Back in 1993, Jason Goes to Hell was released. It had a similar premise to The Thing, but basically it was just another slasher movie for Jason Voorhees to slice his way through. It (spoilers) ended with the promise of a crossover between the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises. Fast-forward to 2001 with the release of Jason X, a movie with a similar premise to Alien, and that crossover still hadn’t been realized.
I suppose it makes sense for Jason X to take place in the future. That way, it can’t mess up the continuity of the iconic shot where Freddy’s claw is seen taking away Jason’s trademarked hockey mask. If you start the film in 2010 and freeze Jason until 2465, then you have years to work with before the freezing occurs. And, hey, if you really want to stretch it you could have Jason escape from cryostasis, go kill a bunch of people, and then return in the same spot he previously was. It would make about as much logical sense as the rest of this series does, and would be hilarious for a campy sequel.
Yes, most of the film takes place in the year 2465, and, like Alien, occurs on a space ship where some dangerous thing begins slaughtering the crew. Instead of some alien creature, it’s Jason Voorhees. Jason, along with one of the people who tried to imprison him, is thawed out, presumed dead, and then goes missing. People start being killed, and it’s up to the crew to (1) try to kill him, (2) try to escape, and/or (3) die. Most of them don’t make it to the credits.
A touch of social commentary is added in when one of the crew members wants Jason because he’ll fetch a large sum of cash on the black market — and the same type of thing happens early on, in the “present,” when a scientist played by none other than David Cronenberg says a similar thing; the point being, I guess, that the future isn’t much different from the present — which officially makes this the most thoughtful Friday the 13th movie. It at least has something on its mind other than killing.
It also has a bunch of funny moments. The type of humor that parts five and six had returns here. This is a campier, sillier, more self-aware movie than most of the other installments. Because the series is almost exclusively full of bad movies, when the filmmakers tell you not to take it seriously, that works to their picture’s advantage. If they’re largely playing it for laughs, and you’re going to laugh regardless, it’s far better for you to laugh with it, at its encouragement, than at its lack of quality.
You’d be surprised that the future doesn’t bring with it too many interesting ways to kill a man. Perhaps it’s that Jason is dead-set in his old ways, but he’s not particularly interested in taking advantage of futuristic weaponry. He doesn’t even use his knife all that much in this film; he’s more liable to bludgeon someone to death with his hands than he is to stab them in the heart. There are a couple of creative moments, but nothing that you’ll remember a few minutes after the film ends.
Jason X is well-paced, provides plenty of kills, has enough camp to make it enjoyable, and provides an interesting transformation for our antagonist in its final third. It’s nowhere near scary, and it’s because of that fact that the Alien comparison can only be taken so far, but it’s a slasher movie set in space and it takes a character who has been the villain for eight previous movies in a place and time he hasn’t previously had to deal with. That’s a go-for-broke approach and I have to commend the filmmakers for it.
The result isn’t necessarily a complete win, but at least it’s something. This is a more action-oriented Jason film, which fans might not appreciate. The special effects are also nothing special, although given the film’s rather small budget (although at least 4x larger than that of any previous installment), that’s to be expected. And it still doesn’t really have any characters who don’t have less depth than a piece of cardboard.
While Jason X might not be the film that Friday the 13th fans will want — especially after the cliffhanger the previous chapter left on — it’s a campy, funny, action-packed slasher which has a little bit on its mind and enough fun to make it watchable. Is it good? No, but neither are any of the other 9 films in this franchise. You have to look for small victories in a series which spans 10 entries, and this is one of the better Jason movies you can watch. They say it’s tough to follow up a series once it heads to space, but if this is the type of production the filmmakers can come up with, I’d be okay with the franchise continuing.