500 years after he is cryogenically frozen in a military facility, Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder) is revived aboard a salvage spaceship en route to Earth Two. Also revived is scientist Rowan LaFontaine (Lexa Doig), whose warnings to the salvage crew – particularly the entrepreneurial Professor Lowe (Jonathan Potts) – go catastrophically ignored. Before long Jason is armed and loose, and on a cramped spaceship there are precious few places to hide.
So 1993’s Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday was intended to lead directly into a crossover film pitting Jason from Friday the 13th against Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street. Extensive delays pushed that film back year after year, and due to concerns that Jason would lose appeal with audiences in the mean-time New Line Cinema commissioned a 10th Friday picture to keep the character visible and active. The resulting effort, James Isaac’s Jason X, was so reviled by the studio that they delayed its release for almost two years before effectively dumping it on the market and running away.
You have to applaud the bravery of writer Todd Farmer. Given free rein to write and direct any sort of horror film he wanted – so long as it involved Jason Voorhees on a homicidal rampage – he went all-out and proposed what is effectively Jason Takes Space. It is not simply a bad idea, it is a catastrophically awful one. Weirdly enough it is not even an original one. Prior to the release of Jason X horror enthusiasts had already had the opportunity to watch both Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996) and Leprechaun 4: In Space (1999), both of which were set in space and were pretty famously awful. Jason X is ridiculously silly, packed with both horror and science fiction stereotypes, is all-in-all fairly poorly acted and has the production values of a mid-1990s sci-fi TV drama. Here’s the thing though: it is unexpectedly and almost perversely entertaining to watch.
Perhaps it is that, coming on the heels of Jason Takes Manhattan and Jason Goes to Hell, any sequel with a sense of fun about it was going to feel like a relief. Perhaps there is an element of ‘so bad, it’s good’ about the film – although generally I am not a fan of that sentiment. Perhaps it is simply that I am ten films into a franchise re-watch and the Stockholm Syndrome has finally set in. Whatever the reason, I had more fun watching Jason X than I have since Jason Lives. Yes, it is a silly film. Yes, it is based on a stupid premise. Yes, it is generally badly acted and underwhelmingly directed, and produced on too low a budget for its visual ambitions. Despite all of these factors, Jason X is a knowingly dumb and amiably enthused piece of self-parody. Of course James Isaac and Todd Farmer know what they have made. What sort of a filmmaker wouldn’t?
The string of over-sexed young victims continues, with Jason stalking through the ship killing them one by one. Layered on top of that, however, is an Aliens-style bug hunt, an unethical historian attempting to sell Jason on the open market as an archaeological artefact, and a humanoid robot put in fetish gear for a martial arts climax. Best of all is Lexa Doig’s character Rowan, who supervised the attempt to freeze Jason in the early 21st century and is the only character speaking sense in the entire film. When Jason is still apparently dead she is the only one demanding he be jettisoned out of an airlock.
You have to take Jason X as a joke; in its defence it does feature pretty much the funniest sight gag in the history of the franchise. You have to embrace the stupidity. Don’t laugh at it, laugh with it. I have the very strong impression the production team knew what they were making here: if you are going to stretch your slasher movie franchise out to a 10th film (and remember fellow franchises A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween only made it to seven and eight films respectively) you need to embrace the stupidity to make something watchable out of it at all.