Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Jason X (USA, 2001)

"It's okay, he just wanted his machete back!
Prof. Brandon Lowe (Jonathon Potts)
For a long time, decades, Jason would not die. Or at least the film franchise wouldn't: the time span between first film, Friday the 13th (1980 / trailer), in which famously enough "Jason" barely appears and his Mama does all the bloody deeds, and the final flick of the original series, Freddie vs Jason (2003), is a full twenty-three years, while the span to the failed reboot, 2009, is a full twenty-nine years. And unlike in the original Halloween franchise, none of the first eleven films were ever suddenly relegated as "non-canonical", despite long pauses between entries and title legalities.*
* For those of you in need of an unstoppable supernatural killer, now that Jason, Freddy, and Pinhead and Chucky are more or less moribund, if you haven't found the Victor Crowley franchise yet, we heartily recommend it. Currently at four films — Hatchet (2006 / trailer), Hatchet II (2010 / trailer), Hatchet III (2013 / trailer) and Victor Crowley (2017 / trailer) — the old-school-vibe series is bloody and funny, doesn't overly insult your intelligence, and is well made. 
Trailer to
Jason X:
As you may or may not know, New Line took over the franchise from Paramount after Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989 / trailer) but was unable to use the Friday the 13th title, which led to the new title focus for the now most vilified entry of the series, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993 / trailer). The follow-up of that movie, as indicated by the final scene with Freddy Krueger's laughter and his gloved hand suddenly pulling Jason's mask below ground, was intended to be the crossover of those two beloved mass murderers of the silver screen, but that project got seriously stuck in development hell. After the years passed and passed, perennial producer Sean S Cunningham decided it was time to release something — anything? — to keep the franchise "alive"...
And so the decision was somehow reached to do what so many other franchises and sequels had already done in desperation and follow, among others characters of long-running franchises, Emmanuel into space. (Other high points — low points? — of space travel include other franchise entries Leprechaun 4: In Space [1997 / trailer], Hellraiser: Bloodline [1996 / trailer], Critters 4 [1992 / trailer] and even Moonraker [1979 / trailer], as well as simple sequels like Fortress 2: Re-Entry [2000 / trailer] and Airplane II: The Sequel [1980 / trailer].)
And so it was that Jason X finally hit the screens in 2001, the tenth film of the series: released two years before Freddie vs. Jason, temporally the movie transpires long after that undeniably better (and final) entry of the original franchise. Once released, however, Jason X was once again eviscerated by the critics and eventually became the third worst-performing film of the franchise (only Jason Takes Manhattan and Jason Goes to Hell performed worse). As is often the case, however, Jason X went on to gain notably cult popularity once it was released on VHS and DVD — arguably not unjustly. By now, thanks to home media, it is actually one of the most financially successful of the Friday the 13th films.
Make no mistakes: Jason X is a pretty bad movie and usually looks (especially in HD) only a tad better than the average D2V David DeCoteau "horror" flick. The acting is about on the same level as well, but then that is to be expected seeing that the movie's cast is almost entirely populated by C and D-level TV non-names — barring one: for some inexplicable reason, David Cronenberg (as in: the director of Rabid [1977 / trailer], Videodrome [1983 / trailer] and so much more) shows up to play a minor character, Dr. Aloysius Wimmer, whom Jason kills early in the movie. (In the good old Grindhouse days, his name would have been all over the posters; but here he is only listed in the final credits.)
The wonderfully entertaining clusterfuck that is Jason X begins in the present day that was 2008, with the unkillable Jason (Kane Hodder of Wishmaster [1997]) chained up in some underground complex, but as to be expected he quickly escapes and decimates the unusually small military contingent on hand (and Dr. Wimmer). The resourceful Dr. Rowan (Lexa Doig) manages, surprisingly easily, to trap Jason in a cryogenic pod made, apparently, from tinfoil, and before you know it, it is suddenly 445 years later and both the frozen Rowan and Jason get found by a Prof. Brandon Lowe (Jonathon Potts of Devil [2010 / trailer]) and his group of students during a field trip to the now uninhabitable planet Earth. The two bodies are brought aboard their spaceship, which departs for Earth II, and no sooner is Rowan revived and playing Cassandra than does Jason awaken and promptly begin doing what he does best — kill people — totally unfazed by his new surroundings.
His first kill onboard, a blonde with brains named Adrianne (Kristi Angus of White Chicks [2004 / trailer] and Jill Rips [2000 / trailer]), is perhaps one of the best, but alongside the multitude of mundane slashing deaths there are also a few other creative highlights. In total, excluding the uncountable amount of unseen people Jason indirectly causes the death of when the (thanks to him) pilotless spaceship sheers through a city-sized space station, the kill count of actually-seen faces is around 25 people — mostly interchangeable, though a few do manage to become memorable characters. As befitting the changing times, the gratuitous nudity ratio is low and, when present, is inserted in a wonderfully meta-manner.
The makers of Jason X knew that they weren't making a masterpiece and instead of faking it, simply went with the flow. Riffing on the plot of the far superior horror movie Alien (1979 / trailer) and Aliens (1986 / trailer), Jason X ends up a surprisingly well-paced cheese-a-thon with some witty interludes, laughable dialogue, and entertaining low (high?) points, many of which are delivered or occur almost as asides. Other amusing characters include an ass-kicking android named Kay-Em (Lisa Ryder), the holographic bubble-headed campers (Tania Maro and Kaye Penaflor) — "Want some beer? Want to smoke some pot? Or we could have premarital sex? We love premarital sex." — who promptly get topless in the movie's only true scene of that former and sorely missed horror-film staple known as gratuitous nudity, and the manly DILF Sgt. Brodski (Peter Mensch of The Scorpion King: Book of Souls [2018 / trailer]).
Oddly enough, as cheesy and inherently stupid as this bodycounter slasher in space is, one sometimes gets the feeling that had they dumped Jason and put a little more thought into the entire project, they might have actually been able to make a decent sci-fi horror flick. Instead, they made a self-aware guilty pleasure that might not really be "good", but for that is eminently entertaining dumb fun. Recommended.

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