If you were a horror fan in the eighties and nineties, you were a fan of Jason Voorhees. From an obsessed, vengeful mother to a sack-faced backwoods maniac to the a hockey masked icon and beyond, the Friday the 13th series is undoubtedly the pinnacle of veracious slasher success. The series never consisted of any profound or intricate films from an artistic standpoint, but what set the franchise aside from all the rest was its ability to consistently rile up the audience with intense chase scenes, zany characters, nudity, outlandish kills and some of the most invigorating climaxes the genre has ever seen. Being born in 1985, I missed a lot of the seriesí original hype and ended up being one of the leftovers from an era I wasnít even truly a part of by the time Jason had been phased out of mainstream existence. Kids my age were always checking out new releases, but they were around 5 bucks. I could get 5 horror films from the regular racks for that price. Not that it mattered, even as a 10 year old, I still liked the tapes I rented to show some age. Like the sport of hockey and my own mother, I canít remember a time that I didnít know of Jason Voorhees stalking Camp Crystal Lake and its surroundings. My earliest memory comes from catching Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood on SuperChannel when it first aired (although I distinctly remember considering it the new Jason movie; I was a veteran at the age of four or five) and throughout the years I made sure to tape all the flicks in their uncut form off of MovieMax before eventually being able to snag them all on overpriced DVDs. With the much anticipated remake of the original film on the horizon, Iíve decided to go back through the sands of time and cut Jason Voorhees down to size; one film at a time.
11. Jason X (2001)
Why the fuck did Jason go to space? How did the idea even come up? Well, Iím pretty certain the reason it was brough about was because filmmakers knew it was the easiest pitch to get the sell. Leprechaun can go to space (or the Space Hood) and no one really cares. Sending Pinhead to space made some logical sense because itíd be hard to mess with the Lament Configuration if it wasnít on this planet. Jason in space? Total nonsense. My qualms with the film begin and end on that fundamental level; Jason is never going to be as effective in space as he would be in the woods from a horror perspective. Kane Hodderís last attempt as Jason still portrayed him as one mean dude and the kills are all as good as youíd expect, it just doesnít play out how you want it to. The introduction of Uber Jason is fine for giggles, but as far as the series goes, this film is the reason Iím not worried about the upcoming remake. Zombie Jason was strong enough, Uber Jason was something different all together, and the ending leaves absolutely no hope for a believable sequel. And, in the F13 series, thatís saying something. At this point, Jason either takes over the world or we get ninety minutes of a guy just slaughtering people in the woods indestructibly. Actually, thatís not that bad! To be fair, Jason X is still entertaining and as the worst on the list, this shows just how much fun the F13 series is. When the highlight of the film is an ode to the seriesí most predominant decade and one of its most memorable scenes, the people involved should have realized that the apple didnít need to fall from the tree.
After four early 80s style slashers, Jason was supposed to have died in Part IV, but fans screamed for Jason to return, and return he didnít. At least not yet. The fifth instalment in the series is the first to really stray away from the serious backbone that had held the first four up to at least some degree and deals with character Tommy Jarvis in a struggle with sanity. Jason Voorhees makes appearances only as seen in Tommyís mind as thereís a copycat on the loose and cutting up kids lodged in a mental health facility. The flick is entertaining in and of itself, but the problem is everything in it seems more akin to something youíd expect in Slumber Party Massacre 3 rather than the exhuberent masked man series. The characters are all for laughs and the tone of the flick turns to really cheesy comedy as opposed to the wonderful teen-sex comedy that made Part IV so special. With that said, there are a couple memorable scenes and a great climax that emulates what the series was so well known for in previous outings. I always had a problem with the fact that so much of the film takes place in the day, virtually destroying atmosphere until the endingís pounding thunderstorm.
If Jason actually took Manhattan instead of Vancouver, this film would be remembered much more fondly today. Budget constraints constricted most of this film to take place on a boat, which probably sounds more interesting than is. When he actually does get to the Big Apple, the film relies on similar cheap humor as Part V with a lot of overdone, iffy comedy and tame grue. When you see Jason Voorhees coming across a hockey billboard with his mask on it and he turns and looks at the camera in a cartoonish nudge, the series finally displays the fact that it had officially overstayed its welcome with Paramount. The positive to this film is the fact that Jason gets so much damn screentime that itís hard to stay mad at it. He just pops up wherever the hell he wants and these actions have led fans to speculate if Jason has the ability to teleport. He always did have a way of catching up with running victims without breaking a sweat, but itís way out of control here. The ending is confusing and sort of harks back to the early days in the series where his motherís death or his own struggles as a child were key factors in the character. It could have been effective, but it was, like everything else in the film, astray in execution and hopeless in budget.
Here is where things get tricky. Whereas the previous three flicks were underachievers, if not uninspired, the next few picks are so close in quality that it was really hard to call. Purists will call me names here, but the opening scene in Screamís play on ďWho is the killer in Friday the 13th?Ē tells everyone what they already know; Jason Voorhees is the heart and soul of the franchise. His mother, Pamela, isnít too bad either for a one-shot. As a slasher film, itís quite good and really set the ďstandardsĒ for bodycount films to come in terms of tone and appeal. Conversely, the mystery aspect is a bit of a letdown because we arenít introduced to Pamela until later on in the film and that sort of spoils the whodunit approach with repeat viewings. In a great slasher flick, it's good to see how the kills were timed and seeing characters work their way in and out of the plot in regards to the mystery to try to pinpoint foreshadowing. On the flipside, the climax is thrilling and youíll definitely lose your head over it. The denouement is scarier than anything that happens in the film and Harry Manfrediniís score along with the iconic ďki-ki-ki-kiĒ is top notch and involving. Tom Saviniís makeup is awesome and Kevin Baconís bacon is always fun to see at summer camp.
Before Jason had the hockey mask, he had the Town that Dreaded Sundown inspired sack that was eerier than his later mask, but wasnít nearly as cool. I guess you have to give a little to get a little. Character-wise, itís a step up from the original and there are a lot of suspenseful kills that leave a lot to be desired in the gore department as the outcry against the original and its imitators peaked in the year of its release. What is great to see, however, is Terriís (Kirsten Baker) lovely ass and the full frontal shot she blessed the world with. Yes, films do make a difference. The list will sound like a broken record before its all over with all the talk of how awesome these filmsí climaxes are, and Part II is no exception. When standard slashers come to a head, they kept you in your seat. When F13 films climaxed, they pulled you right onto the edge. The disturbing nature of Jason keeping his motherís decapitated head and sweater (and the Ďfinal girlí using it against him) in his shack proves to be a high-point of the plot and in terms of the Jason character. The mongoloidís first unmasking is a good one and the jump scare that ensues will put your head through the ceiling.
Bet you were wondering when the red-headed stepchild of the series would rear its ugly head, werenít you? Iíve never really had the hatred for Jason Goes to Hell that others have held onto for so many years. Itís true, I was pissed off at the lack of Jason back when I made a rare new release rental when I was 9, but by the time I was 10 I was pretty much over it. The flick is an absolute gorefest and in my mind was the only entry in the actual series to take Jason to a new direction in a positive manner. Jason hops from body to body after being blown to smithereens by the FBI in events really akin to The Hidden series. Some fans whine about the lack of Jason, but if they think back to the first three Jason instalments; he wasnít in those much, either. The film is self-referential, witty and without a doubt was the most well-made and most interesting throughout portion of the series at the time of its release. Creighton Duke is the main man out to stop Jason this time around and heís very quotable and Ash-like. The best scene in the movie is known throughout the F13 universe as the Ďtent sceneí and involves a very aroused naked woman riding her boyfriend before being graphically sliced in half by Jason. VHS prints I used to rent always had a lot of tracking issues at this point, letís just leave it at that. To ice the cake, Freddy Kruegerís cameo appearance at the end sends shivers of nerdy fanboyism up my spine to this day. It may not seem like much now after weíve seen the icons do battle, but as a kid, this was the greatest thing Iíd ever seen.
So, Jason finally becomes a zombie and Tommy finally gets his balls back. A drastic turn from Part V, Jason Lives definitely has some comedy in it, but itís not as silly as what would soon sprout; this film encapsulates what the series was before and what it was about to become in terms of Jason and the antics surround him. Lightning (now, thereís some great writing for you!) brings our favorite villain back from a watery grave and Jason now has superhuman strength, ripping off arms and punching through bodies as though they were sheets of paper. The typical Manfredini soundtrack is heard throughout the film (they all sound pretty much alike, but are always welcomed in my book) and Alice Cooper tunes make some great appearances, capped off by his Crystal Lake tune, The Man Behind the Mask rocking out 80s style over the end credits. Voorhees also gets a lot more screentime than in previous entries and finally is being taken advantage of much like Freddy Krueger was in Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master as a pop culture icon. Tommy is back for his last round with Jason, which culminates with a fiery battle in the waters of Crystal Lake.
The last four films have been interchangeable to a degree, but with Kane Hodderís debut, the series is taken to a whole new level. It all starts with a flashy and dramatic recapping of the series told by a narrator and scenes from the previous flicks that make it worth the price of admission alone. Combining traditional Friday the 13th elements into a Carrie inspired plot, Jason does battle with a telekinetic girl who gives him a little hand in coming back from his demise at the hands of Tommy in Jason Lives. Hodderís Jason is a furious one, and his portrayal in The New Blood has stood the test of time to be my all-time favorite Jason. Nothing much beats the bitch of the movie getting an axe firmly planted in her head and being tossed across the room like a ragdoll by a rotted maniac. The effects of Jasonís costume are incredibly detailed right down to the vertebrae of his spine sticking out through tattered clothes and the mask fits his face perfectly. The kills are among the most diverse of the series with kills ranging from motorized tools to the lovely harmony of a sleeping bag and a tree (which is as awesome as it sounds). Iím particularly fond of the climax and the gruesome unmasked visage, at least until the end twist comes out of nowhere and makes you groan a bit. It reminded me a lot of the Canadian film, Zombie Nightmare, but thatís a story for another day. All in all, The New Blood is one of the all-time great slasher flicks and the one in the series that you can just pop a bag of popcorn and watch over and over and over.
In the eighties, the third instalment of the series had to be in 3-D or you dropped the damn ball. The only drawback to this third entry is the fact that the 3-D effects come across as a bit hokey without the gimmick on home video. Fear not, Jason finally gets his mask here and the series never looked back. Part III benefits from having the entire climax from the second film worked into a quite busy film in its own regard that also features another blistering, mask cracking apex that left audiences clamoring for more. The kill variety is there and Jason is a bit more willing to use different weapons than in the film before it (I guess this was the first instance of the film beginning to slip into the grasp of a mainstream audience begging for an antihero). Part III demonstrates the series at its backwoods slasher best and amounts to the film I base all others in the series up against when it comes to this regard. It built on the foundation of the first two, more suspenseful flicks to a jovial, high-tempo slash experience that no fan should miss. Although a 3-D copy is hard to come by, rumors are that Blu-ray 3-D is much more effective than any other attempt to hit the market and hopefully Paramount comes through with the definitive version of this classic that would three decades in the making.
If there ever is a more monumental horror movie than this one, I hope I live to see the day it all goes down. After years in developmental hell, Elm Street invaded Crystal Lake and what went down was nothing short of epic. As a film, itís terrible. The acting is weak, the script is bland and repetitive and Jason never lets go of the all-too boring machete to get into anything more exciting. But, at the end of the day, all of that doesnít matter as Freddy invades Jasonís dreams using his motherís image and Jason as a scapegoat to get his name on the map and have children fear him again. This will give Freddy the chance to kill again. And kill, he does. The movie is absolutely explosive with blood, gore, special effects and compromises nothing in terms of the main event when Freddy and Jason go toe to toe in a huge showdown at Camp Crystal Lake. I still have the ticket stubs from when I saw the flick (twice) and doubt Iíll ever have a more memorable theatre experience in my life. The film had me before it even started as the Nightmare on Elm Street theme music is cut off with a quick and slick ďchi-chi-chi-chiĒ during the New Line (R.I.P.) logo. Freddyís opening monologue detailing his life in crime? Nothing short of classic. Itís true this is more of a Nightmare on Elm Street movie than a Friday the 13th jaunt, but thatís to be expected. Bringing Krueger down to the rudimentary level of a F13 film would have been suicide. Then again, judging from the lines that were used in the film, it may have been more appropriate. All in all, the film delivers on the one thing it has to, Freddy Vs. Jason.
What could be more 80s than the affinity of the teen-sex comedy and the slasher film? The Final Chapter is the sole entry in the series that could stand on its own if Jason wasnít in the film. The characters are great and Crispin Glover as the graceless and inept Jimbo steals the crown for being the best non-masked character in F13 history. Appropriately for the tone, soon to be teen-comedy icon, Corey Feldman of License to Drive, plays the first version of Tommy Jarvis, whose family is under attack by Jason after the flick picks up right after the events of Part III. Tom Savini once again does the makeup effects and theyíre nothing short of wonderful and it proved to be the last time in the original series that the psyche of Jasonís past tragedies is used against him. As symbolic of the series as the bloody crest of the film is, without the superb comedic influences, this film would have just been your normal extension of the standard slasher forte. Perfectly bridging worlds and creating the most memorable character conversations the slasher has ever seen; The Final Chapter is my final answer. Unless the remake proves me wrong. Stay tuned...
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