Friday the 13th
The ULTIMATE Article
THE ULTIMATE FRIDAY THE 13TH ARTICLE!
My whole life, I have been a Friday the 13th apologist.
It seems as if critics, analysts, and lobbyists AROUND the world have a natural disdain for the franchise. Not only is the F13 series one of the most loathed franchises in ANY form of media, it seems as if the series has become a sponge that absorbs ALL of the negative attention of film critics and social commentators.
Critics do not just HATE Friday the 13th movies , they positively DESPISE them. Leonard Maltin considers them the nadir of filmmaking. Roger Ebert published SEVERAL essays blaming the series for the moral degeneracy of the nation. College professors have blamed the movies for everything from increased juvenile delinquency rates to the decline of American intellectualism.
Somewhere along the way, Jason Voorhees became the ultimate scapegoat for the nation s moral crusaders. Never mind the WEALTH of social ills in the United States, it s all that damned Friday the 13th s fault, is it not?
I liked the Jason movies as a kid, and as an adult, I still sort of enjoy them. Of course, I have more refined tastes these days, and I do not hold Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter in the same esteem I hold something like Amarcord or Rashomon, but to this day, I think the entire series gets an incredibly unfair rap from the media snobs.
I have always likened the Jason movies to the Big Mac. It s cheap, greasy and pretty unhealthy, but at the same time, very filling. Of course, you really cannot gobble down fast food hamburgers every day without getting queasy, and I really do not think anybody could kick back with the Jason movies, day in and day out, either. However, in moderation, I believe that the occasional slasher film or vegetable oil slicked burger is not only OK, but pretty damn enjoyable, too. Sometimes, rehash is actually refreshing.
The Jason movies, like the fast food hamburger, have survived via a lack of pretense. You know you are not getting any nourishment out of a Whopper, and you know you are not going to get an uplifting cinematic experience with Jason X. You are just there to fill your stomach, and enjoy a couple of moments of sloppy, unrefined joy.
It is really a damned if you do, damned if you do not thing with the F13 films. Every time the series apes what is successful, the critics laud them for being indistinguishable. However, when the films try to take a different direction with the franchise, it just seems as if critics hate the final product even MORE. Tweaking the tried and true Jason formula is sort of like changing the recipe for the Wendy s Double Cheeseburger. Yeah, tossing a slice of cantaloupe under the bun makes it a different experience, but at the end of the day, you just want the same old thing. The very first Friday film struck a perfect note, and every time filmmakers try to arrange a different composition, the medley just comes out sounding wrong.
At heart, I think that is why critics and scholars hate these movies so much: they managed to capture middle America, and create the first hamburger chain film series in movie history. Ultimately, Friday the 13th is the most capitalistic series in the annals of Hollywood, and do the eggheads out there champion the films for achieving such an efficient formula?
Come on, you know better than that. Critics, more than 30 years AFTER the release of the first film, still despise and detest everything Friday the 13th stands for. They hate the fact that a movie with absolutely NO artistic merit proved so popular with the American movie going audience. They hate the fact that a movie with next to zero (intentional) subtext spawned a media empire that s more profitable than most Major League Baseball teams. They hate the fact that so many cinema goers do NOT hate the movies. . . Which if you ask me, is more than ENOUGH reason to give the series its LONG overdue respect today.
The Friday series is a really interesting media franchise to explore, because it really does not seem to be about ANYTHING even remotely important or relevant to culture. Ultimately, the F13 series is about kids with very loose morals getting done in by some form of deranged lunatic, typically in a manner that results in copious amounts of arterial spray. This, of course, has lead to two competing theories as to why the series has proven so damned popular among the movie going masses:
The Franchise Proves That We Are All A Bunch Of Bloodthirsty Savages
Obviously, this is the one that all of those know it all critics and film professors believe to be the case. They say that because viewers enjoy these kind of movies, they are secretly identifying themselves with the killer of the film. Fem lib groups say that the movies PROMOTE violence against women, and concerned (read: payroll) counselors believe that school children harboring a liking for the slasher film are closeted sociopaths with a deep seated, homicidal hatred of his or her classmates.
With this theory, the Friday films basically allow us to tap into the primitive vengeance of our human souls. Of course, the critics consider this to be a bad thing, which if you ask me, is really WAY MORE desirable than the alternative (which is, YOU KNOW, people actually ACTING insanely violent in day to day life). The theory has a lot of holes in it, however, including the fact that most of the time, the audience is actually identifying themselves with the lead female protagonist INSTEAD of the psycho killer. After all, Jason has not said a single line of dialogue in 31 years of cinema stardom, so it is rather difficult to understand his motives and plight. I suppose that Jason COULD represent the outcast in all of us. . .at some point in our lives, we are going to feel ridiculed and out of place, which makes Jason the patron saint of all awkward adolescents. That said, homicidal retribution is a pretty extreme reply to not being invited to parties, so I think that theory is less than plausible as well.
So, does this mean that we simply like Jason movies because we are ultra hormonal, super violent human beings? If so, it has to be very, VERY repressed, which means the people that actually DO have such tendencies are more likely to express such a sentiment in less dramatic means, which means instead of going out and driving a screwdriver through someone s skull, they will probably just rent another Jason movie, instead. In fact, I have come to disagree with this psychological consensus so much that I actually developed an alternate theory as to why people love the Jason Voorhees saga so. . .
The Franchise Proves That We Are All People That Are Frightened By and Ashamed of Society in General
How about this one, Maltin? Instead of viewing the Jason films as in indictment of society, how about viewing them as a statement about our culture s waywardness?
Think about the timeframe of the first Friday the 13th film. What was going on in the 1980s around then? Well, the first thing is kind of obvious: it was not the 1970s anymore. The 70s was a fairly hedonistic time for America, when debauchery, promiscuity and drug use ran rampant. For some of you younger readers, try asking your parents what a key party is, and you will find out just how DECADENT our mom and dad s generation really was.
In many ways, the early Friday the 13th films represent a sense of cultural shame over the events of the last ten years. Ultimately, there really was not a lot of good news one could pull out of the seventies, and a lot of people masked that fake with disco, bell bottoms, and copious amounts of cocaine and group shenanigans. By the time 1980 rolled around, people were experiencing something of a moral hangover, which I believe directly ties into both the rise of Ronald Reagan AND the so called Moral Majority movement. People wanted ethics again, and by golly, they were going to vote for some. . .even if the people selling those ethics were less than ethical themselves (but more on that a little LATER).
The Friday the 13th series is a franchise that, in a completely unintentional manner, reflects the sort of moral shift in American society. In the Friday the 13th movies, the youngsters PAY for being stupid, promiscuous, intoxicated and disrespectful to their elders, usually involving a really, really sharp instrument of some kid being shoved through their digestive tract. In a very eerie manner, the Friday series predates a litany of social problems that would come to define the 1980s, including a newly discovered disease called HIV.
And so, I believe that the Friday the 13th films are so gosh darned popular BECAUSE they address our concerns and criticisms about society in general. We do not like the fact that people act idiotically and show no signs of improving their overall quality of life, so how do we cinematically respond? That s right, by making a HIGHLY lucrative film series in which characters that partake of social ills get their intestines scrambled in a power drill. The Jason movies are really no different than Aesop s fables, when you really got down to it: there s always a moral to the story, and if you do not pick up on the lesson of the tale, you might just end up dead in the dirt as a result.
Of course, that is just my opinion, and I could be wrong. What is important, however, is that the Jason saga remains one of the most beloved (and decried) stories in all of cinema, and it deserves a thorough, film by film probing, does it not?
I am not sure how many thorough, scholarly dissertations exist on the topic of Jason movies, but I suppose adding one more to the pile will not hurt, will it?
The following is a lengthy evaluation of the ENTIRE Friday the 13th mythos. That means I am going to recap all 12 movies in the series (ultimately ranking them from best to worst, in the process), while simultaneously taking a look at HOW the movies have forever changed popular culture and American society. Along the way, we will take a brief stop or two to look at some specific Friday the 13th influences, and a number of media properties that have paid homage to the great hockey masked one.
This is a super in-depth article that explores the history, the cultural ramifications and the veiled social commentary behind the legacy of Jason Voorhees. In other words, consider this. . .
THE ULTIMATE FRIDAY THE 13TH ARTICLE!
Before we begin, I think it is important that we go over my proprietary HOCKEY MASK rating system and the history of the slasher film. To begin, we will be ranking the Jason films on a scale of ONE HOCKEY MASK to FOUR HOCKEY MASKS. Obviously, one is the lowest, and four is the highest. Now, that does not mean that any one movie is TECHNICALLY better than the other, it is just that I consider the higher scoring films to be MOST indicative of the series, meaning that they get the Jason formula down the BEST. What is the formula, you may ask? Well it can be expressed as this:
B + N + D / S X (P-1)
B = Exuberantly gristly deaths
N= Gratuitous bare flesh scenes
D = Hilariously campy/stupid dialogue
S = Standard Slasher Movie Plot
P = Totally Nonsensical Plotline Tweaks
Thus, Once B, N and D are quantified, they are divided by HOW closely the film maintains a simplistic, killer in the woods plot TIMES how much senseless tweaking the filmmakers decided to do with said simplistic plot. Yeah, it seems a little complicated at first, but as the article unfurls, you will understand EXACTLY what I am talking about here. For the time being, just understand this: the higher the formula score, the higher the HOCKEY MASK RATING, so try to keep that in mind as we begin to chart the growth of the media franchise.
Of course, the original Friday the 13th was anything BUT the original cinematic slasher. Although there is a lot of debate as to where the slasher film began, it is pretty much agreed upon that the slasher template was created by, of all people, Agatha Christie, whose works Ten Little Indians and And Then There Were None practically GAVE the recipe to all of the slasher film makers throughout the 20th century.
Some people say the first slasher film was Thirteen Women, which came out in the 1930s. It had pretty much the same plot as And Then There Were None, and definitely contains a number of the hallmarks that have come to be associated with the slasher genre.
In 1960, two movies were released that have both been given the title of Great, Great Grandfather of the Slasher film. Psycho and Peeping Tom, while both sporting some obvious discrepancies, were highly influential horror films that have unquestionably inspired scores and scores of imitators in their wake.
The 1963Herschell Gordon Lewis movie Blood Feast is perhaps the first TRUE slasher film, as it follows the standard Agatha Christie recipe while adding copious amounts of blood and nudity in the process. Although highly debated, some fans believe that HGL pretty much SPAWNED the creative kill in cinema, which means that after movies like Two Thousand Maniacs or A Taste Of Blood, simply stabbing a dude no longer sufficed as entertainment. Clearly, the work of HGL heavily inspired a number of Italian filmmakers, including Giallo maestro Dario Argento and exploitation movie legend Mario Bava. Serial killer movies (with the added whodunit touch) like Twitch of the Death Nerve and Deep Red obviously had a profound influence on filmmakers in the 1970s, and serve as perhaps the first recognizable-by-genre-convention slasher movies.
Exploitation films reigned supreme in the 1970s, as revenge flicks like Last House on the Left and I Spit On Your Grave shared theater space with new wave, non gothic horror flicks like Deranged and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Around this point, a number of films were released that ALMOST had the slasher genre down to perfection, among them Black Christmas, Driller Killer and The Toolbox Murders. However, it was not until 1978 that the fledgling genre had its first bona-fide box office hit with John Carpenters Halloween.
Had it not been for Halloween, there would not be a Friday the 13th. This is something that the producers of the first Friday the 13th film have said on numerous times themselves, and it is a film that really cannot be overlooked when talking about the F13 franchise.
In many ways, John Carpenter inadvertently gave birth to Friday the 13th series because he initially REFUSED to do a sequel to Halloween. The original film was such a success that it spawned a wave of pale imitators in its wake, a cottage industry of sorts that was amplified because the creators of Halloween seemed to have no plans for returning to the formula. As it turns out, other filmmakers were not afraid to go back to the proverbial genre well, and neither were American film-goers.
Which, of course, brings us to. . .
Friday the 13th (1980)
Well, what more can really be said about the ORIGINAL U.S. slasher film?
Yeah, some purists may say that Halloween started the trend, and that there were hundreds of movies before that that got the ball rolling, but truthfully, the first Friday film was the first movie to get the slasher formula down pat. Halloween was a fantastic film, but it was not a very graphic movie. Also, it lacked the whodunit aspect that made movies like Twitch of the Death Nerve so enervating, and for a 1970s film, Halloween was kind of slacking off on the t AND the a, if you catch my drift.
Friday the 13th was the first PATENTLY American film to incorporate all of the successful aspects of the slasher genre into a single motion picture. Of course, this does not mean that it is a technically superior film in regards to Halloween of Christmas Evil (because, obviously it IS NOT), but it is the first film of its type to properly ARRANGE all of the ingredients for what would become the decades most lucrative cinematic formula.
By now, we all know the stories of its production. Originally, the movie did not even have a script - the producers took out a full page ad in Variety declaring the film the most frightening picture ever, when the producers themselves had NO idea what the film was actually going to be about.
The movie was directed by Sean S. Cunningham, who is perhaps most famous for producing Last House on the Left alongside Wes Craven in 1971. Rumor has it, he actually bankrolled Friday the 13th to procure seed money for some crappy TV pilot he wanted to do about a kids soccer team. Really, nobody involved in the production of the movie had to have ANY idea the impact the motion picture would have on film history. The cast of the film considered a piece of. . .well, you know. To this day, Mrs. Voorhees herself, Betsy Palmer, says that the only reason she starred in the film was to help pay off her car. She also says that she had to provide her own wardrobe, which judging from what we see in the film, sounds about right.
If you have not seen the first Friday the 13th film in a long time, you may be surprised by how the movie unfurls. Although it s a 31 year old movie that was considered horrifically violent at the time, the movie seems sort of subdued by today s standard. There is a lot of plot in this movie, and the director tries to keep the mystery element of the film in play until the very end of the flick. That, and for those of you weaned on slasher convictions, this one throws A LOT of curveballs at you, as the movie takes on an occasional rustic documentary vibe. At points, it feels less like you are watching a Jason movie and more like you are watching a made for TV special about the plight of Middle America circa 1979.
You know the plot by now: oversexed kids go into the woods, and they do not come out. They smoke the reefers, they play Strip Monopoly, they pay no heed to the doom saying old timers at the truck stop. And as a result, they must PAY. . .with a meat clever in the sternum.
I do not think I am spoiling anything when I say that the revelation of Mrs. Voorhees as the killer in this movie is one of those all time degenerate cinema classic moments. A lot of people seemed to miss out on the whole morality tale aspect of the film - if you do not take precautions, you may just end up getting shot in the throat with an arrow. Really, it is the exact same message as Little Red Riding Hood, only updated for the Reagan era.
The ending is what REALLY sold this movie. Sure, it is an outright rip off of the finale of Carrie, but who cares? The corny, cheesy quasi-improbable ending to the first F13 film unintentionally sparked a cinematic movement on par with the James Bond franchise, and for that reason alone, it demands commendation.
Kevin Bacon getting his sternum poked out. One of the most satisfying decapitations in movie history. And of course, the introduction of the most famous, brainless movie mutant since Frankenstein. All in all, the series progenitor is not the best source for Friday the 13th awesomeness, but it is definitely worth a gander if you have never seen it. That, and it is also one of Kim Jong Il s favorite movies, so I am not quite sure what that says about the tastes of either the North Korean leader OR the American movie going public.
Official Score: THREE HOCKEY MASKS out of FOUR
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
The first Friday the 13th film proved an unlikely box office hit, which means that a sequel was OBVIOUSLY on the forefront. The Friday follow-up was directed by Steve Miner, who would go on to direct a number of horror sequels later on, including, of all things, H20 in 1998.
The second Friday film is important to the series, since it establishes Jason as the central figure of the franchise. Within the first ten minutes of the film, it is obvious that Jason is the killer, so the whodunit aspect of the original is pretty much eschewed in favor of camper deaths a plenty. You know the makers of this move mean business when the heroine of the first film gets iced within the first TEN minutes of the sequel. And believe you me, the makers of this movie meant a WHOLE lot of business.
For my money, this is the absolute BEST film in the series. Whenever you talk about Jason movies, this is the movie that AUTOMATICALLY leaps to mind, as it incorporates all of the successful aspects of the Americanized genre formula in a very entertaining and enjoyable little package.
Oh, there are so many memories in this one: watching that one actress walk around camp wearing the shortest shorts I have ever seen on a human being. The scene where the fat cop gets done in with a tack hammer (a scene which actually mirrors a kill in Halloween II, actually). And what about the scene where two camp counselors play one of those old ass two-player hockey handhelds?
Of course, the death scenes are where its at in this one. In addition to a scene of full frontal female anatomy, we also get a scene in which an old coot gets a barbwire necktie, plus a complete rip off of the coitus interuptus scene from Twitch of the Death Nerve. I guess my favorite scene is the same as everybody else, and that is the ultimate fate of the wheelchair bound counselor. It is one of the cheapest laughs in cinema history, but I will be ten different shades of damned if it does not still make me chuckle a most ghoulish chuckle all these years later.
The finale is pretty well done, or about as well done as you could make for a movie of this type. Some people are not fans of the sweater and meat hook finish, but I have seen far worse. Also, I kind of had a liking for old potato bag head Jason, which I think is a pretty good look for a mutated lake monster, IMHO.
This is pretty much the TEXTBOOK Jason movie. You have promiscuity, you have violent death, and you have at least two or three really weird scenes that make the whole of the movie all the more enjoyable. Granted, it is not a five star classic by any stretch, but as far as the Friday series goes, this is it s highest point, as far as I am concerned.
Official Score: FOUR HOCKEY MASKS out of FOUR
Friday the 13th Part 3 (1983)
Sometimes colloquially recognized as Friday the 13th 3D, this is one of the stranger entries in the series, which, yeah, is not really a bad thing at all.
To begin, there is WAY more character development in this movie than in most slasher films of the type. In a lot of ways, it sort of feels as if the cast of this movies could be the cast of a completely different, non horror film, basically a really, really pale version of The Big Chill, only with all of that nostalgic musing hampered by the doings of a roaming, homicidal maniac.
I think the makers of the movie (including two-time series director Steve Miner) were trying to have some fun with this one. They intentionally cast older actors to get away from the dead teenager dynamic, and the Jason mythos is practically unstated for the picture. Hell, Jason s name is not even mentioned in the movie, and in case you were not paying attention, the film is actually SET on a Saturday. The movie is one big in joke that, apparently, nobody got.
Of course, there are plenty of great, cheesy 3D effects, and the death scenes in this one are pretty damned outstanding. That, and it is a more relatable cast than most slasher flicks, which certainly gives it an air of distinction that separates it from the countless high school splatter flicks made during the timeframe.
Perhaps the most famous aspect of the film is that THIS is the movie in which Jason dawns the iconic hockey mask for the first time. . .which he basically steals from a fat, pimply nerd that tries to make it with a Latina chick. Yeah, a lot of historians seem to discount THAT part of the mask story, but it is there, regardless.
You really cannot call this a great movie by any means, but it is definitely an entertaining installment in the series. There is just so much weirdness and awesomeness going on, from the opening disco theme that kind of sounds like Thriller to the downright pants-pissing final scene where the lone survivor watches troglodyte mashed potato face Jason run down the stairs while she thinks she is safe in a kayak. . .only to get dream attacked by Jason s momma as soon as she is out of harm s supposed way. Plus, this movie has one of the nastiest Jason kills in the entire series, as a dude walks down a hallway on his hands, only to have Jason leap out of the shadows with a machete and. . .well, trust me, it is not pretty.
Is this a corny movie? Oh, you bet. Between the 3D Yo-Yo effects (not to mention the scene where a guy gets his eyeballs squeezed out of his skull and you can SEE the hydraulics behind the scene) and the bad-even-for-a-Jason movie dialogue, this is one of the cheesiest films you will ever wholeheartedly enjoy from start to finish. You can certainly find better genre pictures from the timeframe, but for what it is worth, it is not a bad little fright flick.
Official Score: THREE HOCKEY MASKS out of FOUR
Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter (1984)
Yeah, the final chapter. . .even though EIGHT feature films came after it.
After the second Friday film, this is probably my favorite installment of the series. Not only does it have perhaps the most star studded cast (and yes, I know that calling Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover stars is sort of a stretch), it also has arguably the best visual effects in the entire franchise. This is because Tom Savini, the gore effect wunderkind himself, returned to the series SPECIFICALLY so he would get the opportunity to kill off Jason in what was GUARANTEED to be the last Jason movie EVER. . .even though there was a sequel released just a few months later.
The movie KNOWS what the audience wants. By now, the Friday formula was pretty much recognized as a nigh perfect one, so the filmmakers here really did not feel the need to mess around with the structure of the franchise all that much. After recuperating from a mild case of having a hatchet embedded in his face, Jason kicks back up at the hospital, dispatches two nurses in particularly grisly fashion and heads back to the woods to do what he does best. . . And that IS NOT singing karaoke.
I kind of wonder how Jason managed to get from an urban hospital BACK to the hinterlands of New Jersey without anyone really noticing. I mean, if a super human mongoloid serial killer with a head like a piece of chewed bubblegum was ambling down the streets of Camden, I think SOMEONE would kind of notice. But then again, Jason is stealthier than Solid Snake and Sam Fisher combined, so maybe he is just REALLY good at shadow lurking.
Anyway, you know what happens next. The big variable here is that there is actually a family involved in the story in addition to a gaggle of oversexed, soon to be chopped up teenagers. This makes the movie a little varied without being too distractive, which is a smart move by the makers of the movie. Nobody goes to see these movies for overarching narratives, so they just let Tom go crazy with the blood and makeup and the result is one of the best in the franchise.
There is just too much little stuff to like in this movie, from the fat chick on the side of the road getting knifed while eating a banana to the scene where a dude gets killed while watching a perverted home movie from the 1950s. The ending, however, is where this movie REALLY shines, as it features Jason getting offed in remarkable, over the top fashion. Although the title of the film promised closure, the end of the flick is pretty much an open door for a series reboot, which as fate would have it, proved to be one of the most controversial calls in series history.
If you want my honest opinion, THIS is the movie to put on a double bill with Friday the 13th Part 2 if you want a kick ass, back-to-back Jason movie night. It is cheesy, it is loaded with t and a, and the effects are so gruesome that it may make you gag a little on your pineapple pizza. Long story short, this is really the last hurrah of the TRUE Friday films, and a movie all degenerate cinema buffs hold in high esteem to this day.
Official Score: THREE AND A HALF HOCKEY MASKS out of FOUR
Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)
Yeah, the series took a major turn in this installment, and I really cannot say it was one for the better. Even though the universal derision of the movie is understandable, I think that it in many ways, it gets a bum rap from fans. OK, so it took a WILD divergence from the established Friday formula, but that is not to say that it did not have a few good moments here and there.
This is the Halloween III of the Jason series, the one movie in the franchise that really does not have anything to do with the other entries in the series. The simple fact that it LACKS Jason is enough to get people pissed off, and I suppose that is an understandable sentiment. Even though I am not a huge fan of the movie, I think time has been a lot kinder to it than most films of the type, and if you are in the right mindset (meaning you have lots of suds and ice cream to keep you company), this movie is actually somewhat entertaining.
So, the film sort of picks off where part 4 ended. Tommy Jarvis, the kid that killed Jason in the last movie, is now living in a halfway house a couple of miles down the road from Crystal Lake, when inexplicable murders ARISE. The movie is more of a whodunit than the last three films, which gives it a vibe comparable to the first movie. That, and the death scenes in this one are just fantastic, especially a dude that gets road flared on camera.
This is an extremely weird movie, which works in its favor. There is a scene in which a dude axes another character over a Baby Ruth, and another scene where a guy with a speech impediment tries to put the moves on this new wave looking chick that is a complete and total skeezer. And of course, there s the immortal scene where the Jericurled Demon sings a love ballad to his girlfriend while taking a dump, only to get pitch forked by a deranged ambulance driver a couple of seconds later.
This is the kind of movie that really does not have the built in nostalgic factor that the first four movies have. It definitely has a lot of weaknesses, but it also has a lot going for it, as long as you are into oddball characters getting dispatched with farm and automotive equipment.
As a Friday movie, this one is pretty lacking, and a movie that ultimately failed in an attempt to do something different with the tried and true Jason formula. I still think it is worth watching, but you could do a WHOLE lot better than this one, as far as the franchise goes.
Official Score: TWO HOCKEY MASKS out of FOUR
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
The series really needed to rebound after part 5, and while I do not think that this one is one of the exemplary Jason flicks, it is still pretty damned entertaining, and a movie that really corrected the ship after almost hitting an iceberg with the LAST installment.
The movie totally ignores the ending of the last film, as Tommy Jarvis is now a truck driving vigilante that sets out to torch Jason s corpse to make sure HE NEVER, EVER COMES BACK. Well, that certainly worked with Freddy, did it not? Anyway, Jason is resurrected by lightning (in case you were not aware, this movie is secretly a parody of the Friday the 13th series), the dude that played Horshack on Welcome Back Kotter gets his guts ripped out, and it s time to paint Camp Crystal Lake blood red all over again.
I do not think that National Lampoon could have made a better satire of the Jason formula than this one. Jason mimics James Bond in the opening scene of the film, there is self reference GALORE, and some downright AWESOME dialogue (while awaiting the arrival of Jason, one kid asks another what he was GOING to be when he grew up) to boot. The kills, by and large, are pretty humdrum compared to the rest of the series, and the ending is ESPECIALLY idiotic. However, the ride from start to finish is just to much fun to criticize, and this is probably the last installment of the series that I would say gets the formula more right than it does wrong.
At this point in the series, it is pretty much a given that Jason is not a normal human being anymore. The guy gets shot at point blank range, has his face shoved into an outboard engine and has a metal gatepost shoved through his kidneys, but he keeps coming back like Hulk Hogan after a near fall. The series really transitioned from being a traditional slasher series to being a supernatural slasher series with this movie, which I think is ultimately detrimental to the entire franchise. Even so, it makes up for it with this pervasive, funhouse atmosphere - by the time you hear Alice Cooper in the end credits, you will walk away satisfied, regardless of any qualms you may find with the picture.
Official Score: THREE HOCKEY MASKS out of FOUR
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
Well, this is a pretty important film in the series, and the one that I believe symbolizes the death of the franchise. Of course, I am not saying that this is a horrible movie, it is just that the series took a more wayward direction with the material from hereon out, abandoning what I consider to be the pitch perfect dead teenager film formula.
Two behind the scene notes here: long term composer Harry Manfredini was not involved with the movie, which gives it an entirely different aural feeling. I actually liked the new direction the series took with the music, but I guess that makes me THE ONE GUY that did. Also, this is Kane Hodder s debut as Jason, whom I think we can all agree is the absolute BEST Jason actor of them all.
This film was originally going to be a crossover with Freddy Krueger, but not surprisingly, New Line Cinema and Paramount could not come to an agreement. Thus, the script was changed, with Jason s new foil being, basically, a rip off of Carrie. Yeah, it really is not the dream horror throw down we all wanted, but whatever.
The absolute worst butchering in the film came not via the slimy, zombie hands of Jason, but by the MPAA. This movie was absolutely OBLITERATED by the censors, turning what would have been the most blood drenched Friday film of them all into a virtually bone dry horror film with ONLY a tiresome gimmick to give it any sort of life. The ending of this movie positively BLOWS, and some of the effects are just kind of dopey looking. I, for one, really hated the lizard-like make up they used for Jason, but by this point, they really were not aiming for reality with these kind of movies anyway.
Even so, it has its moments. I like the fact that the dude that played Bernie at Weekend at Bernies gets killed with a weed whacker, and there are a few good lines here and there. I really like the ambience of the picture, and the cinematography is pretty well done, too.
There is not much to offer here, and I am pretty sure that only the most dedicated of Jason enthusiasts will even bother with this one. It is not the worst film in the series, but it is definitely lacking in a lot of areas. If you can score an uncut version (which is STILL pretty hard to do), I consider it a worthy waste of an hour and a half. You can pretty much skip the bowdlerized, sanitized version, however.
Official Score: TWO AND A HALF HOCKEY MASKS out of FOUR
By now, Jason was an ineffaceable pop cultural icon. Hundred of thousands of kids dressed up as America s most beloved, Mongoloid mass murderer each Halloween, and more people associated hockey masks with the film series than they did the actual sport of hockey. Jason was a mainstream figure around 1988, and he was beginning to permeate a number of media outlets outside the Friday franchise.
LJN released a Friday the 13th video game in 1988 for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Although the game gets mixed reviews to this day, it was one of my absolute FAVORITE games on the Nintendo, and a title that I believe is horribly underappreciated and undervalued.
Oh, the memories of getting chased by crows and wolves. That looping music that never left the back of my head, and the utter TERROR that resulted from seeing the mask icon pop up on screen, indicating that I had to haul ass to a bunkhouse and do a little Punch-Out style confrontation with Mr. Voorhees. Admittedly, Jason did look kind of weird in the game. . . For some reason, he was painted purple, but that really did not distract from the game too much.
Around the same time, NAMCO released an arcade title called Splatterhouse, featuring a character that bore a slight resemblance to a certain hockey mask sporting mass murderer from a make believe New Jersey township. The title proved wildly successful, and eventually lead to a trilogy on the Sega Genesis that kicked all kinds of ass in the early 1990s.
By 1989, Jason Voorhees was an ingrained aspect of the American conscience. You really did not need a context behind Jason anymore, since Jason had become a contextual object HIMSELF. The thing is, Jason was SUCH a ubiquitous concept in society that no one really took the idea seriously anymore, as everyone thought of Jason as a cinematic creation as opposed to a cinematic display. At one point, Jason was something of an allegory for all of the dangers of reckless youth, but by the end of the decade, he was pretty much a comedic visual. The character had been lampooned and satirized so much that you really could not consider Jason scary or iconic anymore - what was once our generation s Dracula had quickly turned into our generation s Count Chocula.
One of my all time favorite Jason moments outside of the Friday films occurred when Jason, the film character, appeared on an episode of the Arsenio Hall show. I remember staying up until almost midnight to catch that, and it was WELL worth the wait. If you have not seen it before, definitely hit it up on You tube - I really do not think you can call yourself a true F13 fan if you have not witnessed it.
So, why was Jason on Arsenio Hall, you ask? Well, it was a publicity stop for his latest film, and as it turns out, Jason s appearance on Arsenio was WAY more entertaining than the film he was promoting.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Before we talk about the film, I think we have to start by talking about the theatrical trailer for the movie. Long story short, it is one of the most brilliant ads I have ever seen for anything, and a spot I would literally WAIT for on the Preview Channel. Sadly, the ad was a way better experience than the movie itself, making part 8 one of the most maligned chapters of the long running series.
The main problem with the movie is the title. It is called Jason Takes Manhattan, but we only see Jason taking Manhattan for about twenty minutes of the movie. Instead of going after cars that exploded, Ralph Nader should have been standing up for consumers that bought into THAT sort of false advertisement.
A majority of the film takes place on a cruise, and while there are a couple of decent kills here and there, the movie is a tad too melodramatic for me. If I wanted angst in my slasher flicks, I would just re watch one of the Elm Street sequels.
The movie was somewhat controversial at the time, because New York City officials HATED the way the city was depicted in the film. Now, I am not saying that they are in the right, but when the VERY first thing that happens to the main characters when they arrive in NYC is get mugged, I think there may be SOME grounds for irksomeness on behalf of Mayor Cuomo.
I think the producers knew that the pen was almost out of ink at this point. They try REALLY hard to do stuff with the formula here, and a lot of it just does not work. For example, there is a scene in which Jason confronts a NY Rangers billboard, which I suppose is supposed to be funny, when it just comes off as lazy and groan inducing. That, and the script apparently gives Jason the canonical A OK to teleport now, as he has no problem moving hundreds of yards, sight unseen, in about two seconds time.
To be fair, once the movie ACTUALLY gets to New York, it gets pretty interesting. The movie contains one of my all time favorite Jason kills ever, which kind of makes me wonder if Mr. Voorhees could have been a championship boxer had things turned out differently for him.
You really, really have to be a hardcore fan of the Jason flicks to get into this one, and even then, I really cannot guarantee that you will enjoy it as much as you think you would. Yeah, it has its moments, but by and large, this movie was pretty much proof that the series had overstayed its welcome. Following a very disappointing performance at the box office, it was rather clear that it was time to take things back to the drawing board. . .and this time, a most unexpected source would be the one doing the drawing.
Official Score: TWO HOCKEY MASKS out of FOUR
1990. By now, Jason is pretty much a pop culture anachronism, the same way The Unknown Comedian was viewed by children of the 1980s. Yeah, we all knew what it WAS, but what it WAS was NOT what it once WAS. Although Jason had not totally vanished from our collective psyche, he was definitely on the fast track to Nostalgia Ville.
A lot of children s television shows had references to Jason. There was a Jason doppelganger on Bobby s World, and how could we forget the immortal character Zeke the Plumber on Salute Your Shorts? Jason really did not scare us anymore, as we had been so EXPOSED to the character that he really did not have a meaning anymore. Seeing Jason was kind of like seeing the mailman. . .once you are bombarded by a certain image for SO LONG, you just kind of stop noting that image and WHAT it stands for.
Paramount Pictures had always been ashamed of the Friday series. They loathed the films because critics and high culture snobs thought it was proletarian rubbish, but since the movies were incredibly cost efficient, the company ALWAYS made a profit off the films. Had it not been for the profits from the Jason movies, Paramount never would have had the funds to bankroll a lot of big budget films, many of which underperformed at the box office and ended up grossing FAR less than the Jason movies were bringing in. By Part 8, the movies really were not bringing in as much moolah as they once were, and Paramount decided to sell the damn thing to the highest bidder. And when Friday the 13th hit the auction block, who was the first person to come a knocking?
That s right, New Line Cinema. . .the house that FREDDY built.
After securing the rights to the Jason mythos, New Line immediately began work on a ninth Friday film, which was SUPPOSEDLY going to be the last Friday movie. You know, because the last Friday movie ended up with five sequels, we TOTALLY knew that New Line meant BUSINESS.
The big deal with New Line was sort of obvious. Since the company owned the rights to both Jason and Freddy, it was only logical that the two would crossover at some point, and we pretty much ASSUMED that there was going to be an immediate follow up to the LAST F13 ever. As it turns out, we were both right - VERY right, as well as being wrong - I mean REALLY wrong - in our assumptions.
Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
Well, for one thing: how awesome is that title? Whoever thought of that deserves as much bonus money as New Line could have possibly thrown at them. If there was ever a moniker that got grade school kids talking, THAT ONE was it.
This film, like pretty much all of the latter sequels, gets a mixed reaction from fans. Some liked it for doing something kind of different, and a lot more people HATED it for that very reason. For my money, it probably is not as bad as most people make it out to be. Sure, it has some problems, but overall, it gets more things right than it does wrong.
I guess the biggest complaint about the movie is that Jason is really only in the movie for about 20 minutes. Since Jason gets blown up within the first ten minutes of the picture, the film becomes this weird, Invasion of the Body Snatchers type story where the literal EVIL of Jason (which is this dragon snake thing) jumps from person to person.
For what it is worth, this is a pretty damn violent movie, especially if you score the unrated version. For those of you disappointed by the lack of splatter in the last three or four movies, this one MORE than makes up for it with gore galore. A woman gets split in half with a no parking sign, a dude gets his head squashed in a car door (even though you can OBVIOUSLY tell that a pillow is being used for the effect), and in one scene, a woman literally has her TEETH knocked down her throat. Oh, and do not leave out the scene where the guy gets his face French fried in hot grease. That is a good one, too.
I think this is a movie tailor made for horror fans. Not only is there a sequence in which we find out that Jason owns his own copy of the Necronomicon, the movie concludes with a cameo appearance by a certain ex Elm Street janitor, which of course, began a maelstrom of rumors about that long awaited Freddy vs. Jason spin off.
Yeah, it is not the best Jason movie by any stretch, but I think it is mildly more enjoyable than most mainstream horror films of the timeframe. It has problems, but nothing that really stops you from enjoying the picture. . .unless, of course, you are just a spoiled sport that cannot take derivation in any form, and if that is the case, yeah, it is probably for the best if you skip this one.
Official Score: TWO AND A HALF HOCKEY MASKS out of FOUR
After the LAST Jason movie, the titular anti hero of the Friday the 13th films went to hell, all right. . .developmental hell, that is.
Before the suits at New Line agreed upon the final script for Jason Goes To Hell, a number of ideas were floating around for what would have been the ninth Friday film, including a movie about Jason attacking researchers at an Arctic base, and one that would have been about Jason going to Los Angeles and fighting gang members. . .which, yeah, is actually the plotline that was USED for Predator 2, if it sounds familiar.
After Jason Goes To Hell, the long awaited Freddy vs. Jason script went into production. . .sort of. Although New Line wanted to make the movie, pretty much NOBODY in the horror community wanted to go near it. Wes Craven said he would not direct it, Sean Cunningham did not want to direct it, and the studio had a hell of a time finding ANYONE that wanted to hop aboard the project. At one point, even Rob Bottin, the lead Special FX guy behind The Thing, was attached to helm the picture, but that quickly fell through faster than a game of Kerplunk with too many marbles.
The Friday series had officially stagnated. Around the mid 90s, remember, this was during the whole OJ drama, Jason was pretty much a bygone product of yesteryear. Yeah, there was the occasional comic book (including one where he become BFFS with Leather Face) and the periodic Mad TV skit (including a mishmash between F13 and Apollo 13 entitled Apollo the 13th, which oddly, predicted the NEXT film in the franchise), but the hockey masked one was no longer relevant in a Scream obsessed culture. You KNOW things were looking down for the license when the biggest story for the franchise in the late 90s was the release of an action figure, so if you had stock in the series. . .it most definitely was NOT a good time to be a holder.
After about five or six years in development, the Freddy vs. Jason film was FINALLY green lit. After scores of scripts, including one written by a Law and Order scribe that would have been, if you can believe it, a parody of the court room drama genre, New Line settled on a script that would have featured, among other things, a character getting turned into a lobster, a woman being killed by being stuffed up Freddy s nose and sneezed out, and a climactic boxing fight (yes, an ACTUAL boxing fight) between Freddy and Jason in which Ted Bundy served as the referee. And as god as my witness, I am not making up any of this - I read the script, and it was HORRIBLE.
The problem was, the film was green lit RIGHT before Columbine happened. Since the plot revolved around a cult of mass murdering teenagers, New Line quickly pulled the plug on the project, and the Freddy vs. Jason feature was once again reduced to square one.
However, the series would soon make a comeback, albeit in a TOTALLY different incarnation. . .and really, an entirely different genre. In 2001, production began on a low budget sci fi slasher entitled Jason X. Although the film did not hit theaters until 2002, it was a movie that stirred the pot for a lot of fans, and to this day, remains perhaps the most contentious film in the entire franchise.
Jason X (2002)
You know, Jason X had a lot of things working for it. For starters, it had one of the all time greatest kills in the franchise s history. Apparently, cryogenic mist plus a sharp counter top equals AWESOME. That, and there were some pretty good smart ass moments in the film. Really, who did not love the trip back to the Virtual Reality 80s?
However, the thing that foiled Jason X is the same thing that foiled pretty much EVERY movie in the series: it tried to do TOO much tweaking to the tried and true Friday formula. If Friday Part 2 is the best Big Mac ever made, than Jason X is a Big Mac from the same restaurant, only with a giant slice of pineapple under the bun instead of a chunk of flame broiled beef. Yeah, it is DIFFERENT, but you do not really WANT different, right?
The movie gets WAY too cutesy with the dialogue. Seriously, leave the puns to Freddy Krueger guys - I do not need a character to say that a person is screwed when he uncovers a body pierced upon a giant bolt.
Apparently, this movie utilized a vast array of Canadian sci fi TV actors. After watching this movie, I noted that half the cast were involved in cruddy syndicated shows like Andromeda and Mutant X. It kind of makes me wonder if they reused some of the sets, too, because the movie has a distinct low budget TV feel at times.
For every cool thing, like the David Cronenberg cameo, there were about two or three things that just made you groan. As with ALL of the Jason movies, your intoxication level GREATLY influences your enjoyment of the picture. I am not saying that this is a bad movie through and through, but if I were a conservative estimator, I would say that you would need AT least a six pack to make it all the way through. Ultimately, Jason X was a big misstep for the series, but it did proof that Mr. Voorhees STILL resonated with the movie going audience. . .which certainly amped up production for his NEXT starring role.
Official Score: TWO HOCKEY MASKS out of FOUR
Freddy Vs. Jason (2003)
Expectations for this movie, obviously, were quite high, and it was equally obvious that no matter what, the film would never satisfy the millions of fans across the world that have been waiting for the picture since 1987.
Before the movie was even released, there was controversy. Nobody wanted Ronny Yu, the same guy that made a number of Hong Kong action movies and The Bride of Chucky, directing the flick. Certainly, a lot of fans were PISSED that Kane Hodder was not selected to play Jason in the movie, too. . .which means this movie had ALL of the hallmarks for an all time disaster before it even HIT theaters.
In a lot of ways, this movie represented the END of both franchises, and a lot of others, my childhood. I was seventeen when this movie first came out, and I had practically been WEANED on both Freddy and Jason. Seeing them go toe to toe was sort of like an early high school graduation present, and I have to say that screening the movie on opening night may have been the most fun I have EVER had in my rinky dink town s even rinky dinkier little movie theater. Granted, the fact that I was pretty liquored up before I even GOT into the theater played a major role in the experience, but that is beside the point: the movie delivered as a pure popcorn experience, and for that, I give it props.
I have some qualms about the movie, but compared to the OTHER scripts, this one was like Casa freaking Blanca. I kind of liked the fact that the writers steered away from merging the two franchises by bringing up some hitherto UNEXPLAINED plot device, like saying Freddy was responsible for Jason s drowning (which was in virtually EVERY script penned for the movie BESIDES this one). I also liked the fact that they DID NOT turn Jason into a good guy (in pro wrestling terminology, a FACE TURN), as Jason as a misunderstood Godzilla like do-gooder just does not resonate with me very well.
Actually getting to see Robert Englund on the big screen was freaking awesome, and the dialogue in the movie was actually pretty damned funny, ESPECIALLY the guy saying, and I quote, that goalie was pissed about something, after Jason slays an entire cornfield full of ravers. . .including Hurley from Lost, apparently.
The fight scene did not disappoint, as it was down, dirty and awesome. Jason s comeback got a huge pop out of the audience, and I could not help but feel as if I could die a happier man knowing that I FINALLY got to see the two slasher icons throw down. Ultimately, it was not as good as it could have been, but it was as good a movie as we possibly COULD have gotten considering the circumstances. For me, this was a really good stopping point for both the Friday and Elm Street series, but as we all know. . .it was anything but.
Official Score: TWO AND A HALF HOCKEY MASKS out of FOUR
Friday the 13th (2009)
I was not happy when I heard about a F13 remake. I really was not happy when I found out that Michael Bay was going to get his billion dollar mitts on the Jason formula. What we were going to get, a Transformer Jason that gets killed by an asteroid. . .at Pearl Harbor?
Really, this was a movie that never should have been made, but hey, it did, so we might as well talk about it. For me, the Friday series OFFICIALLY came to an end after Freddy vs. Jason, and the series was pretty much heading in the wrong direction since 1984. Yeah, there was the occasional glimmer here and there, but it was clear that the whole Jason idea was a dead, dead issue.
Begrudgingly, I caught the film recently. All in all, I would have to say that it s my LEAST favorite film in the series, but I think that was a foregone conclusion, wasn t it?
I am not sure where retro begins and ends, but I did not get ANYTHING remotely resembling a nostalgic feeling while watching the film. Instead of being reminded of the series I loved as a kid, I just kind of felt like I had lost a bit of my culture, that a part of what I once loved had been bought, reconstructed, and now I was being told that the unwanted redesign was better than what I grew up with. That is kind of the story of reboots in general - all it is is a market for stolen memories, and I am not sure why I should be asked to spend money on photos of my youth being ripped to shreds.
If you can overlook the fact that it s called Friday the 13th , and overlook the fact that it has Jason in it, and you can overlook the fact that it reminds you of the LAST eleven movies, than you may be able to enjoy this movie for what it is. Like I said, if you can TOTALLY clear your mind, you might be able to give this one a shot. . . But good luck with that.
As far as the recent reboots go, F13 is probably one of the LEAST offensive. It may suck, but it is nowhere NEAR as pathetic as the Elm Street reboot, or the atrocious Zombie-Ween movies, or even the big budget Texas Chain Saw abominations from a couple of years back. You know what you are getting into when you go into this movie, so you don t need me to tell you anything more on the matter.
Official Score: ONE AND A HALF HOCKEY MASKS out of FOUR
Whew! That was one long ass trip down memory lane, wasn t it?
It s pretty hard to summarize 31 years worth of cinema in a succinct little paragraph. Over the course of twelve films, what was once nothing more than a meaningless idea for a money grabbing exploitation film has transformed into my generation s Frankenstein, a transcultural, transcontextual retelling of the old Cropsey story that has been embraced by millions upon millions of people the world over.
Say what you will about the merits, or demerits, of the Friday franchise, the reality is, it is one of the most successful media franchises of all time. Keep in mind that the Jason series has made over HALF A BILLION DOLLARS over the last three decades, and that is not factoring in DVD, Video and Merchandise sales. No matter what the high and mighty emperors of culture may tell you, these movies are EMBRACED by way more people than they would lead you to believe. I believe that it is WHOLLY feasible to assume that the Friday series has impacted more filmgoers the world over than anything made by Fellini, Bergman or Bunuel - Chilean children have no idea who Akira Kurosawa is, and second graders in Montana have no clue who Herzog is, but they can tell you the body count for the last FIVE Jason movies. The Jason movies have made a global impact on cinema, and it is one that is, in my opinion at least, horrendously unacknowledged by most social scientists and film scholars.
At the end of the day, WHY do we still enjoy this movies and care about them? Probably for the same reason we love Twinkies, and Mountain Dew, and BBQ Potato Chips - it is not nutritious, it is not high society, and you know what? It is just filling and delicious, even if it is a bunch of unhealthy crud. I d rather eat frozen pizzas for a year than have to eat that pretentious California veggie kitchen stuff, and I d rather watch a dude in a hockey mask stab lackluster actresses with farm implements than watch The Social Network, or Crash, or Million Dollar Baby, or any of that self-congratulatory clap trap that makes you long for the days of shameless, sensationalist filmmaking.
If I had to pick ONE variable that explicated the popularity of the series, I guess that would be it - the Friday movies are perhaps the LEAST pretentious films ever made by a mainstream American company, and in many ways, the most AMERICAN movies ever made, too. Only in America, the ultimate capitalistic society, could you make the same movie over ELEVEN times and still get people to buy a ticket. The Jason series proves that the industrial model works for cinematic concepts just as much as it does automotive parts and pre-processed corndogs - some critics may think that takes away some of the magic of film, and for a lot of others, it normalizes it. The Friday the 13th series is a successful media franchise, because it is first and foremost, a successful product. The movies give the audience what it wants, and the only time the franchise falters is when it refuses to give into what crowds demand. There is a very happy, almost symbiotic relationship between the Friday movies and Friday fans. . .which at the end of the day, is really why we're still talking about THEM all these years later.
James Swift is a twenty something freelance writer currently living in the Metro Atlanta area. He is the author of How I Survived Three Years at a Two Year Community College: A Junior Memoir of Epic Proportions and Mascara Contra Mascara: A Tale of Two Masks.