Ah, the fan film. Pretty much from the moment home movie equipment became available to laypeople in the 1950s, people were shooting home movies. Aside from the basic recording of familial moments like Christmases, birthdays, Jimmy’s first orgy with Sally from across the street and that busload of Yugoslavian carnies passing through town that one summer, and the like, people liked making their own big, Hollywood adventures.
My grandpa liked making a bunch of silly movies with my mom and aunt and my oldest brother. My other two brothers had a Super 8 camera in the 70s and 80s and made lots of home movies. This wasn’t quite like the VHS camcorders and digital cameras that came in my day. Oh no… Most of the time it was silent. If you wanted sound, my brothers had to painstakingly overdub their dialog while watching the movie through a projector.
Fan films existed pretty much from the get-go too. In the 50s, I’m willing to bet lots of families dressed their little kids up as Bogey and Bacall or Superman and Lois. Shit, my brothers made a movie called Grime as a take on the immensely popular Grease. Their movie starred hunky heartthrob John Travoltastein. Anyway… Horror, established sci-fi properties, and superheroes tend to be general go-to genres for fan films nowadays.
And this is what we have here – 1995’s Friday the 13th Part X – To Hell and Back starring a bunch of teenagers.
The origin of this movie comes about because after 1989’s Friday the 13th Part VIII – Jason Takes Manhattan failed to ignite a great deal of excitement from the fanbase and Paramount finally giving up the ghost on continuing to produce a laughable number of sequels to a series they were already embarrassed to release, they sold the character to New Line Cinema who were the caretakers of Jason’s chief horror icon rival of the 80s, Freddy Kruger. In 1993, New Line brought Friday the 13th creator Sean Cunningham in to make a new movie and he wanted to do things pretty differently. Boy was it “differently”.
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday is a piece of shit. Let that be said right now. It’s shit. Stinky shit. And it seemingly did what neither Paramount would or bad box office receipts could do… Kill the Jason Voorhees series. But only in real life. Jason Goes to Hell ends on a cliffhanger that promised a showdown with Freddy. But that took a really, really long time to figure out how to do. What most people weren’t so sure about is when, or HOW, Jason would return.
So, leave it to fans to try to figure it out. A couple teenage fans of the series from Bucks County, Pennsylvania would step up to the plate to bridge that gap.
This movie is like 85 minutes long. Teenagers, in the mid 90s, made a full length movie, on a camcorder, and distributed hand copied VHS tapes to people so they could see it. You know what I was doing in 1995? Eating a fuckload of Chicken McNuggets and watching the clock tick away until I graduated that June. I wasn’t making a full-length horror fan film with legit makeup and various other effects. I’m a fucking loser!
Friday X (as I call it for interest of me not having to type out the entire title all the way through this damn article) was the brainchild of Jason Voorhees fan, David B. Stewart III. As I said, after Jason Goes to Hell came out, it seemed as though the series was, well, dead. Stewart wasn’t going to have any of that shit. He got together with his friend, Sean Hutcheon, and wrote their own damn Friday the 13th movie that would bring Jason back to life.
They didn’t have any money, but they had a camcorder, some VHS tapes, time on their hands, and lots of imagination. They got a bunch of students from Central Bucks High School East in Pennsylvania (by the way, I think PA is the world capital for no budget shot on video movies), and they made their movie in the early part of 1995 and it was edited by October of the same year.
Do you believe that shit? They could wrangle high school kids enough to have a completely written, produced, shot, and edited film completed within 8-10 months. We can’t even get a halfway decent Fantastic Four movie and these people did an entire movie on no money and no professional help in a matter of months. That’s pretty amazing.
What’s even more special about this is that these are literal kids with a camcorder. There are many, many great fan films out there with Jedi, Batman, Star Trek guys, Spider-Man, the alien from Aliens, and more that do a great deal with the 5-20 minutes they will make and show off as an almost demo reel of what they can do with costumes, lighting, editing, and other technical aspects. But they might take as long or longer than these kids took from start to finished product. That’s not me being disparaging. I’m just being truthful. Without seeing a single frame of this movie, you have to understand the total dedication and effectiveness they had with what was at their disposal to create a feature length movie.
When you have a true understanding of a genre, or a particular series. You can simply get your friends together, go to the woods, and film around a lake. That’s it. You don’t have to have Freddy right now. You don’t have to go outside the normal settings of…
Well you don’t have to go far at all from normal stomping grounds is what I am saying.
The credits do a nice job of showing shots of a campground. They have cabins, lakes, etc. Everything is nicely creepy and moody. Then, we go into the titles and it appropriately does that thing where the credits appear in the corners like the old Paramount movies did. I will say one critique off the top, and this is hardly the fault of Stewart or Hutcheon – this is rolling off the continuity of Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. That’s by far, at least in my book (and this is my blog so this IS MY BOOK, goddammit), the worst of the series. So we have to still deal with the bullshit from that movie. I wish it was following up from the last actual Paramount film, Jason Takes Manhattan, but, y’know… Beggars, choosers, stinky stinky.
But whatever. The movie begins with a girl walking along the road wearing a sheriff’s jacket, before flashing on screen – “One Day Earlier – Friday, June 13.) The guy who owned that jacket the girl is wearing is walking through town having a beer and eatin’ a beef stick. Somehow, this high school kid’s fake mustache is less fake than the fake mustaches used in any Sleepaway Camp movie. We then meet two girls and a boy being driven somewhere by the guy’s grandma. While they are headed wherever they are going, mustache cop meets other cop with no mustache.
These kids are wearing costumes that look like actual fucking cop uniforms. Again… This movie isn’t messing around with its quality.
The two cops complain that they don’t really have anything to do in this town. Nothing’s been happening at all in Crystal Lake. No Stache says he wouldn’t be surprised at all if they got laid off due to the nothing in town. It’s mentioned that Jason has been dead and that’s probably the cause of everything being so slow, but the guy who runs the restaurant they’re at reacts suspiciously by asking if what they said was true, and then not really believing it. Stachey has to suddenly leave not realizing what time it is.
The kids get to the lake house, but in the woods near the lake, a group of black clad teens plan to do some satanic shenanigans. Jason Voorhees resurrection shenanigans. Two kids hanging out at the lake house, who are maybe sweet on each other (I can’t say for sure), go to the lake to talk and, I dunno, it’s 1995, so probably smoke a joint. The guy sees the road to the old camp, but the girl doesn’t think it’s a good idea to go there since it is condemned. The guy, a complete moron, thinks it would be cool to see where all the murders happen. Deputy No Statche tells them to scram.
The kids doing the dumb thing of bringing Jason back to life have a book… It was a book owned previously by Pamela Voorhees. This book has all sorts of spells and spooky passages in it and it also… It’s the Necronomicon, okay? These kids have a Necronomocon that the main kid found at a thrift shop and got his mom to buy it for him. Anyway, it being the “Book of the Dead” and it being owned by Pamela Voorhees, they feel like it is capable of bringing back Jason. The lead black clad kid puts on his little black robe and start performing a Black Mass. It’s a like something that could come right of a Hammer film. When he exclaims, “BRING BACK JASON VOORHEES!” the campfire ignites higher, there’s lightning and thunder and suddenly their book bleeds.
The younger kids think they saw something in the woods, and the lead guy goes to check it out and he’s heard screaming. One of the younger kids goes to check on the leader, and he’s found killed. Jason is back and he grabs the kid and drowns him. The second kid takes a rock to the fuckin’ head.
The kids at the lake house recap some Jason tidbits. We also get some general teenager stuff. I’m also going to start sussing out some of these characters too. We have tall boy (the boy who wanted to go look at all the cool murder shit at the closed down camp), short boy (who is the son of Sheriff Stache… maybe?), brunette girl (who went with tall boy on that walk earlier), and blonde girl. Tall boy looks out the window at the storm that is whipping up and when the lightning flashes he sees a guy with a hockey mask on looking inside.
Jason decides that those kids aren’t quite yet ripe enough to start picking off, so he decides to go check out what else the town has to offer. And what do you know? There’s a kid walking out past after curfew and gets picked up by a cop. As they are headed off to wherever, the kid sees Jason standing in the road. He has the cop stop and he starts looking for whatever the kid thinks he saw only to be attacked by Jason. You know, as you do when you do stupid shit in New Jersey. The kid picked up for breaking curfew takes off running, but Jason just casually follows him into the woods. The kid has no hope of escaping and gets his ass killed.
At the lake house, Deputy No Stache comes by to check on the kids hanging out. There’s something I really like about each scene at the lake house. Both inside and outside, whenever you are there, you’re hearing basically the greatest hits of songs from the old Friday the 13th movies. There’s even the military style goofy music for this town drunk who encounters Deputy No Stache from Part VI.
Is this that great of a movie in a narrative sense? Not especially. It’s not bad, but it’s far from great. Does it really love the Friday the 13th movies? Oh fuck yeah it does. It knows how to make a serviceable 80s style slasher. For the most, part it comes solely from the love of the series.
Joe, brother of short boy, comes home with an army friend of his. The kids order a pizza while they listen to Joe and army friend’s stories. Our Sheriff Stache and Deputy No Stache is also having pizza and just talking boring bullshit because, remember, town is boring.
Things are about to get a lot less boring because Jason is hanging out around the lake house. Army friend wants ice cream – which is kept in the fridge in the garage/shed/barn thing – where Jason was last seen going into. If you don’t think army friend is in serious deep shit… Well, my friend, you know nothing of Friday the 13th.
Mind you, we’re only 40 minutes in, and we’ve had 6 kills. That’s a pretty good clip you’re working on, Mr. Voorhees! But no time for that… It’s time for teenager going for a midnight swim in a bikini! A girl comes outside for a nice little swim in her pool and Jason pops up behind her to kill her. That’s… Look, Stewart and Hutcheon really like the series and they are having a ton of fun with the Jason popping up with almost Nightcrawler-esque teleportation powers. They did it earlier with the guy who got picked up for breaking curfew, and they did it again with Hottie McBikinibody in the pool. They basically do it a third time by having Jason suddenly return to the lake house to kill the pizza guy. It’s fun. This is the 10th Friday the 13th movie…
Yeyeyeyeyeah… THIS is the 10th Friday the 13th movie. You gotta have some fun and just still play with the formula and the tropes.
Speaking of tropes. It’s time for our main characters to face some trouble. The army buddy hasn’t been seen for a while and the pizza’s there. The first to go is short boy who went looking for him and only found blood. Next up is blonde girl who is now looking for both army friend and short boy only to find DEEEEAAAAAATH! Death by way of giant drill.
We’re at the 47-minute mark (exactly) and holy damn we’ve had 10 people die – 2 of which were characters we’ve been with since really early on in the movie! Jason is NOT fucking around this time.
Tall boy finds dead pizza boy. Brunette girl and Joe decide to go looking for whatever might be amiss. Brunette girl is not holding up especially well when the power is cut by Jason. Oh and tall boy is pretty much a husk of withering and whiny nothing at this point. Joe, he’s an army guy. I’m sure he’ll do well against Jason. I guess so because Jason hides in the shed until Joe walks by so he can then sneak into the house and kill tall boy.
So, here we go… We’re in our final act. We have brunette girl and Joe. Sheriff Stache and Deputy No Stache. And then that Jason fella left. No Stache goes to check some stuff out a the house. Brunette girl emerges from her hiding place in the closet and greets him at the door and tells him all about the zany stuff happening at this crazy sleepover. The Deputy goes looking for short boy and Joe. He finds pretty much everyone’s body in the shed. Thankfully, Joe’s body had a grenade in his pocket. I mean if you’re going to be off-screened to death, at least have a grenade for another character to pick up and use, am I right?
No Stache gives brunette girl his jacket so… Hey! Symmetry with the beginning of the movie. They hear a noise and No Stache goes to check it out only to run into Jason. Jason tosses the deputy around like a ragdoll. Before he kills the deputy, brunette girl stops him and stabs him. So, he begins chasing her. She’s doing pretty good at staying ahead of Jason, and clearly she has some sort of Leech-like powers to nullify his Nightcrawler-esque teleportation powers. He does catch up, but this time, it’s No Stache who comes to the rescue so she can run away.
Now, these guys have a bit of history. Jason killed No Stache’s dad back in the day. So to get him back, No Stache takes that grenade he picked up from Joe and blows his ass up. And, legit, that works! The next morning brings us back to the start of the movie with the brunette girl walking along the girl. Sheriff Stache comes home and notices things are a bit off. There’s a knife on the ground with blood on it, the shed door is open, things are fucked up. He goes looking for No Stache. Instead, he finds the blown to bits remains of No Stache… and Jason’s mask.
Here’s where we get a little of that Jason Goes to Hell bullshit. Stache is compelled to put on the mask. This basically turns him into the new Jason.
Can you imagine how bad that mask must smell?
So that one kid at the beginning that we thought was drowned the night before by Jason apparently is not dead, but he runs right into the new Jason – Sheriff Stache…er…son. He axes that kid to fuck and that’s it. The movie ends.
I’m jealous as all get out that these people made this movie and all I did in high school is… well it wasn’t this, let me tell you. Again, this isn’t the best thing ever, but holy hot damn they did a lot with what they had. A whole fucking lot. It’s charming. It’s fun. Most importantly, it’s competent. I’m not sure you can ask for anything more out of a mid-90s shot-on-video movie done simply out of love. This gets a big ass A for effort all the way through.
Okay, sure this was freshened up with a “Redux” version 10 years ago, which probably cleaned up some of the edits, some of the titles maybe, probably some music, etc. Still, though, if the original 1995 was half of what we got here, damn, kids. You did quite alright. So that’s where I’ll leave it for this week. Next week, I think it’s best to say the kids were NOT alright when the idea for Bloodsucking Freaks was conceived, shot, and released. So be back here in seven short days to hang out with me at Master Sardu’s Theatre of the Macabre!
(Seriously… Friday the 13th Part X – To Hell and Back is better than Jason Goes to Hell. I mean it. Go to YouTube and watch it for yourself.)
I see you there, Uber Jason. Get your ass back over to Film Seizure. That’s where you’re supposed to be right now.