The episode of The Test of Time covering Friday the 13th: A New Beginning was Written by Andrew Hatfield, Narrated by Niki Minter, Edited by Mike Conway, Produced by John Fallon and Tyler Nichols, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.
Sometimes with a franchise, and I’m talking about a bona fide, hit making franchise that churns out money and fans movie over movie, you gotta change it up. Sometimes this happens with the main character going to space, or hell, or fighting Freddy Kruger… ok, it’s Jason. We are talking about Jason and his Friday the 13th series. On this channel we’ve seen many defenses of entries that could have been the Black Sheep, we’ve taken a gander and what the eff happened to the movie from production to release, and we’ve even looked at movies that were never made. When you take a look at a film to see if it stands the test of time, you can’t pick the best or worst of the franchise. The really good ones rarely have anything bad to discuss and the bad ones just don’t merit a deeper dive. What you have to look at are the ones that took chances, that are divisive. The ones like Friday the 13th Part 5. (You can watch Friday the 13th: A New Beginning at THIS LINK.)
Just one year after Friday the 13th part 4, part 5 was released. This followed suit with the other movies in the series. The first Friday came out in 1980 and was followed by sequels in 81, 82, and the previously mentioned 84. The movies were ridiculously popular and made money in bucketloads for the creators. The first 4 movies were made for a combined 6.3 million and brought back a staggering 151 million at the box office. Part 5 was a no brainer but, unlike the first three movies in the series, Jason was DEAD dead at the end of part 4. They did decide to keep the continuity, well as much continuity as these movies can have, by continuing the story of young Tommy Jarvis, slayer of Voorhees.
What they didn’t do was tell the cast that the movie was part of the franchise. It was advertised to prospective actors as Repetition, which is way funnier than it has any right to be, and most of the cast was disappointed to find out that it was part of the now famous slasher series. Speaking of the cast, for the most part, they really aren’t that recognizable apart from a couple of them. The most famous is easily Corey Feldman, who has the least amount of screen time. He was supposed to come back for his role as Tommy Jarvis in a much bigger capacity but his role in The Goonies wouldn’t allow it. He filmed his very brief part and that was that. Behind him is our favorite enchilada sufferer Miguel Nunez Jr. That same year he would show up in Return of the Living Dead and with his singing and death as Demon in the outhouse and his portrayal as Spider against zombies, he’s forever in our horror hearts. Tommy actor John Shepherd would float around and eventually show up in the Friday the 13th TV series as well as write for both TV and film.
Everyone else only showed up in a handful of things and a lot of them really never ventured into horror, either before or after. Carol Locatell was all over the map but was good at blending in. she did multiple movies with Burt Reynolds, dabbled in Blaxploitation, and would work steadily until she passed this year. Even not Jason himself, Dick Wieand, would only show up in less than 20 projects and is really just a footnote as the only non-Jason killer in the Franchise. Behind the camera we had writers Martin Kitrosser, David Cohen, and Danny Steinmann who would also direct.
Kitrosser had first written a screenplay with Friday the 13th part 3 and would also direct Silent Night, Deadly Night 5. But that’s not all as he would eventually be a script supervisor for Quentin Tarantino beginning all the way back in Reservoir Dogs and continuing through Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Not just QT either. He performed the same task for other luminaries like James Gunn, Eli Roth, and the Farrelly Brothers. Cohen, despite his very famous last name, only has 3 credits to his name including writing and directing something called Hollywood Zap. Finally, we have writer/director Steinmann. Danny would also be limited with only 4 credits under his belt with today’s film being his last. Based on the behind-the-scenes drama, it was because of this movie that he was either soured on film or not hired anymore. He was supposed to direct a sequel to The Last House on the Left but when that fell through, he was handed the 5th Friday the 13th movie.
A New Beginning kicks off with a still kid version of Tommy Jarvis watching Jason rise from his grave and kill a couple of guys before waking up from a nightmare as an older teen. He is on his way to a psychiatric retreat filled with other people trying to help themselves. They live next to a neighbor family who doesn’t want the hospital anywhere near them because one of the couples keeps having sex on their property. One of the patients, Vic Fayden, kills another patient named Joey and after the body is picked up and the bodies start to fall. Two random greasers are killed followed by one of the paramedics and his date, a drifter farmhand, 2 of the other patients, and on and on. Tommy is suspected but it later turns out to be a seemingly resurrected Jason Voorhees and he kills his way through everyone except for Pam, young Reggie, and Tommy. They kill Jason again, but it’s revealed that he is actually Roy Burns, the other paramedic and father of Joey who was murdered by Vic in the beginning. The police figure he snapped after finding his son was murdered. Tommy is recovering in the hospital and seemingly breaks out but appears behind Pam in a hockey mask with a mysterious intent that wouldn’t be further explored.
Sign of the Times
This is 1985 and in 1985 you had the two big s’s, Slashers and Sequels. On the slasher front, it had been in vogue since Halloween became a smash success in 1978. We would get Italian knockoffs like Absurd, other holiday flicks like My Bloody Valentine and New Years Evil, and any other type of reason to get teens, or ya know, people in their late 20s PLAYING teens, together to get slashed. In terms of sequels, we had already had two additional Halloween movies, and this was of course the 5th Friday movie. Later in the year we would get the second Nightmare on Elm Street and there were enough of these to get it’s own series on our channel. To get some really good deep dives on some of your favorite slashers as well as some obscure ones, check out Tyler’s Real Slashers show. In any case, this is what the people wanted and how the studios were making money so you couldn’t shake a stick without hitting a dozen slashers in the early to mid-80s.
In addition to just being a slasher flick, you also had to try something new in the genre to get the viewership and numbers. 3 years prior, Halloween would try to make a movie in their franchise without Michael Myers and while it failed at the time, it has gained plenty of momentum in its 41 years of existence. While I don’t like this movie as much as I like Halloween III, I applaud it for trying something new with having Roy be the killer instead of Jason. We would see things like this going forward too. The franchise would go to hell, space, and New York, I’ll let you decide which is worse, and you’d see things like Freddy becoming a one liner machine and other franchises trying new things.
Finally, this is what you came to these movies for. This has it all. A big body count, plenty of nudity, and the rules of if you have sex and do drugs, you WILL pay the ultimate price. While it would get stale, hell maybe it was already stale at this point, this was why you came to these movies and honestly why some people still marathon these flicks.
What Holds Up
I’d say the biggest thing here that holds up is the sense of continuity. You don’t see a lot of this in the mainline slasher movies. We would get Heather Langenkamp in 3 different Nightmare movies and Kirsty shows up in one of the straight to video Hellraiser movies after her first two but mostly they just move on to new characters. Even Halloween has its own damn multiverse so it’s hard to say what counts as continuity and what is just taking some ideas. This is part two of the Tommy Jarvis trilogy and while he is played by three different actors in the three different movies, it’s still cool that they made an actual arc. Tommy even still has some of his created horror masks in this one, giving us a comfort call back to part 4. Tommy kills Jason, runs from his memories of him, and eventually brings him back in part 6. This movie bridges the gap between the death and return of Jason Voorhees. To that end, Roy very much holds up. They tried something new, and he is very memorable, even if he doesn’t even kill Vic to get revenge.
This was also the last one for a while that HAD all those slasher staples. Sex, nudity, gore, and plenty of kills. If stories are to be believed, the first cut of this movie was essentially softcore porn. Half of the IMDB trivia is all about having tons of scenes cut out to achieve its R rating and one sex scene in particular. While not all of the kills are fully gory, you still get quite a few great ones and it has one of the highest body counts in the series. The following movies, especially 7 and 8, were butchered and censored so much that they are hard to fully enjoy at times. For it’s faults, which we will get to shortly, this movie is still very much a popcorn slasher that is thoroughly enjoyable on its own.
What doesn’t hold up
Theres a couple things here that don’t hold up quite as well today as the creators probably banked on. One is Roy. While I stand by what I said about Roy being fun and a cool departure for the series, they give him away too damn quick. As soon as he uncovers the sheets on Joey, we get a music stinger and the most sinister eyes that Roy can muster. Maybe you miss it on the first go round depending on how old you were when you first saw it but man, is it ever obvious. To piggyback off the wasted Roy reveal, as fun as this movie can be, it is all fluff. None, and I mean none, of these characters get any real depth or growth at all. Even Roy never gets his revenge on the actual person that killed his boy. The rest of the characters besides Tommy are your standard fare and you know exactly who is going to live and who is going to die.
Finally, there’s the iffy treatment and representation of people with mental health issues. Sure, this is a Friday the 13th movie we are talking about from 1985 but it was hastily thrown together, even if the actor playing Tommy spent time in a mental facility to prepare for his role, he rubbed his castmates the wrong way as he got too deep into it. While he comes across alright on screen with his issues stemming from the previous movie, the rest is just a bad caricature of what it’s really like to live that life.
This was a tougher one than I originally thought it was going to be. While it does have flaws, some more glaring than others, it’s still a mindless good time for all the pulpy fun it delivers. It hits all the notes that a slasher film needs but more importantly plays like a best of in the Friday the 13th universe. Roy would even be immortalized in the most recent video game with players being able to play as our boy, Roy. It stands the test of time and is more important to slasher films than it has any right to be as a trailblazer and an experiment in change.
A couple of the previous episodes of The Test of Time can be seen below. To see more, click over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!