starring Kane Hodder, Lexa Doig, Lisa Ryder, Chuck Campbell
screenplay by Todd Farmer
directed by James Isaac
by Walter Chaw Having apparently renounced the name given him by The Man, Jason X features inexorable slasher killer Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder) cryogenically frozen at the "Crystal Lake Research Facility" in 2010 and picked up by a salvage spaceship (or something) called "Grendel" in 2455. When the bimbo Rowan (Lexa Doig), defrosted along with our invulnerable flesh golem (the Demolition Man possibilities remain untapped), perkily offers that this means she's been cold and stiff for "455 years," no one bothers to correct her. I'm not really sure why I bothered, come to think of it.
Horror movies don't have subtext anymore. They lost their innocence long before Scream made it de rigueur to call out clichés, making each fright flick akin to some irony-free midnight revival of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Like that drunk asked to be a fool for a sip of the tonic, the genre has consented to sell out for chuckles while peddling its devalued scares and digital gore to an increasingly jaded audience. They're not saying that a cigar is not always just a cigar; they're saying that a cigar is a symbol of Promethean knowledge embodied in the image of a phallus alight. What's most pathetic is that what is intended as auto-commentary becomes itself the subject of discussion. The concept of "post-modern" turns self-mocking and self-fulfilling when the object of derision is the very object its theoretical audience has gathered to witness.
Jason X is one of those fanboy creations that can't decide if it wants to make fun of what it loves or pay duty to its gruesome-philia with an embarrassed cameo by David Cronenberg. On the one hand, the film hopes that its bald scene-by-scene rip-offs of Aliens and Alien: Resurrection are read as loving homage, that the sight of a dominatrix-clad robot brings cozy memories of the chopsocky robots of Ice Pirates (or most likely Blade Runner's handspringing Pris) bubbling to the fore. But on the other hand, Jason X fears that its audience may not be savvy to the gimmick and thus provides constant clarifications of its cleverness. The best moment--the funniest sleeping bag murder since John Frankenheimer's Prophecy--is all but torpedoed by one character introducing the scene with: "Camp Crystal Lake, circa 1980!"
Jason X isn't scary, it's smug, and yet its first half-hour is just south of brilliant for what initially appears to be a witty explosion of Friday the 13th subtexts. (Jason's thawing sequence is cannily intercut with a young couple engaged in deadly premarital sex, waking at the critical moment and giving new resonance to the French petite morte. The size of Jason's penis is discussed with a tissue-stained machete looming in the foreground, and every occupant of this deep space cruiser is either a GQ stud or a magnificently inappropriately clad silicon mule.) Jason X blows it, though, once it begins to shriek, "Hey--you get it? We're making fun of stuff," devolving into one of those conversations that Comic Book Guy on "The Simpsons" has.
When a movie considers its audience to be a bunch of idiots (see also: Lake Placid), it's contemptible. Jason X doesn't trust fans of the slasher genre (except them) to have much appreciation for subtlety (one character exclaims at Jason's CAT-scan, "How can something exist with such a small brain?"--encompassing condemnation, no doubt, of the rest of fandom): the filmmakers misunderstand that a healthy appreciation of camp is a large part of what's kept the series going into the double digits and doubtless through to its proposed thirteen. Jason X holds within it the seeds of something sly and fun, but what it proffers is a geek wonderland of loudly announced (and then explained) in-jokes and, ironically, the same kind of prurient gewgaw it seeks to undermine. The violence is, after all, still the only thing vaguely interesting about the whole enterprise; the post-modern smirking is just irritating for its arrogance and clumsiness. Originally published: April 24, 2002.