‘Jason X’ at 20 – Review

Jason X (2001/02)
Director: James Isaac
Screenwriters: Todd Farmer
Starring: Kane Hodder, Lexa Doig, Jeff Geddis, Lisa Ryder, Jonathan Potts, Markus Parilo, Peter Mensah, Todd Farmer, David Cronenberg

We can’t expect every movie to be cinematic gold. We can’t go in thinking that every film tries for Oscar-winning emotion and world class scriptwriting. That would be ridiculous, especially as there are lots of people out there that do stuff for the money (think of all the crews, the assistant gaffers and floor runners etc, who just need a paycheck to feed their families). If we did think every film tries for genius, we’d have to check ourselves when, after nine films of the Friday the 13th franchise (some admittedly better than others), we arrived at Jason X – otherwise known as ‘Friday the 13th In Space’ – twenty years ago.

When Jason last appeared in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, all the way back in 1993, he was dragged into hell by Freddy’s glove, in order to set up Freddy vs. Jason. As it happened, due to various rights issues, this project ended up on the backburner (eventually being released the year after this film, and not even with Kane Hodder as Jason who had played the machete-wielding maniac in films 7-10). And so, nine years later (mainly to keep people interested in the franchise), New Line Cinema concocted this film, Jason X, from the bowels of cinematic hell.

In the near future of 2010, Jason is held captive in a military base built at Crystal Lake. After a brief killing spree, he’s tricked into a cryo-stasis pod, frozen and forgotten. Explorers from the post-apocalyptic future 455 years in the future (a future where hockey has been outlawed since 2024, so get playing, because there’s only two years of it left) eventually discover him, take him on their ship back to Earth II, and the killings start all over again.

The film is big and overblown, and not much makes sense. Why are all the rooms and hallways in the Crystal Lake base so big and full of standing water? Why did the space recon crew go in, find Rowan and Jason, and leave again with nothing else, having seemingly explored nothing of the rest of the large base? Why is there so much focus on a human/android (the android he upgraded himself, by the way)? Why does the android, Kay-Em 14, take on Jason all in leather in a shameless attempt to cash-in on The Matrix as a Trinity-replica giving wisecracks and machine-gunning down the Crystal Lake Killer whilst wire-fu-ing through the air? Why does David Cronenberg give a cameo for about a minute to be killed off instantly? And why is the upgraded cyborg Jason, ‘Uber-Jason’ – the thing on the poster we all came to see – only given about 10 minutes of total screen-time in the final 20 minutes of the film? Ask no questions, for you’ll get no answers.

You don’t care about most of the characters because half of them are introduced for one scene for the sheer purpose of killing them off the next time we see them, normally with almost no suspenseful build-up. To further this point, there’s no build-up because the film has so many of them to kill off in routine, violent ways. They have no character because there’s no time to give them any; the film is only 90 minutes long including credits, which admittedly is the usual length for a slasher film, but it could still have reduced some characters and given the survivors of the script culling a little extra to do and say.

And yet, many of these ridiculous, stupid qualities, are what make it so fun to watch. It’s Jason in space! If you’re really still having your brain turned on for that premise, especially after a previous nine instalments, each one getting more ridiculous than the previous one (Part VIII was Jason Takes Manhattan, for crying out loud), you’ve not understood the point of the film. It’s just here to have Jason stomping around a spaceship, with a load of blood and limbs splattered all over the place. It’s here to have lots of sparks exploding from the typical 90s and early 00s chrome plated, stainless-steel sets. It’s here to maintain its standard slasher-film template by having two male douchebags care more about the money Jason could earn them than the people’s lives that are mercilessly offed (both off-screen; they don’t even get the fun of that).

And most of these things are, for the most part, fun. It is fun to see a leathered-up android flip and kick and machine-gun the unstoppable killing machine for pure amusement’s sake. It is fun to see the virtual reality campers call to Jason with ‘“Hey, do you want a beer?” “Wanna smoke some pot?” “Or we can have pre-marital sex!”’ and by doing so, in the post-Scream era of slasher films, let the audience know that it is aware of its formulaic tropes. And it is fun, in the gruesome way that horror fans are, to see the best kill in the series: a character’s head shoved into a bowl of liquid nitrogen before having their face smashed into bloody chunks on the counter. Don’t ask why the liquid nitrogen is there, uncovered, doing nothing, being used for nothing in the scenes before. Just watch and enjoy the carnage.

Jason X is one of the comfort-movies of the franchise, because it is so outrageously silly. The jump scares are badly set up so you don’t jump, the characters are thinner than cardboard cut-outs, and only getting under one quarter of the runtime with cyborg Jason is a shame. But this isn’t a regular Friday movie, this is the blockbuster action-movie, sparks and guns and explosions galore Friday. It’s the Jason movie drinking games were invented for, and it knows it . For that it should be saluted.


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