One aspect of the Friday The 13th series that always worked well was the cooperation of a low budget and an eerie setting. With only a few million dollars to spend, it ended up being a plus that the story took place largely at a run-down, secluded summer camp in the middle of the woods. The series, as lowbrow as it always was, still seemed to carry a distinctly creepy atmosphere with it. By advancing the action into the year 2455, the need for a significantly higher budget than previous entries was sorely needed. Rather than recognizing this as a problem to the narrative, Jason X ignores all of the warning signs of chartering into “Roger Corman Presents” territory, and in doing so, lives up (or more likely, down) to the standards set by the previous nine films in this never-ending gore-a-thon. The lack of budget, formerly a plus, is here a minus.
As the film opens, Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder), whom we all believed to have been sent to hell nearly a decade ago, is neatly locked away in the recesses of the Crystal Lake Research Facility, awaiting immediate cryogenic freezing, and also being prepared to have his organs harvested for study. After all, any man who can withstand dozens of shootings, stabbings, explosions, and electrocutions must be worth looking in to. Within minutes, he escapes containment and brutally slaughters the group of scientists and soldiers in charge of the operation.
Before his rampage can continue into the dimly-lit hallways of the facility, his escape is cut short and he is trapped and frozen in the cryo-chamber by one of the scientists behind the experiment (Lexa Doig). Unfortunately, for her, she is accidentally frozen along with the masked behemoth. Four-hundred and fifty years later, when earth has become an uninhabitable wasteland, as a result of (you guessed it) pollution, a team of students, on a routine training mission, unearth the pair of human popsicles.
Logic be damned, the team decides to bring the mysterious duo on board their spaceship. The scientist is successfully thawed out, but much to her alarm, she is informed that Jason is also aboard. She is told not to worry, though, as the team have discovered him dead (clearly, none of these kids have studied history). Within minutes, he leaps awake, seeping with his multi-colored gore, and begins hulking through the halls preying on the unsuspecting crew and students.
Given the premise, the film could be thought of as an homage to the original Alien. The only real problem with that is that when jabs at humor are made in the film, they never strike the viewer as sharp, but more as a desperate and obvious attempt to add something fresh to the myth. The film isn’t trying to be funny because it feels the necessity to lighten up the story, it feels like the story has been cornered into self-mockery, the most common route for later sequels in a horror franchise. In the wake of Scream, Jason X is a post-modern horror film that comes off as just a little too post. Jason would have been better off forgetting about a comeback and simply slicing and dicing in Scary Movie.
When the focus is turned on being suspenseful and frightening, it accomplishes neither. Jason X favors the standard “false scares” that come prepackaged with this type of film, and rather than trying to scare you, it decides to shock you with it‘s expected array of decades-old gore tactics. Jason X, despite it’s promises, is not a warming tribute to Alien. It’s not even as good as Alien: Resurrection.
The only hint that this film has an identity of it’s own comes toward the end, as Jason is nearing one of his supposed victims. He is about to make the kill, when he is suddenly transported back to Camp Crystal Lake, the home of his infamous killings, circa 1980. Through the technology of a holographic training program, Jason parades around what he believes to be the campgrounds, and encounters a pair of nubile inevitable victims. This clever set-piece offers proof of one simple fact: Jason should have stayed on earth.