It’s hard to believe but it’s been 14 years since we were last gifted with a FRIDAY THE 13TH film featuring Jason Voorhees. The hockey-masked killer was given a rather successful remake treatment, but aside from a super fun video game, has been absent. His presence lingers with multiple Blu-ray releases and box sets (the Scream Factory set is a must-have for horror fans), but supposed legal issues have prevented him from slashing across the big screen for a while now.
While there’s a prequel series for Peacock in early development, it still has a ways to go and this year, Friday the 13th lands happily in our spooky month of October aka today! To celebrate, I used this as an excuse to revisit the FRIDAY THE 13TH film franchise as it’s an overall fun ride to take.
FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)
FRIDAY THE 13TH was released in 1980, relying on a catchy title and poster to lure audiences. The plot remained simple as a group of teens get together at Camp Crystal Lake to prep for the eventual kids attending. One by one, they get slaughtered by Pamela Voorhees, a former employee whose son drowned due to counselor negligence. One of these victims is a young Kevin Bacon. We have our final girl who beheads Pamela but learns the possibility that the supposedly dead son is still living out there.
I was one of the many people who played the 2017 video game, primarily co-op online gameplay. It was during this time I learned that everyone knew who Jason was, but had little knowledge of the films or the fact that he wasn’t even the killer in the original movie. The pretentious geek inside me was shocked but also felt old as I realized the original film was almost 40 years old at this point. It was my turn to educate the youth and pulled out the Blu-rays.
I’m not saying this is a timeless classic, but it deserves big points for giving birth to a cinematic icon. Because of the game, I learned that pop icons can exist without any knowledge of their origins.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 followed the rampage and gave us a hooded version of Jason in his killing debut. With the open-ending of the originating film, there was plenty of room to explore in this sequel. Unfortunately, we do see the death of the first film’s final girl, Alice (Adrienne King), but it reminds us that no one is safe from Jason’s wrath.
More hot counselors and inevitable deaths ensue. However, PART 2 has one of the best final girls ever in Ginny (Amy Steel), and her deliverance of the best line in the franchise, “Jason, Mother is talking to you!” This emphasized Jason’s place in horror alongside Norman Bates as one of our favorite momma’s boys.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III was supposed to follow a PTSD-ridden Ginny, but Steel declined to return. Instead, we get more hotties staying nearby Crystal Lake, but our new lead Chris (Dana Kimmell) has a previous near-death experience with Jason. Her anxiety manifests in her need to survive and make it out of the movie alive.
This entry is notable for its 3D gimmicks, some work while others are very cringe. While physical media collectors can watch it with 3D glasses, most probably watch the old-fashioned way, making many special effects feel cheap. However, PART 3 gives us a killer soundtrack with disco-inspired opening credits that remind me I still have to pick up the vinyl.
Even if you have never seen this, it’s essential as part of 80s slasher cinema and one of my favorites in the series for all its attempts to stand out.
FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER
FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER was never fooling anyone with that title. Box office numbers were great, but Hollywood back then was embarrassed by horror. Producers thought they could go out with a bang and scored Corey Feldman right before he hit his prime. Feldman plays the now iconic Tommy Jarvis, a horror-loving kid who peeks at boobs and manages to slice up Jason in the end. Feldman’s performance started his reel of impressive roles in notable horror movies (The Lost Boys, anyone?). But, as we all know, while the film said that it was the final chapter, it led us to the inevitable follow-up sequel…
FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING
FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING is both controversial and a super fun one at the same time. Tommy Jarvis comes back as an older traumatized version who watches his peers at a halfway house get butchered. Fans get pissed because it turns out Jason is not even in the film as it is revealed that Roy Burns, a paramedic whose son was killed, is the killer avenging his son’s death. I enjoy this one primarily for two reasons: Ethel and Junior, a mother/son duo who have zero reasons to be in this movie except deliver my favorite one-liners and remind me of my redneck ex.
If anyone was pissed off that Jason wasn’t even in this film, they didn’t have to wait long for his return. The question was how to actually bring him back to the franchise. Fortunately, the powers that be found an answer.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES proves that studios sometimes listen to fans and bring back Jason, Frankenstein style. Tommy is back (3 different actors have played him at this point) and no one listens to him as he warns of Jason’s rebirth. Tony Goldwyn shows up as part of the body count, marking his first official feature film appearance (and launching the start of what has turned out to be an incredibly lengthy and successful career).
This one manages to be the most fun (and possibly my favorite in the series) as there’s plenty of meta humor and memorable kills that make this one stand out. With Jason now back and the franchise treading water successfully, what was next for the murderous now-undead fiend?
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD is a unique entry in the franchise. We get Tina (Lar Park-Lincoln), a telekinetic teen who unleashes Jason from his watery grave thinking it’s her dead father she drowned as a kid. Asshole teens are on the grounds, giving Tina hell, but they luckily get slaughtered by Jason.
Tina also has her well-meaning mother and exploitative doctor accompanying her, but they only add to the death count. Hardcore fans note this as Kane Hodder’s first time playing Jason, leading to two more movies behind the hockey mask. As a kid, this was a personal favorite due to the unique final girl but is now closer to my heart due to the debut of the now iconic sleeping bag kill.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN is one of the more ambitious entries. While the title suggests otherwise, this takes place primarily on a boat filled with young fresh meat for Jason. It’s pretty standard until the third act where we finally get Jason to New York and it feels like a completely different movie. I’m not complaining as this is where the movie gets fun along with a beautiful shot of Jason in Times Square. Watching him maneuver outside his safe space of Crystal Lake, it’s a refreshing adventure that doesn’t last very long. It remains a cult favorite amongst fans, resulting in some of the best artwork I’ve seen at fan conventions.
JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY
JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY is the only 90s entry in the franchise and it has those vibes all over it. Jason is blown to pieces, but the coroner eats his heart and spreads his soul from person to person using grotesque oral tactics. There’s a new mythology and the supposed belief that only Jason’s bloodline can kill him.
Various zombified versions of Jason are present until the third act when his hockey mask-wearing self shows up only to literally be dragged back into hell. We fanboys wet themselves when the final shot of Freddy Krueger’s glove bringing the hockey mask into the ground graced our screens. What did this mean? Are we getting the Freddy versus Jason match we’ve been dying for? How long do we have to wait? A long time as it turned out.
JASON X churned out in 2001 while we impatiently waited for the biggest crossover event in horror history. Jason gets cryogenically frozen and is awakened over 400 years later in space. He awakens, kills many, and eventually becomes a cyborg version of himself. The pacing can be off at times, but Todd Farmer’s script is self-aware of the outrageous concept. As a result, we get some seriously fun kill sequences and a new setting for Jason to stomp around. It has its unique place in the franchise and is one to revisit when you feel the need for a science fiction slasher.
FREDDY VS JASON
FREDDY VS JASON came two years later and was a huge box-office success. Of course, due to behind-the-scenes drama, a follow-up was never made so we have to make do with this mixed bag. The people of Elm Street have forgotten about Freddy so he utilizes Jason to bring terror to the streets and remind the residents so they can have nightmares again.
Plenty is getting sliced, but the heavy CGI, cartoony fight sequences, and stoner comedy bits draw me out. Monica Keena proves herself to be a scream queen, but the casting of pop star Kelly Rowland is better left without comment. Our dedicated fans waited several years for this and it’s questionable if it was worth the wait. No one can deny, though, that the end credits song, “How Can I Live,” by alternative band Ill Niño still slaps 20 years later.
FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009)
FRIDAY THE 13TH, the 2009 version, is always up there in great horror remakes. I’m not going to say I completely disagree, but the movie is just too dark so I can’t see much of what’s going on. I can tell there are some impressive kills, but it would be nice to see the details as any Jason fan is aware of the art form that is gore.
We get some recognizable TV stars along with pop singer Willa Ford (we millennial gays were obsessed with her only hit single “I Wanna Be Bad”). Jason runs and comes over as more vicious with a more aggressive killing style, but the movie drags at points in an attempt to create a character-driven story. I just wanted a simple script that allows the kill count to hit double digits.
With that being said, the opening 20 minutes is a bloodbath that the rest of the movie doesn’t live up to.
While we wait for an inevitable reboot, sequel, prequel, or TV series, we have plenty of Jason to revisit. Everyone has a different favorite and even some that they hate. However, no one can deny his place in pop culture and await his return.
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