Great Bad Movies: "Jason X" (2002)
Evil Gets An Upgrade!
You gotta give New Line Pictures credit: when they took over the aging "Friday the 13th" franchise from Paramount Pictures in the early 1990s, they obviously decided that they weren't going to take the easy way out by making more of the usual "Jason chops up horny campers in the woods" installments. Instead, someone must have said, "Let's go NUTS!" That's the only possible explanation for New Line's first attempt to juice up F13's mythology, 1993's abysmal Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday - which suddenly gave Jason the ability to jump in and out of other people's bodies and shoehorned in more Voorhees back story than there had been in the previous eight Fridays combined. JGTH was a misfire that tanked at the box office, and Jason languished for a few years afterward as New Line tried unsuccessfully to get Freddy Vs. Jason out of development hell. When Jason finally returned from cinematic purgatory in 2002, New Line upped the insanity ante even further by sending him into space (!) in the science fiction/slasher mashup Jason X.
More than a dozen years after its release, Jason X is still one of the most hotly debated films in the Friday the 13th canon. The hard core slasher audience absolutely hates the film, but it seems to have developed a cult audience among sci-fi fans who may not care for other F13 films, but love Jason X. No matter what side of the argument you're on, you have to give this one a spin just to appreciate how over-the-top it is!
The plot is pretty straightforward: sometime in the near future, Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder, wearing the hockey mask for the fourth time) has been captured by the U.S. military, who want to study his interesting regenerative abilities. (Sharp eyed fans may recognize horror legend David Cronenberg in a surprise cameo as a government scientist.) Dr. Roan (the attractive Lexa Doig, of TV's Andromeda and Arrow) favors a plan to cryogenically freeze Jason rather than study him, so he will no longer be a danger to the public at large. As you might expect, things go horribly wrong. Jason gets loose, massacres a bunch of Army types, and in the midst of the chaos Dr. Roan manages to sucker Big J into the cryo-freezer... but not before she is seriously wounded by the machete wielding maniac and ends up frozen right alongside him.
400-plus years later, a team of archaeology students from "Earth 2" arrives on a scavenging mission on our ruined planet. Apparently in this future, Earth has been polluted to the point where Humanity had to go find another planet to live on. They uncover the still-frozen Jason and Roan and take both of the human Popsicles on board their space shuttle for further study. Before you can say "that's probably not a very good idea," the group has arrived at their mother ship "Grendel," Jason has defrosted and awakened from his centuries of sleep, and soon he's causing havoc on a Galactic level, carving up not only the students that populate this space-going laboratory, but also the platoon of Space Marines that are assigned to protect them. The scientists also defrost Dr. Roan -- who, it must be noted, handles the news that she's been asleep for 400-plus-years extremely well -- and soon she's forced to lead the rapidly-dwindling group of students in their battle to survive against the 20th century psychopath.
Naturally when I first read about the plot of this film, I thought it sounded absolutely ridiculous. As it turns out, Jason X is indeed ridiculous, but in a way that totally works. I had a blast picking out which parts of this film were stolen from other sci-fi movies (the Alien series is definitely the most pilfered) as Jason found new and futuristic ways to do away with the teenage cast. I won't go into detail about all of the methods that Jason uses, but I will mention that Jason X contains my all time favorite kill scene in the entire F13 series: when he shoves an unfortunate young scientist's head into a tub of liquid nitrogen, then slams her frozen face into a tabletop so it shatters like a beer bottle.
Honestly, aside from its futuristic setting, the bulk of Jason X follows the same formula as any other earth-bound Friday The 13th flick. I found it almost comforting that even four centuries from now, teenyboppers will still be promiscuous idiots who have no clue what to do when a hulking, machete-wielding zombie in a hockey mask shows up at their door. Eventually the crew's Terminatrix style female android, "Kay-Em 14," whips out some BFG's (that's Big F'ing Guns) to open up a gigantic can of high-caliber whoop-ass on The Big J, but if you think that's going to finish him you've obviously never seen an F13 movie before. The ship's medical computer rebuilds Jason's trashed body in the final act, transforming him into an even bigger, angrier, more hulking bad-ass dubbed "Uber-Jason!" This sure beat watching yet another cast of nondescript teenagers running through the woods and hiding out in deserted camp cabins!
Jason X was the first film in the Friday The 13th series to make use of CGI special effects, which becomes distracting after a while -- mainly because the art form has progressed so much in the years since this film was released. Jason X's CGI may have been cutting edge in 2002, but it looks pretty damn chintzy now. Aside from that minor complaint, Jason X kept my attention for its full run time (which is not something I can say about many of the other F13 sequels) and has held up well to repeated viewings. I've found that Jason X works better if you look at it as a parody of the Friday series, rather than a serious entry in the never ending saga of Jason Voorhees.
© 2017 Keith Abt