Late in Jason X one of the actresses utters the line, “This sucks on so many levels,” making it perhaps cinema’s first self-critiquing movie. I was hoping that Jason X would be the stirring biopic of a machete-wielding, hockey-mask-wearing civil-rights activist, but no. After the first few minutes of wholesale mayhem, when the big guy ends up flash-frozen in a cryogenic chamber, I thought, “Maybe this will turn into Jason on Ice,” but again I was disappointed. The best first-time screenwriter Todd Farmer and second-time director Jim Isaac could come up with was sending Jason into orbit. I hate to break it to them, but Abbott and Costello, the Three Stooges and even the Leprechaun movies got there first (and it only took Leprechaun four movies to get there, not 10). Otherwise, the movie’s pretty much in the more-of-the-same vein. Even the much-vaunted idea that “Evil Gets an Upgrade” isn’t original. After all, Jason Voorhees scarcely figured at all in the original Friday the 13th, which was just a gory murder mystery with former TV game-show panelist Betsy Palmer as the revenge-crazed murderess. Her long-dead son, Jason, was tacked on as an afterthought in a tag sequence, appearing as a zombified little boy in Crystal Lake. By Friday the 13th, Part II, Palmer was only present as a mummified rubber head and Jason had somehow grown into a lumbering giant of a machete-brandishing killing machine with a flour sack on his head. Jason didn’t pick up his trademark hockey mask till Friday the 13th 3-D. He didn’t become a supernatural monster until Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives, when he was resurrected by a lightning bolt, thanks to a couple of mental patients ill-advisedly digging him up. (If it alarms you that I know all this, just imagine how I feel about it.) So really, the boy’s been getting “upgraded” all the time. The idea that Jason X has a sense of humor about itself isn’t new either. Part VI did too — and threw in some Alice Cooper songs, including Jason’s theme song, “He’s Back (the Man Behind the Mask).” (Relatively speaking, Part VI remains the series’ high-water mark.) Basically then, what Jason X offers is the requisite amount of Jason kicking butt in an array of creatively gory ways, while starlets various and sundry bare their breasts for no reason except that the script says so. In short, it runs true to the established formula that has allowed the series to keep lurching along for 21 years. Actually, Jason X starts off more promisingly than the movie finally delivers. In the not-too-distant future, Jason has been captured and is about to be frozen, but the mercenary Dr. Wimmer (David Cronenberg, whose presence here can only be explained by the fact that director Isaac worked on Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch and eXistenZ) sees financial gain in a creature that can’t be killed. Not surprisingly, Jason is soon up and about and slicing and dicing all in his path. The measure of the film’s level of intelligence can be gauged when Jason throws someone through a steel door and heroine Rowan (Lexa Doig) asks the hapless victim, “What happened?” However, Jason is soon frozen anyway (along with the heroine) and the movie leaps ahead 450 years, just in time for a team of space traveling archaeologists to thaw the pair out. Of course, these futuristic sorts assure Rowan that Jason is not only merely dead, but really most sincerely dead — and, of course, they’re wrong. You take it from there. Late in the day, the movie tries very hard to make fun of its own conventions by treating Jason to virtual reality distractions with a pair of bare-breasted holographic girls urging him to drink beer, smoke pot and engage in pre-marital sex (“We love pre-marital sex!”) with them. Sure, these are the exact things that most irritate the ultra-puritanical Mr. Voorhees, but it’s such an extreme shift in tone that it doesn’t work — not to mention the fact that it’s never explained how these folks 450 years in the future know this will set him off. Oh, well, it’s just another Friday the 13th picture — not the worst of the lot, nor the best — and it’s hard not to admire the sheer tenacity of the series. And, yes, it paves the way for number eleven. Better yet, the film has a trailer for Halloween: Resurrection attached to it. You are warned.
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