Freddy vs. Jason in 1985: A tale of two slasher sequels

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Friday the 13th Part V – Photo from Paramount Pictures

A Trashy Beginning

1984’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter was marketed as the final film of the franchise. While Paramount planned for Jason to be laid to rest after The Final Chapter, their avarice was too much to overcome. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter was the most successful installment since the original; as a result, Paramount still had plenty of milk to squeeze from the teats of this cash cow.

As with Freddy’s Revenge, a new installment of the Friday the 13th franchise was put on the fast track for a 1985 release. Also, as with Freddy, the producers wanted to try changing things up with Friday V. They ultimately settled on a continuation of Tommy Jarvis’s story.

In the film, a grown-up Tommy, institutionalized after the traumatic events of The Final Chapter, is sent to a halfway house occupied by a laundry list of slasher stereotypes. The eponymous “new beginning” refers to the decision to supplant Jason Voorhees with Roy Burns, a father whose son is brutally (and humorously) murdered at the halfway house. What follows is one of the weakest attempts at an Agatha Christie-type mystery in the history of cinema.

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Like Freddy’s Revenge, A New Beginning is another unintentional comedy, and it’s the weirdest entry in the series. What is most striking about A New Beginning is how jaw-droppingly trashy it is. This should come as no surprise as exploitation and porn maestro, Danny Steinmann (Savage Streets) was enlisted to direct and co-write this installment.

As directed by the late Danny Steinmann, Part V doubles down on the baser elements of the genre. First and foremost, it goes out of its way to pad the body count–disparate, superfluous characters are hastily introduced and dispatched for the sole purpose of boosting the body count (the film had in excess of 20 kills—at the time a Friday record). Also, most of the female characters get naked in the most gratuitous fashion possible, and our “final girl” clad in a white top, is soaked by the torrential rain that falls in the climax (you can figure out the rest). In addition, Part V contains an inordinate amount of profanity and vulgarity for a horror film of this era.

A New Beginning is so remarkably outlandish that it becomes quite an enjoyable romp. The pervasive trashiness pushes it over the top. For example, there’s a scene where Demon (Miguel A. Nunez, Jr.) offers an enchilada to his little brother, Reggie (Shavar Ross) out of the blue. This awkward moment is shortly paid off when Demon, afflicted with diarrhea, runs to an outhouse where he is slaughtered by Roy whilst defecating. This scene is a microcosm of the trashy and exploitative nature of the film.

A New Beginning was also plagued by behind the scenes drama, most of which surrounded Danny Steinmann’s conduct. Several crew members interviewed for Peter Bracke’s “Crystal Lake Memories” painted Steinmann as a tyrannical, drug-abusing pervert. Steinmann’s frank comments about the female form in “Crystal Lake Memories” as well as the Part V DVD commentary lend credence to the notion that he may have been a pervert. Also, he had a blase attitude toward sex as evidenced by Part V’s deep woods love scene, which proved to be far too explicit for mainstream cinema. This bit of “afternoon delight” was slashed by the MPAA from three minutes to a mere ten seconds (as was the majority of the film’s violent content).

Editor’s Note: Several members of the cast refuted these claims about Steinmann’s behavior at a Part V reunion in 2017. Deborah Voorhees also tells us, “I never saw Danny be anything but professional on and off set.” 

Kindred Spirits

It’s uncanny how similar both A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 and Friday the 13th Part V  turned out. Both films are viewed by many as red-headed stepchildren of their respective franchises. They are also, arguably, their franchises’ most oddly hilarious installments. To this day, their tumultuous production histories are also fiercely debated by members of the cast and crew.

More than anything, these cinematic kindred spirits are a product of their time. While I wasn’t around in 1985, I can see the stark contrast in attitudes and sensibilities of the films produced in this period compared to those of today. An inherent cheesy and otherworldly quality seemed to pervade most films from the mid-80s (those Stallone sequels were also really out there), and when viewed today, they seem a little strange.

1985’s A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th installments epitomize this off-kilter style (lest we forget Friday V also features a solo bedroom dance sequence that makes Jesse’s “Touch Me” dance seem completely reasonable). Despite their palpable shortcomings, both films have left an indelible impression on the horror community.

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Are you a fan of A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 and/or Friday the 13th Part V? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.