‘Friday the 13th Part V – The New Beginning’ (Danny Steinmann, 1985)


There is a commonly held opinion that any film which has spawned many sequels will in fact decline in quality with each successive sequel.

This is of course bullshit. Utter piffle. The perfect example of this is the ‘Friday the 13th’ franchise since the first film is arguably one of the poorest and the third (of ten) is really the lowest of the low.

However in terms of ‘Friday the 13th’ fandom and enthusiasts the fifth entry in the saga is frequently considered one of the weakest. In order to defend this it’s going to be necessary to get some seriously hardcore spoilers out of the way early on. If you’ve not seen this film and hope one day to sit through the entire Crystal Lake story then it’s probably best you stop reading now.

You were warned. ‘Friday the 13th Part V – The New Beginning’ has a fundamental difference over its fellow sequels in that Jason and his mother aren’t in it. This isn’t like ‘Halloween III – Season of the Witch’ (Tommy Lee Wallace, 1982) where the film detours off on a tangent. The fact Jason isn’t in this film is actual the twist and it’s a bloody effective one.

So here’s the story, in a neat nutshell so we can move on to the other elements (aside from the cracking script) that make this possibly the best entry in the series. Little Tommy Jarvis is back. At the close of ‘Friday the 13th John ShepherdPart IV – The Final Chapter’ (Joseph Zito, 1984) little Tommy, ably played by the ever-reliable Corey Feldman, attacked and killed Jason while defending his family. Following a lovely pre-title sequece where Feldman returns, we hit the real world and little Tommy is all grown up, now played by John Shepherd. Tommy’s mental health is also suffering and he arrives at his new care home, presumably not far from Camp Crystal Lake given that the locals know about Jason Voorhees. Now, forgive me here as I’m no psychiatrist, but surely it’s not the best location to send the poor sod to recover? America’s a big place. He’s clearly very tense.

Pinehurst Halfway House has a fairly small guest list, all with their own problems which sadly we never really get to the bottom of. This could’ve been a fun opportunity in the guise of ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street III – Dream Warriors’ (Chuck Russell, 1987) to have a band of misfits, each with a flaw and a strength who could work as a group. Instead we’re never really shown any indication that they have issues at all other than Jake and his slight stutter and virgin-status.

Fat FuckWithin seconds of Tommy’s arrival there’s a grisly killing. Slow, overweight stereotype Joey (Dominick Brascia) is suddenly and brutally murdered by Vic (Mark Venturini), another resident. As Vic is taken away by the police, the paramedics remove Joey’s body. This is where the film, on a second viewing, can be a little heavy-handed and personally I think it’s a pretty clever idea. You see Joey has no family that they know of. No-one knows what happened to his dad. We’ll find out at the end of the film, but the trick is – Roy (Dick Wieand), the the seemingly irrelevant paramedic attending the scene, is in fact Joey’s dad. And seeing his son’s chopped up body sends him doolally. But we don’t know that for now so forget I mentioned it.

Tommy settles in quite badly. He’s quiet, introverted, still makes his silly bloody masks and over-reacts in a pretty major way if someone borrows one. The other characters are rather thinly drawn. There’s an intriguing back-story with little Reggie the Reckless (Shavar Ross), his grandfather and his brother which is fleshed out reasonably well, if only through enthusiastic performances, but the other patients are ill-served. A nymphomaniacal couple, a body-popping goth and … Robin (Juliette Cummins). Robin is probably the most irrelevant, dull character ever to grace the cinema screen. If it weren’t for the fact she takes her top off for no reason one could wonder what she’s doing adding this to her CV at all.

Along the road from the care home we also have Ethel (Carol Locatall) and her backward son Eddie (John Robert Dixon). They’re your typical hillbilly comic relief and probably the film’s major embarrassment.

Anyhoo – people start dying and there are various suspects being lined up for us on the understanding that it can’t be Jason doing it because he’s dead. Although Tommy keeps hallucinating that Jason is stalking him, we never see the killer. Barbara StreisandSo our prime and obvious suspect is a visiting stranger who arrives at Ethel’s farm to ‘clean out all of that chicken shit and dump it behind the shed’. He’s offed almost as quick as he arrives, killed while ogling our nymphomaniacs going at it. Suspect number one of course is Tommy who doesn’t propel the narrative as much as you might expect, disappearing as he does for nearly thirty minutes.

Eventually enough people have died to indicate that the wholesome blonde doctor Pam (Melanie Kinnaman), the loveable but roguish young black boy Reggie and Tommy are going to be our troika of survivors. This is when Jason turns up. A fight eventually spills into the barn where he’s push onto some conveniently placed spikes below a hay loft (why are spikes always positioned below a hay loft?). He’s revealed to be Roy, the paramedic from earlier.

But wait! What’s this?! It’s not over yet. In the hospital Tommy wakes up, has a funny turn, grabs a Jason mask and knife from the drawer (who put it there?), kills Pam and leaps out of a nearby window. This is of course all a dream. Or something. Not really clear. But this is the eighties and all horror films have a nonsensical denouement involving a splintered reality so let’s leave it for now.

That’s the plot, but there are some other great elements that make this film stand out in the series and it’s my intention eventually to cover the whole run a film at a time as I have a real soft spot for ‘Friday the 13th’.

Oooh shit, BabyMusically this film ups the ante on the previous film’s Crispin Glover dance sequence (Google it). We get two stand-out moments. One is a musical murder on a toilet. This is Reggie’s brother Demon (played in a very early role by Miguel A. Núñez Jr.). As Demon shits out a bad enchilada, his girlfriend sings to him from outside. They keep this up for a while and then she goes quiet. She’s dead, and Demon will be soon in a moment. Run through with a spear from outside. Demon’s departure is a real shame. He’s a fascinating character.

Our next musical interlude comes courtesy of eighties goth Violet (Tiffany Helm) for whom I carried a torch as an 8 year old when I first saw this film. Always love a goth. But this goth, while rude and sullen to her friends, spends most of the film listening to various rock refrains on her enormous headphones. It’s odd then that she resorts to some awesome robot dancing/body popping to soft rock lords Pseudo Echo. It comes out of nowhere in the midst of murder and has been edited into a loop here for your enjoyment:

tumblr_m1y3be5Pwa1r2kncco1_r1_500So with two big musical numbers can the film deliver even more? Well yes it bloody can. There is a rare example of an effective use of a film within a film rather than a plodding example of a director showing us his inspirations and favourite scenes. Robin (oh, exciting, fascinating, deep, interesting Robin) and Jake sit watching ‘A Place in the Sun’ (George Stevens, 1951) while Jake tries to make his moves on this charismatic and appealing goddess. But the film serves to up the tension brilliantly since there’s not a lot else going on in the house at this time. Also one has to admire the balls-out method of Jake who rather than asking for a date merely asks for sex. You don’t get if you don’t ask so hats off to him.

The murders in ‘Part V’ (not actually called ‘Part V’ on release and in fact the original plan wasn’t to call it ‘Friday the 13th’ at all which would’ve been quite cool) are rather lackluster due in part by the MPAA’s vicious cuts to get the film from an X to R rating. This leads to the overall feeling that you’re watching a TV movie as each violent encounter fades to black or cuts away at the critical moment. In many ways this is to the film’s advantage as it no longer feels like a horror film and more of a thriller, which in essence it would be if the characters had a bit more… character.

One Bored Jasoneffective slaying comes courtesy of two stereotypes in a broken down car. As stereotype one (with the line ‘Those cunts ain’t gonna wait all night’ – nice, we can’t see blood but we do get the word ‘cunt’ – god bless America) nips off for a piss, stereotype two is slain with a distress flare in the mouth. It’s really well done but one can’t help but wonder where this distress flare came from.

Finally we have something rare in a ‘Friday the 13th’ film which is the classic ‘cat out of nowhere’. I won’t spoil it for you, just remember that it’s coming and shake your head in disapproval when it does.

If, as the title implies, this was intended to be a new beginning for the ‘Friday the 13th’ series then one has to wonder where they were planning to take it beyond this film. Tommy speaks barely five lines in the whole film and has no real menace to him at all. Perhaps they intended the mantle of Jason to be passed on from person to person in much the same way is implied in ‘Jason Goes to Hell’ (Adam Marcus, 1993). Whatever their plans, they clearly weren’t what we eventually got with ‘Part VI’ which really was a new beginning for the series. But in ‘Part V’ we have a stand-out entry which relies on plot and not killings. A film you can show a friend and they won’t feel like they’ve just sat through horror. It’s a brave and bold attempt at doing something new with the franchise and Steinmann should be commended for that much at least.

For a film session the recommendation would be to commit to the entire run over 24hrs, it’s just about doable. After the interminable 2 and 3 you’ll be glad when this baby kicks in the door.

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