There’s really not a film in the Friday the 13th franchise that I don’t love to some degree. There are always the ones you really connect with, those that just hit all the right notes for you as a fan. I’ve always loved The Final Chapter and Jason Lives as the two I could rewatch at the drop of a hat on virtually any day. Those two will always bring me joy. There are the entries I used to hate as a kid but now love—like Part 2, A New Beginning and even Jason Goes to Hell. Even the entries that I think are lower on the totem pole, like Jason Takes Manhattan and Jason X, I’ve begun seeing the value in as of late.
I know that, for a lot of people, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood is their favorite entry in the franchise. And I understand why. Its’ the first time Kane Hodder played the character, it’s seen by most people as the best movie of the franchise that Kane Hodder got to be a part of, and it’s got some of the best FX work of the franchise. This is hailed by many, even those who don’t love the film, as the best Jason has ever looked. And he really does look great.
That’s one of the biggest benefits of a great makeup FX guru like John Carl Buechler being in the director’s chair. Someone like that is going to pay attention and make sure the effects get their due. There’s a meticulous amount of detail put into Jason’s appearance. Every wound, every injury he’d ever sustained in the franchise is there. Combining all of that together makes for a ragged, beaten-down version of Jason that is immediately endearing. This guy’s been dead a long time, and now he truly looks like it.
The plot takes us into sillier territory. Part VI entered supernatural territory with both feet after a terrific EC Comics opening with Jason literally rising from the grave after being struck by lightning. The New Blood takes us even further into the realm of science fiction and fantasy. This time, Jason’s antagonist is a young girl with telekinesis. Tina Shepard can’t control her powers and is afraid of losing her mind to her overbearing guilt over accidentally killing her father when she was a little girl. She’s a sympathetic character, a girl who doesn’t understand who or really what she is, just trying to cling to any semblance of normalcy.
And then there’s Dr. Crews. Bad news Crews, definitely the most disliked character in the entire series. Fans don’t hate Jason. Fans do hate Dr. Crews, so that almost makes him the bigger villain. Sure, Jason’s going to hack up just about anyone who gets in his way. But at least he’s honest and he’s not a dick about it. Crews is a dick about literally everything he does in this movie. Every decision he makes is with the intent purpose of screwing someone over, which is amazing as he only ever interacts with two other characters.
The three characters in this house—Tina, her mother and Dr. Crews—are all interesting and engaging to watch. They feel like they move the plot forward and tell a story that’s different from anything we’ve seen in the franchise before, but still definitely feels as though it’s happening in that same world.
And this is important, because none of the other characters are nearly as interesting. Tina and her mother & doctor are staying at a house next to the most bland, obvious group of victims we’ve seen in the franchise to date. Even Tina’s eventual boyfriend Nick is totally bland. All we ever really know about him is that he goes to night school. I don’t think that’s enough.
I know it’s a big part of the franchise that we understand these teens are going to die and we want to see it happen in creative ways, but other films in the franchise have given us great characters we can grow to like and even root for. Its immediate predecessor, Jason Lives, was full of characters that were entertaining and energetic. The “family unit staying in house beside cabin full of partying teens” structure was also used in The Final Chapter. And the characters in that movie were great.
We get a couple of standouts in The New Blood. There’s Eddie, my favorite of the victims in the movie, who just wants to be a famous science fiction writer. He’s been turned down by some of the greatest magazines in the continental United States. Then there’s Maddy, who’s She’s All That fixer-upper subplot is ultimately only for her own benefit and boost of confidence as she dies before anyone gets to witness her new look. Then there’s Melissa, who is a huge bitch, but is at least memorable. These are the characters that really stand out. With everyone else, it’s tough to even really remember their names.
Luckily, the effects and kills in this Friday the 13th save it from being a bland and boring entry. Yes, the ratings board had its way with The New Blood, but there are still some pretty gruesome scenes, even if they’re quick. I think we see Russell’s cleaved open face just as much as we need to for it to be memorable and stick in our minds. When it comes to the classic sleeping bag kill, even Kane Hodder agrees that the censorship made that death better. One slam against the tree keeps it from being too cartoonish and also shows just how strong Jason has become by this point in time.
Really, the whole movie hinges on the climactic showdown between Tina and Jason. The film might not have the money to truly pull off Tina’s telekinetic powers perfectly, but it does the best it can and I appreciate it as a viewer. We’d seen several girls go up against Jason in the past and gain the upper hand, but there’s something so special and different about this showdown. Not only had we never seen Jason be quite this strong before, but we had never seen him go up against someone nearly this powerful. Tina literally brings the house down on him.
If it weren’t for the imaginative central plot point and the terrific FX work, I think The New Blood would be a lot lower on people’s lists. Even now I don’t think it’s one of the top-tier franchise entries. But it’s fun. It’s entertaining. And that’s a major achievement for the seventh entry in any horror series. It tries to do something new, gives us a memorable heroine and an iconic version of Jason. That’s not a bad legacy, all in all.