Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

The only Friday the 13th film to share its subtitle with a Muppet movie, 1989’s Jason Takes Manhattan opens with a canoodling couple boating on Crystal Lake. Just as the horny teen drops anchor (both literally and euphemistically) we get another accidental resurrection (he is a teenage boy after all) and our hockey-masked chastity advocate is back on the rampage. And this time he can fly apparently. 

Contrary to the pun on the back of the DVD, Jason doesn’t “paint the town red” so much as sail the ocean blue, since the majority of his 8th outing takes place on a high school graduation party boat. That Crystal Lake has enough teenagers graduating to populate a ship speaks volumes about Jason’s incompetence, but the premise does at least provide a new setting, even if it renders the title erroneous. Jason and the Argonauts would have been better. Or Muppet Treasure Island.

In writer/director Rob Hedden’s original plan: “Jason would go through department stores. He’d go through Times Square. He’d go into a Broadway play.” Sadly, budgetary restrictions kept this madness from fruition, leaving us with two half-baked ideas (the ship and the Manhattan sequence) for the price of one. Hedden mostly avoids the boring chitchat of the previous chapter and delivers non-stop, elaborate kills, involving a guitar, a sauna and a moment where Jason punches a victim’s head clean off and it lands in a dumpster.

Meanwhile Harry Manfredini’s (uncredited) score no longer goes “Ki ki ki ma ma ma” (as in “Kill her, Mommy!”), thereby abandoning the Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) stuff that made the first two instalments worthwhile. They were also the ones that featured Crazy Ralph, who gets a nod here from an expy with the line: “This voyage is doomed.” It’s an apt metaphor for the series, but not as apt as the ending where Jason (spoiler alert) literally drowns in shit. Seriously, Betsy Palmer is the only person who escaped this franchise with dignity. RIP.

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