October Horrorshow: Jason X

It’s Friday the 13th! In October! Missile Test couldn’t possibly let the day go by without watching a Friday the 13th flick, and this one is a doozy. By 2001, the original Friday the 13th franchise was on its last legs. The producers, recognizing that the old formula had been ground into dust by overuse, decided to shake things up. And by shake things up, I mean they all contracted serious cases of the awfuckits and sent their franchise property into space. That’s right, no more summer camp and no more Crystal Lake. This film takes place in outer space…in the future. Hell yeah.

Jason X, from writer Todd Farmer and director James Isaac, is the tenth film in the Friday the 13th franchise. It’s the second to ditch the Friday the 13th moniker, after 1993’s Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. When a film franchise forgoes using its title — the most significant brand that it has — a viewer can tell that things haven’t been going so well lately. The Friday the 13th flicks were always moneymakers, but the return on investment had been going down with every film, and the franchise had earned an unsavory reputation for being cheap, exploitative schlock. Clearly the only thing to do was to double down.

In a twist even more shocking than the idea of a disfigured, immortal mass murderer, Jason X removes series villain Jason Vorhees from the familiar confines of Crystal Lake. Some ridiculous early plot machinations, featuring film auteur David Cronenberg as one of Jason’s early victims, sees Jason (Kane Hodder) frozen in cryogenic sleep, alongside a scientist who had been studying him, named Rowan LaFontaine (Lexa Doig).

Over 400 years pass by, and the basement confines where Rowan and Jason are in hibernation are discovered by a curious professor and his students. The professor, Brandon Lowe (Jonathan Potts) decides to take the two frozen corpses back to his spaceship. One of them, Rowan, can be revived, whereas no one is holding out hope for Jason. It’s too bad that the folks aboard the spaceship aren’t on guard, because, of course, Jason wakes up. And it doesn’t take long for him to claim his first future victim.

It’s a spectacular moment, and one that I won’t spoil here. The thing — the only thing, really — that I love about this movie is all the killing. Jason gets after it in a myriad of ways and with gusto. None of the characters, with the exception of Rowan, being the lead, are safe. It’s over the top and cartoonish, which is exactly how it needs to be. This is a flick where viewers are supposed to be entertained by watching people die. None of it’s real, sure, but as long as it’s absurd that makes it more fun, right?

While all the death and stuff is just what fans of the franchise want, the production itself looks more low rent than previous entries. That’s impressive, considering this film had 3-4 times the budget of every previous entry in the series. The thing is, this film looks like a bottle episode of the X-Files. It would be very familiar to viewers of the Sci-fi Channel at the time. Many of the faces in the cast would be recognizable to Sci-Fi viewers as well, as the production is packed full of Canadian talent. By international treaty, all basic cable science fiction television shows have to be produced in Canada. It’s their 4th largest export, behind fossil fuels, hockey players, and politeness. It’s basically a style at this point, and Jason X is a typical example. Even the sets look like they could have been repurposed from Andromeda or Stargate.

Jason X is a silly and stupid movie, and that’s exactly what any viewer should want or expect. Jason Vorhees runs around killing hapless characters in the most brutal of fashions, and we viewers get a kick out of it. It was never meant to be a good formula. It was just meant to be fun. So many other entries in the series fail this basic test, because of bad pacing or laziness or a lack of awareness on the part of the filmmakers. This flick suffers from none of those flaws. If only every Friday the 13th flick was this watchable. It’s a total piece of shit, but Jason X is a better movie than Alien: Resurrection.