I took on many challenges in 2019. Many casual Why Fans may have heard about my successful attempt at No Shit ’19, where I refused to poop once in 12 months. But the true fans of myself (who go by many names such as The Why Army, Whyheads, Why Guys, and the one name that may not be named) know about my challenge to watch every single Friday the 13th movie within October. And the true true fans know about how I closed the month with watching every single film back-to-back in one sitting. So now that I’m an expert on the Friday the 13th movies, I’m ready to write a professional review of all 12 entries in the series.
Disclaimer: If you haven’t seen the series, or even a single movie, you’re not exactly missing out. The series is special, and I really liked watching them in order. If you go in blind, like me, you might get something out of it. It’s a wild ride. It’s also 12 movies worth of schlock, at times intentional and self-aware. I think it’s fine to be spoiled on them if you’re not willing to waste hours suffering through the bad ones. Take this recommendation: either watch all of them blind, or read this article and make up your mind which ones to skip. On with the review.
Friday the 13th (1980)
This one is honestly the hardest one to review. In retrospect, it’s not very good. But in that same retrospect, it’s essential and mandatory viewing. This started basically as a rip-off of Halloween (1978), and that rip-off style propagated throughout the series. It’s significant for what it does and doesn’t do, it’s still following in the success of Halloween but it’s not so artistic that it dooms any chance at improvement. The way I see it, a path to a successful franchise starts with a mediocre (but significant) first entry. Series like Rambo, Die Hard, or Dirty Harry couldn’t follow in the wake of the near flawless first entry. If you start with equal parts flaws and promise, like Rocky or The Fast and the Furious, you’ll leave room for improvement, and rocket to massive success. This is exactly what Friday the 13th (1980) does, along with establishing a genre and tone that rarely shifts. Again, this is the hardest one to review, it’s better just left as the ultimate starting place for the series.
Friday the 13th: Part 2 (1981)
Part 2 is the quintessential slasher. It improves off the first film in nearly every way, and establishes so many traditions. It’s also the perfect sequel: the first part already builds up the mystery of “camp blood” and puts heavy foreshadowing on the events of the film, but Part 2 just does the same thing with more intensity! The events of the first film were still covered up, but there’s still that urban legend status about the campground. Everything here is better: characters, their motives, the kills, and all the production value is ramped up. It no longer feels like a low budget indie cash grab, and more effort is made for this one. For a beginner, I’d say watch the first movie and Part 2 back-to-back. If you’re still let down, there’s nothing here in the series for you. Overall in the series, I’d rank it very high (possibly higher than it deserves). It’s one of those movies that just exudes charm, and genuine love for what it exists as.
Friday the 13th: Part III (1982)
In a 12 part series, one of them has to start bending to the cash flow. It starts with Part III, which would be better subtitled Part 3D. The film was shot to use the 3D gimmick which totally has caught on after multiple attempts at resurrection. I haven’t talked about kills much in this review, since I think good ones are the ones that you don’t think much about. Since Part III forces that 3D gimmick, there’s plenty of camera angles, especially during kills, that put some long object directly into the camera to make it stick out. This is terrible and obnoxious and ruins an otherwise great follow-up to the series. The characters actually get interesting, where Shelly (the nerd character) gets some form of a character arc before he dies. We get a better picture of the world, since it’s not just another campground, but a house on the same Crystal Lake. Jason is shown smarter here, changing his clothes, moving bodies, choosing weapons, and picking when to show his face. Everything except the 3D gimmick shots are great, so I’m glad to say that’s the biggest problem with the film.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
As definitely the last movie to ever be made in the entire series, The Final Chapter is sadly mediocre. There’s a better attempt at A and B plots in this film, which Part 2 and Part III struggled with. The only problem is the apparent B plot of the Jarvis family, becomes the A plot throughout the next 2 installments. Otherwise, the immoral teens at camp are a solid group of stereotypes, probably my favorite in the series. The kills get more creative here, plus continued characterization of Jason. A lot of dead fucks claim that Jason is some moral god who only kills sinners, and The Final Chapter does show Jason picking an adult to a child, it doesn’t mean he wasn’t going after Tommy this whole time. Anyways, if we were to make a trilogy of this and the next two, it’s definitely worth a watch. Otherwise, it’s a bit more repetitive of the things established in Part 2 and Part III. Still a solid film, definitely worth a watch if you’re already in too deep, but not very special like some others on this list.
Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
So after they killed Jason for good in the last one, they never ever made another Friday the 13th movie and that’s where A New Beginning comes in. Tommy, rightfully traumatized from the events of the first film, goes to therapy in some woodsy place in Nowhere Near Crystal Lake. This was supposed to be a change in the series that did not pan out, since it’s more about the characters than the killings themselves. That said, it still has more kills and gore and sex and drugs than any of the previous entries, so it’s really not trying that hard to change. Anyways, I don’t hate this movie. I wasn’t even disappointed, I was only concerned. Like hearing your boss’s boss lay off someone on your level but he’s on a different team but performs the same as you but he says that it isn’t on a basis of performance but you know they’ve been working there longer and probably get paid more so you’re still very worried that you’re next on the list. I’m somewhat glad there’s a change of location, where the characters are only there because they’re fucking insane, so they have a reason to act the way they do, but it’s still all very strange. The whole thing feels like it’s not sure what it wants to be, and is ultimately not a great entry. In retrospect it’s entirely skippable, but it’s good to watch to see the growing pains the series was going through. This is another one that’s hard to place, but I’m certain it’s lower on the list.
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
Here it is, boys and girls. This is the payoff of watching 5 serviceable slasher cash-grabs. From the first fucking scene you can tell that Part VI gives no fucks and is entirely self-aware about exactly what it is and what it needs to be. In the first 10 minutes Jason gets resurrected with god damn lightning and you get a fucking James Bond intro to the title card. Some of the best kills in the series, children at camp in peril for the first time, someone actually tries to just shoot Jason (it doesn’t work, of course), and Tommy pulls a T2 Sarah Connor and becomes a badass to kill Jason FOR GOOD (it doesn’t work, of course). This movie saved the series for me. If this was just another standard formula entry, I wouldn’t be writing this review, and instead regretting wasting my time on watching the series. It’s easily my top ranked film in the series, and if I were the type of person to rank movies in a top 50 or 100 list, it would be somewhere up there.
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
Have you ever done something good and then turned around and said, “nevermind, here’s my normal retarded shit”. If not, Part VII has got you covered. Holy shit, does this one stink. I’ll quote the GQ article that Wikipedia quotes because I cannot put this into words:
[The associate producer] had some outsize aspirations for her first producing credit. “She wanted it to be unlike any other Friday the 13th movie,” says Haney. “She wanted it to win an Academy Award.”– Scott Meslow, GQ https://www.gq.com/story/friday-the-13th-vii
Yeah so they put Carrie as the lead character because that’s how you win an Oscar. Anyways it’s fucking terrible from a plot basis and not much better from everything else. Jason’s design is good and the kills would be good if they weren’t all censored. Those gory kill scenes all exist but only as rough cuts, so there isn’t an uncensored version of the film. Not like that would save it.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Jason on a boat! What if Jason were on a boat? Let’s put Jason on a boat! Somehow, in some way, this movie works, but only just enough. We’ve deviated so far from the original formula that nothing matters anymore. Jason gets resurrected by uh a cable under the lake or something and he gets on a boat. There are kids on a boat and he kills some of them and then he FOLLOWS THEM UNDERWATER TO NEW YORK CITY and then we have a 3rd act where Jason is shown not killing everything in his path but targeting specific people. It’s clear they don’t care anymore. This is fine, way better than caring too much, like Part VII. I honestly don’t have much to say about this, it’s not terrible. Another one of those hard-to-rate, since it’s extremely unique. It also doesn’t even acknowledge Part VII so I can give it credit for that.
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
Jason Goes to Hell is the inverse of Part VI. Where Part VI was a self-aware borderline comedy about the series, Jason Goes to Hell is a serious borderline arthouse about a completely new lore to the series. It’s a new direction to the series, for sure, but it runs away with it and doesn’t care if you care about it. My only issue is it could change the names around and no longer be a Friday the 13th movie, but if that happened then nobody would watch it. I wouldn’t call this hard to recommend, but it is hard to appreciate. Steven Williams acts his heart out and it makes me very happy and warm inside every time he’s in a scene. This movie ends in a tease for Freddy vs. Jason which, ironically, was stuck in development hell.
Jason X (2002)
Jason in space! What if Jason was in space? Let’s put Jason in space! This one feels a lot more like the classic formula than ones before it, and is one of the best pure slashers in the series. It’s strange how the course correction comes in the form of a sci-fi spinoff, but nothing has mattered for a while now. It actually makes a lot of sense coming from the last few films proving that Jason is an infinite unstoppable murder force, accelerating the story and showing what measures they would take in the future. Other films, like Part VI, showed that the people would cover up the myth by renaming Crystal Lake. Jason X shows us that Jason was kept in a secret government facility for an amount of time, before someone fucks up and lets him loose. They end up cryogenically freezing him until the far future, where oblivious space humans pick him up and resurrect him with future space science. The spaceship is somehow more confined than the boat in Jason Takes Manhattan, and it feels more like a campsite with total isolation. There’s no short supply of early 00s fashion and sci-fi nonsense, but it keeps cool kills and all the classic, traditional elements of the original movies. Just a fun time all around, works best as a standalone entry.
Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
This one is technically more of a Nightmare on Elm Street movie than a Jason movie. Still, it deserves to be on the list since it works with the little canon there is. I haven’t seen all the Elm Street movies, but Robert Englund is fucking fantastic in it, and I loved the crossover angle. I say it’s not a Jason movie, but Jason does do many of the killings, while Freddy takes credit for it to allow him resurrection. It’s a nice approach, and establishes the rules of Freddy pretty well, so I was able to enjoy it. There’s some okay kills, and a great fight between the title characters, but I’m struggling to give it a real verdict. It exists so much on its own, as some anomaly crossover that pays homage to both characters in the most respectful way possible, without taking too many liberties or trying to change any lore. It’s just having fun with the idea of a crossover: unlike Part VII‘s Carrie vs Jason, there’s a real matchup with two characters you love to hate. Basically a film that’s for fans only, but I was already a fan at this point.
Friday the 13th (2009)
This is a strange one. Going into this, I think, “reboots are crap, cash-grabs, no original ideas!” Then I double check my opinions and realize that the original films were all crap, cash-grabs, with few original ideas. How the hell can this be any worse than Part VII, or even Part V? In fact, after 4 movies without a camp theme, and 7 without the traditional formula, this one is a breath of fresh air. The first few minutes are a recap of a remake of part 1, it’s a little confusing but eventually settles into something between 2 and 3. There’s kids and there’s drinking and smoking and cursing sex. That seems annoying when it doesn’t have early 80s charm, but Freddy vs Jason only had early 00s charm, and noone complained about that. It’s honestly the best they could do at the time, for a reboot of this caliber. On first viewing, I was conflicted, but eventually satisfied that they know what they’re doing. The rest of the film strays from obvious nostalgia bait and is just a standard, but updated slasher film. I’d compare it to Evil Dead (2013), but even that relied on homage, recreating specific iconic scenes. The movie doesn’t add to the series, or progress the genre, but who cares? It’s not trying to follow up Part VI or Jason Goes to Hell, or even replace the 1980 original. It’s just a Friday the 13th movie, taking the theme somewhere when the series was iconic, before it tried to get silly. Remember the Cowboy Bebop movie? It was released after the series’ emotional conclusion, but it was set somewhere before all that shit happened. That movie is just a happy return to that time when the series was something besides the last few episodes. That’s what Friday the 13th (2009) felt like, just a solid entry in that period where Jason wasn’t a space robot, nor a maggot monster, nor a body swapping ethereal murder force.
Okay maybe that was a lot I just wrote, but I don’t care since it’s something I became passionate about in a matter of 4 weeks plus one night of staying up very late watching a lot of movies I’ve seen before. I’ve not written an article here in a while and I don’t want to make this a regular thing because it sucks my life away, but I’d like to do one more about games in 2019. It’s tradition, you know? Anyways, thanks for reading.
- @ February 4, 2020 4:23 pm