REVIEW: Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)

Tina Shepard, a young girl exhibiting telekinetic powers, kills her abusive father on the shores of Crystal Lake. Years later Tina (Lar Park Lincoln) returns to her family home with her mother (Susan Blu) and her psychiatrist Dr Crews (Terry Kiser). When her psychic powers return, Tina senses a presence at the bottom of Crystal Lake and inadvertently frees the undead serial killer Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder) from his chains.

In its seventh film Friday the 13th doubles down on the supernatural elements introduced in Jason Lives. In addition to the now seemingly indestructible undead Jason Voorhees, The New Blood adds a psychic teenager with the powers of telekinesis. It creates an odd new atmosphere for the film, and one that it actually struggles to make work to full effect.

Part of the problem is that The New Blood does not really feel like it knows what kind of a film it wants to be. On the one hand it tells the story of Tina’s developing powers and her discovery that Dr Crews is working to enhance her abilities rather than treat her mental illness. That alone is enough to sustain a film. At the same time there is a requisite house of sex-obsessed young people next door and a revived Jason murdering them one by one. To a large extent it really feels like two completely unrelated horror movies accidentally walking onto one another’s sets. It is only at the film’s admittedly effective climax that Tina – now in greater control of her powers – takes Jason on one-to-one.

The performances are relatively solid. Lar Park Lincoln is believable and sympathetic as Tina. Terry Kiser – later to gain fame as the title character in Weekend at Bernies – is a suitably slimy and untrustworthy Crews, arguably the larger villain of the film. The real stand-out, weirdly enough, is Kane Hodder as Jason. He gives Jason an alert and predatory quality through well-timed head turns and pauses. There is a sense of a calculating intelligence to him in this film, and a far more pronounced sense of menace. Hodder would return to the role on three more occasions, making him the definitive actor in the role. It is a well-deserved reputation.

Fred Mollin takes over as the composer from this film, and while he uses several of Harry Manfredini’s original compositions he infuses the score with a relentless industrial sound akin to Brad Fiedel’s iconic score to The Terminator. While it does feel somewhat derivative, it is a sound that suits Jason remarkably well given the similarities between him and James Cameron’s robotic assassins.

The film is visibly hurt by a bowdlerized edit: there is plenty of scope for scenes of gory violence and bloodshed but the editing repeatedly cuts away at the critical moment. Anyone looking to The New Blood for amusingly tacky shots of decapitating heads, fountains of blood or general dismemberment are going to come away disappointed. This is the least violent Friday the 13th up to this point. One also wonders if a savage edit explains where Jason gets his weapons from. He displays a dizzying array of them throughout the film, including knives, a machete, a scythe and a circular buzzsaw, without ever really demonstrated where half of them come from. It makes the film ridiculous and amusing in places, and it is difficult to tell whether or not it is an intentional effect.

While substandard to its predecessor, The New Blood is a fairly pleasing sort of slasher/supernatural blend. It does not work as well as it could or to be honest should, but for the committed fans – and at the seventh film you would have to assume it is only the hard-core audience left watching – this is a comparatively strong chapter in the seemingly unending saga.

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