I often feel like this one goes into the "underrated" category when there's quite a bit to appreciate about it. It furthers the ideas of the supernatural, brings a new and strong(ish) female lead in to fight Jason (instead of recasting Tommy Jarvis a third time), first establishes Kane Hodder as the go-to guy to play Jason (the only man to revisit the role at all, let alone three times after this), and, this is just personal, but this is by far my favourite rendition of Jason. More on that later.
When we last left our favourite horror anti-hero, he was chained to a boulder and left at the bottom of Crystal Lake, compliments of Tommy Jarvis in his final film appearance. Several years later, Tina Shephard (Lar Park-Lincoln), heads up to Crystal Lake (re-renamed since changing things to "Forest Green" made no difference) with her mother (Susan Blu) in an attempt to help her with her childhood trauma of once burying her own father alive under a dock by using her telekinetic abilities. And while that may sound ridiculous to some, I support the decision to think outside the box and give Jason some real competition.
Once at the old family cabin where it all went down, they meet with Dr. "Bad News" Crews (Terry Kiser), who claims to want to help Tina but is far more interested in what she can do, and studying her capabilities further. While Tina wants to figure her stuff out (including why she's seeing a strange man in a hockey mask who came up from the lake shortly after they arrived), this doctor douche-nozzle blames all of her problems on the guilt she must feel about killing her father. Meanwhile, by simply not listening to what Tina says, Jason is more or less ignored and free to continue his killing spree.
Said killing spree is, this time, based around a group of friends and the surprise party they are planning for when one of their own arrives. Chief among them is group heartthrob, Nick (Kevin Spirtas), who becomes quite smitten with Tina upon meeting her. Meanwhile a girl named Melissa (Susan Jennifer Sullivan) is smitten with him, and ends up being the secondary villain of the film by giving Tina and Nick a pretty damn hard time. Between her and Dr. Crews, you're not sure who should get it worse once Jason finds them. They both fully embody the idea to actually route for Jason and not treat him as the movie's primary villain.
The rest of the cast, for standard roll call, include couple Sandra (Heidi Kozak Haddad) and Russell (Larry Cox), birthday boy, Michael (William Butler) and his (assumed) girlfriend, Jane (Staci Greason), best friends Maddy and Robin (Diana Barrows and Elizabeth Kaitan, respectively) and their collective crush, David (Jon Renfield), aspiring sci-fi writer, Eddie (Jeff Bennett), and finally Ben and Kate (Craig Thomas and Diane Almeida, respectively), who pretty much portray (in my opinion) the average couple who may be in the audience, watching this movie for a good time.
The cast here follows closer to the formula of 'The Final Chapter' in that they are mostly driven by their hormones, and, for the most part, are honestly quite forgettable except for the main three, but by now we should all know that there's a formula of obviousness to these movies in which you can basically tell who is and isn't gonna make it. But for all of the film's bad, there's a lot of good all the same. Going back to Kane Hodder's first appearance of Jason, further credit really has to go to director and pro makeup/special effects guy, John Carl Buechler, who designed a more battle-scarred, more zombie-ish Jason, really making him look monstrous this time - a role Hodder carries out extremely well!
I tend to see this one as perhaps the most underrated of the bunch. Although the scattered cast is just following a typical formula, there's a certain hype for Jason that we were left with after 'Jason Lives', and once again, this film gives you two very convincing reasons (in the form of horrible characters) to route for the hockey-masked anti-hero. I also really like that this becomes a more brain vs brawn, toe-to-toe battle of the supernatural. Really, the only time Jason fights someone else with unnatural abilities before he takes on Freddy. It might not have the dark-comedic pull for me that 'Jason Lives' does, but it's still very fun and unique in its own way.