April 26th, 2001. Jason X is released into theaters. That same day, a young, Friday the 13th obsessed me entered the theater to watch Jason return. A few hours later, that same me walked out of the theater with the biggest smile on my face. Jason Voorhees went to freaking space, and he kicked a whole lot of ass. I was on such a Jason high that I might as well have been in space myself. It wasn’t until later that I realized I was in the minority. People thought Jason X was bad.
Camp, cheese, shlock – Jason X leans hard into all of them. The Friday the 13th franchise has never been a franchise to shy away from using humor and poking fun at its own insane premise and rehashing that premise through repetitive sequels. And though Jason X was doing the same thing, perhaps dialed up to 11, for some reason early audiences didn’t eat it up. But, slowly but surely, Jason X fans are coming out of the woodwork. Horror fans are starting to recognize that although it is set on a spaceship 400+ years in the future, Jason X is a classic Friday the 13th film through and through. And if you don’t believe me, I’m going to break it down.
Plot (Jason Kills), Setting (Where Jason Kills), and Characters (Who Jason Kills)
After nine films, a Friday the 13th film really only has one plot requirement: have Jason hack his way through a group of people – preferably teenagers – until there’s a final girl, and have her defeat him (for the time being). But again, after nine films, there’s got to be something new to the story. Enter Jason X. This is where writer Todd Farmer came in, and suggested that Jason be put in space. Rumor has it that New Line, Kane Hodder, and everyone thought it was a joke. Nope. Farmer was serious, and his pitch got the thumbs up.
Though it is set in space, Jason X still has the F13 formula splattered all over it. You have your mouthy, horny teenagers and miscellaneous victims. You have your secluded area for Jason to do this thing. But! It’s set in space so there are all kinds of new elements to combine with the classic elements. Yay, Space!
Instead of Camp Crystal Lake, the town of Crystal Lake, a cruise ship, or the shamefully underused Manhattan, Jason X takes place upon the Grendel; a sturdy spaceship that is a vessel for a team of young scientists. One can’t let a F13 movie happen without extra victim fodder aside from the youths. Also aboard the ship are the teacher scientist, the ship’s crew, a spunky A.I. robot, and a group of grunts, that I assume all ships need in the future. Tack on to that a frozen Jason and a frozen scientist who stopped Jason in the past (Lexa Doig), and you have your cast of characters.
There are many characters aboard the Grendel, but there are a few standouts. For me, Janessa (Melyssa Ade), Brodski (Peter Mensah) and Kay-Em (Lisa Ryder) supply the best moments. While the other characters are nearly carbon copies of characters seen before in the franchise, these three are relatively new energies. The majority of Janessa’s lines are trailer worthy (see trailer). She’s a witty, take-no-shit kind of lady. Kay-Em, the AI robot, is a spoof of AI characters that came before her, but serves as the heart of the film while still delivering Jason X’s most fun moments. Brodski is the absolute badass of the film. He takes stabs, slices, punches, and explosions, and still manages to keep coming back just as hard as Jason does.
Jason X – to me – is the ultimate film in which Kane Hodder proves why his name is synonymous with Jason Voorhees. As regular Jason, he is terrifying. We all know that the posture, stature, and brutal ways of attacking his victims is what makes Hodder’s turn as Jason Voorhees standout. And in Jason X, while Jason is onscreen in the first half of the film, we get nostalgic throwbacks to Hodder’s performances prior. The posture is exactly the same: menacing and bulky. His attacks are brutal and unnerving. The quiet moments where Jason is lurking in the shadows are creepy and satisfying. As he upgrades to UberJason, Hodder upgrades his performance. His movements are more precise and clean while still sticking to that ol’ Voorhees formula.
Can’t have a Friday the 13th without kills, right? Jason X’s are top-notch. While you get your standard slice and dice that we are all familiar with, the futuristic setting gives Jason some new toys. When you think of the kills in Jason X, I’m sure your mind goes straight to poor Adrienne (Kristi Angus). Jason sticks her head into a sink of liquid nitrogen, instantly freezing her, then slams her head against the counter which crushes her face into a million little frozen, gory pieces. We go on to get a guy impaled on a drill who slowly slides down it, another guy crawling away with half a body after Jason machetes it in half, and poor Janessa gets sucked into outer space through a grate which filets her entire body, leaving only scraps of her dangling from the grate. Jason isn’t only responsible for the kills aboard the Grendel, but has been given fault to the destruction of a whole space station that the Grendel blasts through thanks to him beheading the pilot of the ship. Add the population of that space station to Jason’s 20+ kills throughout the film, and you get a pretty high – although unofficial – kill count.
Point of View, Style, Theme, and Tone : All Say Friday the 13th
We know why Jason kills. We know what leads him to kill. The tone in which Todd Farmer’s writing and James Isaac’s directing shows that they were fully aware of what a Friday the 13th film needs to succeed.
While there isn’t as much as previous entries, the monicker of sex and drugs among teenagers does make an appearance. Kinsa (Melody Johnson) and Stoney (Yani Gellman) go off to fool around instead of assisting the team with the thawing of their newly found subjects. There seems to be no life at all in Jason until Stoney brings Kinsa to her climax. It was that transgression that brought Jason to life, and flips his switch from dormant corpse to beast mode.
Then there’s the infamous VR scene that takes Jason back to Camp Crystal Lake. It’s a small bit in the film that makes a huge impact on fans of the series. The two totally unaware counselors stripping naked with promises of booze, pot, and premarital sex is such a cheap shot at the previous entries, but honors them at the same time. Ending the scene with a double whammy of the infamous sleeping bag kill from The New Blood was just icing on the cake. And it proves that within Jason’s world, these are the things that drive his anger. Even with all of the new applied hardware that his upgrade has given him as UberJason, he is still classic Jason Voorhees at his very core.
From here on out, the theme and tone speak the language of F13 so well with the subsequent kills, stalk sequences, and dumb decisions while adding on so many wonderfully memorable moments that make Jason X so damn special.
On the DVD’s commentary track, director Jim Isaacs states, “My idea was to[…] put this team together of creative people, and make a movie better than maybe you’d expect from a Jason ten.” For this uberfan of Jason X, Isaacs did just that with his team while still keeping true to what the Friday franchise is all about.
What do you think of Jason X? Is it a classic Friday the 13th film at heart, or is it just a slasher cash-grab? Use your futuristic technology and let us know over on Twitter, our subreddit, or at The Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook.