It is a dark and stormy night, and Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews) is a man with a mission to ensure that serial killer Jason Vorhees is dead once and for all. He has escaped from the mental health clinic he has been staying in with his friend Allen (Ron Palillo), and they are headed out to the graveyard where the body is buried. When they reach the location, they find the grave, but Tommy is not happy and starts digging until the coffin is uncovered and opened. He plans to burn the corpse, but after sticking a metal pole in it the unthinkable happens: a lightning strike which reanimates Jason's body!
Well, that's just typical, isn't it? And also an illustration of how idiotic Tommy is, for if he hadn't been so set on digging up the movie mass murderer, there he would have stayed for all time. However, when there's the chance of a tidy profit to be made, the money men have final say, and so Jason was resurrected one more time, although this instalment in the series took the least amount of money in comparison to what had gone before - not that this fact stopped Paramount making more well into the next millennium (and who knows, maybe beyond that?)
This time we're left in no doubt that Jason is a member of the walking dead, so that element, at least, indicates an innovation. Except not really, it's only a way to get those old bones up and at 'em once more and the film proceeds much like the its fellow episodes, with the mystery part of the previous sequel dropped as a bad idea, judging that if we know that it really is Jason committing the murders, then the audience feels it is in safe hands (or unsafe hands, for that matter).
One pair of those safe hands belonged to writer and director Tom McLoughlin, and he had apparently settled on the best way to revitalise the franchise: the universal medium of laughter. Jason Lives is very nearly the comedy version of Friday the 13th, with such setpieces as a humorous paintballing session with management executives around the Crystal Lake area (there seems to be about four of them; small company?) who meet a sorry end. Then there are offhand gags such as the little kid at the camp (yes, there are actual children at the camp this time) who has fallen asleep while perusing, no, not a comic book but Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit.
What? Don't worry, though, because McLoughlin doesn't really have ideas above his station, and gets to the mindless violence soon enough, and with great frequency, although it's not quite as bloodthirsty this time around. Certainly the effects budget has been halved, so we are offered the odd splatter of gore on a window instead of being regaled with the sight of an actual head removal, and for some fans this marks this one out as a disappointment. That said, it's still marginally more inspired than what came immediately before, and evidently went for the crowdpleasing angle so that its villain is held in a weird kind of indulgence, as if to say, oh, don't worry, that's only Jason again, you know what he's like. Nice James Bond reference, too. Music by Harry Manfredini.