch in the throat.

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