It should surprise no one that the first time I went to New York was for a Fangoria Weekend of Horrors convention (in January of 1998 - anyone else there?), but what may surprise you is how nervous I was about going into the city "alone". I mean, I had my friends with me, but I was a few months shy of my 18th birthday and thus still a minor, going to the terrifying Big Apple without my parents to protect me from all its horrors - like the crackheads that would kidnap me and force me to use heroin, the nightly toxic waste flooding of the sewers, and of course, the groups of angry punks who would pull knives on me if I happened to knock over their stereo.
Yes, despite having seen perfectly normal versions of the city in other movies, for some reason I got it in my head that Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan offered a pretty accurate depiction of the city*, and thought for sure I'd run into some sort of trouble that I wouldn't be able to handle. Naturally, the worst thing that happened was getting a bit lost trying to find our way back out of the city after the convention, and an inability to find a Sunoco gas station (that was my preferred gas supplier since I had their card, and thus could use my limited cash flow for stupid shit at the con). But the next time I watched Jason's adventure in Manhattan's most Canadian borough, I couldn't help but wonder why they depicted the city as such a hellhole.
Now, a part of that was due to the fact that they shot it in Canada and thus had to mock things up anyway, and also the plot required them to stick to out of the way areas because they couldn't afford to spring Jason loose in the middle of, say, Madison Square Garden (one of the original script's far-too-expensive concepts). I don't doubt that there are dark alleys in New York where someone like me would certainly be mugged in the middle of the night (being drowned in a barrel of sludge afterwards... maybe 50/50 odds?), but what I didn't understand at the time was that the movie's budget/actual production location kept them from really showing the nicer parts of the city. Obviously it's been cleaned up since 1988/1989 when the movie was shot, but even then, I doubt New York was ever the nightmarish dump that the film presented.
However, there was one key scene shot in the actual city - Jason walking through Times Square (impossible to fake) and facing off against those aforementioned punks. We see these dudes early on during the opening credits, chilling in the familiar middle section (one of them laying down, presumably gazing at that giant Batman billboard we saw in the wider shot) and listening to their awesome boom box. This turns out to be foreshadowing, as our heroes rush by the punks later on and Jason, in pursuit, just barrels through their stereo - which was propped against the wall they were sitting on before but is now on a table on the sidewalk for Jason's sake (seriously, it's kind of surprising no one knocked it over before Jason did). The punks instantly hop to their feet and pull out standard punk weapons (a butterfly knife, a chain), and it seems like we're primed for a pretty great bit where Jason - for what would be the first time in the series - takes on a group of foes at once. Alas, writer/director Rob Hedden goes for a cheap gag where Jason doesn't even try to kill them, but instead scares them off by lifting up his mask and showing them his face. "Yo man, it's cool - it's cool!" their leader says, lowering his sweet butterfly knife and joining his pals in getting the hell away.
This of course establishes Jason as an alpha predator, because punks in '80s movies are synonymous with "bad guys" (see: several other articles we've posted this month), and yet they didn't even try to fight him off, backing down just at the sight of his "deformed Muppet" face (that term for the film's less than stellar makeup was used by someone I wish I could remember to credit). To a young BC, this played like gangbusters, but when I got older I realized how obnoxious it was - since when does Jason let people run away? Why is he so hellbent on these two kids and ignoring so many other potential victims? Why were we denied the sight of Jason taking down a guy with a mohawk with his own broken bottle or whatever? The same thing happens throughout the New York sequence, as Jason storms past people on the street, and the subway, and a diner (save for a fry cook** who gets in his face) without bothering to rack up his kill count along the way. Like the city's less than appealing depiction, the budget is the real reason - they couldn't afford any big Jason massacres (especially in Times Square, as they could probably only afford an hour or so of shooting there), so the character betrays his number one rule - which is, of course, "Kill everyone in sight".
But his brief change of heart means that a lot of fictional Manhattanites probably have a crazy story to tell their friends, especially those four punks who probably got closer to Jason than any other still-living person has besides the ones that "killed" him themselves. Maybe they were scared straight, getting jobs and families instead of hanging out in the middle of Times Square listening to their catchy rap tunes ("Living in the city ain't no big deal, living in the city ain't no big deal..."), ready to throw down with anyone who happened by (that one guy already had the chain at the ready - why?). As for me, I conquered my fear of the city and returned several times - and even managed to walk around alone in a very unfamiliar and not particularly tourist-friendly area at 2 am a couple years ago, searching for a 24 hour Dunkins for reasons that escape me now (kinda late for a coffee, jackass). And as with every single time I returned since that first trip, I had to laugh once again that for several years, I was seriously afraid of running into these guys:
* I also kept thinking about Crazy People, the Dudley Moore comedy about honest advertising slogans that included "Come to New York - there were fewer murders last year!"
** The cook is played by Ken Kirzinger, who would go on to play Jason in the "horrendous" Freddy vs. Jason.