With a few days ago being Friday the 13th it reminded be of one of my greatest movie guilty pleasures, the Friday the 13th series. Ridiculed by mainstream press like many of it’s genre, Friday the 13th survived and flourished with it fans tenacity to cheer on the trail of vengeance of one Jason Voorhees. The mask wearing machete wielding slow-moving and witted momma's boy, became the icon of 80’s hollywood slasher films as well as making it into the conscious of american pop culture.
From Crystal Lake to Manhattan, space, and even Hell itself. Telekinetic girls, young hollywood head cases, and even some guy named Freddy. The franchise has certainly had an interesting run into it’s now cult legacy. In celebrating mommy’s special little boy’s special day let me take you down memory lane and give you my countdown of the greatest hits and misses that was the Friday the 13th franchise.
Friday the 13th: A new Beginning
Lets start of the countdown with a movie that doesn’t actually involve Jason or his mother. Friday the 13th: A new Beginning directed by Danny Steinmann was a reboot to the franchise after Friday the 13th the Final chapter became an unexpected money-maker at the box office. Paramount thought that the name itself became bigger than the character. And like the results of Friday the 13th’s brother franchises same thought and attempt, Halloween 3: Seasons of the Witch, it was a complete dud.
With the only “canon” the film had to the series was the character of Tommy Jarvis, the man who actually killed Jason the movie earlier. In no surprise to anyone with semblance of brain matter, the movie was a colossal flop and fans actually decided to retcon the canon of the movie out of the series. It kept everything that was bad about the earlier installments without actually having any of the things that made the Jason movies fun. If the fans act as if the movie never existed so should you, lets move on for the love of god.
Jason Takes Manhattan
The eighth installment of the franchise as well as the last movie of the franchise Paramount ever produced. Jason Takes Manhattan took Jason of the Crystal Lake and put him in the big apple. I sometimes feel that production companies take a bunch of random scripts, throw them into a lottery spinner, and wait for a couple of pages to fly out, staple them together and hopefully find a director with absolutely nothing to lose.
To put it simply, Jason Takes Manhattan was flat-out abysmal. Other than scene in which Jason boxes with a guy on a rooftop and knocking his head off into a trash can there is nothing else to see. For the second time in a row they brought in a girl with a psychic ability (and can you believe a virgin to boot?) and her dad who was so cartoony evil that he might as well had a curly mustache and tied her to the subway tracks cackling, (hell that might actually have been a better idea).
This movie also has one of the worst representations of a big city I have ever seen. Jason walks into a coffee shop and of course wreaks havoc and as he is leaving one of the waitresses says in a “fantastic” and “witty” tone “Welcome to New York”. Ugh and of course the scene can’t be complete without a random black guy commenting on the situation in a “jive” manner, way to go Hollywood, way to go.
Well Jason has been to Manhattan so what's the next frontier for ol machete boy, how about freaking space. Jason X is the third movie to actually have Sean S. Cunningham, the director of the original, on a franchise film this time-serving as a producer.
While this movie certainly has a laughable plot and overly cheesy dialogue, I gotta admit, I certainly had a bit of fun. The story takes place sometime in the future and yaddy laddy da, Jason gets on a space ship and begins killing fools. That’s really all you need to know as well as the birth of a new kind of Jason, cyborg Jason using some kind machine to rebuild body parts the movie actually gave Jason “Plot” armor in the literal sense and I commend them on it.
Nothing else really stands out that previous installments of the series haven’t already done and done better, no creative kills, no interesting characters, and the sci-fi concepts are just a rehash of previously used and superior films. Jason killing people in space, and I’m totally cool with it.
Friday the 13th (2009)
While the before mentioned title wanted to take Jason to a whole new and extravagant world, the 2009 reboot directed by Marcus Nispel, wanted to take Friday the 13th to it dark, gritty, and dirty roots.
The main star, Mr. Jared Padalecki, from the Supernatural series, one of the Internets as well as my own favorite TV series of the past decade. While I believe Jared did a fine job playing a brother looking for his lost sister, when I saw him on-screen I kept thinking “Where the hell is Dean, Sam?” the movie is just too close in plot and story to what could be seen as a Supernatural episode, with that notion my suspension of disbelief would always stall as my knowledge of the Sam Winchester would bleed into the character of Clay even though they are different characters…...
With that being said I respect the attempt at bringing the franchise back into a more realistic and grittier fashion, but that dirtiness is the same issue I have not just with this movie but all of its ilk in this reboot generation, and that is the need for these characters to take a damn shower. While I like Rob Zombie as a musician, as well as his House of a Thousand Corpses series, the 2 movie reboot of John Carpenter’s Halloween was in my opinion unneeded and severely hurt the idea of Michael Myers as “The Shadow”.
Making something dirty, literally dirty, doesn’t make a movie any more realistic or scary, it just makes the movie more, you know, dirty. And while the remake of Friday the 13th has a bit more leeway as the setting is a campground. Just because thanks to modern picture technology comes the ability to see every ounce of sweat glistening off a 26-year-old “teenage” body, doesn’t make the movie any more unnerving.
Friday the 13th remake tried to make the movie a believable and frightening story of a brother trying to save his lost and kidnapped sister. But the movie just wasn’t that scary, and without the elements of campy behavior and fun like its predecessors it falls flat. In line with other horror franchise reboots directors are trying to make us forget the character traits, tropes, and quirks of the earlier installments which is a task an audience will never do. In my opinion the movie would probably have been better off leaving Jason on the back burner and not taking place in Crystal Lake at all.
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
Jason Goes to Hell is the first picture under the license of New Line Cinema after buying the rights of the franchise from Paramount as well as the first time creator of the original friday Sean S. Cunningham came back to the series as a producer.
Director and co-writer Adam Marcus brought something different to the series in comparison to previous movies in the series. Instead of the lumbering machete wielding behemoth we all know and love, that Jason Voorhees got a total of about 5 minutes in the entire movie. His body, blown to smithereens by the feds forced Jason’s “essence” to infect and posses others, as he tries to find body snatch his way back to Crystal Lake.
Something interesting that Marcus attempted to do was to explain how Jason, after all his clear deaths and demise, can still keep getting up and ticking. Jason Goes To Hell also has my personal favorite death scene in all the Friday movies, when a camping couple are “lovemaking”.... ah screw it they were screwing, when a couple are screwing in a tent my man Jason or some meat puppet he infected was just walking at the right moment at the right time and just so happened to have an impaling device on hand. As you know Jason forbids sex as he is a very holy man, the chick happened to become holy as well after he impaled her.
The movie had a lot of campy and funny moments and you could tell the writers had a really fun time making this film. Compared to the earlier movie Jason Takes Manhattan, Jason Goes to Hell was a much-needed breath of fresh air.
I feel the movie didn’t get a lot of recognition as a Friday movie because it didn’t really feel like a Friday movie. The possession plot, the Voorhees family plot, and the demon plot, felt weird and seemingly felt like what Halloween 6 tried to do to Micheal Myers, making Jason some sort of demonic spirit. While I like the idea and actually think it does make sense, the earlier movies make no inclination of the sort maybe to the fault of their own.
While the movie was by no means perfect and felt more like an evil dead movie (including a little tip of the hat in a scene) than a Friday movie, it’s an enjoyable popcorn flick if you are in the right mood at the right time. And the ending (which is probably the best Friday ending after the original) alone makes this movie better than a lot of other Fridays.
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
If there is anything to remember Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood by it would be creative deaths. In my opinion this movie had the best deaths of any before and after it. From slamming a sleeping bag filled with teens into a tree multiple times, a party horn through the eye socket, and disembowelment with a branch saw, Jason really stepped his game up for the 5th go around.
This was also the first time Jason fought anyone with abilities that seem inhuman, the main character, Tina, had telekinetic powers meaning she could move things with her mind, and a complete basket case, which causes Jason to awaken from his slumber in the first place (surprisingly it wasn’t the dumbest way he's brought back in a movie).
While still having some campy moments, the movie does try to delve into the deeper psyche of its protagonists, growing up with an abusive father, as well as accidentally causing the demise of said father. And trying to overcome these issues all the while dealing with a homicidal mass murdering zombie goalie.
While neither the scariest nor funniest installment of the series as well as needing the most obvious need of suspension of disbelief from the audience yet seen. Part VII passed where its sequel Jason Takes Manhattan failed miserably which is having a good middle of the road Friday movie with a bit of heart and supernatural flavor thrown in.
Freddy vs Jason
After acquisition of the Friday franchise by New Line you knew it was only a matter of time before the 2 slasher titans under their company battle it out (even alluded to back in Jason Goes to Hell) for slasher supremacy. While taking longer than everyone thought it would, Freddy vs Jason finally hit theaters in the Summer of 2003. Breaking the box office records of both franchises.
Let me explain the plot in one sentence: Freddy is weak, needs Jason to get back into the minds of Elm Street children for power, things go awry, Jason and Freddy Fight. With a title such as Freddy vs Jason the plot is incredibly irrelevant as people watch this movie for one reason. To watch Freddy and Jason kick the shit out of each other.
And you know what it succeeded, the movie is not really scary, its campy, you have teenagers having sex and getting killed and all the other tropes that give slasher movies that love/hate relationship with movie going audiences. I found it purely entertaining and while the movie has plot holes that creates canon issues(at least on the Friday side) for each respectable series. The amount of people who care would be so insignificant now that it’s not worth talking about at all. And in comparison to the travesty that was the Alien vs Predator movies Freddy vs Jason was a breath of fresh air.
Friday the 13th
Yes the original Friday the 13th, the one that started it all, how could this not be the top one on your list, that mother, that ending. I know I know the boat scene was the most shocking ending in the franchises history as well as Betsy Palmer’s frightening performance as Mrs.Voorhees is still probably the best acted role in the series as well. In my opinion without the big man in the woods I can’t put it atop the list.
I’m really going to play devils advocate as while I understand that the original was probably the best movie in a sense of story pacing, character development, and acting, the movie just wasn’t as fun as the one’s ahead of it. Now I’m not saying that story and character development aren’t important in the series, I mean look at the 5th and 8th entries. But let’s face it none of the movies in this series are The Godfather and saying this homicidal slasher maniac in the woods story is better than that homicidal maniac in the woods story is really pulling strings.
Now all that said I enjoyed immensely what they were able to pull off on the budget given. The motto less is more has never been more poignant, if you look back at the movie you would realize that the amount of blood used and shown is incredibly low compared to the rest of the series, again proving that more blood doesn’t equal better movie unless your name is Sam Raimi.
The mystery of not knowing the killer was the only time in this series that for most of the film you didn’t know who the killer (other than the 5th but that movies not real) actually was. Kevin Bacon’s arrow through the neck scene is still one of my favorite death scenes, and the music is one of the most recognizable sounds in all of horror behind only Halloween and The Exorcist in my opinion.
This was the one to start it all and is deserves the top 5, maybe in time my opinion will change and will move up my rankings, but the lack of the big man, and due to the lack of zany actions and cheese I have come to know and love about this series forces me to stick it in at number five on my countdown of favorite Friday the 13th films of all time.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
The 4th and supposed “last” film of the Friday series when it was first released in 1984, the final chapter, as promised, put to bed the original incarnation of Jason Voorhees by the hands of Jason’s ultimate antagonist and foil, Tommy Jarvis (played by a young Corey Feldman).
The film was probably the most gruesome addition to the series with a couple of the deaths giving you that uncomfortable jolt up the spine, but in comparison to many of the modern gore flicks we see today it would probably be considered pretty tame.
This movie was the first movie in what I like to call the Tommy Jarvis trilogy, even though he technically only got one sequel as the 2nd film in that trilogy isn’t actually canon. Tommy is a young child in this movie and probably would have been better served being a couple of years older just for believability of the fact that a child was able to take down someone as formidable as Jason.
The movie was cool in the fact that it gave Jason many weapons to choose from, such as a scalpel, bone saw, and a harpoon gun. Why was there a harpoon gun at camp Crystal Lake, I dunno but screw it lets roll. The Final Chapter also did a good job tying up loose ends from the earlier films. Believe it or not the first 4 chapters in the series actually have a running plot and storyline with multiple characters having connections to the characters in the earlier films as Rob one of the main characters of The Final Chapter lost his sister to Jason in the 2nd film.
I appreciate connections to past characters in story setting much more so than “Ooooo Crystal Lake that place be scary, bad stuff happens there, don’t go” as character recognition gives a sense of siphoned world building meaning that while the characters aka meat shields for the Friday films are fairly random, some characters had a real reason being there, either out for revenge or reasons more solemn.
One problem I see with this particular film is that the 2nd 3rd and 4th movies span a timeline of a couple of days. While it makes sense for campers to still be at crystal lake in Part III as Part II events happened literally the night before, cops and medics were not dispatched until the end of III. The Final Chapter took place a night after Part III with cops cleaning up the mess of the earlier 2 films. Shouldn’t the police quarantine the entire area and a flood of detectives from local state and federal governments running to a scene of a mass murder? But going into the plot holes and inconsistencies would be an entire new article as this one is already long-winded enough. Better than most Fridays but the not best.
Friday the 13th Part 2
Ah yes Part II, the movie that turned the myth of Jason Voorhees into a legend. This movie opens up two months after the earlier film and Alice just can’t catch a break. The heroine of the first filmed starred in the second movie for a total of about…. 5 minutes before getting an ice pick through the skull. Sayonara cast of Episode 1 we hardly knew thee.
Skip 5 years later now and we have a brand new crystal lake it’s not exactly Crystal Lake but it’s close meaning instead of the campground being to the left of the lake it’s on the right, logic my friends logic.
The movie ran par for the course in the feel of the first film except for mama Voorhees slinging axes it was the knapsack hero himself. While people remember Jason for his signature hockey mask and machete, in Part 2 he only had the machete.
But in his spare time Jason boy could be seen building an altar to his mother. Jason is by no means an architect, or a fully cognitive thinking human for that way. But he put a lot of heart into building a shrine around his mother’s head and I commend him for it.
Part 2 gave us the reasoning of Jason’s ire. It wasn’t that he almost drowned from the lack of watchful eyes from the counselors. It was the sight of his mother’s head getting chopped off by a virtuous virgin that set him off.
This film also has no love for the physically disabled as well, as poor Mark a wheelchair bound man and all around good guy gets completely friend zoned by the female cast after doing so he not only gets an axe to the face put pushed down the stairs in his wheelchair by Jason after doing so, pure comedy gold.
The film set in motion the series to come, it's very similar to the first film in the feel with the first appearance of the future icon of 80’s slashers, just for that it deserves a top 3 spot.
Friday the 13th Part III
If I was to choose the most thrilling and jumpy Friday the 13th movie I would have to go with Friday the 13th Part III. The second movie in a row directed by Steve Miner, the events of Part III pick up a day after the end of Part II and one of the first movies attempting the new 3D technology. Jason after recovering from his axe attack by Ginny decided to head to the store for a makeover. After getting a new wardrobe from a local store and properly paying the couple, running the store with an axe and knitting needle, he’s ready to roll for some more action.
Part III was also the first appearance of Jason’s signature accessory, the harpoon gun, wait, I mean, his hockey mask. Without this film Jason may have very well fell into the abyss of pop culture like many of it’s genre. But thanks to Miner’s decision to change-up Jason’s look, we now have the Jason Voorhees remembered to this day.
While I said earlier that the first film was the best in a sense of characters and setting. I feel that Part III was the most polished and well-rounded movie to come out of this franchise. It kept the standard tropes of the genre which of course is laughable in the wrong state of mind, but there were no standout flaws that this movie had. The deaths were satisfying, characters not overly annoying, and the Crystal lake setting was probably at it’s best, and as I said in my opening statement, Friday the 13th Part III was the scariest film in the series.
The setups were well-directed and built actual suspense unlike the films before and after that you could see the setup a mile away and the use of lighting to set the mood rather well.
The ending was a dreamlike throwback to the original and Jason’s demise really felt like they could have ended the series here as a trilogy and fans wouldn’t have had an issue. It was the last Friday to have the feel of a simple camping excursion gone wrong. Jason while strong wasn’t the non realistic unbeatable machine he is now, he just felt like a competent killer that used his knowledge of the environment to his advantage. The timeline of the first three films actually held together in a competent and understandable way. Jason’s mother kills counselors for the death of her son, mother's killed by counselors, Jason seeks revenge, camp opened 5 years later, Jason has his two-day rampage, eventually dies by counselor hand, the cops get to the scene and discover a bloodbath, Crystal Lake closed forever, the end.
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
If I was short on time and could only sit down and pick one Friday the 13th movie, which movie in it’s endless catalog would I choose, easy I would choose part 6. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives is the relaunching of the series after the failure that was part 5 and decided to bring back it’s flagship masked crusader. But how do they bring back a man who died 10 years ago? simple stick a stake into his chest and have lightning strike it.
Friday the 13th Part VI:Jason Lives was the written and directed by Tom McLoughlin and sadly the only time he had input into the series. McLoughlin understood that to bring back Jason at this stage is beyond the realm of realism, so he turned the movie into something the film and frankly the genre probably needed more of and that was just a hell of a good time.
Jason Lives was by far the most humorous, campy, and fun movie in the series, poking fun at itself and others telling the audience “Hey this is a movie stupid enjoy the ride”.
The plot actually followed the events of the 4 previous canon films, and involved the aforementioned Tommy Jarvis coming back to Crystal Lake, (now called Forest Green to hide people from the truth of it’s bloody history) and setting off a chain of events that turns this now peaceful town back into the battleground it was a decade before.
The cast was the best cast in any of the movies, the campers again brought a sense of humor and I must admit Megan is the only heroine in the Friday movies that I actually didn’t want to die, her character wasn’t as wooden as most of her ilk and the relationship with Tommy while not necessarily believable gave the movie a little extra.
Jason Lives takes everything I love about the series and rolled it into one. While it wasn’t scary in the slightest, these movies were never nail biters or at least the series in how it turned out. But the tongue in cheek campy humor , gore, and Kane Hodder, the best Jason to dates’ first role. It gave the Friday series a new feel, one that I wish it stuck with in its newer installments. Jason is not frightening but fun, fans go to the Friday movies to cheer for the villain, no one cares about the campers or counselors, they want to see them die.
Tom McLoughlin understood this and handled the screen time between Jason and the rest of the cast nearly perfectly. I wish the directors of the movies after Jason Lives followed his lead, although the direct sequel to this movie The New Blood also did a good job portraying Jason’s now zombified state, the others couldn’t find the right mixture of humor and horror to make it’s stake as a competent Friday movie. If the series had a couple more Jason Lives instead of Manhattan and space, the series might have been in a better state than it is now.
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