Jason X (2001)

What happens when a horror franchise dies?

Well, it ain’t pretty.

Of course, we know that any horror franchise is like the legendary Jason Vorhees himself and will continue to rise again from the dead no matter how many times he’s been chopped, diced, mashed, pureed or flambeed.  It just goes with the territory.  And if you get a little too thorough, you can always reboot the series.  Repeatedly.

And, of course, in the Nineties, we knew that any horror franchise, no matter how unlikely, was going to end up in space.  I think the Critters were first, and it more or less made sense at the time as they originally had come from space, but it gets a bit harder to justify when the Leprechaun series left the Earth.

Or Friday the Thirteenth, for that matter.

But there are other, more serious effects to consider:

The sequels have to somehow be the same as the first film, and yet, at the same time, bigger and more extreme, as they try to outdo the classic moments.  That means they tend to get exaggerated — and usually quite quickly

After a few movies, the monsters start becoming…familiar.  Even loved, by some of the fans.  We start knowing what to expect, both from the monster and from the film itself.  So, when a scientist in this film tries to connect reasonably with Jason, in a scene which is reminiscent of that classic moment in The Thing, as soon as we hear him say, “It’s okay, he just wanted his machete” we know that the next thing we’re going to hear is screaming.  A lot of screaming.

And, of course, that should give you an idea what the next step on the downhill slope is, that inevitable tendency, as they become more and more exaggerated versions of the original, that the people making these films have a harder and harder time taking them seriously.  They rapidly become jokey and self -knowing, winking at the audiences before they finally slide into outright parody.

Followed by a radical reboot by Rod Zombie, which starts getting jokey after only one or two more films.  Leading to another reboot.  And another.  And another…

.Well, you get the idea.

This one is firmly at the bottom of the slide.

It would be followed by the much delayed Freddy Vs. Jason (which started production long before this one was conceived), a film which marked the nadir of both series.

One can easily see the point which poor Jason Vorhees had reached by 2001 that horror auteur David Cronenberg agreed to help out — as long as he got to be killed off by Jason onscreen, an obligation they work off within the first few minutes of the film.  You know your horror series has tanked when they start doing celebrity death cameos.

Particularly when they’re people most of us won’t recognize.

However, one does have to give them credit for finding a way to drag the seemingly unkillable murderer from Crystal Lake into a science fiction film.  You see, he has a remarkable ability to regenerate his body, and he’s survived thirty-two attempts to execute him since he was captured.

Which makes him an incredible specimen who absolutely cries out for scientific study.  Why, someday we might all be like Jason Vorhees!

Okay, that’s scary.  That sounds like a halfway decent SF Friday the Thirteenth sequel, with vast hordes of unstoppable maniacs….

But I digress.

In those first few moments he manages to kill off almost everyone else in sight, only to end up frozen cryogenically.  And the next thing you know, it’s the future, and he and the girl who froze him get woken up aboard a scavengers’ spaceship.  By the time they realize just how much someone would be willing to pay for his carcass, he’s up and killing people in the usual inventive ways. Unfortunately, after ten movies, they’re starting to get…familiar.

In case you’ve missed it somehow or other, this is basically Aliens with an axe murderer, complete with lots of running around in dark passages, and the usual dire warnings about how the tough space Marine types don’t know what they’re up against…

Now I have to say that, for someone who seems to have spent most of his career killing unarmed teens, most of them unaware of their danger, he does quite well against the Marines, mopping them up in record time (and, we should note, despite the comments about his tiny brain!).

Most of this is played for laughs, thanks to a lot of lame jokes (often from the people getting killed).  Those expecting to find the usual collection of ingenious murders might be disappointed:  there is one major set piece with giant screw, although exactly what that screw is supposed to be doing in a spaceship I couldn’t tell you (hint: it comes complete with a bad joke!).  Another replays a very silly scene with impossible physics from Alien Resurrection.

However, the real show stopper is a an even sillier sequence when they attempt to slow Jason down with a hologram of Camp Crystal Lake, in the 1980s.  Lusty female campers entice Jason with offers of smoking some weed and premarital sex, which he responds to in his typical Eighties way, by grabbing their sleeping bags and slamming them around.  While someone is impressed by how quickly he eliminates them, this is a repeat of a bit that Kane Hodder improvised a few films earlier.  Of course.

Mind you, in this film, Jason doesn’t seem to be too worried about his victims’ moral transgressions.  In fact, I’d say he only seems to care whether they’re still breathing.

This hologram scene was one of those bits that the director hated, because he thought they only put it in to get some topless females into the film.  He was right, of course.  There is one particularly comic topless moment earlier, featuring Lisa Ryder’s android character, and some sexy action between two other characters, but that’s about it.  Strange, really.

Also worth noting is the presence of both Lisa Ryder and Lexa Doig, both on summer break from Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda.  There is a curious (and I’m sure deliberate) switch here, with Lexa playing the human character, and Lisa playing the android.  They’re a welcome addition, as they are both very personable TV actresses, and are the closest thing this film has to star power.  Unless you count Kane, playing Jason for the last time.  Mind you, Jason doesn’t have any real hints of personality beyond the fact that his eyes never blink.

As usual, an entertaining and quite funny final surprise twist involving Jason’s latest return from the dead features prominently on the poster, in the advertising and in their advance publicity.  It is a gleefully absurd moment, one that you can see coming a mile away, but as much as I’d love to comment on it, someone has to avoid spoiling these Hollywood films, not matter how hard the studios refuse to cooperate.

I guess this one is a long way from the first film, where they asked everyone to keep the ending secret.  But then, I think we already covered that.

Let’s face it:  this is a very silly film, which really only exists to cash in on the last nine films, and to have fun mocking the series and all its faults.  I enjoyed it for what it was because I’d already figured that out, but your experience may vary.

Particularly if you are expecting some sort of scary horror film.

…As if we’d ever expect that of yet another Friday the Thirteenth film…

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