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An Alternate Take to the Traditional Image of New York

How Jason Voorhees's Visit Provided a More Sinister Take on the Big Apple

By Spencer MacAdamPublished 6 years ago 9 min read
Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)

The opening sequence in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan establishes the idea of an underlying decay within a city that often presents the concept of perfection in the eyes of tourists.

Those viewing the eightieth instalment in the Friday the 13th series are transported to Manhattan where the machete-wielding maniac, Jason Voorhees, has abandoned his origins at Crystal Lake and this time will be flooding Manhattan in a wave of blood. Objects including the Manhattan Bridge displayed at the beginning of the film reestablish the idea that the premise will take place in New York. The lowkey lighting of garbage-infested alley ways joined by acts of violence and impurity serve as a direct demonstration of a sinister embodiment lurking within the city. The immorality remains inescapable within the compass of Manhattan. The crime contained within the alleyways occupied by litter and immorality run course throughout the various shops and subways. The images offered present a state of distress which needs recorder.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, directed by Rob Hedden, served as the eighth instalment in the Friday the 13th series. Revolving around a group of high school seniors, the 1989 slasher film transported Jason Voorhees from the barren woods surrounding Crystal Lake to the urban streets of Manhattan. Jason’s navigation to a more civic point resulted in a transformation of tone and score. Harry Manfredi’s composition was quickly replaced by Metropolis’s single “The Darkest of Night.” The opening of the film is essential in telling the story of the film that concentrates on the darker side of Manhattan rather then enlightening the audience with the familiar landscape. The film begins with an extreme long shot of the Manhattan Bridge accompanied by a non-diegetic audio explaining that they are living within an inescapable landscape of steel and concrete overwhelmed by claustrophobia, “trapped by dark waters,” going on to state that escape is not desired and that people come to thrive in this place, ultimately stating that “you can’t get the adrenaline pumping without the terror, good people.” The shot of the Manhattan Bridge is closely accompanied by another extreme long shot, this time displaying Times Square. Times Square and the Manhattan Bridge, both popular tourist destinations, establish quickly and surely that the film is set in New York and, more importantly, Manhattan. These objects serve as what Katherine Shonfield refers to in her book as, “Walls have Feelings: Architecture, Film and the city;” urban hardware, objects that are often affiliated with a location and provide a sense of identity. Unlike the other films in the series, Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan involves Jason Voorhies's reign of terror inflicted on New York.

The initial opening shots of the film depict a dangerous and disguising city. The combination of the Manhattan Bridge and Times Square, displayed alongside the non-diegetic audio of the narrator, infer that there is something sinister lurking within the same city that is often affiliated with attractive landmarks. Mise en scene plays a considerable role in reference to the costumes utilized during a long shot of a group of young men wearing what many would infer as punk clothing. The individuals appear to be rebellious. This idea is further initiated by the fact that one of the individuals is laying on a structure which is clearly designated for other purposes then leisure; however, the others are utilizing them for similar practises as well. This shot is a reference to several different concepts. Primarily, it is a demonstration of the rejection of social norms warranting a sense of rebellion against the synchronized landscape. It is a metaphor symbolizing the things that are often overlooked in New York. Within the long shot of the alley, graffiti displays the word's gang rules. This shot serves as the first time the viewer is introduced with the less desirable landscape of New York which they will shortly become well-acquainted with in the following shots. The phrase “Gang Rules” challenges the idea of hierarchy within the city's perceived politics and that they don’t exist there. The hanging phone proposes the idea that communication has ceased to exist—a further hint to the disconnect between a presumption and reality. This also demonstrates that attempts to maintain order in this place have been abandoned, mirroring the presumed phone call. The diegetic sound of sirens can be heard. Although law enforcement is never displayed on screen, the viewer is left to assume that some impending nature is present. A close up shot of manhole from which gas is the literal representation of the city's attempts to suppress the undesirable and how it is being revealed regardless. The censorship that has kept this from the public eye will be unable to do so now. An extreme long shot pans over to reveal a figure walking down a dark alley way. As the camera is panning, two figures come into focus, they attack the man and take his wallet. The panning of the shot continues until it becomes a close-up shot of one of the muggers. The use of lowkey lighting establishes a sense of eerie unknown. Mise en scene is also essential in prop positioning. What many refer to as "urban decay" barricades the figure on both sides the walls—literal metaphors for the fact that he is surrounded by the darker sides of New York and unable to escape. The victim presents the attire of business man, consisting of what appears to be a suit and tie while the men who attack him are dressed in less desirable clothing. Prior to being attacked, he is holding an umbrella to shield him from the rain; however, this does little to defend against other forces. This is literal representation that his lifestyle will do little defend him here. A close up of a submerged rat emerging from the can, which appears to be filled with tainted water and filth, enforces the fact that nothing can leave this place unscathed of its undesirable features. Throughout the opening scenes, littered alleys and public acts of violence establish an environment of danger.

Impending doom upon the entirety of the city is contained throughout the following scenes, encompassing not only dark alley ways and littered sidewalks, but rather shops and public transit. The audience is briefly distanced from the New York underworld and transported to a coffee shop. A woman whose attire includes that of an eye patch points at her cup as if demanding more. One may interpret this as an attempt from someone who has been scathed to receive retribution. The diegetic background sound of someone coughing persists that there is some form of misery even within this place. The cough also demonstrates a sickness displaying a literal symbolism, reminding the audience that the infection that lingers in the same places viewed earlier have made their way here. The coffee shop has become contaminated as well no place is protected from the virus within the urban environment. This is a reference to the earlier comment on behalf of the non diegetic narrator who persisted, “No place is safe.” An extreme long shot of the subway reviews an escalator. On each side, graffiti covers the walls. Although the rest of the area appears sterile, the vandalism discredits its ability to appease its natural overview. A sign above reading "Broadway" introduces the idea that, above, there is a much different environment. The combination of a promise of a nicer things elevated accompanied by the overriding paint infers the fact that this is an area of New York overridden by crime, further implementing the idea of domination by anarchy. The mid body shot displays two individuals; one holding a spoon with a lighter underneath, and the other injecting himself with a needle. The use of low key lighting allows the presentation of the man heating up the needle, but conceals the identity of the man piercing his skin, perhaps displaying the idea that this is too dark to be presented. As the thugs are injecting themselves with heroin, the audience is being introduced to a toxic environment of New York’s underworld. The sequence commences with an extreme long shot of the Statue of Liberty. Within this sequence, it has been established that the New York that will be observed will embody the urban decay contained within this popular location. A sense of inescapable danger is maintained throughout an overview of the city through the exploration of subway stations and coffee shops.

The opening of the film depicts New York within the context of a much more transparent lens, capturing images often overlooked while portraying the city screen. In addition to reviewing the Manhattan Bridge and Times Square, it also observes the undesirable locations. The premise of the film involves Jason Voorhees's urban debut. Voorhees, the main antagonist in the Friday the 13th series typically occupies the rural area around a summer camp where he stalks, eventually victimizing his subjects. New York is contrary to Jason’s typical jurisdiction. A theme of misplacement is established early within the first minutes of the film it becomes apparent to the viewer that they are becoming acquainted with images that would remain absent from tourist brochures. There is an ongoing theme of irregularity that challenges the standard presentation. However, despite a feeling of irregularity, the images contained within the opening sequence display that of sin. Those familiar with the Friday The 13th series will know that Jason kills on behalf of his mother, who blamed a group of councillors for her son's drowning—a distraction which is affiliated with a preoccupation of drug use and sexual activity. The shots display a dirty, unrighteous place in need of cleansing, proposing the fact that perhaps Voorhees's visit is not as bizarre as it may initially appear.

Friday the 13th: Part VIII:Jason Takes Manhattan does exactly what is intended displaying a gritty Manhattan which will be interpreted throughout the film. Instigated through the film's premise, the audience of Friday the 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan find themselves in New York where Jason Voorhees reigns terror on the streets of Manhattan. The viewing of the Manhattan Bridge and Times Square allow the viewer to realize that, although they may be introduced to a form of New York which they had previously been unaware existed, they are still in the same familiar city. The audience is proposed the idea of ultimate despair within the dark alleys, often overlooked in turn for the more popular images discussed earlier. The crime contained within the alley ways, occupied by litter and immorality, run course throughout the various shops and subways of Manhattan. The scenes within the opening sequence display the immorality contained within Manhattan; immorality and impure nature, which Jason Voorhees is known for cleansing. Ultimately, the opening sequence of Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, does just what it is intended to do, enforcing the idea that Jason will not be taking what many people would refer to as the ideal tourist vacation.


Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. Directed by Robb Hedden, Performances by Kane Hodder, Jensen Dagget, Todd Caldecott Barbara Bingham, Tiffany Paulsen, Peter Mark Richman, Paramount Productions,1989

IMDB. Friday the 13th Part VII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)

Shonfield, Katherine. Walls Have Feelings: Architecture, Film and City. Routledge, 2000

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About the Creator

Spencer MacAdam

Follow me on Instagram spennymac96

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