Yes, it’s the one without Jason. And no, not the first one. Paramount promised that Part IV was the ‘Final Chapter’. But when ‘The Final Chapter’ made just north of $30 million, you knew he’d be back. Except he wasn’t. It probably says something about the Friday the 13th franchise that Part V, A New Beginning, may not be the most divisive series entry. That honour probably goes to Jason X. Or is Jason Goes to Hell? Nevertheless, A New Beginning was polarizing enough to prompt a big course correction in the next sequel. Now 24 years after its release, has Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning earned some re-consideration of its place in the franchise? Or is it still just a ‘bad movie’?
Not Such a New Beginning
For all the grief this sequel gets for not having Jason Voorhees, it’s worth pointing out this isn’t the first horror sequel to trade in its monster. Curse of the Cat People, the sequel to Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People, didn’t actually have any ‘cat people’. Hammer Films’ first sequel to their Dracula, Brides of Dracula, didn’t actually have Dracula in it. And there are more Saw films without Tobin Bell’s ‘Jigsaw’ than with him, you know, alive. So A New Beginning wasn’t treading new ground.
…Jason Voorhees’ absence is the least of A New Beginning’s problems.
To perfectly honest, Jason Voorhees’ absence is the least of A New Beginning’s problems. Yes, the sequel’s ‘whodunnit’ is lame and obvious. Dirk Wieand all but mugs for the camera as ‘Jason stand-in’, ‘Roy’. And for all intensive purposes, Jason is in the movie. The killer is a ‘goalie mask-wearing’ machine who stalks and slashes his way through clueless victims. It’s only the movie’s final reveal that changes anything. For nearly 90 minutes, A New Beginning operates like a standard Friday the 13th movie.
Somewhere in A New Beginning was a potentially good idea. Clearly, the sequel was positioning Tommy Jarvis as the new ‘Jason’ of the series. Unfortunately, we got ‘Roy the Paramedic’ instead in an uninspired twist. Still we did get a surprisingly chilling ending that could have moved the franchise in a new direction. But a reversal of box office fortunes must have given Paramount second thoughts. Hence, Jason was resurrected in the next sequel.
Censorship, Porn, and the Motion Picture Association of America
If A New Beginning has a problem, it’s one related to visual style and the on-screen violence. While the Friday the 13th series was always low-budget, A New Beginning is the first of the sequels to look like a ‘cheap-o’ effort. If you factor in the ridiculous surplus of casual nudity, A New Beginning almost feels like a porno flick. Maybe it’s not that suprising then that Danny Steinmann’s previous directorial credits include an actual porno and Grade-Z exploitation movie, Savage Streets, starring Linda Blair. To some extent, this sequel feels lies like a slasher movie, and more in line with ‘70’s exploitation horror.
Yet where the sequel truly comes up short is in the blood and guts department. Topping Tom Savini’s work in The Final Chapter was always going to be tough. But the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) made the task near impossible. More cutting probably occurred in the editing room, then on-screen. The MPAA notoriously butchered the fifth franchise entry, leaving Steinmann to rely heavily on choppy editing around the kills. As result, the sequel’s high body count ends up feeling pretty unremarkable in the bigger franchise.
A New Beginning Boasts Some Fun Idiosyncratic Ticks
In spite of all its weaknesses, A New Beginning remains a watchable, if not odd, entry to the franchise. The sequel sits on the border between the more straight-faced tone of the earlier movies and the camp qualities that later sequels embraced. There’s a lot of idiosyncratic quirks that provide a nice dose of unintentional laughs. Casting looks like it amounted to dragging people off the streets. Guys inexplicably dressed like ‘Teddy Boys’, hillbillies, and a Clint Eastwood knock-off – A New Beginning is a ‘dog’s breakfast’ of characters.
We’re even treated to another dance routine that almost re-captures the magic that was Crispin Glover …
Strange story beats abound in this sequel. First, there’s the completely random chain of events that triggers ‘Jason’s’ return. In one scene, we get a couple serenading one another in an outhouse. Camp Crystal Lake has expanded enough to now include an out-patient facility for mentally ill teens. And none of these teens actually look remotely like adolescents. We’re even treated to another dance routine that almost re-captures the magic that was Cripsin Glover in The Final Chapter.
A New Beginning – Still Better Than Jason Takes Manhattan
Arguably, most of the Friday the 13th sequels wouldn’t objectively be considered ‘good’. But I love the series and, when I first saw, A New Beginning disappointed. Over 20 years later, A New Beginning benefits from some of its quirks and unintentional humour. It deserves its lower ranking in the overall franchise, but it’s still better than some of the worst sequels.