Today is Friday the 13th, a name shared with one of horror’s most stories franchises. And while many films in the series rightfully get celebrated or eviscerated, one that’s often overlooked is 2002's Jason X, the movie where producers finally said, “Screw it. Let’s put Jason in space.” It’s definitely dumb, but over a decade later, it remains oh so fun
We are talking about a Friday the 13th movie here, after all, so some of its massive issues kind of go without saying. First and foremost, Jason X almost acts like the nine movies that proceed it never happened. Sure, Part 9 was released nine years earlier, but it was called Jason Goes to Hell. At the end of that film, he literally goes to Hell. And yet, as part 10 starts, Jason is in some research facility. No explanation, he’s just there all chained up. Then, we don’t see how, but he gets out of the chains and is forced by our hero Rowan (Lexa Doig) into cryosleep. A technology, apparently, we had in 2010. Director Jim Isaac does kind of start the movie teasing the Hell angle, showing an odd, red and orange visual landscape, but we soon find out it’s just Jason’s innards as tests are being performed on him. It’s the first of many sly winks the film gives to has at the audience.
After 455 years pass, for some reason, a group of students lands on a now deserted Earth, find this research facility, go into it, discover the cryochamber, and decide to just open it. Why not, right? They then bring the not-frightening-at-all looking man in a hockey mask, frozen in a pose with his machete at the ready, up onto their ship, along with the young woman. What could go wrong?
Plotting like that makes it abundantly clear Jason X is not concerned with logic. And yet, the script by Todd Farmer does have a lot going for it. With Jason set loose on a spaceship, the options for crazy kills gets increased exponentially. The franchise is no longer limited by the summer camp or outdoors concepts. Anything is possible. So Jason can freeze a girl’s face or impale a guy on a giant screw. The world is Jason’s murder-filled oyster!
On the other hand, as the number of potential crazy kills goes up, the scare factor goes down. Not that Jason was really going to terrify anyone going into his tenth movie, but being in a confined space like a spaceship severely limits the potential for scares. Either he’s coming from one place or the other. This is okay though because, by this point, the Friday the 13th series is no longer about scares. It’s about entertainment, and Jason X has plenty of that.
When Jason is loose on the ship, the film basically becomes Aliens. Somehow I didn’t realize this when I first saw the movie. The evil being is roaming around, a group of soldiers go after it, they all get killed, there’s an android, and finally a powerful woman wins the day by kicking an insane amount of ass. It’s all very paint-by-numbers, and peppered with plenty of cartoony violence, but it works.
While the film isn’t structurally original, Farmer’s script always feels completely aware of that. It constantly pokes fun at the genre tropes it’s cruising on. Everyone is always having sex. People constantly split away from the pack. There are characters who value money over human life. And there’s an abundance of dumb one-liners meant to elicit eye rolls. It all works well leading up to the main reason this whole thing was made: This guy.
That’s Uber Jason. After the android character kicks the shit out of Jason, concluding the film’s second act, the ship’s ability to regenerate human tissue somehow (no logic, remember?) automatically recreates Jason with all-new metal components. Why did this machine give him a new hockey mask? Who cares. After nine movies of basically the same look, seeing Jason in a new form is incredibly rewarding. Plus, he’s somehow even more unstoppable than he was before.
The new look also sets up what even the most discriminating Jason fans consider one of the franchise’s best kills of all time. The virtual reality, Crystal Lake sleeping bag kill. Let’s all relive it again, in a SFW version with nudity cut out.
Jason X ends with one of the survivors sacrificing himself by riding Jason through the atmosphere of Earth 2 and burning him to bits… except of course Jason’s new mask is later seen in a lake. (Two more Friday the 13th films followed, neither of which are actually set in 2455. Granted, in one he fights Freddy and the other is a reboot,)
None of this actually matters, though. What matters is Jason X itself survives as an entertaining, incredibly odd aside to this storied horror franchise. It’s not scary, but it isn’t trying to be. What it tries for is fun, and Jason X achieves that perfectly.