Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
Dir. John Carl Buechler (1988)
Jason faces off against a telekinetic teenager in the seventh installment of the classic franchise.
In order for a series to go in a different direction, it's important to establish proper ground rules that make sense in the context of the series itself, even if those rules wouldn't apply to the real, natural world. For instance, in a series with a masked killer who calls his victims on the phone and questions their love of scary movies, it makes sense to pick the killers from human friends of the humans involved and for everyone in the friend group to be a valid suspect. In a film series about a doll that is possessed by the spirit of a serial killer, reanimating the doll through the same types of processes that animated him in the first place fits fully within the world of the film. Why, then, did the writers of Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood decide to take a world in which there just so happened to be a supernatural serial killer running amok and jam in a mysterious (and previously nonexistent) teenage girl with telekinetic powers who accidentally murdered her father and randomly releases Jason Voorhees from his watery grave? And why is there a narrator for the recap at the beginning of the film when no such narrator previously existed?
Be wary of proceeding with the film if you expect the answers to these questions, because The New Blood certainly doesn't have them. It also doesn't have very much in the way of excitement either, dragging along at a snail's pace as Jason methodically stalks a new group of teenagers who have set up camp next to his beloved Crystal Lake. The progress made by the previous film towards a more watchable series has been abandoned, and gone are the attempts at creating a funny and self-aware franchise that isn't afraid of skewering itself as well as other films in the genre. Gone, also, is the adequate acting, especially noticeable with new Final Girl Tina (Lar Park-Lincoln), who doesn't appear to be able to act her way out of a paper bag. To be fair to Park-Lincoln, the script is fairly nonsensical through most of the runtime, so she didn't have a lot to work with. The quality of the cinematography is every bit on par with Jason Lives, yet the actors feel lifted right out of the early 80's.
The telekinetic aspect of the film is a strange choice in and of itself. Jason is the one who has the "powers," not some random girl who can make televisions fly across the room when she gets upset. It's bizarre and could normally be excused, but it doesn't even make sense in the context of the singular film, either. It feels shoehorned in, as if the script was written for another movie and they decided to jam Jason into another movie. In reality, this film was supposed to be Freddy Vs. Jason, but New Line Cinema couldn't reach an agreement with Paramount. Rather than feature a heavyweight bout between two iconic slasher villains, Paramount chose... a teenage girl who can move things with her mind, because those are the same.
The only good addition to the franchise in this film is also its most bittersweet due to the breakdown between New Line and Paramount: this is Kane Hodder's first turn in the Voorhees role. While Hodder would eventually become the actor most identifiable as Jason, it's maddening to realize that he could've been in the Freddy Vs. Jason role right from the start. The issues that prevented a later showdown between Englund and Hodder ensure that we'll never get the faceoff between the two legends, but we can be thankful that this film exists because otherwise we might not have ever seen Hodder at all. Regardless of The New Blood's general failure as a film, the horror world is better off with it in existence for Hodder if nothing else.
The stylistic return to the F13 roots don't work great, especially because of the phenomenal success of Jason Lives, but it's somewhat understandable given the low box office return on that previous film. The stalk-and-slash model worked well for the first few films, and it does so in this film as well. In fact, the F13 part of Part VII works perfectly fine; it's the ridiculous Carrie crossover that really harms the rewatch value. It's otherwise not a terrible film, though it is a bit bloodless compared to the better entries in the series. All in all, you could do a lot worse, but you could also do a lot better, even within the franchise.
Who this movie is for: F13 completionists, Slasher aficionados, Prom queens with daddy issues
Bottom line: The New Blood is not new enough to make for a particularly good entry into the Friday franchise, but it does have a few bright spots, most notably the first appearance of superstar Kane Hodder as the hulking Voorhees. There's little blood, the token nudity (which actually comes across as egregious and exploitative), and enough Jason to make fans of the series happy, but there's also a bizarre plot about a telekinetic young woman for almost no reason whatsoever. This is a clear case of "what could have been," almost becoming what could've been a genre-breaking film pitting Freddy Krueger against the big man, but instead we got Friday the 13th by way of Firestarter. It's not god-awful, but it's not god-good either. Still worth a watch for fans of the series, if for nothing else than to see the beginnings of the always-amazing Hodder.