There’s a golden rule in franchises – you never stray from the formula, even though the Friday the 13th franchise did that almost when it started. To continue, I’m going to warn you all that this post has many spoilers, so don’t read any further if you haven’t seen any or all movies in the franchise. By the time the second movie went into production, there was consideration of focusing on different superstitions and moving away from the slasher genre. Halloween III: Season of the Witch was a good indicator why this would’ve failed.
But even with the second movie, they couldn’t bring Pamela Voorhees back from the dead. Her head had been chopped off. So for no explainable reason except for a passive line in dialogue that indicates that Jason Voorhees didn’t really drown at Crystal Lake, Jason becomes the primary killer in the franchise through the second, third and fourth movies. By the time the fourth movie went into production, Paramount Pictures, the studio behind the movies, was wanting to end it once and for all as slasher movies were losing their clout. However, the films were still making a lot of money in comparision with how cheap they were made.
Even though the fourth movie had been given the subtitle, The Final Chapter, it was implied it was the last time Jason would be the killer. The machete would be passed to Tommy Jarvis, played Corey Feldman, who appears briefly during a dream sequence at the beginning of the fifth movie with the subtitle A New Beginning. Set five years after the events of The Final Chapter, Tommy (John Shepherd) is older and deeply disturbed as he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
With his mother killed by Jason and and him and his sister being terrorized by the killer, Tommy has become a ward of the state and spent his time in mental hospitals being drugged out of his mind. He’s finally taken to the Pinehurst Youth Development Center, a smaller facility that is operated by Dr. Matt Letter (Richard Young) and his assistant, Pam Roberts (Melanie Kinnaman). It’s mainly a rural halfway house for troubled teens.
Tommy has become mostly an anti-social introvert over his years, barely speaking to anyone, but as we see is prone to acts of violence. Tommy meets a younger teen, Reggie “The Reckless” Winter (Shavar Ross), who’s visiting while his grandfather, George (Vernon Washington),, is the cook at the house. Also at the house is Eddie Kelso (John Robert Dixon) and Tina McCarthy (Debi Sue Voorhees) who are constantly getting in trouble running off to have sex. There’s the goth Violet Moraine (Tiffany Helm), Jake Patterson (Jerry Pavlon) who has a bad stutter, Robin Brown (Juliette Cummins) and Joey Burns (Dominick Bracia), who is obese and a compulsive eater as well as dim-witted.
The house and its facilities are disliked by a neighbor, Ethel Hubbard (Carol Locatell), an angry and somewhat crazy rural woman, and her foolish oaf of a son, Junior (Ron Sloan), when Eddie and Tina are found on her property. The local sheriff, Cal Tucker (Marco St. John), takes them into custody and returns them to the house but not before Ethel and Junior tell everyone they’ll kill them if anyone from Pinehurst comes on her property.
Later, Joey is killed by Vic Faden (Mark Venturini), who is prone to fits of anger and rage, when Joey keeps nagging him while he’s cutting wood. Vic kills him with the axe and is arrested. The trauma affects the teens and staff at Pinehurst as they try to cope. But at the same time, there is a killer lurking nearby who kills two young men broken down on the side of the road as well as Billy McCauley (Bob DeSimone), who transferred Tommy to Pinehurst, and a restaurant worker, Lana (Rebecca Wood), who he was meeting.
Sheriff Tucker suspects that Jason Voorhees is behind the killers but the mayor reminds him that Jason Voorhees was killed and cremated. As the killer seems to lurk closer to Pinehurst, the movie hints that it could be committed by someone else or maybe that Jason didn’t die. It was supposed to be implied that Vic may have escaped. There’s also an implication that Tommy might be behind it as he gets in a fight with Eddie for taking one of his masks for his room. Later in the movie, Tommy gets in a fight with Junior when he goes along with Pam and Reggie when Reggie goes to a trailer park to visit his older brother, Demon (Miguel A. Nunez Jr.), who’s in town.
The following below contains spoilers so if you haven’t seen it, don’t read any further.
The killer murders everyone at Pinehurst except for Pam, Reggie and Tommy. He also murders Demon and his girflfriend as well as Ethel and Junior. Even though he appears wearing a hockey mask, it’s different from the one Jason has wore. Tommy saves Pam and Reggie from the killer who is hanging off the barn’s second floor loft window by chopping his arm, leading him to fall down on some tractor harrow on the ground below impaling his body. It’s revealed the killer is Roy Burns (Dick Wieand), who had been one of the local paramedics who had responded to the death of Joey.
The sheriff explains that Joey had been a ward of the state since his mother died in childbirth. Roy had gotten his mother pregnant but since he was a loner, very few people knew about Roy’s life and why he kept it secret. It’s revealed Roy had been researching the killings at Crystal Lake, through newspaper clippings found, and wanted to blame Jason when he went on his killing rampage.
Some people would call this a cheat, but Roy becomes shocked when he sees Joey’s body at Pinehurst. Later when Roy is bagging the bodies of the young men killed by the broken down car, he is acting funny. The movie drops hints that Roy could be the killer. But it also points the finger at other people, like Tommy and Vic, as I mentioned earlier. There’s also the implication it’s Raymond Joffroy (Sonnie Shields), who is a homeless man lurking around the area who approaches Ethel about doing work for food.
There’s also the behavior of Roy’s paramedic co-worker, Duke Johnson (William Caskey Swaim), who isn’t phased by seeing the mutilated body of Joey and mocks the teens of Pinehurst for being horrified. The movie sets up many possible suspects of the killer, even Dr. Letter and George, who are both missing from Pinehurst when Pam and Reggie return after Tommy runs off after fighting with Junior. It’s the first whodunit since the first movie.
Granted the direction by Danny Steinmann, who co-wrote the script with David Cohen and Martin Kitrosser, isn’t the best. Kinnaman, Wieand and other cast and crew members have spoken out saying that Steinmann was doing a lot of cocaine on the set leading to Stephen Posey, the cinematographer directing some scenes. It’s probably no surprise that this is Steinmann’s last film credit before his death in 2012.
Furthermore, Steinmann’s direction on the movie has been one of much controversy as both executive producer Frank Mancuso Jr. and Wieand didn’t get along with him, both calling him a sleazy person. The sex scene between Eddie and Tina has been one of contention as Wieanda says the original cut was more graphic like a porno, but it had to be cut significantly to gert an R rating. However, some have disputed that. Voorhees said that the sex scene wasn’t as graphic as it’s been reported. Only 10 seconds were shown to help secure the R rating even though it was reported three minutes long.
Wieand and others, such as Shepherd, were cast under the false pretense the movie wasn’t connected to the Friday the 13th franchise. During audition and casting, it was called Repitition. And Wieand, Shepherd and others were upset to realize it was a Friday movie. Shepherd had been volunteering at mental hospitals for months researching the role. Wieand called the movie a “piece of trash.”
The concept was to function as a transition movie as it’s implied Tommy is going to be a killer like Jason (played Tom Morga in his hallucinations and John Hock in the opening dream sequence.) The movie ended on a cliffhanger of Tommy putting on the hockey mask as he stands behind Pam brandishing a butcher knife. Unfortunately, this didn’t go too well with the fans as the movie made $22 million worldwide, which was about $10 million less than the third and fourth movies but the same as the second movie. It still made more money than the sixth movie that resurrected Jason from the grave.
The sixth movie also featured Tommy played by Thom Matthews as Shepherd had become a born-again Christian and didn’t want to reprise his role. Reportedly Freddy vs. Jason, which lanquished in development hell for many years, was going to bring Tommy back with Jason Bateman to play him. Feldman filmed his scene on a Sunday as he was off from shooting The Goonies.
Both Kinnaman and Ross (who was also appearing in a recurring role as Dudley Johnson on Diff’rent Strokes) were still under contract to reappear in the sixth movie but were let go. Ross, like Shepherd, decided to focus his life on a higher power, and became a pastor and has done other ministerial work. Voorhees’ work in the movie, mainly her nude scene, reportedly cost her a few teaching jobs later in her life.
But the movie’s entry in the franchise has been one of the biggest black eyes as it shows it going off the rails. The first movie was a rip-off of Halloween but it was a good rip-off. The second is considered just as good and the third and fourth made a nice trilogy that probably should’ve ended the franchise once and for all. The Scream and Saw movies introduced new killers but they were done in a clever way. This was like another shark popping up in Jaws 2.
Still, I think the movie does look at the effects of violent trauma on people. I don’t think it would’ve been wise to make Tommy a killer on top of making Roy a killer. Most people who are victims of PTSD don’t go nuts. It’s also never really makes much sense why Roy would go on a killing spree and go after the people who had nothing to do with Joey’s death. Maybe he felt since they put someone like Vic in the halfway house, they were responsible.
The straying from formula was referenced in the 2022 Scream and you can see the effects in Halloween Ends in which it involves a young man having the same violent tendecies and putting on a mask to kill people. But at least we still got Michael Myers/The Shape instead of some hallucations and dream sequences. But even when the franchise brought Jason back, the audiences still stayed away as the movie made just over $19 million, but got better reviews.
A New Beginning was a nice attempt. And if the characters of Ethel and Junior hadn’t been included, it might have been taken more serious because Locatell and Sloan play the characters so over the top. And the rest of the teens at Pinehurst say a few lines of dialogue but mostly function as background extras until their characters are killed off. One of the best characters is Demon and you would’ve liked to seen more of him. The two young men, Pete (Corey Parker) and Vinnie (Anthony Barille) are two greasers out of place in the 1980s, you’d wonder what their backstory is about.
The biggest villain is probably Paramount and Mancuso who wanted to produce something cheap for only a couple of a million dollars. Several of the actors were paid the bare minimum as required by the Screen Actors Guild. Nunez plays a character staying in his van and reportedly in real-life he was living out of his car and crashing on people’s couches during the mid-1980s. He would later go on to co-star with Eddie Murphy in Life and appear on the Vietnam TV drama Tour of Duty.
Still, the movie does have its cult following and legion of fans. Give the filmmakers credit for trying something different by focusing on copycats. But for the most part, by the mid-to-late 1980s, slashers had lost their heyday. But looking at later movies like Jason Takes Manhattan, Jason Goes to Hell and Jason X, this movie is way better.
What do you think? Please comment.