Well, he’s moving on up, to the east side. To make sure those teenagers will die. When you think “Friday the 13th” a metropolitan area doesn’t necessarily come to mind. For “Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan” we get that- well sort of. After being reanimated again, I’ve lost count, Jason boards a ship where a senior grad trip is currently en route to New York City. Once he has eyes set on his prey, he hunts them down leading to his first introduction to a nonforest setting.
The film opens with a gritty lens of the city landscape. New York seems to be permanently drenched with rain as the streets are covered with puddles, mirroring the look of Jason. Cutting back and forth from landmark to the wretched underbelly of crime and drug use we get a tease for what is to come. Unfortunately, it isn’t until the last 40 minutes when the characters arrive in New York which is mostly alleyways and rooftops that resemble that of Vancouver. So more accurately we don’t see the real city until the remaining 15 minutes.
The physical evolution of Jason continues as now his skin seems to be severely pruned by water, which seems to be continually soaked by his clothing that gives off a drenched appearance. His movement seems much slower than prior films, not in the sense of walking but when he closes in on his victims it builds a sense of impending doom. Apparently, Jason has the ability to teleport now. There’s no explanation, but at this point does it really matter. We are just along for the ride to see Jason interact with his victims in unique situations. The kills, for the most part, are on average to the series with a few knockout scenes- no pun intended.
We spend a good amount of time on the ship, which made me less enthusiastic about the watch through as I was anticipating Jason’s arrival in New York. There are multiple characters that bite the dust before even getting to land, but the kills are very quick; a missed opportunity. Having the setting for the majority of the film be on a ship, the presented opportunity of a more claustrophobic closed quarters style film was ignored; which would have been a refreshing change to the open space of the wilderness.
As for the characters, the story follows Rennie, a young girl with an over-controlling guardian. It’s established early on that she is afraid of the water, and seems to have visions of young Jason drowning. The only real tie in between Jason and herself. It seems like a reach, and that’s exactly what it is. It felt unnecessary to have yet another character have some sort of connection to the masked killer.
One scene stands out from a narrative standpoint. After a student discovers the bodies on the crew, he calls for a meeting at the bridge. Several other students and some faculty arrive on the scene. This is one of the first times that a large group is aware of a killer within the franchise. We get to see opposing sides clash in a believable performance by a few of the characters. Even the hardass teacher comes off more authentic than his previously typecasted scenes in the film. As for the students, they collect various objects to use as weapons, unfortunately, they too fall for the same trope of their franchise comrades and split up.
Overall “Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan” is an average installment to the series and a mundane inclusion to the horror genre. There’s some great imagery of Jason in the city and a few memorable kills, but aside from that nothing truly special. It’s not scary, it’s not that creative and it disappoints the viewer with its title alone. Still though, if you are a fan of Jason, check it out. Especially on this Friday the 13th.