For better or worse, slasher sequels have always been a point of contention within the genre. Both fanfare and skepticism always greet a returning horror icon as to whether or not the bloody magic of the original can be faithfully replicated. And, to be honest, after six installments of Friday the 13th, that skepticism was valid...
...Did we really need yet another sequel?
This skepticism ultimately landed director John Carl Buechler the daunting task of directing the series most narratively daring entry, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood. Picking up a decade after the Tommy Jarvis trilogy, The New Blood introduces Jason's first supernatural adversary Tina Shepard (Lar Park Lincoln). From a young age, Tina realizes she's different after the accidental killing of her Father reveals that she has telekinetic powers.
While the Friday the 13th series is no stranger to the supernatural, The New Blood actively weaponizes it against Jason. The film is built around this core concept, as Buechler's goal was to do something none of the other sequels had done before. For as forward-thinking as The New Blood's narrative is, it is surprising that initially, Buechler wasn't interested in directing. His skepticism was imperative in taking the series in a new direction, and despite the film's faults, it remains one of the most memorable entries of the franchise.
Tina's story is one of trauma and redemption as she grapples with mastering her powers while attempting to free herself from the manipulative grasps of her doctor, Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser). While not indicative of the best Friday final girl performances, Tina is undoubtedly the most unique and easy to like. From the start, you're rooting for her to overcome her trauma and to free herself from Crew's clutches. This emotional investment makes the payoff of her mastering her powers and using them against Jason that much more satisfying.
For as exciting as The New Blood’s premise is, the film was notoriously undercut by excessive editing at the behest of the MPPA. Initially receiving an X rating, editor Barry Zetlin was required to cut the film's gore extensively. The result is one of the least bloody Friday the 13th films of the franchise, something Buechler isn't afraid to mince words over, stating, "They [rating board] raped the movie." Buechler's questionable word choice aside, the overreaching editing severely hurts the film, which features some of the most creative kills of the entire series. And while quick cuts primarily plague the film, its explosive finale remains a series highlight in-spite of this.
Unlike past Friday the 13th films, Buechler approached the movie with a focus on stunts rather than effects. This approach complements the growing display of Tina's telekinetic powers, which begin with Tina setting small fires and moving objects, to exploding into a supernatural Home Alone style Jason beat down. From electrocuting Jason with power lines to dropping a roof on him to sending him through a flight of stairs, the end of the film is fittingly brutal. We've seen Jason stabbed and slashed dozens of times, but seeing him impaled with nails and set ablaze just hits differently.
The New Blood also marks the glorious introduction of fan-favorite Jason stuntman Kane Hodder. Hodder would go on to star in the next three installments of the franchise, bringing a signature intensity, and ability to sell stunts like none other. In addition to Hodder's impeccable choreography talent, Buechler even consulted with him on how to get the most out of kills and stunts. Initially, during Tina and Jason's final duel, the script called for Tina using her powers to have a light fixture hit Jason in the chest, sending him tumbling down a staircase. This changed when Kane told Buechler this was a weak idea, and the scene evolved into him getting hit in the face and crashing through the staircase.
The creative collaboration of Buechler and Hodder helped the film to shine despite some glaring editing decisions. This partnership truly allows the movie to redeem itself with its supernatural third act that wows with its Carrie vs. Jason esque duel. I wish more slasher sequels were willing to get as weird as The New Blood does, by not only reinventing characters but ushering in several genre influences. The creative freedom explored in the film makes it the franchise's most memorable sequel 32 years after its initial release.
(Need a revisit of 'Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood'? The film is currently streaming on Amazon Prime)
By: Jay Krieger