I read a plot summary for this sixth installment of the Friday the 13th series, and was outraged at what sounded like one of the worst plots to strike this franchise. I decided to rent it anyway (all other decent-looking movies were out)... and was shocked by its brilliance. From the outset, Jason Lives sounds like a bad, bad movie. How could any movie that celebrated Jason's return through lightning-revivement possibly be good?, I hear you ask. Surprisingly, this movie actually pulls it off very well indeed, and this is most probably the second best movie in the entire series.
With the continuing storyline of a now teenage Tommy Jarvis, Part VI could have simply been another rehash of the past six movies. However, it seems that inspiration struck somewhere and somehow, and this fifth sequel to the 1980 smash gives the franchise a whole new angle. Instead of centering completely around Camp Crystal Lake (now renamed Camp Forest Green to rake in the dollars as a re-opened camp), all the well-directed mayhem occurs in forests, police stations and deserted roads - and although a lot still happens in the kiddies camp it is original and infused with a brooding, darkly-humerous wit which one would not expect to find in a Friday the 13th movie.
Part VI is particularly compelling because there is the added fact that there are actually children present at the re-opened camp. So as well as the audience fearing for the lives (or perhaps egging Jason on!) of the cousillors, there is the added, almost parental concern for the well-fare of the innocent children (although everyone knows that in the history of all horror movies no young kid has ever been butchered as brutally as butcherings happen in Friday the 13th movies!)
All the characters are likeable and don't seem like cardboard cut-outs lined up for murder. Jennifer Cooke was particularly likeable as the semi-heroine Megan - a flirty cop's daughter who can fend for herself, and who actually has a brain in her head and can think beyond the primitive sexual impulses all F13 teenagers seem to have! Thorn Matthews as Tommy was an interesting lead - it was a nice change to have a male as the hero rather than a female for once - and you are genuinely concerned for his life, and root for him in the excellent final showdown.
Another brilliant thing about this new installment is that it has lots of comic relief which works well in relieving the tension this movie builds. It is cleverly interwoven with the oppressive murder scenes. This brings me to a new point. The murder scenes in this movie are far less elaborate than in the previous five (not that I'm a gore freak!). Although the director cleverly makes you feel nervous the second you see an open window with a character standing before it. This is a very clever technique which continually keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat, and particularly memorable is the death scene of the dark-skinned girl in the cabin room.
The make-up effects are also a brilliant aspect, especially those that give the resurrected-Jason such a unique look. In some scenes his spine is visible through a mesh of mouldering flesh, and the opening scene is memorable as close-ups of his mangled face are shown. Kudos to the make-up department!
Overall this movie was created for pure good fun and effective scares. It has a couple of good jump moments, and the nail-biting ending is brilliant (I just hope number VII can do as well!). The acting is fresh and well done and the direction is perfect. If you see any of the Friday movies... see this one.