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(2002) (Kane Hodder, Lexa Doig) (R)

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Horror: After being brought out of several hundred years of cryogenic stasis, an infamous and seemingly unstoppable killer resumes his homicidal ways by attempting to murder everyone onboard a spaceship.
It's the year 2455 and a landing party has discovered two ancient bodies in cryogenic stasis on Old Earth, the long abandoned planet once inhabited by humans. One of them is Rowan (LEXA DOIG), a young project leader who was prepared to put mass murderer Jason Voorhees (KANE HODDER) in suspended animation to put a halt to his mass murder spree.

Unfortunately, Dr. Wimmer (DAVID CRONENBERG) and his team believed Jason to be too valuable due to his ability to regenerate damaged or missing body tissue - a point that made him impossible to kill - and after another killing spree, Rowan was accidentally frozen with him.

Now 400 years later, Professor Lowe (JONATHAN POTTS), his team - including Adrienne (KRISTI ANGUS), Azrael (DOV TIEFENBACH), Tsunaron (CHUCK CAMPBELL) and his female android KAY-EM 14 (LISA RYDER) - and their accompanying students have retrieved the bodies. Although they believe Jason too far gone to be brought back to life, they manage to resuscitate Rowan who immediately informs her rescuers that bringing Jason onboard was a bad idea.

They don't believe her, especially since he appears quite dead and that their ship is equipped with a heavily armed military team led by Sgt. Brodski (PETER MENSAH). Yet, once Jason thaws out and his tissues regenerate, he's back to his old killing ways. From that point on, and as he kills one person after the next, Rowan and the remaining survivors try to figure out how to elude and stop him.

OUR TAKE: 1 out of 10
Someone once said, "Change is good," and beyond some stick-in-the-mud sort of people who like or are afraid to abandon their routine life, most people would agree. After all, that's what keeps them happy and drives the economy by necessitating the existence of real estate agents, car dealers, clothing manufacturers and plastic surgeons to name a few.

Movie studios and filmmakers seem to understand this, at least in theory. While critics and even some moviegoers complain about seemingly endless sequels or films that borrow/steal far too much from previous efforts, the purveyors of such "new" entertainment at least try to put some sort of fresh spin - via different performers, settings, plot details, etc. - on what they're peddling. Heck, even the re-releases of "E.T." and the original "Star Wars" films were polished and changed just enough in an attempt to entice viewers into seeing them.

Yet, when you're attempting to create the tenth installment of a series of films that exist in a very limited genre, what do you do to satiate the diehard fans but still give them and new viewers something different? If you're the filmmakers behind "Jason X," the latest edition of the "Friday the 13th" series, you do what everybody's probably expecting. Namely, that's moving the story and its central character several hundred years into the future, putting him onboard a spaceship, and then letting the chips - or in this case, body parts - fall where they may.

Probably to no one's surprise, the result is a poorly made horror flick/sci-fi thriller that feels like little more than amateur hour (and a half or so) at the movies. Granted, I wasn't exactly expecting anything along the lines of "Gosford Park" or "Malcolm X" from a film like this - which also holds true for any of its predecessors for that matter - and some film series have managed to survive and succeed far beyond their tenth installment (namely the James Bond films). Even so, if there ever were a poster child for milking an idea until it was bone dry, this would have to be it.

For those not familiar with the films, the original was released in 1980 in an effort to capitalize on the success of the first "Halloween" picture that reinvigorated the slasher genre (and is about to have what I believe is its 8th installment released in summer 2002). Most notable for showing nubile teens being offed by a boy's mother (and not Jason himself who'd start his murder spree in part II) and one admittedly decent jump scene at the end (even if it somewhat ripped off a similar concluding moment in "Carrie"), the film was a hit that spawned editions two through nine from 1981 through 1993.

Despite episode IV being named "The Final Chapter," and the last one carrying the subtitle "The Final Friday" and only grossing around $15 million at the domestic box office, the apparently unstoppable killing machine and his equally deadly movies (in more ways than one) just won't seem to go away.

This time around, first-time director Jim Isaac and novice screenwriter Todd Farmer have obviously decided to create the umpteenth film to pay homage to, borrow from and/or shamelessly rip off material from the first two "Alien" and "Terminator" films. Like most every other film to do the same, this one doesn't come remotely close to capturing the thrills, chills and decent filmmaking of those terrific, sci-fi classics.

Instead, this one comes off like a low-budget, high school production of a combination of those films. Beyond the bad to atrocious acting, writing and directing, the film suffers from the same flaw that hampered the earlier efforts. Namely, that's that a mute and expressionless villain/monster who simply goes around killing people isn't terribly interesting or suspenseful, let alone scary.

I'm not sure why the press kit touts this being the fourth consecutive time that stuntman turned actor Kane Hodder ("Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror," "Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings") is playing the titular character. With no lines and no facial characteristics (even with the hockey mask getting a makeover), it wouldn't matter if it was Tom Hanks or Carrot Top playing the part. Hodder, if that's really him (who would know?), can do little with the character - compared to say, Anthony Hopkins in "Silence of the Lambs" - and the result is that he's not remotely frightening or interesting. He's the boogeyman sans the boogey.

Simply put, the scares in such films are severely limited, with about the only creative thought going into what sort of "imaginative" ways the victims will be killed. Speaking of which, and since we know most are just fodder for the meat grinder, so to speak, we don't care about any of the characters who are blandly played by the likes of Lexa Doig ("No Alibi," "The Tracker"), Jonathan Potts ("Cruel Intentions 2," "Resurrection") and Melyssa Ade (various TV movies/shows).

Peter Mensah ("Bless the Child," "Bruiser") plays the tough military type who at least gets one funny sequence, while the "kick butt" android character played by Lisa Ryder ("Blackheart," "Stolen Heart") turns into too much of a "Matrix" reject to be as much fun as she could have been.

All of that, coupled with little or no character development or even names for some of the characters means that this is about as engaging as watching a documentary showing a lion hunting antelope, but without the accompanying suspense.

Even the film's attempts at humor (few of which are successful) and its one, half-way clever moment - where Jason is dropped into a virtual reality world featuring partially nude, '80s era slasher film "chicks" - can't redeem the pathetic excuse this movie is. Oh, it will have you screaming all right, but not for the desired reasons. "Jason X" rates as just a 1 out of 10.

Reviewed April 23, 2002 / Posted April 26, 2002

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