Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

Director: Danny Steinmann
Screenplay: Martin Kitrosser & David Cohen and Danny Steinmann (story by David Cohen and Martin Kitrosser
Stars: John Shepherd (Tommy Jarvis), Melanie Kinnaman (Pam), Marco St. John (Sheriff Cal Tucker), Shavar Ross (Reggie), Carol Locatell (Ethel Hubbard), Ron Sloan (Junior Hubbard), Richard Young (Dr. Matt Peter), Corey Feldman (Tommy Jarvis at 12), Wayne Grace (Officer Jamison
MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 1985
Country: U.S.
Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning DVD
Friday the 13th Part V: A New BeginningAmong fans of the long-running slasher series, Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning is generally considered the weakest entry. Of course, to some people, choosing the worst Friday the 13th film is like looking at a barrel of rotten fruit and picking the nastiest piece: It’s an exercise in absurdity. However, to aficionados there are striking differences among the many entries in the series (which currently number a dozen, including the recent remake/reboot), and A New Beginning consistently (and rightly) ranks near the bottom.

Granted, Part V had a tough job to do, following its misleadingly titled predecessor Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and having to come up with the “new beginning” its own title promised (although, to be perfectly fair, the final shot of the fourth film all but guarantees where this one will be headed). While screenwriters Martin Kitrosser, David Cohen, and Danny Steinmann (who also directed) start off with a good idea in disguising the identity of the killer and thus setting up a murder-mystery ala Sean S. Cunningham’s 1980 original, the film is saddled with particularly bad writing, acting, and directing (Steinmann does not seem to have graduated from the aesthetic laziness he developed while shooting porn). Thus, when the killer’s identity is finally revealed at the end, it seems to be more of an excuse for, rather than an explanation of, the movie’s brutal murders.

A New Beginning picks up several years after the end of the fourth installment. Tommy Jarvis (John Shepherd), the 12-year-old kid who killed Jason at the end of the The Final Chapter, is now in his late teens and is being taken to a halfway house (conveniently located out in the woods somewhere near Crystal Lake) to finish his recovery from the psychological trauma he endured while hacking Mr. Voorhees to death with a machete. Tommy is just a few inches from catatonia for most of the movie, which plays in opposition to the other patients at the home, who act pretty much like all the teen characters in slasher movies: dumb, obnoxious, and horny.

Not long after Tommy’s arrival, one of the patients goes haywire and kills another patient with an axe. Next thing you know, someone else is starting to off anyone and everyone around the halfway house, including a pair of leather-clad juvenile punks whose car breaks down on the road, a waitress and her sleazy boyfriend, and just about everyone else who has the misfortune of appearing on-screen. Steinmann keeps the killer completely hidden until the final third of the movie, when he or she assumes the guise of Jason Voorhees, hockey mask and all. Up until that point, Steinmann keeps dropping clues as to who the killer might be. Is it the caricatured hillbilly chicken farmers up the road (Carol Locatell and Ron Sloan)? Is it the patient who axed the other patient early in the movie? Or, might it be Tommy himself, who was so traumatized by his childhood killing of Jason that he feels the urge to take over the role?

Ultimately, Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning is too cumbersome for its own good, with moments of black humor that don’t really work and a painful lack of imagination. Steinmann seems to think that the mystery he’s weaving is truly engaging, but it’s really just a sorry excuse for once again dragging out the specter of Jason Voorhees, whose gory antics are so restrained by the insistence of the MPAA rating system that the film feels like it was edited with one of Jason’s bloody-rusty weapons. In what turned out to be the cruelest twist of all, the film fails to deliver on the “new beginning” promised by the title, as it ends with a not-so-shocking final scene that never found its way into any of the following installments, suggesting that this is the one entry in the series that even its most ardent supporters would just like to forget ever existed.

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning Deluxe Edition DVD

Aspect Ratio1.78:1
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 monaural
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 monaural
  • French Dolby Digital 1.0 monaural
  • SubtitlesEnglish, French, Portuguese, Spanish
  • Audio commentary by director Danny Steinmann, actors John Shepherd and Shavar Ross, and filmmaker Michael Felsher
  • “New Beginnings: The Making of Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning” retrospective featurette
  • The Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited: Part 2 featurette
  • Lost Tales of Camp Blood: Part 5 short film
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • DistributorParamount Home Entertainment
    Release DateJune 16, 2009

    The new high-definition transfer and newly remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack on Friday the 13th Part V are definite improvements over the previous DVDs. The image is sharper and cleaner, with slightly better color and stronger black levels that give the rainy night scenes more definition and clarity. The film still looks fairly low-budget, but there’s really no getting around that. The soundtrack is nicely balanced, with good surround work to enhance the ambient effects and the always memorably Jason theme music.
    While the previous DVD edition of Friday the 13th Part V was supplement-free, this new “Deluxe Edition” rectifies that problem, although not with the inclusiveness of some of the other recent Friday DVDs. There is a real coup in getting director Danny Steinmann, who has rarely spoken of the film and all but dropped off the face of the earth after directing it, to sit down for an audio commentary with actors John Shepherd and Shavar Ross and filmmaker/fan Michael Felsher, who wanted to be part of the commentary so badly that he was patched in via phone from Detroit. Steinmann is certainly happy to talk about the film’s production, and he and the other contributors seem to be having a good time laughing and joking while telling anecdotes and decrying the effect the MPAA ratings board had on the film’s 20 murder scenes. And, while Felsher says early on that he thinks Part V is underrated and that he is there “to bring justice to this movie once and for all,” he actually spends more time than anyone else picking apart its inconsistencies and absurdities. All four of the commentary contributors also appear in the 11-minute retrospective featurette “New Beginnings: The Making of Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning,” which also includes new interviews with actress Tiffany Helm, actor Dick Wieand, stuntman Tom Morga, and composer Harry Manfredini. There is little here that isn’t covered in more detail in the commentary, but there is a pretty hilarious moment in which Tom Savini makes a surprise appearance. Also included on the disc is the second part of the faux news documentary The Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited: Part 2, the fifth installment of the Lost Tales of Camp Blood video series, and the original theatrical trailer. Obviously, the big disappointment here is that there is no deleted footage, especially since Part V was supposedly one of the most cut entries in the series. Given that Paramount has been extremely good about including any and all existing footage in the previous “Deluxe Editions” of the series, one can only surmise that the footage has been lost.

    Copyright ©2009 James Kendrick

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