Classic Movie Review: 'Jason X'
Jason X trending on Twitter in 2021 is weird, but the many defending the movie is weirder.
In 1980, first time director Sean S. Cunningham made his mark on the horror genre with a summer camp set rip-off of Halloween's Michael Myers that he named Jason Voorhees. Yes I said rip-off, look at it objectively. Mass murderer, white mask, comes from an extremely dysfunctional family, tell me I’m wrong. Nonetheless, Friday the 13th did eventually carve out it's own niche and 22 years after the first film the franchise continued with Jason X.
On April 6th of 2021, Jason X, of all movies began to trend on Twitter. Journalist Elle Hunt tweeted that she didn’t think a horror movie could be set in space. People began roasting Hunt and naming horror movies that were set in space. Strangely, Jason X was cited as being a good horror movie set in space. This is a take that I am both shocked by and deeply disagree with. So I decided to write about it.
It's the year 2001 and law enforcement still can't kill Jason Voorhees. They have tried electrocution, firing squad, hanging, and even forcing him to watch WB sitcoms like Homeboys in Space and Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher in order to induce suicide. Still, nothing seems to work. So ,a scientist, played by Virgin River star Lexa Doig, plans to cryogenically freeze Jason to keep him out of trouble.
Things never seem to go as planned when Jason's around. So, just as Jason's about to be ice-cubed, another scientist, played by director David Cronenberg in a funny cameo, stops the freeze and wants to take Jason for more scientific experiments. Well it doesn't take a scientist to know Cronenberg and his elite military unit will be dead soon and Jason delivers. This leaves Lexa the scientist to trick Jason into the cryo-freeze. She succeeds but is accidentally frozen with him.
Cut to 400-some years in the future where a team of student archaeologists exploring the now uninhabitable Earth, finds the cryo-chamber and brings the two bodies back to their ship. Lexa is revived while Jason, who the kids think is merely a corpse, thaws out and begins his first outer space killing spree. I swear we can't take this guy anywhere.
From here Jason begins to find unique ways of murdering his latest group of brain-dead teens and the far more brain-dead adults. Unfortunately, the murders are a little dull by horror standards. As the ship’s elite military corps pursue Jason he merely cracks their necks and stabs them, though he does impale one on a giant screw. Where is the creativity? Come on Jason you're better than that!
I remember when Jason broke a cop in half, skewered two lovemaking teens with one machete, and crushed a guy’s head using a chain wrapped around a tree. These are far more entertaining and creatively, comically, deadly than mere throat slashing and neck cracking. Jason was apparently slowing down in his old age there only 25 bodies in Jason X and the kills are not nearly as interesting as they used to be. .
However, my real problem with Jason X wasn't that the film was bad but that it wasn't bad enough. By that I mean I knew going in that the movie would stink, but I was hoping it would be like the late Nightmare on Elm Street sequels or the ever more hilarious Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequels and remakes, movies that are so bad that they're good. Jason X is rather boringly competent, even rather tame in comparison to other more interesting and funny Jason sequels.
Jason X director Jim Isaacs, clearly was influenced by the success of the Scream movies which before the release of Jason X had revived the horror genre. Jason X has some of Jason's classic attributes, nubile victims, machete slayings, etc, but it’s combined with Scream-style irony minus the wit of writer Kevin Williamson and clever direction of Wes Craven. Jason X is too busy winking at how funny what is happening is intended to be rather than actually manufacturing genuine laughs that feed into genuine scares. Laughter and terror aren't that far apart in the end but in Jason X, they couldn't be further apart.
I mean, come on, Jason Voorhees is in SPACE, that in itself is funny. Combine that with the typical tropes of Friday the 13th and perhaps you can make something that approaches the combination of horror and comedy that made the original Scream so influential. Sadly, the creators of Jason X are more akin to a group who've been told to act like Scream but have no idea and no ability to pull that off. There are a couple of good, unintentionally funny, moments like Jason's ridiculous sci-fi makeover, and actor Michael Potis' community theater level bad acting, but there just aren't enough laughs to make Jason X more than deeply mediocre and a disappointment based on the potential.
One last criticism, what happened to the soundtrack? In the trailer we are treated to the metal anthem "Bodies” by the band Drowning Pool which made the trailer one of the funniest I've ever seen. However, in the actual film, there is not one metal tune, no rap-rock fusion to underscore Jason's beheadings, nothing but the same old sonic screeches and horror mood music. What a missed opportunity. I know that the Friday the 13th score is iconic but if any movie cried out for a heavy metal makeover, it was this one.