Welcome back, dear readers! The Mausoleum of Memories is open and ready for business, so please gather around. Don’t forget to take off your heads and bow your hats – or maybe it’s the other way around? – as we pay our respects to the deliriously departed dead. Our old pal Jason has finally gone where all good little murderers find themselves. No, not Milwaukee – Hell. That’s right! In this edition we take a look back at Jason Goes to Hell.
This movie had everything going for it at the time. Chiefly being – Sean S. Cunningham was returning to the film series he created. Unbeknownst to us at the time though, Cunningham was only coming back to the beloved franchise because he wanted to make Freddy vs. Jason, a movie that wouldn’t see the light of day for another ten years. Jason Goes to Hell was a film meant to spark people’s interests in the upcoming monster brawl and keep the series rolling.
Once again, Kane Hodder would wear the iconic hockey mask and fans expected one Hell of a movie out of this experience, if for nothing but the very title of the movie alone!
However, there were meetings happening behind the scenes none of the die-hard loyalists were aware of at the time. Plans were being made to not only shift the franchise into unfamiliar territory, but the people behind JGtH intended to ignore all previous films except for the first two.
This was something new-comer director Adam Marcus was very open to. The team was looking to do something brand new and were willing to take a lot of risks. Also according to Marcus, Cunningham dictated the plot and went so far as to tell him, “I want that damn hockey mask out of the movie. So whatever you come up with, let’s make that movie.”
That sentiment is not widely shared though.
“Jason is not nearly as scary when the mask comes off. Even if his face is hideously deformed, the ominous presence of that mask is what really makes the character.” – Kane Hodder, ‘Jason Voorhees’. Personally, I couldn’t agree more. The mask Jason wears is not simply vital to that character, but is part of the character.
Noel Cunningham (Crystal Lake Entertainment) admitted that they decided to mess with the mythology a little bit as well, and even uses Halloween III: Season of the Witch – a movie that threw Michael Myers out of the franchise and has outraged many fans of Halloween to this very day – as inspiration.
In the stunning documentary Crystal Lake Memories, actor John D. LeMay admits the plan was: “To create a mythology out of these previous eight films that really weren’t in any way leading to a mythology, so he had to kind of create it from scratch.”
Did all these innovative plans work out? And how does the movie hold up?
Jason Goes to Hell opens with a lone camper who has her late-night shower interrupted by the sudden appearance of Jason Voorhees. There is no lead up, nor is there any exposition prerequisite to the scene. Jason just shows up ready to kill.
I have to admit that this particular look for Jason is one of my top two favorites. The tumorous growths around his lumpy head gives him a diseased look. The putrid flesh has also grown into the mask and just looks gruesome as well as painful.
The camper escapes her close call with a violent death and upon chasing her outside Jason finds himself in a top secret trap laid out by the FBI. To the dismay of many, many, many fans Jason is then blown up into iddy-biddy pieces. Right at the beginning of the movie.
So now what? With our beloved killer blown to Hell already, what could they possibly do to fill the span of an entire film to make it worth our while?
Not to fear, everyone! Plenty of killer antics were in store for us, as well as some gory goodness. And we didn’t have long to wait.
Now, the coroner examining the charred remains of poor Jason must have skipped lunch. Because out of nowhere, that barbecued heart of Jason’s sure must have looked tasty and the man just couldn’t help himself and had to take a big ol’ juicy bite.
The man gnaws on the oozing heart until he finds himself possessed by the evil spirit of Jason. So…Jason’s dead but also alive and is now being carried around like a parasitic demon worm passing from one host to the next.
It may sound as though I’m making fun of this movie, but I’m honestly just breaking the film’s plot down. This is a weird entry to the franchise, and usually met with a lot of hostility from the fans. It certainly goes into some strange territory.
For example, we learn about Jason’s long-lost sister, a character we’ve never heard about in any of the eight previous films in the established franchise.
Also there is a Jason hunter, Creighton Duke (Steven Williams) who knows everything there is to know about Jason, but he’s someone we (the fans ) know not a single thing about. He just shows up – like everyone else in this movie – with no lead up, talks about how he thinks of little girls in pretty dresses (Creep!) and then breaks the fingers of our protagonist in exchange for some vital Jason-stopping information.
Wouldn’t it have been more interesting if this had been Tommy Jarvis? It would have at least tied into the rest of the franchise and given this odd movie a bit more credibility. It would also have given fans more of a connection, rather than a constant sense of isolation. Or at the very least it would have been easy to add some line in his dialogue saying he had been trained by Tommy and that’s why he’s so good at tracking Jason down.
All I’m saying is there’s a reason the game included Tommy Jarvis as a playable character, and not Duke.
What hurts this movie among fans is its complete disconnection to the previous entries. It has the feeling of a bizarre standalone project.
Even the movie that followed it (Jason X) completely ignores the events of Jason Goes to Hell. As a matter of fact it almost feels more like a direct sequel to Manhattan. At the end of Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan, we see Jason melt and get washed away. Then at the beginning of Jason X we see the big guy locked together in chains and David Cronenberg explains that the monster is priceless to biological research because of his ability to regenerate and never die.
As in yes, he melted away in Manhattan, but later his cells reconstructed back together again giving him new life. Which – when you think about it – certainly would explain why Jason looks differently from movie to movie.
Jason Goes to Hell is kind of its own little thing though. It doesn’t bridge any story gaps between the series. It does some truly weird things that are completely out of character for a character we all know and love. For instance, Jason doesn’t talk. He can’t. However, Jason does talk in Goes to Hell and it’s had fans’ heads spinning ever since.
Does it deserve to be hated? No. Despite all of its quirkiness it’s still a fun movie to watch, and at the heart of all these films that’s the point. They’re fun to watch. We might have to click our brains off or lower our expectations a little before watching Goes to Hell, but like I said, Kane Hodder looks amazing in the makeup.
And the marketing for this movie was outstanding! We were all pumped to see this one. The poster alone was enough to make us sneak into the theater against our parents’ wishes.
I still like this one, regardless of its break with continuity.
Truth is, we loved it for the thing it promised – an upcoming battle between both of our favorite slasher killers. At the end of Goes to Hell we see a discarded hockey mask laying in the sand. Suddenly a familiar razor-tipped glove bursts out of the ground and drags the mask down to what we can only presume to be Hell where Freddy is waiting to fight Jason.
This was the best advertisement to Freddy vs Jason ever! And we couldn’t wait to see that gruesome fight.
What if Jason Goes to Hell is indeed perfectly canon and doesn’t break any continuity? What if the whole movie is a terrible dream Jason is having during his regenerative phase? What if that’s the foothold Freddy needed to get inside Jason’s head and set in motion the events of Freddy vs Jason?
I’m cool with that.