In Poor Taste: In Defense of “Jason X”

“In Poor Taste” is a movie review series highlighting my love for certain movies others have described as “bad”, “not-so-good”, or “flaming piles of trash”.

DVD Review: Jason X (2001) starring Kane Hodder and Lexa Doig.  Directed by James Isaac.

Plot Shot: Old hockey mask is back and on a murderous rampage.  What is on the menu for Jason this time, killing campers at Crystal Lake? Nope, sorry, not this time folks.  How about mangling a couple of New York street punks, nada.  Hmm, Jason taking on a bunch of kids in space, no fucking way!!!  Yes, yes fucking way.  Carnage, hilarity and an underrated classic ensue.

jasonx

Overview: Before I begin my review of this movie let me first say that I loved the majority of the first nine “Friday the 13th” movies, I say majority because let’s face facts this wasn’t the first installment of the series that was laughable  Jason teleporting to and fro in “Jason Takes Manhattan” was incredibly cheesy.  Also I know that by reading some of my old reviews it may seem that I am a movie snob since I rarely give a movie rave reviews.  That opinion is slightly askew, I love even the lamest of movies and can see that some movies aren’t made to be great, just entertaining.  So read with caution because I know this review is going to be confusing.

After finally being caught, serial killer Jason Voorhees is executed, many times!  Unfortunately no one realized that this is Jason Voorhees and he really doesn’t take too kindly to the whole dying thing.  So what is there left to do when electrocution  firing squad, lethal injection and even hanging prove worthless, well how about putting Jase into deep freeze forever? Sounds good right?  Well this is a “Friday the 13th” movie so it isn’t that easy to accomplish your goals.

Hottie scientist Rowan (Lexa Doig) is able to get Jason in the freezer after he goes on the first of several murderous rampages.  Unfortunately, due to a leak in the cryostasis machine, she is frozen alongside him.  Ok, let’s flash forward to the year 2455, Earth is now a deserted wasteland and the students from a school on Earth II (Yes, Earth II) are on a field trip to soak up some of our forgotten culture.  Of all the underground labs on Earth they happen upon the one where the most brutal serial killer in the universe happens to be cold chillin’ (literally).  Now being that it is the future reanimation is possible so Rowan is brought back in enough time to tell the ship full of students and an army unit that they are all going to be dead as soon as Jason defrosts.

Ok fans let’s face it, character development, coherent storylines and clever plot twists never had a home in the “Friday the 13th” series.  What is important is that the movie have some decent one-liners and some cool kills.  This movie has those in spades.  The writer of the movie, Todd Farmer, seemed to write this as a sort of as a half-spoof of the series.  It is a lot more funny than scary, but for some viewers the majority of the Jason movies were this way.  I don’t think I was ever truly afraid of Jason but I did respect the series up until maybe Part 7 or 8.

This movie is corny but only those fans who took the series seriously are going to have a problem with it.  When I saw it in the theatre people actually walked out when Jason got his much advertised upgrade.  My advice don’t take the movie or the character too seriously.  C’mon this is the same Jason that went from a retarded kid to zombie to some kind of lizard creature.  Also, for as much shit as hardcore fanboys give this movie, look deep down in your black hearts and tell me with 100% honesty that this is worse than “Jason Goes to Hell”.  At least this movie doesn’t purport to be serious in any way.

Characters: Kane Hodder plays Jason for the final time in this flick, I had originally bought into the “no one but Kane” can play Jason bullshit.   However after seeing “Freddy vs. Jason” I wasn’t convinced that his famed “expressive eyes” are all that important to the character.  Lexa Doig is great as Rowan, she has just enough B-movie overacting appeal to the character but kicked ass when it came time for it.  Lisa Ryder is pretty cool as the android warrior princess Kay-Em 14.  Peter Mensah is awesome as Brodskie, I completely bought into him being a rough and tumble Marine.  The remainder of the characters are pretty much like the cast list from any “Friday” movie, the slutty girl, the innocent chick, the stoner kid and a bunch of meat for the grinder.

Direction: James Isaac did a capable job directing the flick, there aren’t as many cheesy CGI shots as you would expect from a movie like this.  There is no tension and surprisingly not as many “boo scares” as you would expect.  On the bright side there is a lot of gore in this flick, there is a guy getting impaled on a big drill, some slit throats and a couple of beheadings.  What else do you want from a “Jason” flick?

Problems: Anyone who went into a movie featuring Jason in space and expected it to be a cinematic masterpiece needs their head examined.  Just the premise alone suggests that the movie is going to be pretty damned goofy.  Hardcore fans of the franchise are most likely going to be off-put by the movie and it’s premise.  I think it is pretty obvious that people either expected crap or were pissed at the prospects of seeing Jason possibly battling space aliens (Doesn’t happen by the way).

On The Business End: “Jason X” fell about 2 million dollars shy of recouping it’s $14 million budget but probably made more than that in DVD sales.

So Why’d It Fail?:  “Jason X” was a critical and commercial bomb.  This was the movie that no one wanted or expected.  First, some brief history on the “Friday the 13th” series.  New Line Cinema purchased the property from Paramount Pictures after the debacle that was “Jason Goes to Manhattan” (a better title would have been “Jason’s Boat Trip”).  Hopes were high for fans of the series due to the fact that New Line was also home to horror fave Freddy Krueger and the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise.  Fans wanted, desired, craved a crossover between the icons.  Unfortunately the ball was dropped like a Tony Romo 4th quarter snap.

In New Line’s first Jason Voorhees outing they made “Jason Goes To Hell” which featured a magical dagger and very little Jason, replacing him with a body snatching worm/demon ummmm thing.  The movie was a complete disaster.  The only redeeming element of the entire film was the last few seconds in which Jason’s hockey mask is taken to the titular Hell by a familiar appendage.

The final minute of the movie excited fans who had becoming disappointed in both Freddy and Jason’s recent murderous adventures.  The box offices of both franchises had been steadily declining as poorer and poorer sequels diluted the respective series.  Hopes were high that the next sequel for each villain would be “Freddy vs. Jason”.  Rumors swirled that Jason would be taking on Freddy as well as luminaries such as Pinhead from “Hellraiser” or Ash from “Evil Dead”. Hopes were soon severed as “Jason X’ was announced.  Not only would Jason not be facing off against Freddy but he would be taking a trip into outer space.  The fans were not amused.

In the nascent age of Internet movie reviews “Jason X” was ridiculed and reviled even before it was released.  Months before it opened it was already doom for the film.  I saw the movie on opening day and there must have been 10 people in the entire theatre, including the 4 of us that went and saw it.  I can understand the initial reaction when the movie was announced.  It wasn’t like Jason’s Space Adventure sounded promising, however dismissing a movie without seeing it is stupid and unprofessional.  To this day I know people who say this movie is complete shit and when challenged they admit they haven’t even seen it.  My response is simple, give it a chance.  Go in with an open mind, watch is as you would a comedy and throw out all your previous notions of what a Jason-movie is.

DVDetails: The DVD includes an Audio Commentary by director Jim Isaac, Writer Todd Farmer, and Producer Noel Cunningham.  As commentaries go this one is pretty good.  It’s informative and entertaining mostly thanks to Todd Farmer who seems to be a pretty cool guy.  There are a couple of Theatrical trailers if that is your thing, I don’t care for seeing commercials for the movie I have already seen.  There are two Original Documentaries, first is “The Many Lives of Jason Voorhees”.  It focuses mostly on the history of the franchise and has interviews with a lot of different people that had their hands in different parts of the franchise including O.G. Jason creator Sean Cunningham.  The second documentary is “By Any Means Necessary: The Making of Jason X” which is very much what it sounds like.  Both documentaries are entertaining, interesting and worth watching.  Also there is a “Jump to a Death Feature” which is sorta like a scene selection feature but instead of going chapter by chapter you can zoom from death to death.

To DVD or not to DVD: I bought this movie the day it was released, I loved the movie so I bought the disc.  You should be able to find it pretty cheap at most retail chains and a quick search on Amazon shows that you can find a used one for about 4 bucks (including shipping).  If you liked the movie the special features are abundant enough to warrant a purchase. Unfortunately this flick has not been released on Blu-Ray and there seem to be no plans to release it in the format.

Final Thoughts: There are no two ways about it, either you are going to love this movie or you are going to hate it.  If you hate it, well that is your right as well as if you love it.  Just don’t expect Jason to remove his mask and see Daniel Day Lewis under there, expect crap and have fun!  It’s worth the price of admission just for the holodeck scene.

Final Grade: 7 out of 10

Afterglow:  Cameos – Todd Farmer, Writer has a cameo as “Dallas” one of the space Marines. Interestingly enough the name “Dallas” is an homage to Tom Skeritt’s character in “Alien”.  David Cronenberg, famed director of “Scanners” and “The Dead Zone” and “The Fly” has a cameo in the flick as “Dr. Wimmer” whose actions precipitate Jason’s initial killing spree.

In the TV series “Andromeda” Lisa Ryder played a human and Lexa Doig played a human, in “Jason X” their roles are reversed.

There are numerous homages to previous entries in the franchise and certain people that were involved in different stages of the production including but not limited to space debris floating in space being marked with “Cunningham Realty”.  In the Camp Crystal Lake flashback scene the music is that from “Friday the 13th 2” and the killing method should seem very familiar.

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