Happy Friday the 13th, everyone! In celebration of the day known for bad luck, we wanted to list our favorite entries in the film series of the same name, the franchise starring Jason Voorhees and his trademark hockey mask, killing promiscuous teenagers at the iconic Camp Crystal Lake.
Ranked, below, are our favorites in order:
Friday the 13th
The first. The original. The classic. The trendsetter. The first Friday the 13th is imperfect; the twist makes absolutely no sense if you watch it knowing what’s coming—the hands of the person carrying away the bodies of the dead teenagers is pretty clearly a man, and when it’s revealed to be Jason’s mom, a senior citizen, it’s like, “Yeah… probably not.”
But in terms of the slasher genre, the movie was undeniable influential. How many movies followed in its wake to capitalize off of its success? The idea of setting the action at a summer camp was irresistible to copycat horror movies to follow: The Burning and the Sleepaway Camp movies, to name just a few.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
The subtitle of this entry (the fourth) is a bit of a misnomer. It wasn’t the final chapter. But, they cleared that up by making the next one a “New Beginning.” That’s one way to keep a cash cow alive.
The franchise didn’t always begin with the whole Jason mythos, that was one of those things that just evolved as the series went along, but out of those movies with an unstoppable zombie donning a hockey mask and machete, The Final Chapter is the best. It really is. Joseph Zito, director of this outing is a veteran of the slasher genre and made a few great movies on his own outside of this (teaming with F13 legend Tom Savini for The Prowler, who would return for this entry). The Final Chapter is like if you boiled a Friday the 13th movie down to its essence and this was what was left over. It’s got a great supporting cast in the way of Crispin Glover and Corey Feldman and some of the most effective shocks and jumps of the franchise.
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
I’m a sucker for the logical conclusion that Jason Lives jumped to. It took an established franchise of a guy who harbored a grudge against his old summer camp and haunted it as a ghoul that wielded household tools turned deadly. So, for the sixth time around, the action was much, much more tongue in cheek. The guy is resurrected from his grave by a bolt of lightning and then gets his own James Bond-esque opening, seemingly killing an unseen assailant with a wave of cheesy, red blood.
Plus, this one has the triple decapitation.
Friday the 13th – Part 2
Before Jason had a hockey mask, he had… a burlap sack? Okay, that doesn’t sound especially exciting from a filmic standpoint (aesthetically, or otherwise), but the second entry in the Friday the 13th has been argued by many to be the best in the series. I don’t quite agree, but I can see where they’re coming from: The movie borrows, or steals, or homages, from the best. Steve Miner, director, owes a huge debt to the Italian Giallo A Bay of Blood directed by legendary Mario Bava.
And if you ever played that crappy-but-still-scary NES F13 video game, this is the movie from which they got the “Jason’s Mom’s Sweater” limited invincibility thing from. For all his faults, Jason truly does love his mommy. She did kill for him, after all.
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
Three and a half words: Sleeping bag vs. tree. It seemed like, this late in the game, the Friday movies were starting to feel a bit bored with the usual setting and formula (in fact, this was the last of the original series to take place in Camp Crystal Lake for its entirety), so they decided to make the ”final girl” a girl blessed with telekinesis. Imagine Carrie vs Jason and you have some idea of how the plot went down.
The best reason to watch this movie is for the deleted scenes of gore that unfortunately never made it to the final version, due to the MPAA’s absolute, seething hatred of this series. There were some amazing, comical, brilliant sequences that had to be cut, but are available on DVD, such as a man’s head being squished to the size of about a walnut.
Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
People act like reboots are a new thing. They’re as old as time itself. A New Beginning was Jason’s mid-series reboot, reimagining the zombified slasher as a copycat killer. Tommy Jarvis, survivor of the last movie, is now damaged from what he experienced at the hands of Jason and he and a plucky group of other damaged souls must fight back against the killer Voorhees—or is it even Jason at all? I actually admired the plotting and relative seriousness of this movie. I feel like if it wasn’t tied to the series and was allowed to be just a standalone slasher movie with the open-yet-claustrophobic setting, it could have been much more renowned upon examination of movies of this type. And when it decides to get scary, it succeeds. It’s a well-made flick.
Friday the 13th Part III
It used to be that if you had a part three in a horror series, the third one had to be called “Part 3-D” and it would be a series of bad effects jumping out at you (see also Jaws and The Amityville Horror). As far as gimmicks go, Friday the 13th Part III really isn’t so bad, and it’s the first movie where Jason gets his iconic hockey mask, upgrading from the burlap sack with eyeholes from Part 2. To recap the plot of this is to just go through the motions, as the first three are pretty much all the same: Camp opens, kids die, final kids battle. There’s usually a small twist or variance on the action. Why the kept opening that damned camp, I’ll never know.
Best part: Steve Miner, director, sets up a kill gag again and again, over and over and we could all see it coming from a mile away where some horse’s ass would walk everywhere on his damn hands and Jason finally hacks him in half with a cleaver. So deserved and earned, to an exhaustive degree.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
I have a soft spot for “The One That Takes Place Mostly on a Boat Even Though It’s Called Takes Manhattan” but, man, is it hard to defend. It’s mostly terrible. In these kinds of movies, it’s common to see some crazy old man tells the soon-to-be-doomed kids that they’re all doomed, but it makes a lot less sense when that guy’s in a yacht. Don’t they check tickets? It seems like bad security from the get-go to allow some crazy old man and an undead murderer on board without so much as checking a ticket, but I’m sure this cruise line will be under investigation for gross negligence soon.
In a way, though, I have to admire the movie’s absolute commitment to stupidity. Nothing slows it down. There’s even an inexplicable scene with a punk band jamming out and being electrocuted. A scene like this just raises so many questions… were they to be the band to perform for the class? Why does no one seem concerned when people go missing? Oh, well.
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
The first twenty minutes or so of Jason Goes to Hell are actually really good, some of the best stuff that the series has ever pulled off. It’s self-aware and balancing between meta-textual and parody, somehow pulling off both feats simultaneously. It’s actually pretty incredible to watch the filmmakers pull it off so effectively: A lone girl at the now-famous camp showers and seems to be setting herself up for an attack by Jason. And so she is. She’s part of a sting operation to bring the monster down once and for all, luring him out to a SWAT team that mows him down, blows him up and ends the threat with brutal efficiency. And then he comes back.
The movie is still good even after Jason comes back from the dead, because we knew it was going to happen (I mean, what the hell is the rest of the movie going to be about without Jason? A My Dinner with Andre homage?), but once it’s revealed what the “truth” about Jason is… it’s worth turning off. It’s bad.
Newline had picked up the series from Paramount and had clearly wanted, from the get-go, to pit Friday’s Jason against Nightmare’s Freddy, and they finally would, but Newline’s outing for Jason here is pretty weak stuff. Cinematographically, it’s off. Tonally, it’s wrong. The only reason to watch it was for the opening and the ending with Freddy’s claw setting up the spin-off, but this wasn’t as bad as the series got by a long shot, because we also had…
Jason gets the Alien treatment. I mean, seriously. It’s basically the same plot as the movie Alien but with Jason as the unstoppable creature. It’s pretty dire. It’s a completely unnecessary entry because if anything should have followed Jason Goes to Hell it should have been Freddy vs Jason which, due to disagreements about this and that and legalities, it took a long time. Why follow up Jason’s mask being dragged to hell by Freddy’s claw with some bullshit sci-fi thing that makes no sense?
Bar none, this is as bad as the series got. Watch it once out of curiosity, with lots of booze, and immediately forget it.