***Jason takes a cruise to the big city!***
Released in 1989, "Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan" is a nice change of pace as the series was suffering from banality at this point; the previous installment is a prime example (people complain about Part V but at least it had an interesting new story angle with Tommy Jarvis going to the halfway house in the woods seeking succor for his psychological trauma, etc.). Part VII tried something new with the Carrie-like protagonist, and that entry has a great finale, but it was hampered by a subpar, amateurish script.
Part VIII changes things up by switching the normal location of Crystal Lake (and surrounding area) to a ship going to Manhattan with a group of high school kids and adults aboard. Of course, Jason also gets on the vessel and starts systematically wiping out the youths. A handful of them make it to Manhattan, but so does Jason! The different setting is what distinguishes Part VIII.
The story is split into four parts: The prologue takes place on Crystal Lake and features Jason's resurrection, which is a great opening. The brief first act takes place down the river from Crystal Lake at a docking inlet where the youths & adults board the vessel. The long second act takes place on the ship and the final act involves the survivors on a lifeboat and their adventures in Manhattan pursued by Jason.
Winsome Jensen Daggett stands out as the heroine Rennie and places as one of my top 3 or 4 Friday girls. Peter Mark Richman is also notable as Rennie's peculiar uncle/guardian and Scott Reeves as Rennie's sort-of boyfriend. Sharlene Martin is a highlight as Tamara and the filmmakers show off her physique, but she's so devious that she's a turn-off despite her good looks. Kelly Hu is also on hand.
The main complaint I hear about this entry is that it's called "Jason Takes Manhattan" but only the final act takes place in the city. This criticism never made any sense to me as the film spends more than enough time in the big city, the final 37 minutes, not to mention an opening snippet. The fact that the entire second act occurs on the ship keeps the movie from being one-dimensional.
This installment reveals that a fairly large river flows from Crystal Lake to an inlet with access to the ocean. The yacht in the beginning drifts down the river to the bay where the ship is docked. This is how Jason inconspicuously reaches the inlet. If there’s any doubt about this (due to the mistaken claim that the docking inlet IS Crystal Lake), pay attention to what the crazy deckhand says later on.
As far as locations go, Part VIII was shot in Vancouver & Britannia Beach, British Columbia; Los Angeles (the alley way & wharf scenes); and New York City.
BOTTOM LINE: Part VIII is a worthy entry in the series and is notable for trying something new by placing the main cast in a cruise ship environment and the big city, plus Jensen Daggett is a highlight as the female protagonist. It's actually better than Part III and VII. Interestingly, Jason's facial F/X (shown at the end) aren't as good as the previous two installments, but they're serviceable.
The film runs 100 minutes.