Dir: Jim Isaac. US. 2002. 93mins.
Putting hockey-masked slasher icon Jason into space sounds a desperate idea for reviving the Friday The 13th horror franchise. But while this 10th instalment in the 22-year-old series relies on the same crude, high-body-count schlock appeal as its predecessors, it still manages to have some silly fun with the new setting. Aiming its marketing primarily at the younger moviegoers among whom the Friday The 13th films have become kitschy video items, distributor New Line achieved a opening of $6.6m from 1,878 sites in the US, suggesting that the film will struggle to beat the sub-$20m US grosses achieved by the series' last few entries. Overseas, where it will be released through New Line's deals with independent distributors, it probably has less theatrical potential - early releases in Spain and Brazil have already produced meagre results - although it might find a limited audience on video and late-night TV.
The franchise was last revived in 1993, when original producer/ director Sean S Cunningham teamed for the first time with New Line (the earlier films were made for Paramount) on Jason Goes to Hell: Final Friday (which grossed $15.9m in the US). Cunningham executive produces this time out, with effects expert Jim Isaac directing.
The action kicks off in the near future at Crystal Lake Research Facility (Crystal Lake being the site of the first film's summer camp setting), where Jason (played for the third time by Hodder), after dispatching his initial few victims, is cryogenically frozen. Cut to 2455, when a team of student explorers and their archaeology professor land a space ship on the now contaminated Old Earth. The frozen bodies of Jason and Rowan (Doig, from TV sci-fi series Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda), the only survivor of Jason's initial rampage, are taken on board and, as the ship starts its journey back to the students' home on 'Earth II,' begin to thaw out.
Jason X's routine first half blends familiar slasher flick action with an Alien-inspired space ship scenario. The ship's attractive - and horny - young crew members make the requisite dumb moves and the resuscitated Jason clocks up an impressive body count. There's cartoonish, crowd-pleasing gore, some inventive kills (the yuckiest involving a giant drill bit) and some adequate effects (given the $13.5m budget), as well as a cameo from horror director David Cronenberg.
In its second half the film begins to add some fresher elements to the mix, taking on an increasingly and un-apologetically wacky tone. First, Jason is confronted by the crew's athletic android Kay-Em 14 (Ryder, also from Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda) and reduced to a smouldering stump of flesh. But Jason, of course, has always been hard to kill and, with the help of the ship's space-age medical equipment, he bounces back as a kind of Robo-Jason, with gleaming metal replacing the grimy hockey mask. The climactic showdown between the upgraded Jason and the remaining crew members includes some cute references to Friday The 13ths past and ends leaving the door open for the franchise to continue further.
If Jason X is a success, the next outing is likely to be Freddy vs Jason, the franchise showdown project - pitting Jason against Nightmare On Elm Street's Freddy Krueger - that Cunningham has been developing at New Line for the past several years.
Prod cos: New Line Cinema, Crystal Lake Entertainment
US dist: New Line
Intl sales: New Line
Prod: Noel Cunningham
Exec prods: Sean S Cunningham, Jim Isaac
Scr: Todd Farmer
Cinematography: Derick Underschultz
Prod des: John Dondertman
Ed: David Handman
Music: Harry Manfredini
Main cast: Kane Hodder, Lexa Doig, Lisa Ryder, Chuck Campbell, Jonathan Potts