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Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (Deluxe Edition) DVD Review

October 18, 2009 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
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Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (Deluxe Edition) DVD Review  

Directed by: John Carl Buechler
Written by: Manuel Fidello & Daryl Haney

Lar Park Lincoln – Tina Shepard
Kane Hodder – Jason Voorhees
Kevin Spirtas – Nick
Susan Jennifer Sullivan – Melissa
Terry Kiser – Dr. Crews
Susan Blu – Mrs. Amanda Shepard
Diana Barrows – Maddy
Heidi Kozak – Sandra
William Butler – Michael
Staci Greason – Jane
Larry Cox – Russell
Jeff Bennett – Eddie

Domestic Gross: $19,170,001
Worldwide Gross: $19,170,001

DVD Release Date: 9/15/2009
Running Time: 90 minutes

Rated R

In 1988, the Friday the 13th franchise was looking largely played out to mainstream audiences, but to hardcore horror fans there was still plenty of life left. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives had been much better-received than Part V, and while it wasn’t quite as profitable as the fifth film it still made massively more than its budget. Paramount Pictures saw that the cash cow had more entries left in it, and development began on a seventh film. The original plan was to create a film pitting Jason Voorhees against fellow horror icon Freddy Krueger, but the studio failed to come to an agreement with New Line Cinema to do so. As a substitute, the idea for pitting Jason against a “final girl” with her own set of powers emerged, and The New Blood was born. Starring Lar Park Lincoln and Kane Hodder and directed by John Carl Buechler, the film bowed in May of 1988 and matches the grosses of the entry before it with $19 million on a $2.8 million budget. Since then, the film has made its way to DVD twice; once in 2002 in a truly bare-bones disc, and once as part of the eight-movie set in 2005. Now, it finally gets a Deluxe Edition complete with remastered video and special features as part of the continuing Deluxe Editions Paramount has been giving the series this year.

The Movie
The film stars Lincoln as Tina, a teenage girl with some rather deep-seeded emotional issues. Tina is a telekinetic, an ability that first manifested as a child when she witnessed her father (Otrin) assault her mother Amanda (Blu). That manifestation results in her father’s death at their vacation cabin on the shores of Crystal Lake. A number of years later, Tina has been in psychological care at a facility under the care of Dr. Crews (Kiser). He decides to take Tina, with Amanda in tow, back to the source of her trauma at Crystal Lake with the professed belief that forcing her to confront her fears will allow her to gain some control over her life—and her powers. As it just so happens, there is a group of teenagers next door preparing a birthday party for a friend—sensitive stud Nick (Blair), popular bitch Melissa (Sullivan), nerdy girl Maddy (Barrows), sci-fi writer wannabe Eddie (Bennett) and more. When Tina unwisely tries to bring her father back to life, it resurrects Jason who was chained to the bottom of Crystal Lake by Tommy Jarvis in Part VI. Jason starts to do what Jason does best and the body count starts to rise as Tina starts to wonder about Dr. Crews’s intentions. The stage is set for a showdown between the teenage telekinetic and the undead mass murderer—who will come out triumphant, and who around them will survive?

The story of Friday the 13th Part VII is remarkably simple in concept, and at its core is a sneaky way to put two horror icons together. While it wasn’t the Freddy vs. Jason smackdown that fans would have to wait another fifteen years for, it instead creates a Jason vs. Carrie situation, with Tina standing in for the Stephen King anti-heroine. As scripts for the series go, Part VII is actually one of the better ones. It lacks the hokiness of Part V—which, although unfairly maligned, was still a poor execution of an interesting concept—and the out-and-out stupidity of Part VII. The script as fashioned by Manuel Fidello and Daryl Haney, neither of which had done much before now (and in Fidello’s case never would again) is actually solid for a slasher. The teenagers are a bit more distinctive than in other entries, and you can identify most of them pretty quickly; this helps make them a bit more memorable and benefits the film as a whole. That isn’t to say that these characters are fully rounded out by anyone’s definition, and character development for any of them beyond Nick is more or less nil, but it’s still a touch that’s nice to see.

Once the characters are introduced and the kills begin, the plot of course takes a toss to the side of the road for the most part, with the exception of Tina’s story. Honestly, it’s the only real story that matters in the film—Nick’s wondering of what happened to his cousin and other minor subplots are insignificant and given minimal time before the killing begins. Tina’s story, on the other hand, is treated with more depth than might be expected from a Friday the 13th sequel and it gives us time to get to like the character. Some of the back story and the bit with Crews’s true motives seems a bit unnecessary and serves simply to paint the doctor as a villain, but it doesn’t hurt the film and pads out the time well enough. The final act is pretty decently written and paves the way for a showdown, one that works out quite well with the transition from page to screen.

Director John Carl Buechler was hesitant to take on the film, but was convinced to when he realized he could do something different with the Tina character. It’s not surprising that most of the time is devoted to her, and Buechler does a good job of handling the film. He keeps the film on an even keel for the most part, and one of the biggest flaws—the lack of many impressive kills—is far from his fault. Buechler’s fights with the MPAA over the movie’s rating were legendary, more so than even some of the other entries in the franchise. As a result, some very impressive kills were cut down to sterile and largely bloodless affairs. It certainly hurts the film and keeps this from standing out among the best of the sequels, but Buechler’s efforts in making this a different sort of film while still hewing to the Jason format are mostly accomplished well. The work of the make-up and special effects time in creating Jason’s undead look is exceptional; when the killer comes out of the lake with his spine exposed, the effect is quite nice.

In terms of the acting, this features a couple of the better performances among the sequels. Lar Park Lincoln may come off to some like a second-rate Sissy Spacek, but she actually handles the role quite well. Lincoln gives a performance that stands memorably among slasher heroines; she doesn’t stand up to Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween or Heather Langenkamp in A Nightmare on Elm Street, but she certainly does her best to make the role her own and come out from under Carrie’s shadow. The other good performance comes from Kane Hodder, who donned the Jason look for the first time here. Much has been made of Hodder’s performance as the slasher, and most of it is well-deserved. For a zombie killer, he has more rage in him than any of the previous, mostly living Jasons. Some have said that there is no art to playing a character like Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, but actors like Hodder and Tyler Mane have proven otherwise, and this is quite the nice start to his career as the hockey mask-wearing killer. The rest of the performances are about what would be expected from a slasher film. Kiser and Blu are good but far from great as Dr. Crews and Amanda, while the teenagers are a couple hits and mostly miss. The only real memorable ones are Blair as Nick, who makes for a bland but inoffensive piece of boyfriend material, and Sullivan’s delightfully evil turn as Melissa, the character the audience is just waiting to see die.

Film Rating: 6.5

The Video
The video track for The New Blood has been remastered and looks, frankly, excellent. Paramount has done a good job of touching up the film from the 2002 and 2005 DVD releases, and the colors are more vibrant, images sharper and generally all-around better-looking. The noticeable grain from the 2002 set is by and large gone, and even the improvement from the boxed set is one-upped here. There are no issues with blacks—something that’s very important in a horror film that takes place largely at night—and the improved quality allows us to see what the MPAA allowed Buechler to keep in very nice clarity. One can’t imagine it will end up looking much better, as there’s only so much remastering can do, so this will probably be the best it will end up looking and that’s not a problem.

Video Rating: 8.0

The Audio
The audio track for the film is presented in the standard 5.1 Dolby Digital for English, as well as a 2.0 English Surround Sound and French and Spanish monaural tracks. It sounds basically identical to the 2002 DVD release, which is not to say that’s a bad thing. The audio sounds crisp and clear, with most of the focus coming in on the side channels. The dialogue is very nicely balanced along with the ambient sounds and the combined Mollin/Manfredini score, which comes through very nicely. As Friday the 13th home releases go, this is about as good as it gets.

Audio Rating: 8.0

The Packaging
Much like the rest of the Deluxe Editions of the series, Paramount has given Friday the 13th Part VII a standard grey-labeled DVD housed inside a snap case with a holographic sleeve. The image shows Jason with a knife, upon which is the reflection of Tina. It’s a nice little graphic, and a lot better than the original movie poster. The DVD menus are still images against a red background with the score playing, and are easy to navigate.

Packaging Rating: 7.0

Special Features
Commentary with director John Carl Buechler and actors Lars Park Lincoln and Kane Hodder: This commentary track reunites Buechler, Lincoln and Hodder to talk at length about the movie. It’s not the most informative track you will encounter—the making-of featurette provides a better group of information than here—but the trio are very engaging and talk at length about their experiences so there isn’t much dead time. It’s a very easy listen and worth it for fans of the franchise, though more casual fans will be better served by the featurettes alone.

Jason’s Destroyer: The Making of Friday the 13th Part VII – The New Blood: (15:05) This making-of retrospective starts off with Buechler talking about his hesitance at initially doing a Friday the 13th film before he realized that they could perhaps do something more with the character. They then hit on the Carrie clone idea. It then moves onto an interview with Lincoln talking about her research for the role, and Buechler and Hodder talking about his casting as Jason. You get a lot of the talk about how Hodder added more to the character and Kevin Blair reveals an amusing anecdote about how working with Hodder on The Hills Have Eyes 2 caused him to shout out the wrong name while filming the chase scene. It then moves onto discussion of the make-up effects and how they forced many of the MPAA cuts that hampered the film. The sleeping bag kill is covered as well as several of the other death scenes, displaying in some pretty terrible, untouched-up and grainy footage. Fred Mollin talks about trying to score the film with something that was true to himself but in the spirit of Harry Manfredini’s score, then move onto the climactic fight and finally the battles between Buechler and the producers on differing visions of the final fight. The featurette as a whole is both informative and interesting, and while it’s odd they use the grainy footage instead of remastering it the whole thing makes for a great behind the scenes short.

Mind over Matter: The Truth of Telekinesis: (7:23) This short features parapsychologists and psychics talking about the use of telekinesis in the film. While it could have gotten especially cheesy, there’s actually some good discussion here. How seriously you will take this depends on your opinion about the existence of psychic phenomena, but even for non-believers it is interesting because it refers to telekinesis more as a background in how it relates to Tina’s abilities in the movie. One psychic notes the development of Tina’s powers through the course of the film, and a parapsychologist discusses the history of his professional experience with psychokinetic ability. There’s talk about the history of the ability and some famous alleged telekinetics, and then the nature of the power to give viewers basic background knowledge. It’s presented as a real ability, but again is largely about how Tina’s abilities work. It’s mostly a fluff piece, but an interesting one.

Makeover by Maddy: Need a Little Touch-Up Work, My Ass: (2:41) Short but cute, this focuses on Maddy, the nerdy teen who primps herself up to look hot just before meeting a foul end at Jason’s hands. It features Elizabeth Kaitan and Diana Barrows, who played Robin and Maddy, having their first meeting in fifteen years. Barrows turns the tables on Kaitan from the movie and gives her a makeover. It’s funny in portions, including Kaitan getting her hair cut briefly by machete. This is nothing but complete fluff but it’s short and amusing. Side note: the acting skills of the two have not improved much in the last twenty years.

Slashed Scenes: (16:15) This is a true wealth of deleted scenes, with twenty scenes here. It has an introduction by Buechler in which he explains that these are the scenes deleted in order to get the MPAA to rescind their X rating. He acknowledges that the video is rough because they come from an ancient work print and the rest of the prints were destroyed, so this is all that remains. One would assume they were not restorable, or that Paramount just wasn’t willing to pay the admittedly expensive price it would take to do so. Either way we get a bunch of scenes, all of them short but most of them sufficiently gory. It would have been great to see Paramount do more to restore them but either way, this is footage Friday fans have been waiting a long time to see so their inclusion is much appreciated.

Special Features Rating: 8.0

The 411: While Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood may not be the best in the Jason Voorhees saga, it certainly isn't one of the worst or even in the bottom half. The basic story of Jason taking on a Carrie clone is much better than it could have been, thanks to a better-than-average story and good performances by Lar Park Lincoln and Kane Hodder. The Deluxe Edition DVD release features a great audio and video track and some very good special features, making this one of the better of the Deluxe Editions to have come out for the franchise and definitely worth the double dip.
Final Score:  7.5   [ Good ]  legend

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Jeremy Thomas


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