From the get-go, there has been an appealing pugnacity to the Friday the 13th horror movies. Sure, this enduring franchise was launched in 1980 as a marginally clever knockoff of Halloween and Black Christmas, but in the annals of American pop cinema, the sequels revealed a devil-may-care brattiness all their own. Narratively nonsensical, obscenely violent, and splattered with lethal dialogue, these nasty nuggets consistently flipped the ever-lovin' bird to critics and such lofty folk. In turn, the great unwashed hastened to witness the ultraviolent, hockey-masked Jason Voorhees butchering his victims.
We're fortunate in many ways, because in the nine years since the last installment (Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday -- as if!), producer Sean S. Cunningham (director of the first one) has teamed up with his crackerjack development team at Crystal Lake Entertainment to rethink the whole dipstick mythology he created with screenwriter Victor Miller over two decades ago. The result is Jason X, a happily self-aware body-count flick that's as brutally funny as it is plain-old brutal.
Screenwriter Todd Farmer clearly understands that when people go to hell, they come back transformed, and so it goes with Jason (played for the fourth disturbing time by Kane Hodder). Things start off obvious enough in the year 2010, as Jason's original stalking ground has become the Crystal Lake Research Facility. Naturally, within the requisite dark halls of the industrial complex, the big, ever-rejuvenating galoot is the research. Although he's chained and restrained, it's only moments before he dispenses with a control-freak doctor and carnage ensues. The only survivor is a spunky lab tech called Rowan (Lexa Doig), who manages to lock the unstoppable killing machine in a carbon-freeze chamber, but not without being mortally wounded and frozen herself.
In a fun and functional combination of invention and genre thievery, the story lurches forward to the year 2455. Of course, four and a half centuries of SUVs have rendered the planet a toxic, uninhabitable craphole, now called Old Earth. Under the guidance of a lecherous archaeology professor, a rag-tag group of flippant, horny students land there in a very cool-looking spaceship and discover -- dum-dum-dumb -- the meat locker. ("It's like a big, kinda frozen storage thing!" announces one valedictorian.)
There's no mystery to the rest of the movie, but director Jim Isaac makes this the most audience-friendly and visually generous chapter in the series. The sets and costumes sometimes look cheesy, but with tongue firmly gouged through cheek, Isaac uses everything at his disposal to deliver comic book kicks. Jason is revived and does his stalking and slaughtering thing, and then, thanks to an incredibly silly coincidence, he is destroyed and rebuilt as -- wait for it -- Uber-Jason. Loads of people die horribly but amusingly as Jason discovers the wonders of liquid-nitro facial peels and hot-wired circuit boards, and Isaac cheerfully crafts the best B movie since Virus.