FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 5: A NEW BEGINNING (Deluxe Edition) (1985)
Director: Danny Steinmann
Paramount Home Entertainment

On the commentary track found on this release, SAVAGE STREET’s director Danny Steinmann recalls that before tackling the fifth installment in the FRIDAY franchise, the film's producers gave him two requirements that they wanted to see in the finished product. First, there had to be a kill every seven or eight minutes, and second, the picture needed to set up Tommy Jarvis as Jason’s successor. As long as those two elements where followed and set into place, Danny had free reign as to how the picture was to unfold. Unfortunately, before the film was able to hit theaters, the MPAA had to put in their two cents, requesting a number of cuts and edits that helped to turn what could have been a significant crossroads in the ever expanding series, into a film which is borderline retarded.

Having spent most of his teenage years in a mental institution, Tommy Jarvis (John Shepherd) is transferred to the Pinehurst Youth Development Center, a halfway house for wayward teens that just happens to be a couple of counties over from where, as a child, Tommy brought down the destructive force of nature known as Jason Voorhees, as seen in THE FINAL CHAPTER. Quit, reserved and more than a little paranoid, Tommy finds difficulty in acclimating to his new surroundings, an issue which is made all the more worse by the unexpected and tragic death of Joey (Dominick Brascia), a portly fellow whose grating personality proves to be the last straw for fellow roommate Vic (Mark Venturini, Suicide in THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD). With their numbers cut down by two, the remaining residents get back to their day to day lives of avoiding choirs, listing to music and sneaking onto the neighbors’ property to have sex, save for Tommy. Haunted by nightmares and visions of Jason, Tommy spends most of his time alone in his room with his monster masks but does eventually begin to let his guard down around “Reckless” Reggie (Shavar Ross, Dudley from "Diff'rent Strokes"), a youngster visiting his grandfather, the camps cook, for the summer. However, just when it looks like Tommy is starting to come out of his shell, a string of violent killings toss the house on its head, leaving its tenants to run for their lives as Jason, or someone posing as Jason, hacks his way though anyone who seems to come into contact with Tommy.

A NEW BEGINNING tends to get picked on more than any another film in the franchise and it’s not hard to see why. I’m sure a hefty portion of the backlash is due mainly to the fact that Jason never gets to kill anyone except within a dream sequence or flashback, but if you take the name recognition out of the equation and view the film alongside other 1980s slashers, I'd imagine that most would agree that the picture as a whole just isn’t quite up to snuff. It’s not that it doesn’t have potential. Hell, inane dialogue and sophomoric acting have bred a great number of classics, particularly in genre pictures of the 1980s, but upon repeat viewing, A NEW BEGINNING’s cons always seem to out weight its pros. For one, the film and its pivotal kills have little in the way of anticipation. Somewhere around the 20 minute mark, it becomes painfully obvious that whoever is stalking the grounds of Pinehurst, stabbing and slashing his way through the tenants and facility, isn’t Jason. Ideally at this point, the remainder of the film would be spent providing the audience with numerous suspects to speculate on until they get eliminated (quite literally) one by one, eventually revealing the killer’s identity. A NEW BEGINNING attempts to follow just such audience expectation fails as the killer’s identity is so blatantly apparent from the moment he hit the screen that it’s laughable. While his motives may not be apparent until the closing moments, what is clear is that it takes more than a knife and hockey mask to emulate Jason, who would thankfully be brought back to the series in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 6: JASON LIVES.

Most slashers, even the worst of the worst, can be counted on to provide at least one element that keeps even the drowsiest of bored viewers from dosing off before the expected climax; gratuitous nudity. While Violet’s (Tiffany Helm) robot dance does bring forth a chuckle, it is Melanie Kinnaman’s late night jaunt through the rain, in a sheer white blouse no less that trumps even the film's most elaborate kills. Granted, I’m a sucker for a wet t-shirt, but as Pam, the token authority figure, Melanie transformation from a demure guidance counselor into an imposing scream queen is a standout. As noted in the commentary, pay particular attention to the sweater worn by Melanie in the final chase scene as it disappears and reappears at random. Equally arousing is Debi Sue Voorhees (her real last name) who plays Tina, a promiscuous teen who finds her eye sockets pruned when left naked and alone in Ethel Hubbard’s (Carol Locatell) backyard. Debi Sue’s love scene represents one of several cuts that the MPAA required trimmed before the film would be allowed an R rating. Unlike Paramount’s other recent Deluxe Edition’s, there are no missing or “slashed” scenes present on this release, possibly because such excised footage has simply been lost to time. Such would be a sad state of affairs, as every naked minute of Debi Sue's performance certainly warrants preservation.

Paramount first released A NEW BEGINNING on DVD in 2003 and again the following year as part of an Ultimate Edition DVD Collection titled FRIDAY THE 13th: From Crystal Lake to Manhattan. Along with Parts 4 and 6, Paramount is now reissuing A NEW BEGINNING in a “Deluxe Edition” that sports an anamorphic widescreen transfer that has been mastered in High Definition. Picture quality is suburb, with only a light coating of grain and no distinguishable marks or blemishes. Audio is on hand in both a new 5.1 Surround mix and in the film's original English mono with both being free of any distortion or hiss. French and Spanish language tracks are also available as are subtitles in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

As previously mentioned, director Danny Steinmann provides a commentary track, and is joined by John Shepherd, Shavar Ross and Michael Felsher, a fan of the film who moderates via telephone. The track is quite enjoyable, with Steinmann in particular being quite the wisecracker. All of those present seem to be having a fun time remembering the picture and pointing out its numerous continuity errors. “Lost Tales From Camp Blood –Part 5” (7.09) continues the short film inspired by the FRIDAY mold, as have so many other horror films both short and feature length. This time the action is set out in the woods, as some random teen with an eye injury keeps getting people killed by letting them get between him and a mysterious hooded killer. “The Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited Part 2” continues the faux documentary ala BLAIR WITCH found on the “Deluxe Edition” of THE FINAL CHAPTER. At 10 minutes in length, this segment is considerable tighter and more effective than Part 1, providing for more laughs and a more enjoyable experience. “New Beginnings: The Making of FRIDAY THE 13th Part 5: A NEW BEGINNING" is a segment that looks back on the film though interviews with Danny Steinmann, Shavar Ross, Tiffany Helm (yes, she does the dance!), Dick Wieand, stuntman Tom Morga, and composer Harry Manfredini. Running just over 11 minutes, this extra represents the most entertaining featurette of this release, more so than even the main feature itself, as it covers the film from its inception to its reception. Enclosed within a sleek slipcase with lenticular cover, the extras are rounded out by the film's original theatrical trailer.
(Jason McElreath)