• Having a kill count so high that it borders on existential; characters arrive, say a line, and die, without having any impact on anything
• Coughing up all the accoutrements of Jason Voorhees—the mask, the machete, the serious antipathy toward sex and teenagers—without providing the real thing
• Juwanna Mann star Miguel Núñez… on a toilet, no less
Defenders: Director Danny Steinmann, actors John Shepherd and Shavar Ross, and fan Michael Felsher
Tone of commentary: Genial and chatty. Nobody is under the impression that Part V is a great movie, although there is some defensiveness over the fact that it gets so much hate from series fans. Steinmann spends a lot of time cheerfully confused by the story (“Who the fuck is this?” “What is she complaining about, does anybody know?” “Who cares what he’s doing?”), and chiding the others when they start nitpicking: “When you guys pick and choose that stuff, it demeans the work. What’s important was, there were people getting killed, and you saw some breasts.”
Felsher provides history for the series, Ross compliments the actors and seems delighted to be there, and Shepherd wryly discusses his performance. He plays Tommy Jarvis, the red-herring lead who was originally set up as the killer for future Friday The 13th entries, and apparently, his commitment to the role was intense: “We’d shot all night, and then in the morning, I go outside my girlfriend’s place and stand outside ’til she woke up. And one morning she woke up and there I was, and it freaked her out. ‘You’re becoming the character!’”
Shepherd also researched the part, which has all of three lines and basically just requires him to glower and/or look scared. Nonetheless, his efforts made it hard to find other acting work, as casting directors were so convinced by his performance they thought he “really [was] that character.”
Still, he takes everything with as much salt as the others. During one pivotal scene early in the film, in which a mute sociopath is chopping wood while a fat man talks to him, he comments, “I question giving kids in a halfway house an axe. You look at him, why would you give him an axe?” (Felsher: “Why do they need firewood?”) And he isn’t above self-deprecation. When asked midway through about what he thought about a plot development unrelated to his character, he explains, “I’m like every other actor. I go through the script: ‘My scene, my scene, blah blah blah, my scene, my scene.’”
What went wrong: Producers dictated that Steinmann “give ’em a scare or jump or kill every seven or eight minutes or so,” which made it hard to get the story established. Plus, there’s the standard complaint for nearly every Friday movie (and slashers in general): The MPAA demanded cuts before it would hand down the required R rating, which meant a lot of disjointed editing and some fairly oblique murders. Steinmann says more than once, “They just took the film apart.” Some sequences were re-shot entirely, and he isn’t always happy with the results: “I’m looking at these kills, and they’re not good.”
Felsher talks about the problem as well: “The Friday The 13th series became a whipping boy, and from part five to part eight, sequences are just gone. I think they missed the point. By taking them out, they don’t lessen the impact of the violence. They make it more serious.” Which doesn’t really explain why Part V often seems like a Tom & Jerry cartoon without the likeable characters.
Comments on the cast: Steinmann sets the standard early on: “Now this is a nice-looking woman. Beautiful. And she does a nice job in this. The running and the rain and the breasts.” In general, everybody loves everybody, the women are praised for their looks, and the men are lauded for their acting skill. (Miguel Núñez, who has a small role as Ross’ older brother, gets lauded for his awkward, knee-locked run to an outhouse as he struggles with sudden diarrhea.) The leering could’ve been creepy, but given that the whole point of the movie is boobs and death, it’s hard to take offense. Steinmann describes Debi Sue Voorhees as “a writer and a schoolteacher. Plus she’s got these big tits!” and Melanie Kinnaman gets some attention for her ability to run around in a rainstorm wearing a clingy white blouse.
When they aren’t ogling, the commentators spend their time trying to place certain faces. Steinmann: “This guy was in Biloxi Blues, with Matthew Broderick. He had a good part. This wasn’t the guy in The Wire, who played the mayor?” (He wasn’t.) and “Was she the girl in ‘Thriller’?” (Nope.) Only one cast member is singled out for censure—Ric Mancini, who overacts through his big scene as the town mayor. (Considering that the performances here run the gamut from near-comatose to epileptic-with-a-megaphone, it’s hard to pinpoint why Mancini gets criticized for hamming it up. Although he is pretty terrible.)
Inevitable dash of pretension: Steinmann thinks the setting has more of an impact on the story than it actually does: “But this halfway house, so good, you’ll see the group meetings later on, you’ll see the interactions at the halfway house, and they really help each other, and it’s a wonderful thing to see. That’s another subtext.” There’s a good deal of talk about subtext, actually; given the body count, it’s amazing they had the time. Shepherd compares a scene at the end when the murderer’s motivation is explained to the similar scene at the end of Psycho—which at least makes sense in that both scenes suck.
Commentary in a nutshell: Steinmann: “Oh! I thought he was killed already.”