Sunday, 22 March 2020

TOMMY CAN YOU HEAR ME [227]



“This is a mess. No way. I refuse to do this! You're the one who keeps fucking around with it so get off your ass and fix it! You understand?”


I rarely make a conscious decision to watch a horror film, but when I do, I am more likely to choose one from before the mid-1980s, before the cliché, excess and self-referencing set in. You can say the same about any genre, but horror films have more long-running series of films that eventually turn in on themselves. 


I thought the intention of the “Friday the 13th” series of films, alongside “Halloween” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” was to kill the killer so definitively, it provided the perfect starting point for next time – how do you bring them back? I know better now: “Friday the 13th” was originally planned to end as a trilogy, but a fourth was then ordered, deliberately titled “The Final Chapter”. However, because part 4 did so well at the box office, another new trilogy was planned, with part 5, “A New Beginning,” released within a year.


Tommy Jarvis, the child who killed Jason Vorhees at the end of part 4, is now older, released into a halfway house from a mental institution, still having flashbacks to Jason – you know he will become him, so the plot becomes a case of guessing who isn’t Jason, once the killings start. John Shepherd, taking over from Corey Feldman as the older Tommy, worked in a mental hospital in preparation for his role, before being told that “Repetition” was a fake title for a “Friday the 13th” film - his performance hides his disappointment very well.


This film feels like it was made to a very strict plan. Killings happen at a steady rate of about one every seven to eight minutes of screen time, as mandated by Paramount Pictures, with a shock or scare if there is no kill, and a liberal sprinkling of sex, gore and gratuitous shots of women’s breasts. For this reason, you have little reason to care when a character dies, as you are only given enough of them to begin caring, before it doesn’t matter anymore. (If anyone can tell me the reason for the redneck mother and son in this film... that's fine, but please still keep it to yourself - it was probably so they could also be killed off.)




This film has a more psychological plot than previous “Friday the 13th” films have, the guessing game around the killer’s identity requiring more of the audience, but switching attention to an ambulance driver, and later revealing his son was staying at the halfway house, was rather jarring. By the end, Tommy has had so many hallucinations you are practically waiting for the final reveal. 


In the end, it all counted for nothing, as Jason Vorhees was simply brought back for part 6, “Jason Lives,” replaying the classic “Friday the 13th” formula, except with more jokes. The actors signed up for a sequel to “A New Beginning,” their characters having survived, had their contracts terminated, with a third actor playing Tommy Jarvis. John Shepherd next appeared in “Thunder Run,” a Cannon Group film that was essentially “Smokey and the Bandit,” but with plutonium instead of Coors.

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