Happy Friday the 13th everybody! If you've read this blog even a little bit, you know that I'm a cheesy horror movie fan. And there is no cheesier series of horror films than the Friday the 13th series. From the beginning, it was a rip-off (but the first one!) of Halloween. But you could safely say that Halloween as a franchise was born due to the success of Friday the 13th. The following blog post was written for my annual Halloween scary movie retrospectives. But every time there is a Friday the 13th on the calendar, these movies come back into vogue.
Photo from Wikipedia.org
Unlike the original Halloween, I'm not sure anyone would put Friday the 13th in the "classic" category. At least not good classics. The series is loved with a heavy dose of nostalgia, and not a lot else.
Sure, it's iconic, was amazingly influential, and made a whole lot of money for both Paramount and New Line studios. But the Friday the 13th string of movies was easily the hollowest, least plotted, worst acted and least impactful story wise of the horror movie franchises (Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Hellraiser). Each Friday film pretty much follows a mindless killer, stalking stupid people.
There were variations along the way. And if you try to assign a real-world continuity to the films, you'll give yourself a headache that feels like a machete in your skull. Here are some short recaps (star ratings do not relate to the real movie world, only within the horror movie genre!):
Friday the 13th - The first film is by far the best. Jason does not appear (outside of a possible hallucination), but his storyline is set up. Notable for Betsy Palmer's iconic performance as Jason's mother, and Adrienne King as "the final girl." Sets the tone and atmosphere for the first four to seven movies. Genuinely scary for the uninitiated. And pretty much put the slasher genre on the map (even if it did take the cue from Halloween). Plus, Kevin Bacon. ***
Friday the 13th, Part 2 - Almost as good as the first, though very short (especially considering the lengthy recap at the beginning). Notable for Amy Steel's strong performance, the VW bug scene, and the guy in the wheelchair. Struggles to find a reason why Jason didn't drown, and why he was motivated to start his killing spree. Though the explanation is weak, it is used as the basis for the rest of the series. **
Friday the 13th, Part 3 - This (originally) 3D installment is one of the weakest, with very little story, and shots that were intended for the 3D audience. Most notable for hand-walking guy's death, and Jason's acquisition of his iconic hockey mask. Gone is the notion of revenge, Jason just kills everything in his path now. I initially thought this installment was terrible, but it's better in retrospect. *
Friday the 13th - The Final Chapter - Final, yeah, right! It's the best of sequels, and could have served as the finale, but there was more money to be made. Jason ventures out of Camp Crystal Lake, and seems to meet his end. Considering that this was all the way back in 1984, I'm sure you know that it wasn't to be. Plus, Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover(!?). ***
Friday the 13th (Part V): A New Beginning - Close to as good as part 4, reviled by fans for its plot twist, but very much in line with the tone of the first four movies. And Corey Feldman only wishes he grew up to look like John Shepherd! Woof. **
Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives - Yeah, I guess he lives. Often considered one of the best sequels, it left me cold. It felt like a different studio picked up the reins. This edition has a vastly different tone from the first five films, and the gory kills just aren't there. But I guess the MPAA is to blame for that. *
Friday the 13th, Part VII: The New Blood - They throw a psychic girl into the mix, and tack on a ridiculous ending, which puts Jason into the same scenario as the end of the last movie--making this one irrelevant. On the plus side the tone of the first five movies is back. And for you gay fans out there, this one is known as FriGAY the 13th for the high number of gay actors in the movie. *
Friday the 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan - The Friday feel is still there, but just barely, as Jason stows away on a cruise ship bound for New York. Most of the action is on the boat, and there are some great scenes. But it feels like the series is running on fumes. Not very gory. And that ending. What the hell? *1/2
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday - Speaking of Hell, New Line Cinema took over the franchise from Paramount here, and it is very, very obvious this was made by others. Some of the feel is still there, and the film is undeniably fun. But it adds a bunch of new story elements that wreck any (already strained) continuity from the first 8 films. Also ignores the end of Part VIII. Fun anyway. And it sets up the movie after the next one.**1/2
Jason X - Tenth installment puts Jason in space, with no context to the rest of the storyline. Continuity-wise has no home, and is akin to a comic book "elseworlds" or "imaginary story." Has its fun parts, but utterly skippable. The cryogenic scene, though? Priceless. *1/2
Friday the 13th (Remake) - I was right that they couldn't really mess up the remake. It's a hoot. The twist--apparently--is that most of the characters you kinda want to see dead. And Jason is given a much heftier back-story. Unfortunately, they still don't explain what happened that made Mrs. Voorhees think he died when he didn't. Regardless, I'd put this in the top three with the first two installments. I don't know if there will ever be a part 2 (actually XIII), but I'm game. ***