FRIDAY THE 13TH 5: A NEW BEGINNING, 1985
Directed by Danny Steinmann
Starring: Melanie Kinnaman, John Shepherd and Shavar Ross
Review by Mark Engberg
Four years after killing Jason Voorhees, Tommy Jarvis arrives at a campground halfway house for troubled teens. After one of the other teenagers is murdered by a fellow inmate, a lone stalker wearing a hockey mask begins killing everyone in the area.
Horror movie franchises are like extended families. There is always a black sheep that does not fit with the rest of the group.
For A Nightmare on Elm Street, it is Part 2: Freddy's Revenge, which featured a bizarre storyline involving Freddy attempting to possess a shy and probably homosexual teenager. For Halloween, it is the third entry, The Season of the Witch, which abandoned the character of Michael Myers entirely and instead went with a mad scientist story about deadly children masks.
For the exhaustive Friday the 13th series, it is A New Beginning, named to represent the production company's failed attempt to transition audiences to a different central antagonist. Since Jason Voorhees was finally killed by Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman) in the last movie, the studio executives at Paramount had to come up with something to keep the kids coming to the theater every year.
Therefore, the plan was to shift the focus onto an older version of Tommy (John Shepherd) as he arrives at a halfway house still scarred from the psychological trauma endured in the previous film. Unfortunately for the other characters in the film, an unidentified stalker is loose in the area with an irritating habit of stabbing people to death.
To the film's credit, the storyline plays with the premise that it is Tommy who is committing these murders. This differentiates the fifth chapter from all others in that the killer's identity is up for debate. In all the other Fridays (with honorable exception to the first one), the killer is Jason; no question about it. The fact that we are not sure who the killer is until the end of Part V gives the movie an unexpected suspenseful dimension not experienced in the other ones.
And to Paramount's credit, they actually did try to keep Jason dead in order to explore other characters and their motives for homicidal behavior. Essentially, A New Beginning is a movie about a copycat killer, whose motivations are fairly random and coincidental in regards to Tommy's placement at the halfway house.
It seems that the purpose of this entry was to set up the premise that Tommy would inherit Jason's madness so that he could be the killer for Part VI. The director, Danny Steinmann, attempted this with a fuzzy ending where Tommy “becomes” Jason in what may be interpreted as a dream sequence.
However, this premise was abandoned when audiences felt dissatisfied by Jason's exclusion. The fans didn't want a new beginning. They wanted Jason back. And if Steinmann had directed a better feature, it might have worked.
But the film is flawed in so many ways that it really is no surprise that it is the least loved of the series. The tone and acting within the dramatic sequences resemble a bad Saturday Night Live sketch. Many of the scenes are overlong with insignificant background material that vanishes once the character is killed. But most disquieting of all is the fact that it is not scary.
It tries to offer disquieting information about psychological damage, but lacks any worthwhile evidence that these characters are real or in any way believable. We don't feel any suspense for these people because we have no empathy for them. How can we? They talk and behave in ways that we never would. As a result, we don't care if they escape or perish at the hands of a madman.