The movie starts off fairly well, relatively speaking. Tommy Jarvis has grown up into a young man and returns to Jason's grave, unable to go on living unless he can completely verify for himself that Jason is really dead. On the other hand, digging up Jason's grave and essentially freeing him (since Tommy doesn't believe that Jason can be killed) doesn't exactly strike me as the best course of action. What was he planning to do, collect Jason's teeth and go check his dental records? At any rate, at least there is some thought put into an interesting way to bring Jason back to life, at least long enough to kill enough kids to fill up another movie.
Tommy digs Jason up and then stabs his decayed corpse with a nearby fencepost, which is promptly struck by lightning thus bringing Jason back to life. It was earlier in this scene in the movie that someone utters the line, "Some folks have a strange idea of entertainment," which I had planned on using as the summary line in my review. Sadly, I logged on to the IMDb and the first thing I noticed was that I was not as clever as I thought. It is, after all, one of the best lines in the movie, since it is such a tongue in cheek jab at the movie's biggest fans.
During the paintball scene that soon follows, I was immediately struck by the intelligence of the characters. I really appreciate that this movie has people in it who are boneheads but they're not stupid. These are regular guys with undeveloped intellects rather than the typical horror movie moron, one of the worst things to ever see in a horror film. Or any other film, for that matter. It is a great scene when Jason gets his hands on a machete, for example. One of the boneheads in the movie, Burt, is shot by a woman during the paintball game, after which he proceeds to hack away at the trees around him, and check this out. He curses to himself that she shouldn't have been out there in the first place, she should have stayed where she belonged (presumably the kitchen), etc. This is a development of his character as well as the revelation of a deep character flaw that allows the audience to enjoy his death even after learning something about who he is. When was someone invented as fodder ever given that depth of character? Never!
Sure, we hardly learn about his childhood and his dreams, but the point is that he ceases to be nothing but some poor sucker to get hacked up in a creative way by Jason. Then you have the other guy who loses his gun. Again, a lesser horror film would have had him lose his gun through some monumental act of paralyzing stupidity. In this film, he's just an office geek who isn't used to handling guns. He thinks he's in a warzone but he is just out of his element, and Jason is closing in to remind him of where he belongs. These are some of the best characters ever put into the Friday the 13th series.
Granted, the movie does have its share of lame goofiness. The cemetery man (that's a good movie, too), for example, at the beginning responds to Tommy's request to dig up Jason with something like, "Dig him up? Does he think I'm a farthead?! Huh huh huh!" but the characters clearly have the most depth and meaning that we have seen in the series so far. The dumbest characters in the movie are the cops, which I'm sure has some sort of hidden message (which Hitchcock would have appreciated, no doubt), and there is also a clever scene involving the TV. One of the kids staying at the camp (oh, I forgot to tell you, they've changed the charming name of Camp Blood so that they can operate as a summer camp) one night swears that she saw a monster. The counselors tell her that it's okay, it was just a bad dream, but she insists that it was real, "just like TV." Hear that, parents? Don't let your kids watch too much TV or they'll grow up and watch movies like this!
Besides that, the little girl's name was Nancy. Could this be an homage to Nightmare on Elm Street?
There is an interesting plot structure that involves the police thinking that Tommy is doing the killing, which ties in neatly with their status as the dumbest guys in the movie. This is leaps and bounds better than the sequels that preceded it (and light years better than Part VIII!!), there's even some good direction. The shot of Jason standing on top of the burning motor-home is one of the best shots thus far in the series. If you're going to watch some Friday the 13th movies, definitely don't miss this one. It's easy to get tired of the same old thing by this point, but this one is worth skipping ahead to see.