The “Friday the 13th” movies have always divided critics and moviegoers. The utter hatred of movies like these from critics such as Siskel & Ebert gave people more of a reason to see them than not. But that’s the great thing about “Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning” because it’s the first movie in this endless slasher series which brought critics and fans together in that everyone agreed this sequel was flat out terrible. It is still the worst movie in this franchise 30 years after its release, and it was an utterly pathetic attempt to keep the series going. It was not unlike when Blake Edwards tried to continue “The Pink Panther” series after Peter Sellers passed away, and looked how that turned out.
This sequel is actually the second in the Tommy Jarvis trilogy which started with “The Final Chapter” and concluded with “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason lives.” Corey Feldman returns briefly as Tommy, and we see him visiting Jason’s grave and then hiding behind trees when two guys with shovels come over. They are the first of many stupid characters introduced in this sequel as they dig up Jason’s grave, and he immediately rises again and slashes these two dumb guys with a minimum of vicious effort. After he gets up, Jason then spots Tommy and goes over to get his revenge, and then Tommy wakes up. From there he is played by John Shepherd, and we see Tommy is still dealing with the psychological aftermath of killing Jason years later. Feldman’s presence in the film is a mere cameo as he was busy making a much better one called “The Goonies.”
We learn that Tommy has gone from one mental hospital to another with increasing regularity, and this movie starts with him arriving at the Pinehurst halfway house which is basically Crystal Lake as a mental hospital. Poor Tommy has been prescribed just about antidepressant and anti-psychotic drug ever to known to man, but that hasn’t stopped him from working out in the gym as he looks more buff than the average mental patient. It’s enough to help him beat the crap out of others for no good reason. We should at least admire Tommy for managing to survive puberty as his killing Jason forever changed him for the worst.
Here’s the thing that separates “A New Beginning” from the others; Jason Voorhees is not the killer. This sequel is actually a whodunit, and you won’t know who the real killer is until the end. Or maybe you will if you look at the suspects very closely, especially their eyes. The Scooby Doo ending is unbelievably ridiculous as we learn the killer’s motive and how that person dressed up like Jason to keep from getting caught. The reasoning behind this is utterly ridiculous and just adds to the unintentional humor this sequel elicits from scene to scene.
The characters in the “Friday the 13th” movies have never been more than one-dimensional human beings who are out to party and get laid, and this one doesn’t really change that dynamic. What is different though is how utterly annoying they all are. Two teens named Pete and Vinnie bitch and moan at each other while they’re fixing their car (talk about a friendship that never should have been). Just check out their dialogue:
“Aww, what’s the matter, Vinnie? You scared of the dark? You all creeped out by that murder at the nuthouse?”
“Oh yeah, sure. Look, as far as I’m concerned, all those loonies should be killed off one by one. Can you try it now?”
“Geez, man, can’t you do anything? Stop screwing’ around! Get this thing done by the time I get back. I gotta take a crap.”
“Crap my ass!”
“Just do it, man! I mean it.”
Then there’s Billy, an employee at the halfway house, who gets all coked up to where he believes he is god’s gift to women. There’s at least one of these schmucks in every sequel:
“That’s it. That’s the whole frackin’ thing right there. There it is, you just stay right there, doll. That’s just what the doctor ordered. Nothing’ like a little prevented medicine. And, the forecast is; Cloudy in the mountains, sunny in the valleys, and snow flurries, up your nose!”
For some utterly bizarre reason, a local waitress named Lana can’t wait to screw Billy. Seriously, nobody can be that desperate:
“LANA! HEY, LANA!”
“Sorry buster, we’re closed.”
“It’s alright; I just want a take-out order.”
“You do, huh? Well, what would you like?”
“I would like Lana to go with nothing on her.”
“Oh, and who wants her?”
“The pride of the Unger Institute of Mental Health who has just dumped his last bedpan and would like very much to party.”
A developmentally challenged boy named Joey walks around with a chocolate bar in his hand offering help to anyone who needs it, but he inadvertently stains clothes that have just been washed. His gift of a candy bar that is also melting in his hand does not warm anyone’s appetite. Not to give anything away, but he is the first to be killed off.
But these characters are nothing compared to Ethel and her man child of a son Junior whom she treats like crap. You’ll never find a more repellent set of characters in any “Friday the 13th” movie, and that includes “Jason Takes Manhattan.” Just imagine if Lenny from “Of Mice and Men” had a mother:
“That is one fucking ugly man that goes there.”
“That’s one fucking ugly man, Mama.”
“Would you shut your trap? You ain’t so pretty yourself, you know.”
“I ain’t so pretty myself, I know.”
In terms of the kills in “A New Beginning,” they are unimaginative and puny compared to what we saw in the last three films. That gag with the flare going into a guy’s mouth was put to much better use in “Dead Calm.” Same thing with those gardening shears plucking out the eyes, as there have many knock offs which used this because Jason already had dibs on the machete.
But what this sequel is missing the most is the work of Tom Savini who gave us deaths and copious amounts of blood and gore with a vicious sense of reality. Savini stuck to his word that “The Final Chapter” would be his last one since it allowed him to kill off Jason for good, but those who took over for him cannot equal what he accomplished.
Also, time has not been kind to this sequel. There is a young boy named Reggie (Shavar Ross) who gets to meet up with his older brother Demon (Miguel A. Núñez Jr.) who lives in a van outside of town. Demon looks like he came straight out of one of those breakdancing movies made famous in the 80’s. Seeing this style today makes an unintentionally hilarious sequel even funnier than it already is.
Jason, or whoever he is in this sequel is played by Tom Morga, a stuntman who has worked on various projects like “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” and “Spider-Man 3” among others. His work as Jason here is not bad, but it’s hardly memorable compared to what other actors like Kane Hodder brought to it. Then again, this is not a role that requires method acting. Of course, if someone were to try method acting in this role, they would end up in solitary confinement or death row.
As Tommy, Shepherd gives us the most intense and screwed up version of this character as he manages to convey the extreme mental state of this guy without having to say too much. In fact, Shepherd only has 24 words of dialogue throughout the whole movie, not including the laughing or yelling he does.
The director of this fiasco is the late Danny Steinmann whose other credits include “Savage Streets” and “The Unseen,” and “A New Beginning” was also his last film. Learning of this makes one feel sorry for him because no one wants their career in movies cut short, and it sucks to be remembered for directing such a horrible movie.
You could say that “Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning” is one of those movies that is so bad it’s good. Watching the bad acting, terrible dialogue and weak direction is an entertainment unto itself, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is the worst sequel in this series. After this one, it didn’t matter if bringing Jason back from the dead defied all logic. Anything was better than seeing the series take the course of Tommy Jarvis becoming the new Jason.
The same thing happened with “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” when John Carpenter and Debra Hill decided to get rid of Michael Meyers and take the franchise in a fresh new direction; the audience rebelled and made it clear what they wanted to see. They wanted that guy with the William Shatner Halloween mask back on the silver screen killing teenagers and the occasional adult! These movies are about what the audience wants, not what filmmakers want.