Do not call Jason X a horror film. The only definition where Jason X is a horror film is “movie that involves gore”, and that’s obviously too broad to use as a requisite for the horror genre. Instead, it’s more accurate to call Jason X a sci-fi action comedy that uses the Jason Voorhees premise and decides to shoot it into space for laughs. If you’re someone that genuinely loves the Friday the 13th series, I imagine that Jason X is a bit of an affront as it refuses to take anything about the franchise seriously. Granted, by this point Jason had been to Manhattan and Hell, so space was a reasonable destination for a series built around “guy in hockey mask obliterates people.”
You don’t need to have seen the previous nine installments of the Friday the 13th series to appreciate Jason X, and by all appearances, Jason X would prefer if you only knew the broad overview of the series, which is that there’s a guy in a mask with a machete, he can’t be killed, and he murders people indiscriminately. If you know the name “Tommy Jarvis”, you know too much about this series. You’re supposed to take Jason X at the broadest understanding possible, and then ask the question, “But what if it were in space?” And that’s how this knowingly idiotic and cynical cash-grab of a sequel works.
There’s a brief prologue where some scientists and the military are working on Jason’s (Kane Hodder) body, and scientist Rowan LaFontaine (Lexa Doig) argues that they should cryogenically freeze the killer. She’s ignored, Jason goes on a killing spree in the facility (offing a critically acclaimed movie director in the process!) before Rowan has to fight Jason, sending him into a cryogenic chamber, but she gets stabbed and they’re both frozen for 445 years. Cut to the year 2455, and a field trip of a ruined Earth discovers the two bodies and brings them back onto their spaceship where the professor sees an opportunity to make some money and the young students see an opportunity to have sex with each other because this movie knows exactly what it is.
Naturally, Jason awakens and starts going on a killing spree, and that’s the point of Jason X. If you can imagine Alien as stupid and poorly made and only interested in killing off the crew members, you’ll start to have a vague idea of what Jason X is trying to do. It is the fullest recognition that by this point in the series’ lifespan, the people behind it understood that there was no point in trying to make Jason scary because people went to these movies not to be thrilled, but to laugh knowingly with its premise. When a monster has been around as long as Jason Voorhees, he becomes oddly comforting even if he’s doing horribly violent things. Director Jim Isaac didn’t want to try and create terror in his audience; he wanted laughs, and that clearheaded vision makes Jason X work even if that success is frustrating to those who want to see the character in his element, and not, you know, outer space.
Once you accept that Jason X is a comedy and not a horror film or even trying to be a horror film, it’s oddly enjoyable, especially as a title on streaming that doesn’t demand too much of your attention. It’s Jason Voorhees on a spaceship killing people. There’s one really good kill involving some frozen nitrogen, and then beyond that it’s pretty standard stuff where the acting is bad, the sets are cheap, the cinematography is ugly, the VFX had already aged poorly in 2001, and yet Jason X somehow gets away with it all because it says, “These things are virtues, not flaws.” By dispensing with any notions of seriousness, Jason X pulls the Snakes on a Plane trick where its very nature is to wink at the audience and therefore it cannot be ridiculed, only indulged.
In this weird way, Jason X is both the apex and the nadir of the Friday the 13th franchise. It is the apex in that the premise is so well-worn and well-known that you could transplanted to space, and it would somehow still translate as long as you knew that what you were getting could no longer be scary. It would basically be “Here is Friday the 13th imagery in a new context, which only serves to highlight how silly this all is,” which in turn leads to its nadir, which is that if you genuinely would like a good Friday the 13th movie, Jason X has nothing but contempt for you and prefers to mock you endlessly. For everyone else, the unrelenting goofiness of Jason X is a pretty good time and worth watching before it leaves streaming.
Chu also tells Collider how working on ‘In the Heights’ prepared him for his next big-screen musical.
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