In Pop Punishment, Louis Peitzman endures the most derided genre films, television, and literature, all for your sadistic pleasure.
How do you make Jason Voorhees interesting again? You don't.
Maybe that's unfair, but as far as slashers go, I've never found Jason as compelling as the rest. Freddy Krueger has his quips; Michael Myers has his Captain Kirk mask. For me, the novelty of Jason wore off after his first three films: Friday the 13th had Mama Voorhees doing all the dirty work, Part II gave Jason some agency, and Part III offered the triple threat of his trademark hockey mask, the best of tacky ‘80s 3D, and a biker gang. I could do without the rest of the series—Corey Feldman be damned—and don't get me started on that half-assed reboot.
But Jason X gets some points for creativity. It's Jason in space! Kudos to the wacky mind of Todd Farmer, who pitched the idea as way to continue the Friday the 13th franchise without fucking up the continuity. (Because, you know, slasher franchises are all about continuity.) But I use the term "creativity" loosely: Jason X isn't really all that original. It's actually a mash-up of every other Friday the 13th movie and Aliens.
Let's note the similarities. Instead of Ripley, we get the infinitely less interesting Rowan (Lexa Doig). She's been cryogenically frozen following a standard Jason rampage and wakes up in the future. Rowan insists on destroying the monster, because duh, but once again, the evil scientists want to study this seemingly indestructible killing machine. They're not the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, but they might as well be. Subbing in for Paul Reiser's Burke, we get Professor Lowe (Jonathan Potts). And the helpful android here isn't Bishop (Lance Henriksen) but KM-14 (Lisa Ryder). (Of course, this is a slasher flick, which means we get the gratuitous boob shot. Why does an android need nipples, anyway?) As for cannon fodder, Jason X once again borrows from Aliens and dispatches a bunch of nameless army grunts to get ripped apart. I never knew how much I missed Bill Paxton until he wasn't there.
Now that I've unfairly pitted Jason X against one of the greatest sci-fi thrillers of all time, I'll come to its defense. A little. The novelty of seeing Jason Voorhees doing his thing in 2455 is admittedly entertaining. It's not Aliens, but it's not Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan either. And Jason X does, on occasion, take full advantage of its genre-that is, laughably bad science fiction. There are giant CGI alien monsters used for a simulation (fancy term for laser tag). There's an android developing feelings for her creator. There are helpful nanotech ants that can heal basically anything-which makes me wonder why Jason is such a threat, anyway. (Lost your arm to a machete? There's an ant for that.)
To its credit, Jason X acknowledges the true reason for its existence—there really wasn't anywhere new to take the series. The formula of slutty Crystal Lake counselors, campers, and foolhardy passersby had been done to death. The film actually parodies its predecessors quite well, in one of Jason X's most ridiculous sequences. (Yeah, this tops the exposition about saving Jason for science!) In order to distract Uber-Jason-"death gets an upgrade," the few survivors create a simulation of Crystal Lake, complete with two very sinful camp counselors. The following lines of dialogue may be my favorite from any Jason film to date:
Virtual Reality Teen Girl #1: Hey, you want a beer?
Virtual Reality Teen Girl #2: Or you want to smoke some pot?
Virtual Reality Teen Girl #1: Or we can have premarital sex.
Together: We love premarital sex.
But for the most part, Jason X doesn't take things far enough. Amid all the sci-fi absurdity, it's just as formulaic as all the others. There's one creative death-liquid nitrogen to the face!-and then a whole mess of stabbings. Nothing to see here, unless you really need to know what Jason looks like when he's suddenly equipped with robot armor. (Nanotech ants are a double-edged sword.)
At least the body count is high. In addition to all the students, scientists, and soldiers dispatched, Jason offs the ship's pilot and inadvertently causes it to crash into a friendly space station. The damage looks manageable, until the entire station explodes. I don't know how many people were killed in the fiery blaze, but if there are still any Jedis in 2455, it was like a million voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.
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