After Jason’s post-timely demise in Part 4 at the hands of young Tommy Jarvis, it seemed our hockey-masked villain had finally bit the dust … for about three months. This fifth installment in the series — appropriately titled “Friday the 13th Part V – A New Beginning ” — was rushed into production before The Final Chapter even left theatres and came out the very next year in 1985. Gleefully featuring every eye-rolling cliche in the slasher textbook, Part 5 doesn’t take itself too seriously and manages to send up the genre while simultaneously wallowing in the sleaziest, most exploitative aspects of it.
Taking place several years after the events of The Final Chapter , we learn through the film that Tommy (after years of meds and hospitalization) is now a withdrawn, haunted teenager (John Shepherd) who has just arrived from the Unger Institute of Mental Health at Pinehurst, a secluded halfway house for trouble juveniles located in the vicinity of — you guessed it — Camp Crystal Lake. Things seem relatively (and I mean that in the broadest sense) normal at the place, with the horny, boisterous kids balancing their laundry chores with sex sessions in the nearby woods. After candy-car-chewing tubby Joey (Dominick Brascia) brutally hacked apart with an axe by off-his-rocker teen woodsman Victor, who is arrested and taken into custody by the police, a rash of similarly brutal murders is set off by a copycat killer in the surrounding area. Has Jason returned from the grave? Certainly not, as it turns out in the end the killer is Roy the paramedic (Dick Wieand), who it turns out is the long-lost father of the slaughtered Joey and has lost his mind a la Mrs. Voorhees and decided to take his rage out on everyone in sight. He also makes a point of exploiting the notorious Jason “legend” by wearing a shiny hockey mask while committing his atrocities.
A New Beginning is loaded with nudity of the female kind, with large-chested Tina (Debi Sue Voorhees) getting her eyes plucked out with hedge clippers while lounging butt naked in the woods, waiting for her amorous boyfriend Eddie (John Robert Dixon) to return from “washing up” at the lake after sex. After giving the busty vixen adequate time to be slaughtered, he returns to find her nude, eyeless corpse and gets pinned around his own eyes with a belt to a tree, the killer tightening and tightening the death tourniquet on the boy’s head and crushing his eyeballs in their sockets. This is just one example of the good, gory, cheesy gruesomeness this one has to offer, and no doubt gorehounds will be satisfied, as there’s motorcycle decapitations, outhouse impalings, bunk bed stabbings and face splittings galore, and even kindly cook Gramps (Vernon Washington) isn’t safe and gets his own eyes plucked out. As you can tell, the killer seems to have a thing for eyes and faces in this one, but doesn’t discriminate and takes out kids and adults alike with various weapons, in various methods. Among some of the other more unusual deaths, one unlucky kid with car trouble gets the back of his throat roasted when the killer sticks a lit flare into his mouth; good-guy Pinehurst staff leader Matt (Richard Young) is nailed through his forehead to a tree; and the troubled schizoid Roy himself falls from the loft of the barn after wrestling with young Reggie (Shavar Ross) and staff member Pam (Melanie Kinneman) and is impaled on a bed of spikes.
The acting in A New Beginning is definitely hit or miss, but sexy blonde Kinneman makes a satisfying heroine, especially with her braless breasts poking through her soaking wet white shirt during the film’s rainy climax. Veteran character actress Carol Locatell chews her scenery gloriously as the profane, stew-making backwoods hillbilly mamma Ethel who lives adjacent to Pinehurst and warns trespassers on her property that she’ll blow their fucking brains out with her trusty rifle. John Shepherd has only 24 words total of dialogue throughout the course of the film, so you have to give him credit for creating a vividly tortured Tommy mostly through facial expressions and gestures. Shavar Ross is terrific and natural as 12-year-old Reggie the Wreckless, Gramps’ grandson and a fearless practical joker who likes to hide in the top of people’s closets and dangle giant rubber spiders on strings in front of them when they open the door.
Part 5 is not a fan favorite and has a relatively low overall score on IMDB, and for a few important reasons. For one thing, the replacement we get for Jason is a small-built, slow-moving, generally unintimidating impostor in a cheap, unscary, much too clean looking hockey mask, and the swiss-cheese plot is unintentionally goofy at times. Also, IMO it has one of the weakest overall musical scores of the first eight films in the series that only seems to highlight the film’s cheesiness. It’s not all a loss, however, as the frequent and graphic kills, nice sense of humor and undeniably boundless, sleazy energy make it a guilty pleasure that’s great to crack out and have a few beers or bowls to.
The pre-credit opening sequence is the scariest part of Friday the 13th Part V and is a dream scene that has young Tommy (Corey Feldman briefly reprising the role) watching from behind some nearby trees a couple of mindless teenage jerks unearth Jason from his shallow grave on a rainy night. After prying open his coffin, they find a maggot-infested Jason (still in his mask) who springs to life and stabs one doofus in the gut with a machete in his left hand and the other in the neck with a dagger in his right. Then after dusting the insects and worms from his body, he rises from the box and immediately spies Tommy quivering from within the bushes a few yards away. After pulling the machete from the first ill-fated boy’s chest, he methodically lumbers toward the terrified boy and raises the weapon high in the air, swinging it down towards the screaming kid’s head with a vengeance — and then Tommy awakens. The Jason we see in this scene (and in several similar “visions” of Tommy throughout the film and in the hospital at the end) is the terrific old school Jason of the earlier films and reminds us that Jason is indeed still scary — just not so much Roy the paramedic.
After weighing its flaws and virtues, I have to say I’ve always enjoyed Friday the 13th Part V in spite (maybe even because of) its unashamed cheesiness and rate it a 6.5 of 10.