Time gets incredibly weird when talking about the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise. Whether it’s how quickly the films became enmeshed in popular culture, how they were greeted upon release vs. how they are viewed now—or even within the narratives themselves with multiple time-jumps in the continuity. Prior to FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING (also simply known as FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING), Jason Voorhees had only appeared in 3 other franchise entries as the principle antagonist. And only in 1.5 of those movies was he wearing a hockey mask which would swiftly become iconic. Up to (and including) A NEW BEGINNING, each of these FRIDAY THE 13TH titles were released every year from 1980 to 1985—not a long lifespan to cultivate fandom and iconography, but it happened as “Friday the 13th” was (and is) synonymous with Jason and a hockey mask.
But when the developmentally challenged and emotionally scarred recluse with a proclivity for murder and an overly developed sense of morality was killed in THE FINAL CHAPTER, someone needed to fill those shoes. Resurrect Jason from the dead less than 12 months later? Long lost sibling? Alternate dimension? Host for some odd demonic entity? No. Instead, A NEW BEGINNING‘s filmmakers tried out an inspired, but muddled, path to bestow the horror hockey mask on someone else.
(SPOILERS FOR FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING, A 35 YEAR OLD FILM)
Released 35 years ago today, FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING was directed by Denny Steinmann (THE UNSEEN, SAVAGE STREETS) from a script written by him, Martin Kitrosser, and David Cohen (actor John Shepherd, who played grown up Tommy Jarvis, reportedly helped punch up the screenplay as well). Paramount Pictures was simply making too much money off the carnage at Crystal Lake to let the franchise die…but THE FINAL CHAPTER really made a big deal out of the fact that they killed Jason off once and for all, and most cinematic series hadn’t done the “quick resurrection” trope yet. Plus, for all of its impossibilities, FRIDAY THE 13TH was still ‘grounded’ in reality away from any supernatural elements which would make it hard to continue Jason’s story.
Luckily, PART IV also planted a seed for a potential new direction (or a new beginning, if you will. you won’t? fair enough)—with the final moments focusing on Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman), giving off serious deranged vibes after going full hack’n’slash on Jason in the movie’s climax. Has a new homicidal lunatic taken up residence in Crystal Lake?
Kinda! The script and story went through a lot of permutations around the idea of taking place in a mental institution (with shades of all sorts of other slasher films like HALLOWEEN II and X-RAY). One idea was for Ginny (Amy Steele), sole survivor of PART II to be hunted around this hospital by a Jason-like person. Eventually these concepts congealed into a pretty twisting story that touched on Tommy Jarvis’ ongoing trauma, a facility for mental health, a new person carrying on the Jason persona…and a whole bunch of backstory and tangents. While the film begins with Feldman returning as Tommy Jarvis, it’s merely for a dream sequence to learn that Tommy is still haunted by the specter of Jason all these years later. Feldman was unable to participate in A NEW BEGINNING as he was busy making THE GOONIES—but they were able to shoot this scene in his backyard to create some semblance of continuity of character as it goes from dream version of Tommy to suddenly awake and panicked version of a much older Tommy—now played by John Shepherd. And no, they look nothing alike.
Tommy is on his way to a halfway house/psychological facility…unfortunately located near Crystal Lake. I’m no big city doctor…but maybe don’t send the traumatized teen back to the location of his trauma? In any case, Tommy has spent many years since THE FINAL CHAPTER ended getting treatment and this is meant to be the next step before acclimating back into society. Once he arrives at Pinehurst Halfway House, he is greeted by a bunch of characters that all very thinly sketched out issues—some are developmentally challenged, some may have semblances of nymphomania, some have a stutter, some have rage issues, and some just like listening to New Age music on their Walkman.
It’s ill-defined what the actual program is that is happening here or how any of these troubled youths are receiving care outside of some chores. One of those chores is to chop wood, and so the clearly rage-fueled man, Victor (Mark Venturini, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD), is given an axe and left to tend to the lumber. When Joey, a developmentally challenged teen (played by Dominick Brascia, director of HARD ROCK NIGHTMARE), wanders over to Victor pestering him about wanting a turn at the axe…things go awry. And ends up making one of the foreign posters of the film!
That’s a helluva first day for Tommy. From there, we get a lot of screaming by the other kids, lingering shots of Roy (Dick Wieand) the ambulance driver who is visibly disturbed by seeing Joey’s corpse, and continue being introduced to characters around the house. The only two of note, really, are Reggie The Reckless (Shavar Ross)—who is the grandson of the facility’s cook; and Pam (Melania Kinnaman), who seems to be the second-in-command, but the halfway house thing is pretty flimsy. Speaking of flimsy—it’s a weird choice by the filmmakers to create a perfect setting for a group of characters to get to know and care about (or root to die, as is commonplace in FRIDAY THE 13TH entries), but then spend the vast majority of A NEW BEGINNING going to other locations and introducing more new characters to be killed off.
The idea of a group of teens seen as “damaged” being stalked by a common enemy in an institution that’s meant to help and protect them would later be the brilliant foundation for A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS. Here, it’s basically forgotten most of the time to instead visit some random greasers, a slimy cokehead and his waitress girlfriend, some hillbilly caricatures, a Rufio prototype named Demon (Miguel A. Nuñez, Jr., also of RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD) traveling the world in his van, and even a hobo for good measure. Stay at Pinehurst!
If I had to venture a guess as to why there are so many tangents and outside characters, it’s because A NEW BEGINNING is a whodunnit-type of slasher (like PROM NIGHT, THE PROWLER, and more). This is actually keeping it more in line with the first FRIDAY THE 13TH film, which was based off proto-gialli like BLOOD AND BLACK LACE and A BAY OF BLOOD, along with Agatha Christie-type And Then There Were None tropes. So maybe the killer is Jason, back from the dead. Or maybe it’s Tommy, who keeps showing off crazy fighting moves and departures from reality. Or perhaps…someone else!
And that’s who it ends up being—someone else. Specifically that someone else is Roy. Roy, as we’re told at the very end of the movie in a massive exposition dump straight from PSYCHO, was Joey’s father and he went berserk seeing his abandoned son slaughtered like that. Even though the person that killed Joey was in custody—and is never seen again in A NEW BEGINNING—and despite showing no previous signs of Roy’s affinity for Jason lore, Roy puts on a baldcap and mask and then a hockey mask over that and pretends to be Jason. The logic of these decisions…is mind boggling. It’s one of those parts of a movie that only exists for an audience—but if Roy was just killing folks, why would he want people to think it’s Jason? To what end? And if he’s just putting on the costume, why is he ridiculously strong like Jason and can move with stealth like speed? (Please don’t mention underground tunnels)
Eventually the cast is whittled down to just Reggie, Pam, and Tommy versus Roy. This would be a great time for that incredible strength of Tommy’s to be used, or some sort of weird catharsis to take on his boogeyman. But honestly, Tommy doesn’t do much and really it’s Pam and Reggie that save the day and take out discount Voorhees. But the twist ending of A NEW BEGINNING is that Tommy kept Roy’s fake Jason mask, and it seems he’s about to take up the mantle of his former tormentor.
Well, he would have if people were more enthused by the movie. While it’s not true that the film was a flop—it made a bunch of money—fans weren’t really on board with various fakeouts and just wanted what they know to come back (HALLOWEEN III syndrome, or THE LAST JEDI affliction for those of a younger set). So Tommy becoming the new terror at Crystal Lake was scrapped, but the character did return in JASON LIVES (now played by Thom Matthews, also also of RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD) to fight the now resurrected Jason. A NEW BEGINNING was always a bit of an outlier amongst fans, mostly because of the unnecessarily convoluted mystery and awkward return to giallo-style murders (where just the hand of the killer is shown). But, despite the bizarre labyrinthine approach to plotting, there is a lot to love about A NEW BEGINNING.
Firstly, it has one of the higher bodycounts of a FRIDAY THE 13TH entry (19 or so!) and there’s some great slasher gore—with notable deaths being the random greaser guy getting a road flare in the mouth and the two sex maniacs (Deborah Voorhees and John Robert Dixon) receiving severe eye trauma out in the woods post-coitus. It should be noted that a lot of the sex and violence was trimmed down at the behest of the MPAA (man, they hated FRIDAY THE 13TH films almost as much as Siskel and Ebert did), so it could have been even MORE over the top.
And while the story is convoluted, it means it’s a bit unexpected and allows for deviation from a formula; not always a great thing, but it is deserving of recognition. Sometimes it doesn’t pay off, but it’s better to err on the side of ambitious misfire than paint-by-numbers. Also the bizarrely sprawling plot leads to some great bits of weird tangents like the lonesome death of Demon. With a cry of “Damn Enchiladas!” he rushes off to the trailer park outhouse, and begins to engage in some call-and-response music to soothe his nerves while, theoretically, having explosive diarrhea. It’s such an odd moment that tries to inject a bit of tenderness right before a brutal slaying (also—why does Roy kill Demon? What brought him into the ambulance driver’s crosshairs?).
And of course, there is the incredible robot dance by Violet (Tiffany Helm) to, what appears to be, the entirety fo the song “His Eyes” by Pseudo Echo. With the Demon scene and this Vicky dance moment, they are just such odd standout segments that don’t fit any sort of expected pattern of a slasher movie, let alone a FRIDAY THE 13TH installment. It’s akin to that sudden onset kung fu sequence in PIECES where it has nothing to do with anything, but isn’t padding either—they just occur and then A NEW BEGINNING moves on its merry ways.
A NEW BEGINNING was definitely an oddball entry—the EMPIRE STRIKES BACK of the weird trilogy of “FRIDAY THE 13TH without Jason movies” within the franchise that includes the first movie and JASON GOES TO HELL. But its completely batshit ways have found new appreciation in the years since. Many podcasts have devoted episodes to A NEW BEGINNING: In Voorhees We Trust with Matt Gourley and Paul Rust checked in to Pinehurst Halfway House, Kill By Kill has six parts on it (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6), We Hate Movies has an incredible installment devoted to ROY: THE MOVIE, and I’m certain Halloweenies with our own Mike Vanderbilt will be tackling it soon too—just to name a few.
Meanwhile, NECA has incredible action figures from A NEW BEGINNING for “Dream Sequence Jason” and Roy.
Waxwork Records released the score onto vinyl in a gorgeous set.
And the infamous death of the lovebirds is re-enacted in the music video for Wolfie’s Just Fine’s song “A New Beginning”—which is both a great video and a surprisingly touching song about coming of age with sex and death intermingled. What a time to be alive!
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING isn’t the best in the series; it’s not the worst; it’s not the weirdest; but it is still somehow incredibly unique with its weird blend of taking place in an imagined future, and stuffing all sorts of different ideas and tropes and caricatures into its running time and hoping that its ramshackle mystery will tie everything together. It does not tie anything together. But it is a pretty great bit of “what the?” filmmaking that constantly zags when all storytelling logic and audience interests want it to zig. 35 years later, and A NEW BEGINNING remains a sign of what could have been and what could never be again.
Tags: 1985, Camp Crystal Lake, Carol Locatell, corey feldman, Danny Steinmann, David Cohen, Deborah Voorhees, Dick Wieand, Dominick Brascia, Friday the 13th, Friday The 13th Part V: A New Beginning, Friday The 13th: A New Beginning, Halloweenies, In Voorhees We Trust podcast, Jason, Jason Voorhees, John Robert Dixon, John Shepherd, Juliette Cummins, Kill By Kill Podcast, Mark Venturini, Martin Kitrosser, Melanie Kinnaman, Miguel A. Núñez Jr., NECA, Pseudo Echo, Shavar Ross, slasher, Tiffany Helm, Waxwork Records, We Hate Movies Podcast, Wolfie's Just Fine