It’s Halloween! The date that, at night, every neighborhood looks like a Comic Con. The night all parents forget health standards and may be setting up serious dental problems for their children later in life. The night when you imagine that pedophilia is at is highest rate of the year.
To celebrate, I’m going to review Friday the 13th. which ties with Halloween for my favorite horror series. OK, so essentially, it’s a gore series. But hey, I like gore. Besides, think about the genre. Some degree of stupidity comes with the territory.
These reviews won’t be the usual length, but for the most part, there’s not much to tell anyway. This is a very basic horror series. No heavily detailed explanation is required. Just remember that this series thrives on surprises. These reviews are not entirely spoiler-free. You have been warned.
Friday the 13th (1980)
Betsy Palmer as Pamela Voorhees
Adrienne King as Alice Hardy
Ari Lehman as Jason Voorhees
You may have heard that the villain of this series is Jason Voorhees. Not the case here. In fact, it’s not clear who’s killing the camp counselors and Kids at Crystal Lake. The eventual last survivor is a girl named Alice. She is understandably freaked-out that an unknown assassin is killing everyone. However, she is calmed down by a middle-aged woman named Pamela Voorhees. Pamela eventually explains that her son, Jason, swam too deep in the water and drowned many years ago. Normally, the counselors would have saved him, but they were too busy f*cking to be doing their jobs. Talking about this seems to further infuriate her even further towards the two groups responsible for Jason Death: the rough kids who drove him to overexert himself and the counselors who failed him. Upon explaining this all, Pamela starts after Alice.
This isn’t a shabby first effort at all. It showcases very creative kills that will become the main selling point of the series. The main protagonist and villainess (one of the very few examples of them both being women) both play their roles very well. Hardy as a terrified victim, Palmer as a tragically psychotic killer. While this movie might get easily passed up because it doesn’t have the same villain as the others, it’s a very scary picture.
Overall: 8 out of 10
Warrington Gillette and Steve Daskawisz (actor and stunt double) as Jason Voorhees
Amy Steel as Ginny Field
John Furey as Paul Holt
At the conclusion of the original, Jason Voorhees seemed to be resurrected by the death of his mother and attacked Alice. It was then that she woke up. Whether this was no dream or Jason never really drowned, he’s alive. The first bit of Part II is Jason tracking down and killing Alice with an ice pick. He then goes to Crystal Lake to pick up where mom left off.
I’d say that this isn’t quite as good as the first. While it’s still scary, Jason’s motives aren’t as believable as his mother’s were. Since Jason’s “death” was caused by a lot of people, you could believe that Pamela would go insane with rage at everyone at the camp. But only one person killed Pamela — and in self-defense, no less. Why does Jason’s vendetta apply to everyone who goes to his woods. ‘Cause he’s the bad guy. Also, Jason takes a hard hit to the back of the neck that really should kill him, but because the script demands it, he lives.
Still, this movie does get some goodwill from me back with its effective psychology, particularly where Ginny manages to get Jason to drop his guard by fooling his sick mind into thinking Ginny is his mother.
Interestingly, we still don’t see Jason’s famous Hockey mask, nor is he supernatural (yet). Instead, Jason is a fast but decidedly mortal murderer who who hides his (horrendous, as it turns out) face under a burlap sack.
Overall: 7 out of 10
Richard Brooker as Jason Voorhees
Dana Kimmell as Chris Higgins (girl)
In my opinion, the series took off with this movie. The cleverness of the kills is ratcheted up. When I first saw this movie, I was amazed by some of the ways people are slain. The victims are also quite interesting characters for this kind of movie (let’s face it, this ain’t the Godfather).
Jason’s trademark mask makes its first appearance here. He takes it from a kid he killed. Apparently, the filmmakers didn’t think it would become one of horror’s most visible symbols, because this is a humble origin indeed.
As you may be able to tell from the title, this movie was one of those that used the old 3D glasses from the 1980s. No, not the actually pretty good 3D of today. I mean those lame old gimmick glasses. It doesn’t really detract from the movie itself if you rent it or catch it on TV.
Overall: 8 out of 10
Friday the 13th Part IV: the Final Chapter (1984)
Ted White as Jason Voorhees
Kimberly Beck as Trish Jarvis
Corey Feldman as Tommy Jarvis
My favorite of the series. Jason was seen lying unconscious in the last scene of Part III so as to leave you wonder whether Jason was dead or alive. Accordingly, the authorities presume Jason dead in this movie and are to deliver him to the morgue. They’re wrong, of course, and Jason escapes back to Crystal Lake to find himself some more human pincushions.
This movie does pretty much everything better than any other movie in the series. The kills, the scares, even the script are done well. My favorite bits are Jason killing a girl by thrusting his knife up through an inflatable raft and killing a boy by sneaking into his shower and literally crushing his head in Jason’s bare hand!
I alluded to the fact that Jason seems to get more supernatural as the series goes on. He can run and isn’t unnaturally strong in Part II (even though we never know if he was resurrected), but by this point, he can barely walk quickly but is barely fazed by a bookshelf ramming into him.
In the end, Jason is killed. And they have tremendous dialogue concerning Jason’s death to make sure you get it. Despite my crack about the title, this movie truly was intended to be the Final Chapter.
A major character in this movie is Tommy Jarvis. He is but one of many youthful characters Corey Feldman would play in the ’80s.
Overall: 8 out of 10
Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)
John Shepherd as Tommy Jarvis
Melanie Kinnaman as Pam Roberts
Shavar Ross as Reggie
As you can see, the marketing of this newest film implied that Jason was still dead. Since he was carved up good last time, it’s impossible to bring him back. In fact, he’s not brought back. Not yet.
It seems that killing Jason as a child had a tremendous impact on Tommy Jarvis. He now suffers from mental problems. Now a teenager, he is committed to a halfway house. It is at this point that a local killer starts whacking people in ways that totally mirror Jason’s old killing sprees. In the end, it turns out to be a guy who merely dresses like Jason in order to mislead the cops.
Quality takes a dive here. I can see the argument that it’s silly to get mad that it was still a mute killer in a mask but not the right mute killer in a mask. Still, continuity is not unimportant. Also, this just isn’t a very well-done movie. The kills are not very witty, nor are you likely to be scared. In fact, this is basically a generic mystery horror movie that could just as easily have been a standalone. Even if you want to watch these movies, I’d recommend skipping this. As I’ll soon explain, it’s not really important to the series anyway.
Overall: 4 out of 10
C. J. Graham as Jason Voorhees
Thom Mathews as Tommy Jarvis
Jennifer Cooke as Megan Garris
David Kagen as Sheriff Mike Garris
Apparently, there was a backlash against Paramount for the killer not having anything to do with the series. Fans wanted Jason back. The real Jason. So that’s who Paramount gave them.
Still, this is hardly a conventional Friday movie. It’s a mix of gore horror and comedy. Scenes like Jason being so zombiefied that he can’t even swim and smashing people’s heads into trees, leaving smiley face-prints, are definitely more funny than scary. But I have to admit, it is funny. The satire of various horror cliches is extremely clever. Plus, the gore is as good as ever.
I would note that this is a resurrection story. So the brief genre change is happening at just the right time. To use a comic book term, Part V is retconned. That’s when a writer decides that something that happened in the past doesn’t fit in and wipes it out of existence. Tommy Jarvis seems more or less sane and is going to cremate Jason and do a seance or something to send him to Hell. However, lightning ruins this experiment and brings back Jason. After murder and hilarity ensue, Tommy finds a way to get rid of Jason again, but we’re given notice in the last scene that he did survive and will back. Oddly enough, Tommy doesn’t appear in any more movies. Which is odd. Hadn’t he been established at this point as essentially Jason’s archnemesis?
I’m not saying I would have made Part VI this way, but it’s at least as valid in the Friday the 13th series as the Adam West show is in the Batman franchise
Overall:8 out of 10
Kane Hodder as Jason Vorhees
Lar Park Lincoln as Tina Shapard
Kevin Spirtas as Nick
Here’s where things start to go downhill, I’m afraid. We can write off Part V as an accident, but the path for a while to come is downhill.
Crystal Lake is back to “normal.” Jason has returned to his old habits of hiding out by day and killing people with a machete by night. One of the campers this time is Tina Shepard, a girl with pyrotechnic powers but serious emotional problems. Sounds like Carrie? Tina basically is.
Additionally, the intelligence of the earlier movies is beginning to fade. I get that you always have to suspend your disbelief with the movies, etc., but things come together too conveniently here. For instance, a camp with rough kids is probably not the best place for your kid with mental problems to adjust.
The final battle between Tina and Jason is pretty good, though. Tina keeps setting Jason on fire but Jason keeps coming. This makes up for some of the shortcomings of this movie.
This movie is Kane Hodder’s first portrayal of Jason, and he did the best of all the actors in the role. He may never have spoke, but his movements were always just right. Pity he didn’t do any of the good ones.
Overall: 6 out of 10
Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees
Jensen Daggett as Rennie Wickham
Scott Reeves as Sean Robertson
By this point, most were wishing this series would come to a f*cking end, so the filmmakers again went down the gimmick lane. This time, they chose to put Hockey boy in the Big Apple. And possibly the most hated movie in the series is born.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t find this movie to be horrible exactly. Less bad and more boring. Jason (after yet another resurrection) takes his path of destruction to a New York-bound boat, and most of the movie is a lot of nothing happening there.
Even when Jason finally gets to NYC, there’s not much payoff. The kills are very lazily executed and I don’t remember being the slightest bit chilled. There doesn’t even seem to be any thought put into either of these, as evidenced by the teleporting kills. It doesn’t help that Paramount stopped standing up to the MPAA after awhile, resulting in the gore being watered down.
Jason’s supernatural stature has gotten out of hand. He is now able to go unhurt by bullets and literally punch a dude’s head off.
Even if you can make it through the boring boat cruise, there isn’t much of a reward, I’m afraid.
Overall: 3 out of 10
Jason Goes To Hell: the Final Friday (1993)
Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees/Freddy Krueger’s claw
John D. LeMay as Steven Freeman
Kari Keegan as Jessica Kimble
Jason dies once more but gains the ability to spiritually enter the bodies of others and control them. ‘Nuff said. Oh, that may be unprofessional of me, but come on — what more than that stupid-ass plot do you need?
Well, OK. At long last, the FBI moves against Jason and kills him in the beginning before the movie goes Homer Simpson. That’s worth a point on the scale.
Overall: 3 out of 10
Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees
Peter Mensah as Sgt. Brodski
Chuck Campbell as Tsunaron
Lisa Ryder as KM 14
The feds finally catch Jason and freeze him through the art of cryonics. He is rediscovered centuries later. A professor of the group that finds Jason’s body, Brandon Lowe, makes a personal note that this notorious killer could be auctioned off for a lot of cash and thaws him out. Because keeping him frozen and urging any buyer to do the same just wasn’t an option, was it? This leads to another bloodbath, but in outer space.
Were they even trying on this one? Because this movie truly reeks of Hollywood greed. “Jason’s cool, spaceships are cool, so surely the rubes’ll pay even more money if it’s Jason in space.” The whole concept reeks of writers who were running out of ideas. Actually, why not just have Jason kill a bunch of modern campers without, in this case, a single personality between them? That sounds like a far better movie than Jason X.
It’s truly astonishing (but hilarious) how Jason seems to instinctively know his way around a spaceship and how it operates. Try flying an airplane without even the know-how to drive a car. That has but a fraction of the implausibility of Jason instantly mastering spaceships.
Overall: 2 out of 10
Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger
Ken Kirzinger as Jason Voorhees
Monica Keena as Lori Campbell
Jason Ritter as Will Rollins
Ah, yes, the crossover movie. This is where two of the all-time biggest horror icons battle it out. Unfortunately, this kind of thing is always better in theory than practice. Why? Because the story is always awful (it’s a movie centered around a single battle) and the selling point can’t have a good ending because, inevitably, the fans of the loser will go apeshit. What kind of fans? Perhaps SNL can explain better than I can.
The story is suburban slasher boilerplate that serves mostly as filler slapped together as an afterthought until the big fight. Freddy does his usual trickery to lure Jason into town. Both killers do a lot of killing before they finally meet and have the most half-assed fight I’ve seen in a long time. The only part I cared about was the explosion that ends the fight. Why did I care? Because I knew that meant that the movie was about to end.
Alas, there were enough people who only cared that Freddy fights Jason that this third-rate slasher made almost quadruple its budget. Priorities, people! I get that this movie was a true opportunity to geek-out, but it still sucks. As bad as the last three Jason movies? In the sense that mud tastes better that shit, no.
But you know what? I could give this movie an average rating if it convincingly closed the book on both the Friday the 13th and Nightmare On Elm Street lines of films. Instead, we discover in the end that both Jason and Freddy survived. Even though this would be the last pre-reboot film for either man. They kill both guys so many times and this is when they survive?
Overall: 4 out of 10
Friday the 13th (2009)
Oftentimes over the last decade, a movie series were left so completely butchered that the only logical course of action was to start over. Yet in this case, it’s more true. Not only had there not been a good Friday in over twenty years, we had been through imposters, resurrections, demonic possession, jumping into the future, crossovers, even the retconning of entire movies, the old series was just plain broken. Therefore, a reboot.
In many ways, this is the old Jason. After a brief bit showing the end of Jason’s mother and the days when Jason wore a sack on his head, we have a run-of-the-mill Jason story in which he kills teenagers. Nothing new or groundbreaking, but hey, the series had gone off-target for so long that the old ways sure seemed new.
Jason is tougher than Hell in this movie, but he’s also able to run like in Part II. So it’s a nice mix of old Jason and later Jason.
Alas, I can’t rate this too high because it’s an old concept. There are rumors of a sequel under the surface, so here’s hoping that, should it be made, it breaks new ground.
Than again, do we really need another one? Twelve movies seems quite enough. If it’s time for this series to end for good, that’s quite all right too.
Overall: 7 out of 10
I’m not gonna lie to you. This super-long post was quite a workout. I might wait two weeks instead of the usual one for my next review or article. Then again, I might not. If I do, I feel as though I’ve earned a break.
Update at 11:49 PM: I’ve changed my mind. I think I will stay on a regular schedule.
Come what may, happy Halloween!