Open up your windows and hark at the sounds of screaming teenagers! Do you know what day it is? Why, yes. It’s Jason’s day—Friday the 13th!
Friday the 13th, through stellar makeup, gnarly kills, and delightfully corny franchise gimmicks, prevails as a seminal piece of the slasher craze puzzle, spawning a long-enduring franchise and one of the most recognizable horror icons of all time. Regardless if you’ve seen them, you know who Jason is; he’s a figment, like most 80s slashers, of the moral-fixturing, Reagan-era cinematic folklore. Slay the air-headed teens on the cusp of adulthood, while leaving the headstrong, quick-thinking good girl, who abstains from passed-around paraphernalia and other promiscuous proclivities, and lives to see another day.
The Friday the 13th films may not be as immediately well regarded for its very 80s sub-textual layering, amid the creative slaughtering of hormone-infused teenagers, of other slashics like John Carpenter’s Halloween or Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, but it means a lot to me as a formative piece of my long-standing love affair with horror. I learned from a young age who Jason was, yet had never seen any of the films, that is, until I stumbled upon the 8-film DVD box set at a pawn shop. For years, I hid the collection from my folks, waiting until they went to bed to watch them. I still own that set and have no plans to ever get rid of it; I owe way too much to it.
The series is currently strung up in a seemingly never ending legal kerfuffle between Friday scribe Victor Miller and director Sean S. Cunningham claiming true ownership of the property, essentially prohibiting another movie from getting off the ground until the dust clears. Who knows when Jason will don the mask once again? But in the meantime, we have 12 films, each of varying quality, to look back on.
In the midst of smashing mirrors, walking under ladders, or getting a novelty tattoo, why not take a few moments to scroll through another ranking of the Friday the 13th films? And I’d be tickled blood red if you did. We wouldn’t want to upset our machete-wielding slasher of ceremonies, now would we? Note that these rankings change almost every year in my head, so consider this my in-the-moment ranking. With that out of the way, *SPOILERS AHEAD*.
12) Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
Jason Goes to Hell is a great example of stellar marketing for an awful film. Jason melting away in a New York sewer hardly seemed like a proper (second) finale for such an iconic villain. Where Jason Goes to Hell goes wrong is its opening prologue. A hoodwinked Jason (Kane Hodder) rummaging through the woods of Camp Crystal Lake is ambushed by the FBI who essentially lure him out into the open by exploiting his own formula against him (a beautiful woman making herself comfortable in an isolated cabin). The squadron then proceeds to blow him to kingdom come until all that’s left is a still-beating heart. What a finale! Oh, there’s a whole movie left? Wait, he’s not “Jason” Jason, he’s a slimy slug monster that possesses one body after the other until he inhabits the body of, let’s see if I’m reading this correctly, another Voorhees? Okay…
You know you’re in trouble when your horror movie peaks within the first ten minutes. I suppose it was a bold decision to suppress the franchise’s icon in favor of taking a bizarre new turn for the character, but the majority of Jason Goes to Hell struggled in bringing me over to its side of the table. New additions like Steven Williams’ Creighton Duke, an insightful bounty hunter type who constantly unleashes Jason intel out of his ass, and Steven, played by John D. LeMay of Friday the 13th: The Series fame, are stiff additions to the series even for Friday the 13th standards. All the talk of a Voorhees prophecy only makes Jason significantly less interesting and/or intimidating. Just ask Michael (see Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers).
New Line Cinema’s first entry of the series after acquiring the rights from Paramount really fumbles with super lame characters, a botched attempt at mythology, and the worst crime of all—endowing the definitive Jason, Kane Hodder, with one of the character’s coolest looks (mask grafted onto his face) only to immediately can it for, I repeat, a slime worm. Surprise Freddy tease or not, this one’s a dud.
Most Memorable Kill—Deborah’s impaling in the tent is a solid gore effect on its own, but the Jason-possessed coroner (Richard Gant) immediately splitting her in half with the rod is the icing on the cake.
11) Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
It only took a year after The Final Chapter, but Friday the 13th emerged with another franchise black sheep that ultimately ranks towards the bottom of my list with A New Beginning—the film that proves that slasher villains only stay dead if their box office does. The film’s inciting incident isn’t someone disappearing in the woods or even a teenage Tommy Jarvis (John Shepherd), reserved as ever, arriving at the forest halfway house for troubled youths, but rather one of the home’s inhabitants, the comically adult-sized Vic (Mark Venturini), cleaving fellow resident Joey (Dominick Brascia) with an ax after a meaningless dispute about wood chopping and candy bars. The kids go missing, there’s a killer on the loose and it must be Jason, you know the drill.
A New Beginning is the first Friday film since the original to incorporate a mystery killer, and despite the honest attempts at setting paths for multiple red herrings (Tommy plagued by visions of Jason looming over his shoulder, mysterious drifter, etc.), the suspicious close-up of the distraught paramedic Roy (Dick Weiand) standing over Joey’s body lingers way too long for a supposed throwaway character we’ve just met. As it turns out, he’s our killer, masquerading as Jason with blue stripes instead of red ones. The revelation that Joey was his son is a different change of pace, but its unveiling only makes you question Roy’s motivation to slaughter innocent teens instead of focusing all his efforts on Vic. The idea is to make everyone believe Jason did it, but with Vic already imprisoned, there’s no clever method to his revenge scheme. And I’m not even going to get into the egregiously obnoxious Ethel (Carol Locatell) and her dim-witted son Junior (Ron Sloan) whose personas are reduced to yelling and screeching until they’ve exhausted all the oxygen out of the scene (“You big dildo, eat your f***ing slop!”). Their deaths are easily the most cathartic of the bunch.
Once the Roy nonsense is dispatched of, A New Beginning attempts to provide a reason to continue forward with a final scene including Tommy that ultimately proved as influential as Halloween 4’s finale set-up—not very. It also doesn’t help that director Danny Steinmann was notoriously recognized as a sleaze. Otherwise, the only real contribution A New Beginning brings to the series, besides the energetic Reggie (Shavar Ross) and a prologue with the only glance of Corey Feldman post-The Final Chapter, is the reaffirmation that Tommy really has the worst luck.
Most Memorable Kill—The kills of A New Beginning are largely unimpressive, save for the leather strap Roy wraps around Eddie’s eyes against a tree, tightening it until it inevitably crushes his skull.
10) Jason X
Welcome to Jason X, the tenth installment of the Friday series in which director James Isaac (Skinwalkers) asks ‘what if we took the foreboding threat aboard a claustrophobic space convoy structure of Alien, and made it mind-numbingly stupid?’ Indeed, this is the one where Jason goes to space. It’s almost a rite of passage for the slasher villain stretched far beyond their initial intent. Eight movies prior, Jason was a sack-covered hermit in the woods, and now, with his chrome-plated upgrade, he could go toe-to-toe with the Terminator if he really wanted to. Pinhead (Hellraiser: Bloodline) and Leprechaun (Leprechaun 4: In Space) already took that leap years ago so it makes sense that Jason would aim for the stars while New Line figures out how to get their then ‘in production hell’ Freddy vs. Jason off the ground.
In the far off future of 2010, we’ve reached the Crystal Lake Research Facility stage of Jason’s rampaging because he’s just so enigmatically unkillable, there’s really no other option than to dedicate an entire building just to study his decades-long endurance. Of everything that could be remembered about this entry, it’s that Jason X, nevertheless, holds the distinct honor of awakening its titular antagonist from cryogenic freezing—not by any sort of futuristic resuscitation, but the sonic waves of an intergalactic orgasm halfway across the spaceship; welcome to the 25th century! The standout, by default, among a sea of some pretty lackluster performances is Lisa Ryder’s KM-14—a sentient, fully capable AI who, in addition to wanting to be treated as if she were human, spends the film’s most entertaining bits in an altercation with Jason (pre and post-chrome upgrades) with some mildly amusing bits of humor thrown in the mix.
For the longest time, Jason X ranked towards the absolute bottom. I dreaded rewatching it, and while it’s bad (like, really bad), I have to admit I found myself settling into its cheap 90s movie groove a bit more this time. You can’t help but laugh at the absurd scenarios it pushes Jason into. It even finds a way for the still-frozen Jason to hack off a limb without moving a literal muscle. It’s an immediate step up from New Line’s first Friday venture if only for a pretty rad David Cronenberg (The Brood, Videodrome) cameo as an unimpressed superior who attempts to free 2010 Jason for his own means only to have that backfire in the ‘spear through the chest’ way. When he’s not doing his thing, however, Jason X plods.
Most Memorable Kill—Jason + Adrienne + liquid nitrogen + counter *SMASH* =
9) Friday the 13th: Part III
Friday the 13th: Part III is the ‘nothing more, nothing less’ stage of the series, setting the template that would remain a constant for the years the Friday films were produced under the Paramount banner. Part III rode the waves of the 80s 3D revival, Jaws 3D and Amityville 3-D following suit, utilizing the effect to hurl as many objects towards the camera in the hopes that they would make audiences jump—a yo-yo, a laundry pole, apple juggling in the living room, detached eyeballs, etc. Funnily enough, of all the tricks that would only really work if you had the glasses, the best 3D effect was Jason (Richard Brooker) harpooning Vera (Catherine Parks) from across the dock. Even without the 3D, the way it whizzes by the camera makes me instinctively flinch every time.
Part III’s most notable contribution to the series, however, is endowing Jason with his iconic hockey mask by way of the insufferable Shelley (Lary Zerner), one of the most reviled characters of the Friday series, if not number one. In addition to his whining when the group shares their mutual animosity towards his pranks, Shelley often turns to incel-ish behavior when Vera shows no interest in sleeping with him (“Being a jerk is better than being a nothing.”). Jason takes what’s rightfully his from the annoying prankster, and steps out for the first time onto the docks with a confidence that would define the slasher for years to come; still an amazingly simple reveal.
As a collective, the group dynamic of Part III, despite most of them being friends prior to their arrival at Higgins Heaven, is lacking. Nothing particularly stands out about final girl Chris (Dana Kimmell) either, besides her backstory with Jason prior to the film’s events. Jason aside, the characters that were the most fun to watch were the trouble making, leather-clad bikers (Gloria Charles, Nick Savage, and Kevin O’Brien). I always love that little smile Nick Savage gives before smashing Shelley’s driver’s side window. As a sequel to Part 2, it pales in comparison, but takes on its own gimmicky accords, Friday the 13th: Part III is an average, enjoyable entry of the Friday canon.
Most Memorable Kill—Performing an impressive handstand feat while Jason’s about proves fatal. I especially love the brief perspective shot underneath when Jason swings the machete down on Andy… and his crotch.
8) Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
Hear me out before you hang me out to dry. At one point, I would have found it sacrilege to rank Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan above any of the previous Fridays, let alone Part III, but this re-watch made me appreciate it a little bit more. Let me repeat—a LITTLE bit more. After securing another hockey mask complete with the ax gash from Part III for some reason, I like to imagine Jason (Kane Hodder), as he’s grabbing hold of the anchor, thinking to himself, “yeah, you know what? I think I’ve earned a little vacation.” I always thought the S.S. Lazarus—the massive ship that somehow docked in the shallow Crystal Lake—was a fun, claustrophobic set (complete with a disco dance floor) that gave Jason plenty of room to play as he tortured Rennie (Jensen Daggett) and her graduating classmates of Lakeview High.
You’re essentially getting two Friday films for the price of one with Jason Takes Manhattan. The issue is that by the time the remaining survivors abandon ship and make their way into a New York City harbor, a full hour into the movie who’s poster featured Jason looming over the city, it’s easy to feel exhausted before some of the film’s most iconic developments even get going. I always found it amusing how Jason is more of a casual nuisance to New Yorkers than a looming threat. He looks amazing in the center of Times Square (Hodder thought so too while fans shouted to him during production), and the one thing he does in the famed tourist attraction (kick a boombox owned by some ‘tough’ street punks) is one of the series’ funniest bursts of humor.
Not a fan of the finale in which Jason is ultimately defeated by the toxic sludge of the NY sewer system, highlighting the character’s goofiest makeup design. It’s probably best that the Friday series took a much-needed break after this one. Considering its lesser stature among the Paramount films, Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan is a *little* better than it’s reputation would suggest.
Most Memorable Kill—The death of Julius plays like a well-told joke. Over and over, he throws blows to an otherwise unfazed Jason who only really takes the ‘beating’ out of pity. Julius is the only Friday victim, if I recall, that actively submits to a Jason punishment (“Take your best shot”). Voila, the scene arrives at a literal PUNCHline as Jason knocks his block off, tumbling down the side of a building and into a dumpster. *chef’s kiss*
7) Friday the 13th (2009)
Of the heavily saturated Platinum Dunes remake-era, the 2009 addition of Friday the 13th doesn’t exactly stand up to Marcus Nispel’s previous Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake from 2003, but it’s a decent Friday film in its own right. The re-imagining shares the same issue with Jason Takes Manhattan in that it does feel like two different Friday films back-to-back. The difference being that the lengthy prologue heavily plays into the momentum of the actual plot even if that stretch of the film never matches the sheer urgency and ferocity of its opening. I really appreciate how the narrative structure is slightly akin to Psycho. The prologue hoodwinks us by having us believe Whitney (Amanda Righetti) will be the film’s sole survivor only to have her disappear after Jason’s opening rampage, prompting a loved one, her brother Clay (Jared Padalecki), to search the area for any sign she’s still alive. And then you have your usual brand of college-aged mischief-makers ringing Jason’s dinner bell, rounding out to a pretty significant body count.
It’s difficult to label this version as an outright remake because it really isn’t. Nispel conceives this stuffed amalgamation of the first three films as a “best of” display of the series’ most iconic beats (i.e death of Mrs. Voorhees, Part 2’s sack, and, of course, Part III’s discovery of the hockey mask). The best part about a Friday the 13th re-imagining is that, with core franchise elements intact, it slips in nicely as an extension of the Paramount films, slightly altering an integral development in Jason’s mythology. There’s nothing too drastic here besides the unconventional structure and inner workings of Jason’s underground dominion. It assumes you get the gist of what these movies are and doesn’t pretend to be anything but.
Derek Mears embodies a relentless, ruthless Jason who swings his trademark machete and other sharp instruments with ease. Make no mistake, the kills are brutal. The 2009 remake of Friday the 13th is a gruesome return-to-form that, while feeling extraordinarily lengthy, reignites the flame of Jason’s bulking menace. I recommend sticking to the Killer Cut for extended sequences that really accentuate the ferocity of the gore effects.
Most Memorable Kill—Almost went with the prologue’s ‘sleeping bag roasting on an open fire’ setup, but it’s ultimately more satisfying to see Jason giving Trent, the movie’s resident prick, his grisly comeuppance, utilizing his trusty machete and the back of a tow truck.
6) Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
The New Blood abandons its tongue-in-cheek approach from Jason Lives, yet replaces it with an overall “let’s get nuts” vibe where it asks ‘what if Jason went one-on-one with Carrie?’ Traumatized by the accidental death of her abusive father caused by her telekinesis, the shy Tina (Lar Park Lincoln) takes a trip out to her old home out by Crystal Lake with her mother (Susan Blu) and the duplicitous Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser) to try to get her gift under control. Of course, when Tina takes out her frustrations after a bad session, she couldn’t have known that the rotting Jason was lying at the bottom of the lake. Cue the party kids at the house next door, and you have yourselves a decent slasher with a slight sci-fi bent.
What makes The New Blood a monumental slice of Friday history is the glorious, intimidating introduction of stuntman Kane Hodder donning the hockey mask for the first time. He’s the favorite for a reason, despite appearing in some of the series’ lesser entries. The man can take hours of makeup, falling through stairs, being set on fire, having a roof dropped on him, and make it look like just another day at the office. And to think, once the mask is disposed of in the finale, his excellent facial makeup gives the character a whole new intimidation factor.
The film’s most glaring detriments are its limited gore and off-screen kills, an issue largely attributed to the flawed ratings system. Other Friday films were butchered by notes from the ratings board, but none as heavily as The New Blood. Director John Carl Buechler shot some gnarly kills, no more gruesome than what was depicted in previous films, only to have the pinheads at the MPAA, ironically, slash this movie to pieces in order to secure an R rating. It doesn’t help that the extra bloody cuts of these death scenes are only available in poor quality, rendering an unrated director’s cut pointless. It’s extra sad considering that Buechler sadly passed earlier this year in March.
Nevertheless, The New Blood claims the #6 spot if only for the finale in which Tina unleashes the full extent of her repressed telekinetic abilities to ward off Jason at every turn. And then, to top it all off, the battle royale concludes with one hell of a mighty in-camera house explosion by Crystal Lake. What a sight. While the final product was heavily botched in the editing room, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood is still a worthy, if not watered down, extension of Jason’s evolution post-Part VI.
Most Memorable Kill—Ah, the sleeping bag—a Friday staple. Jason’s a simple beast. He sees a sleeping bag, he bashes the poor person inside of it against a tree.
5) Freddy vs. Jason
It took near forever for the two slasher titans to go toe-to-toe with one another but Freddy vs. Jason somehow managed to pull it off. From the perspective of the opening prologue, this is no doubt a Nightmare feature with Freddy (Robert Englund) plucking the dormant Jason (Ken Kirzinger) from the bowels of hell to do his bogeyman bidding on the unsuspecting children of Springwood, that is, until the machete-wielding mama’s boy gets a little too carried away. When you get down to it, this movie is essentially the lazy half of a group project outsourcing the work only to discover the overachiever getting all the credit, but the project is slashing teenagers for slasher supremacy.
Freddy vs. Jason is by no means a great movie. Bar Englund and Kirzinger, the lead performances, 20-somethings masquerading as teenagers, range from passable to laughably terrible. There’s even a double hitter exchange in the otherwise rousing finale that features distracting casual racist/homophobic comments revolving around Kia (Kelly Rowland) and Freddy’s ultimate confrontation. Otherwise, the fun remains prevalent throughout. Luckily this isn’t a case of saving the goods for the ending. This is a slasher movie, after all. Kirzinger’s silent, slightly pitiful (as one can be for an infamous serial murderer) Jason receives an arc that essentially makes Freddy look like even more of a ghoulish dream exploiter than he already is.
The entire foundation of Freddy vs. Jason is the promise of a spectacular slice-and-dice showdown between these two reigning horror heavyweights, and on that front, it’s as glorious as any gore hound could ever dream of. Each slash, punch, stab, and impale is spectacularly brutal, especially when they utilize each other’s signature weapon of choice on one another. And the best part is that the final altercation isn’t the only time the two titans square off. There’s plenty of bodies to go around. Freddy vs. Jason’s aspirations to entertain at all costs, amid the drawn-out drama within the group of slasher fodder, ensures its re-watchability and its placement on this list.
Most Memorable Kill—Jason shoving Freddy’s signature through the serial murderer’s chest, followed by Lori’s decapitation maneuver, would have occupied this spot had Freddy ACTUALLY died and not, you know, give a knowing wink to the camera. So we’re going with Jason’s first kill on Elm Street. Post-coital Trey (Jesse Hutch) doesn’t even get a chance to finish his beer before Jason repeatedly plunges his machete through the bed before (back)cracking a cold one of his own.
4) Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
You see, this is where it gets tricky. Arranging these next four slots is like asking which child I love more. I unequivocally adore the remaining four Friday films in the same manner; they’re easily interchangeable depending on which week you ask me. However, it would happen that Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter lands in fourth place, ironically enough, this week. The opening recap indicates that this was to be the film where Jason (Ted White) involuntarily hangs up his mask after one last slaughter of some promiscuous teens renting a house in the vicinity of Camp Crystal Lake for the weekend. They should be fine.
From start to finish, The Final Chapter is loaded with memorable moments, most of which belong to the alleged ‘dead fuck’ Jimmy (Crispin Glover). It’s no wonder Jason has it out for him. Glover steals every scene he’s in. His enigmatic, possession state dance in the living room could provide enough material for an entire essay in and of itself. Corey Feldman is also fantastic as a young Tommy Jarvis, the quick-thinking neighbor kid with an affinity for crafting intricately detailed masks, puppets, etc. He’s the only character besides Jason himself that keeps up with appearances despite the heavy rotation of actors between films. What the remaining teens lack in fully-fledged personalities, they more than make up with an immense sense of likability. Well, not Ted (Lawrence Monoson), the designated prick of the assemblage.
Of all the ways to momentarily incapacitate Jason prior to his zombification in later installments, having the killer land on his proverbial sword, face first, after Tommy takes a good whack, is a great way to ‘kill’ him for the time being. After the slightly lackluster kills of Part III, effects wizard Tom Savini returns to put a little oomph back into some of Jason’s slayings. The FINAL bit of the Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter may mean jack in context of the series’ future, but the remarkable cast, amusing deaths, and satisfying conclusion altogether establishes this entry as an exceptional 80s slasher.
Most Memorable Kill—Crispin Glover, yet again, lands another Friday achievement with a humorous, well-timed death scene involving Jason’s machete and a corkscrew.
3) Friday the 13th (1980)
It appears that, as the years have passed, the original Friday the 13th from 1980 has slowly started creeping towards the bottom of some lists. I was fully prepared to knock it down a few spots after this recent viewing. And not only did it rank among my favorites, it even made me appreciate its low-budget simplicity that much more. Friday the 13th, for all its unintentionally goofy eccentricities brought on by some of the lead performances, is an effectively moody slice of horror cinema that relies on the long stretches of silence to create a foreboding atmosphere that, while never reaching Hitchcockian heights, remains consistently eerie.
Harry Manfredini’s Psycho-inspired composition, a reliable constant throughout most of the series, brings the film to life, maintaining the uneasy significance of the unseen looming threat just off the corner. It’s as sharp as the bloody instruments themselves. The twist regarding Betsy Palmer’s Pamela Voorhees obviously doesn’t hold the same weight on repeat viewings. But the way she flips on a dime, reciting the story of her drowned son, Jason, to a shaken Alice (Adrienne King) in the form of one of the great screen villain monologues, is chilling stuff.
And just when you think Alice is safe, she’s struck by one of the quintessential jump scares, the decaying Jason (Ari Lehmen) arising from the lake to avenge his fallen mother, that’s still pretty freaky even by modern standards. Friday the 13th may have been born out of the attempt to make a quick buck off of the post-Halloween slasher craze, yet its engrossing atmosphere, tangible characters, and killer revelation is always a perfect reminder of why I fondly regard this series so dearly.
Most Memorable Kill—Mrs. Voorhees’ decapitation, complete with Tom Savini’s hairy knuckles, is an all-timer, but the inaugural Friday slaying award goes to Kevin Bacon’s gushing arrow through the throat from beneath the bottom bunk. Nasty stuff.
2) Friday the 13th: Part 2
While structurally similar to the first film, there’s something about Friday the 13th: Part 2 I find more to love with. There’s a scene early on with all of the counselors of Camp Packanack gathered around the campfire as Paul (John Furey) recounts the legend of Camp Blood’s unofficial mascot himself. If there were one scene to embody the spirit of Friday the 13th, this would be it. Bar a few exceptions laden throughout the films, this is the first Friday feature where anticipating the deaths, except for Scott (Russell Todd), actually disheartened me, notably the blossoming connection between Mark (Tom McBride) and Vickie (Lauren-Marie Taylor). You just can’t catch a break when you’re slasher fodder in a Friday the 13th film. Friday the 13th’s Alice (Adrienne King) learns this the hard way in a prologue that wraps up the last loose end of the previous film.
Part 2 also contains the series first match cut that indicates a wry sense of humor behind the camera showing a small dog walk over by Jason’s boots with an immediate hard cut to sizzling hot dogs on a grill. It’s simple, yet effectively funny. The sack Jason wears, despite his similar appearance to the slasher from The Town That Dreaded Sundown, is a good look on him (complete with pitchfork) as the first step in the series’ continuing trend of Jason’s gruesome upgrades/transformations with each new film. The early Friday films are a pleasant reminder that, yes, there really was a time where Jason was vulnerable.
Of the Friday final girls, Amy Steele’s Ginny is, without a doubt, my favorite. The only reason why the cat and mouse game between her and sack Jason (Steve Dash) lasts as long as it does is because Ginny can really think on her feet, deceiving Jason by putting on Pamela’s blood-stained white sweater to momentarily distract him. If Jason were headed in my direction, Ginny is the Friday MVP I’d want by my side. Friday the 13th: Part 2 refines everything that worked about the previous film, offering an array of likable, mischievous camp counselors, creative deaths, and the expansion upon the legend of the infamous Jason.
Most Memorable Kill—Nearly went with Sandra (Marta Kober) and Jeff (Bill Randolph) being shish kebab-ed to the bed, but then I thought about poor Mark (Tom McBride) minding his own business. Next thing you know, he receives a machete to the face before rolling backwards down a flight of stairs about as steep as the Exorcist steps.
1) Friday the 13th: Part VI – Jason Lives
At last, we’ve arrived at the absolute pinnacle of the entire Friday saga—Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. In the character’s final appearance, adult Tommy Jarvis (Thom Matthews) is on a mission to properly dispose of the hockey mask menace once and for all. Little does he know that his little stunt, impaling the maggot-infested corpse with a graveyard fence post, revives the zombified Jason (CJ Graham) à la Frankenstein when a bolt of lighting falls from the sky. Oops.
Predating the self-aware Scream wave of the late 90s, director Tom McLoughlin gets a head start, employing a much needed sharp, satirical edge to the Friday series that only pushes the level of meta parody so far. Jason Lives was very much ahead of its time in regards to lampooning the tried-and-true tropes that dominated most horror films around that time without sacrificing the bare necessities of a Friday feature. It’s extremely funny from start to finish. “I’ve seen enough horror movies to know that a weirdo in a mask is never friendly,” the concerned Lizabeth (Nancy McLoughlin) says before foolishly bargaining with Jason through the promise of her American Express card. Clever match cuts (“Do they think I’m a farthead?”/“Yes!”), darkly comical deaths, breakneck pace; you name it, Jason Lives has it in spades.
There’s nary a moment wasted. From Jason’s resurrection onward, Jason Lives maintains a breakneck pace in which the danger is always present and its humorous sensibilities are consistently on point. I always appreciated how this was the only Friday that actually featured children in the crossfire at Camp Crystal Lake (or Camp Forest Green). There comes a point where a few of them accept that, yeah, there’s a likely chance they’re about to die in a horror movie (“So, what were you going to be when you grew up?”) All in good fun, the film features a bevy of laughs directed towards Jason to the point where even he’s in on the joke. I’ll never forget the sheer awe and confusion upon seeing Jason’s 007-inspired gun-barrel sequence.
And lest we forget, Alice Cooper’s The Man Behind the Mask is easily the greatest 80s rock ballad Jason could ever hope for. After the unimpressive proceedings of Part V, Friday the 13th: Part VI – Jason Lives is a thoroughly excellent slasher flick that never squanders the opportunities presented before it, humorous or otherwise.
Most Memorable Kill—Sheriff Garris bent over backwards for a heroic death scene, but it’s Hawes who takes the glory. When you’re Jason and you’ve been resurrected by the lightning bolts of Zeus himself, you’ve gotta get back to work, and so Jason does, brutally ripping Hawes’ heart out of his chest within the first two minutes of reanimation.
And we’ve made it to the end! You survived! As a reward, may I present my personal favorite moment in all 12 films. It’s so pure and Hodder’s body language sells it beautifully:
What’s your favorite movie in the Friday the 13th franchise? Let us know in the comments!