Directed by the late Jim Isaac, 2001’s “Jason X” is a widely reviled entry in the ongoing canon of Voorhees-centric slasher movies. And I re-watched it, so that you don’t have to.
Actually, that’s unfair – I do have a soft spot for flicks which blend sci-fi and horror and “Jason X” performs that task unquestionably. Whether it constitutes a decent horror movie is another issue, as one element that you might reasonably expect from an entry in the “Friday the 13th” saga is for the odd jump scare or suspenseful stalk-and-slash sequence to scare the wiggins out of you. And, regrettably, your correspondent must inform you that this is the least scary horror movie that I’ve watched in quite some years.
Perhaps that has something to do with the future setting – there’s something about the unholy mash-up of sci-fi vehicles, habitats and technology depicted which robs the film of genuine scares. As many of the cast are wholly disposable military grunts in the vein of “Aliens” or “Halo”, there’s very little sense of danger, as we know that no amount of heavy weaponry will put a dent in Camp Crystal Lake’s most horrific native. And we also know that Jason’s modus operandi is to despatch the cast one by one until a final girl (or boy) is left alive to lure Jason to his climactic doom.
That final girl, this time around, is also a first girl – the film begins with scientist Rowan (Lexa Doig) whose attempt to put Jason into cryogenic deep freeze is rudely undone by a military/scientific team led by a cameoing David Cronenberg, who wishes to experiment on Jason to see what makes him tick. With an inevitability that sustains this evergreen horror franchise, Rowan manages to trap Jason in cryo at the expense of her own life as she’s put on ice with the machete-wielding maniac.
Jump forward to the year 2455. Earth is toast and science students are on a field trip to the decaying husk. They salvage the cryo tank and the on-ice due of Rowan and Jason. As in any B-movie of note, a decision is made to study the pair, which leads to another go-round of hide-and-go-kill, only this time in space.
At a refreshingly brisk 92 minutes, “Jason X” delivers the goods in terms of body count – 21 actual people, one virtual reality alien, two VR campers, the assorted crew and personnel of a space station – whilst cleverly side-stepping the idea of continuity by being set far in the future.
In terms of performances, Lexa Doig and Lisa Ryder (at the time, both actresses were cast in the syndicated “Andromeda” tv sci-fi series) make the biggest mark, with Ryder’s turn as cyborg Kay-Em 14 being particularly charming. It’s the latter character who – for a little while, at least – gets to put the wrassling-style smack-down on Mr Voorhees once she’s upgraded by her maker/lover Tsunaron.
Ultimately, the issue with “Jason X” is that whilst it diverts and entertains for the majority of it’s running time, it never really surprises, with the conventional beats being hit on cue and the outcome never really being in doubt. Of course, at this point, a viewer of the “Friday the 13th” series knows essentially what they’re getting and it would be an unwise film-maker who tries to subvert the expectations of the horror hardcore.
The biggest issue is the total lack of scares in the film. There’s gore galore and the usual stalk-and-slash mechanics are well in evidence, but the film doesn’t really want to make you jump out of your seat. There’s no sense of dread here – it’s almost a film that you could watch with the family, were it not for the frequent displays of eye-rollingly mandatory T&A and salty dialogue.
If you’ve not seen this entry in the series, it’s certainly worth a look, so long as you don’t expect it to reinvent the language of cinematic terror. For that, we might have to look to look to the in-development reboot by revamp specialists Platinum Dunes. I’m expecting some kind of found-footage effort, but we shall see whether the current tropes of horror are enough to give this old slasher a jump-start.