Retro Review: ‘Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning’

In 1984, Paramount Pictures released Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter on movie audiences. Sure these were fun movies, but the powers-that-be at Paramount were always embarrassed by the franchise. After all they were one of the Big Five studios, with a history of films like: The Godfather, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Sunset Boulevard, Harold & Maude, and many other of the greatest films of all-time. At the end of the day, making contributions to the art of cinema is great, but movie studios need to make money, so in 1985 they greenlit continuing the Friday the 13th franchise with Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning.

Years after killing Jason Voorhees at Camp Crystal Lake, Tommy Jarvis is battling the mental trauma of coming face-to-face with one of the most evil maniacs around. Now as a young man, he has checked himself into a rural mental hospital in search of help. During his stay there it becomes clear that someone is killing the 56,780 characters in this film, including a guy who croons while suffering stomach troubles from enchiladas. Given that this killer wears a hockey mask everyone knows who it is, and Tommy must confront the enemy from his childhood only to discover that Jason is in fact dead but a vengeful paramedic named Roy is happy to carry on his legacy.

For my money every good horror movie monster needs a great opponent to define them. Famously Dracula has Van Helsing, Freddy Krueger had Nancy Thompson, Pinhead had Kirsty Cotton and so on. Someone who in multiple movies could be there ultimate foil. For Jason Voorhees that nemesis was the mask-obsessed Tommy Jarvis and that is largely due to this film. It shows that even now his confrontation with the hockey-masked monster has left an impact on him, and this film paves the way for him to accidentally resurrect Jason in the next flick.

If nothing else this film lived up to its names A New Beginning, as it not only marked a return of the series after the Final Chapter, but it also had a completely different style. Taking the action away from Camp Crystal Lake, there is no empty camp site or charming horny teens or any of the other tropes of the series. Instead we are at a psychiatric hospital and none of the characters are particularly charming or likable. This film was directed by Danny Steinmann who before this had made some sleazy pornos and the cult classic Linda Blair vehicle Savage Streets. He brings that same style to F13 as this entry is grimier, sleazier, and unapologetically more vulgar than the four films before. I have heard it best said that A New Beginning feels like a grindhouse movie released by a mainstream studio. His “Jason” finds particularly brutal to slaughter characters and because new characters are constantly introduced only to get sliced to bits. From teens at the mental hospital to a filthy pair of hillbillies, they are all here. This means that as far as pacing goes, A New Beginning tends to meander under the weight of so much.

Friday the 13 Part V is often seen as the outlier in the long-running franchise because it does not actually have Jason in it. The equivalent of Halloween III: Season of the Witch only without the artistic merit. The absence of Momma Voorhees’ murderous baby boy is not the only difference as it has an entirely different feel and style to it. At the end of the day it was made to turn a profit and having made over $20 million on a $2 million budget it was a success on that front. It also proved that this was a film franchise that was not going anywhere.