For a franchise as relentlessly overextended as the Friday the 13th series, it was perhaps inevitable that the installment preceding this one, Tom McLoughlin’s Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986), would, in the interest of freshness, fully embrace self-parody, McLoughlin peppering his film with all sorts of self-aware jokes (“I’ve seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly,” says one character) and generally achieving a comparably lighthearted tone that took the series as far as one could imagine from its origins as a creepy low-budget shocker in Sean S. Cunningham’s 1980 original. Thankfully, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood reverts back, at least in part, to the graver stalk-and-slash atmosphere of earlier entries. Despite its title, though, there’s little “new blood” to be found in John Carl Buechler’s installment—unless, of course, you consider, say, moments like the one in which Jason Voorhees kills a woman in a sleeping bag by smashing it/her on a tree to be the ne plus ultra of creativity.
Let me backtrack a bit here, though, because, despite its generally low reputation, the Friday the 13th films aren’t entirely mindless affairs. Yes, they’re generally vacuums of humanity, mostly content to treat its characters as cannon fodder for a series of increasingly baroque punishments, often after the characters have had sex. But if we take the films on those terms, there are moments throughout the series that achieve the kind of thematic heft that serious critics regularly attribute to, say, John Carpenter’s Halloween. Think back, for instance, on that apocalyptic dream Marcie (Jeannine Taylor) recalls involving blood-red rain at one point in Friday the 13th (heavy rain falls immediately afterward), a bit of foreshadowing that suggests an attention to ominous detail that later entries would dispense with altogether. Or recall Ginny’s (Amy Steel) clever ruse in Friday the 13th Part 2 in which she pretends to be Jason’s mother in an attempt to try to outsmart Jason, in a moment that’s the closest the series has ever gotten to psychological drama. But the most interesting entry in that regard is Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (ha ha), in which Jason’s reign of bloody terror is subtly and slyly made a projection of Tommy Jarvis’s (Corey Feldman) adolescent curiosity about a world beyond his insular horror-movie obsessions.