FRIDAY THE 13th, PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN. Paramount Pictures, 1989. Todd Caldecott (as Todd Shaffer), Tiffany Paulsen, Timothy Burr Mirkovich, Kane Hodder, Jensen Daggett, Barbara Bingham, Alex Diakun, Peter Mark Richman, Ace. Screenwriters: Rob Hedden & Victor Miller. Director: Robert Hedden.

   Directed by Robert Hedden, this installment in the seemingly never-ending Friday the 13th franchise apparently was not a financial success. Which is kind of important for a movie such as this. After all, it’s never going to win an Oscar. So what else is there? While I enjoyed watching it on VHS – what better format for a movie such as this? – I can’t say that it left me wanting to watch it again in this format anytime soon.


   The main problem with Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan is that, well, it’s all kind of flat. Jason, although portrayed with great physicality by Kane Hodder, doesn’t exactly take anything, much less Manhattan. In actuality, the majority of the screen time in this mid-tier slasher is devoted to Jason, the goalie mask-wearing unkillable villain, wreaking havoc on a New York-bound ship filled with teenagers. Now that’s not to say that there isn’t some style and penache to the movie. There is, for instance, a well choreographed kill scene on a dance floor. Death to disco indeed. But the Manhattan scenes come much later and, apart from a Times Square sequence, were pretty clearly filmed on a studio lot or some equivalent.

   The plot, such as it is, follows teenager Rennie (Jensen Daggett) and her guardian Charles McCulloch (Peter Mark Richman) as they embark on a group boat ride to New York City. Richman is an actor who I like a lot. Not sure how he ended up in this feature. But I’ve appreciated his numerous television appearances in the past, including in Three’s Company where he portrayed Chrissy’s father. He exudes a certain understated dryness which makes him stand out from the sundry other character actors of his generation.

   Back to the movie.

   Ok. Jason somehow – does it really matter? – ends up on board and begins his inevitable killing spree. There’s a subplot with one of the teenage girls entrapping McCullogh into a risque position which is then captured on good ol’ videocassette. But other than that, there’s nothing particularly interesting about what happens on board. Except that is for Rennie’s hallucinatory flashbacks in which she envisions a young innocent Jason drowning. Those moments were pretty cool, to be honest.

   Pretty standard mid-tier slasher stuff. Important to keep in mind: this entry into the Friday the 13th canon is from 1989. By then, the slasher formula had more or less run its course and there was little to nothing new under the sun. It wasn’t until Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) that the stale genre was given a much-needed reboot.