Getting carried away
We’ve now reached the back half of the Friday the 13th series released as of 2023, and the franchise’s commitment to gimmicks keeps increasing. I had vibed pretty well with the goofy, quasi-Gothic resurrection twist of Part 6, which is aided by some gorgeous photography and a good sense of fun even if it lacks a strong sense of danger. And Part 7 offers decent entertainment too, though the slasher engine is starting to run on fumes. Over-familiarity and rote execution are taking their toll.
On the surface, I like the supernatural twist of Part 7 even more than Part 6: this time the final girl has Carrie telekinesis powers. That’s pretty cool! And the film delivers the pitch exactly: no more, no less. The horror-comedy sketches have been abandoned in favor of a more serious tone. There’s some loss of buoyant fun as a result, but it feels more like a “classic” entry (i.e. parts 1-4). The only time the filmmakers are really exercising their creativity is during the protracted climactic showdown, which is admittedly quite good.
The story opens with Tina Shepard (Lar Park Licoln) using her emerging psychic powers to collapse a dock and drown her drunk father who is in the midst of assaulting Tina’s mom (Susan Blu). It’s an opposite of a save-the-cat moment for Tina’s dad, but the rest of the movie he’s treated like a fallen hero whose death is a constant source of guilt. There’s no interrogation as to whether Tina’s defensive actions were justified or if she and her mother are better off without her dad, which is some half-assed writing.
Years later, Tina is a teen and still suffering from psychosis. Her mother hires shady-as-hell Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser), perhaps the most contemptible character in the franchise to this point, to provide therapy to her daughter. His real plan is to psychologically wear her down to further bring out her powers, then use her case as his own claim to psychologist fame.
The next 45 minutes are textbook Friday the 13th — partying teens whose characters are crafted along a single dimension alternately canoodling and getting disemboweled. (My favorite this time is a sci-fi geek named Eddie played by Jeff Bennett, who would definitely be a chubby balding guy at comic cons in 2023 and have strong opinions about The Last Jedi if he hadn’t taken a machete to the neck here.) Their house is next door to Tina’s, and she gradually gets roped into their mischief by the handsome and kind Nick (Kevin Blair).
It’s all executed just fine by journeyman horror director John Carl Buechler, neither ineptly nor with any sense of invention or joy, at least until the climax. The final 25 minutes — and it is indeed a pretty extended conclusion, as the normal final girl segment is normally about half as long — is the real “promise of the premise.” Tina uses her telekinesis to create obstacles and dangers to slow Jason, eventually applying her full powers on him directly. In a misguided mirror to the opening scene (and to the twist jump-scare of Part 1), her dad’s zombie spirit hops out of the lake to finally bring Jason down to the depths.
There’s not much to complain about beyond the overall feeling that the movie was designed in a fifteen minute brainstorm. I can practically imagine a Don Draper-type suit scrawling “Friday the 13th Part 7: Carrie vs. Jason” with dollar signs next to it in front of a boardroom and getting a round of applause.
The film’s most glaring flaw relative to the rest of the series is the absence of Harry Manfredini, who had composed the score of all six previous Fridays. As much as I think Manfredini score is easy to overrate due to Stockholm syndrome, it at least provided some bedrock consistency in a franchise that often flops around like a fish out of water in all other aspects of the craft.
So it’s not objectionable, and I suspect an upper-half entry to the series, unless Parts 8-12 somehow manage to raise the series batting average, which I highly doubt. But I can’t quite muster the enthusiasm to give it a thumbs up in spite of the fun high concept.