Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is, as I have written before, is the ultimate Jason Voorhees movie. It’s the perfect embodiment of all things Friday the 13th. It did not, however, deliver on the promise of its title. A New Beginning followed immediately on the heels of the false Final Chapter and arrived in theaters less than a year later. While the film made money at the box office, it wasn’t the hit that the fourth had been and response from fans was overwhelmingly negative. It was perceived as the worst of the franchise at that time and has been considered to be among the worst in the nearly three decades since its release. Perception hasn’t changed much.
The major complaint against the film is glaring and obvious: Jason Voorhees isn’t in it. The filmmakers at least wanted to stick with their promise of killing Jason in The Final Chapter, so in A New Beginning he remains dead. But the movie doesn’t blatantly state that Jason is dead, it is trying to make you believe that he’s alive. When you see the hockey masked killer at the end you don’t expect it to not be Jason which not only makes for a disappointing reveal but also doesn’t allow the audience to take part in guessing who the killer would actually turn out to be. Most fans hate it the first time. I know I did.
For the first few years after I first viewed A New Beginning, I would only watch it in a marathon with the rest of the series. I would like it a little more each time, but it was gradual until I realized that it was one of the most quotable, brutal and fun movies in the franchise.
There are some movies in the Friday the 13th series where even the fans would be hard pressed to name the characters. But in A New Beginning, the characters—larger than life as they may be—are memorable. The teenage characters each have distinct personalities and the movie is balanced out by side characters that are even more entertaining than the regular cast. Ethel, Junior, Demon, Joey, each character is a zany portrait bordering on caricature in the best way possible.
At the same time, we see our first returning protagonist in Tommy Jarvis. While Corey Feldman returns in a cameo at the beginning, the character ages between films and John Shepard takes over the role. This Tommy is more disturbed than the boy in The Final Chapter. He’s haunted by what has happened to him. It’s surprisingly well done for a middle entry in a horror franchise and helps establish a connection to the earlier features in the series.
Of course, the fans come to a Friday the 13th movie for one major reason: They want to see people get picked off in imaginative ways. For this reason alone I am shocked that more people have not warmed up to A New Beginning. It has more carnage than most of the movies in the franchise and even now holds one of its largest body counts. Much was cut by the MPAA, but it still got away with quite a bit and not too terribly much is left to the imagination. They only death that was completely retooled was the death of Violet, who initially got a machete between the legs. This was totally cut out and her death was reshot so that she was stabbed in the stomach. At the very least, this showed how far director Danny Steinmann was willing to go.
As a Friday the 13th movie or not, A New Beginning has to be seen to be believed. It’s the sleaziest of the franchise, with a lingering dirty tone. It’s more sexual and more violent than some of the earlier films. The characters are filthier and far less clean-cut overall. It’s pure escapist entertainment and that alone should be enough to recommend it.
I understand why people would be hesitant to watch A New Beginning, at least at first. Jason is the figurehead that drives the franchise. Many fans think that he makes or breaks the whole thing. I’ll admit that the movie does a bad job of making it clear that Jason is not the killer, but that’s part of what makes it interesting. The big surprise at the end is the reverse of most slasher movies. Instead of being shocked by who the killer is, we’re shocked by who the killer isn’t.
At the same time, Jason’s presence is felt throughout the whole movie. Tommy has never gotten over the events of The Final Chapter and has repeated visions of Jason. The killer himself is a copycat trying to mimic Jason’s appearance and style as closely as possible. It’s not the same as the real thing, but it works on its own. The whole movie does.
A New Beginning doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it is an immensely entertaining slasher. It’s just good, cheesy, sleazy fun. This is the sort of thing that attracts people to the franchise in the first place, so it’s definitely worth a look. It may still be considered one of the worst in the series, which is an unfair moniker to carry. It’s natural that people would be put off by it at first, but it’s one of the most purely entertaining Friday the 13th features and deserves a second look, along with a third and fourth.