A Bloody Good Time 01.26.12: Ranking The Friday the 13th Films
Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)
Welcome to A Bloody Good Time.
Before we get to this week’s topic, let’s look at the feedback for last week. If you’ll recall, I went over the best horror movies with big movie stars in them.
Charles said: I agree 100% about Frailty. That’s a movie that definitely didn’t get the recognition it deserved at the box office. From what I remember here, it was one that was released quietly and then forgotten about 2-3 weeks afterwards. As for The Thing, I finally caught that back in October on Encore and it has definitely vaulted up my list of favorite movies. I always seem to catch something new every time I watch it.
It’s such a snob thing to say, but I really think Frailty was too smart for the average movie-goer. I’m not saying that you have to be smart to enjoy it, I just think the average person would rather watch something that requires less thinking, so that’s why no one saw it.
thcary muvees asked: this is the first edition of this column where all you said was “see you next week” should i be worried? its my favorite on this site!!!
No worries. I just started doing that because I haven’t been able to make up my mind what I want to write about on a given week. I would hope that if this column ever ended, I’d at least be able to explain to you why or say goodbye.
Uncle Jessie replied: Keep your hands off my woman. I would also toss Halloween H20 out there. An excellent sequel, JLC is an icon, AND you had Dawson’s friends at the height of their teen powers. Think the movie did well financially too. HAVE MERCY
I just don’t think H20 was all that great of a movie. It was okay, but certainly not on the caliber of anything in the countdown.
APrince66 added: Aliens, an all time favorite. Next year, you can probably add World War Z to this list.
We can only hope!
This week we’re going to talk about Jason Voorhees. Again. I haven’t actually devoted a lot of columns to the Friday the 13th franchise, but I mention it quite a lot. Jason’s made my top movie monsters, my top franchise list, and even got a countdown of the dumbest Friday the 13th moments. But I’ve never actually broke down the franchise proper and pointed out which were the best, the worst, etc. I’m going to kind of do that here. I’m not going to delve too much in the history, just give my personal ranking of all twelve Friday films.
I hope this becomes a regular feature with long-running horror franchises, as I last did this with the Puppet Master films.
I’m not going to lie. While the Universal Monsters, as a franchise, may be the best in terms of quality, it’s only second for my personal favorite. I can’t help it. Something about a giant zombie man in a hockey mask slaying nubile teenagers is entertaining to me. If you’re reading this column, chances are you love the movies too. So join me as I rank all twelve entries from worst to best.
Also, here’s some mood music:
#12: Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)
I’m not ripping this movie apart because Jason’s not in it, let’s get that out of the way right now. True, I don’t really give a crap about paramedic Roy but that’s honestly the least of this movie’s problems. A New Beginning is the worst of the series because it flat-out sucks. The characters suck, the writing is awful (even for one of these movies) and yes, the surprise twist at the end is absolutely stupid. The killer isn’t Jason, it’s not even Tommy (which would have been a much more interesting way to do things), but some paramedic who snapped after his son died.
You’d think setting the film in a halfway house would open the door to some interesting characters, but instead we get a bunch of nobodies with zero personality, some greasers, some rednecks and Reggie the Reckless. As I’ve said before, Shavar Ross is the worst child actor I’ve ever seen. This movie doesn’t even have good kills. There’s the garden sheers to the eyes of a topless Debi Sue Voorhees (okay, that part I liked) and that’s about it. It’s a shame this movie os so bad, because the exploration of Tommy’s character is some of the best development in the entire franchise.
#11: Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
But of course, having Jason, even having the best Jason (Kane Hodder) doesn’t always mean your movie is going to be better. With Jason Takes Manhattan we have a movie that takes place 50% on a boat, 45% in Vancouver and then 5% in Times Square. Jason Voorhees is in Manhattan for maybe two scenes! But that’s not the dumbest part about this movie. The dumbest part is the hokey pseudo-psychic link between the Rennie and Jason. She sees him as a kid, she has memories of meeting him in the lake and she hallucinates at the most inopportune times.
Then there’s the ending. New York floods its sewers with toxic waste every night at midnight (what, you didn’t know that? It was all the rage in the late 80s) and Jason gets caught in it. This causes his face to melt and he turns into a little boy again. I’m not kidding. The only reason this is better than A New Beginning is that it actually features Jason and I always enjoyed the scene where he punches that guy’s head off. The trailer was pretty nifty, too.
#10: Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
This was my very first Jason film, and what a way to get introduced to the series. This is an awful film, but it stops just shy of being the worst for a few reasons. One, the unrated cut has a lot of nasty kills, some of the best in the series. That moment when Deborah (Michelle Clunie) gets ripped in half while having sex is one of the goriest moments in the entire franchise. There’s also Steven Williams as Creighton Duke, who just steals every single moment he’s in the film. It’s just a shame that Jason defeats him so easily because I would have loved an entire movie of a bounty hunter looking for Mr. Voorhees.
The movie we get has Jason in it, but barely. It’s a sequel to The Hidden more than it is a sequel to Friday the 13th. I appreciate the series trying something different, but if you change Jason’s story at this point, you’re just going to alienate the fans, who are the only ones that want to see a part nine in your franchise. This also suffers from some awful characters, dumb dumb moments and a really bad light show at the end. But it’s no Takes Manhattan.
#9: Jason X (2002)
God help me, I love Jason X. Yes, it’s a stupid movie. Yes, there’s almost nothing redeemable about it. Jason in space sounds like an easy concept but with even dumber characters than normal, an awful score (the New Line movies really had trouble finding an appropriate score) and outright bizarre moments (like the nipple twisting scene), they somehow screw it up. Badly. But I can’t help it.
I love Jason X. I love the fact the characters are dumb, I love the fact Jason gets his ass kicked by a S&M android only to turn into UberJason, and I love the fact the only way they can kill him is through planet re-entry. This movie is just so over-the-top and ridiculous that it goes from being an awfully bad movie to an awesomely bad movie. That’s really the only reason it’s not listed as the worst in spite of it having every reason to be.
#8: Friday the 13th (2009)
This one got a lot of hate when it was released, and I’m not entirely sure why. Have you people that hate this actually watched a Jason movie? This one is worlds better than the last four I mentioned, and it does its very best to make Jason an actual threat. More of a reboot than a remake (if it were the latter it would have been about Jason’s mother), this feels like a lost tale from the days of Jason’s early days. If you squint your eyes and ignore some continuity problems, this could easily be a follow-up to Freddy vs Jason.
Are there some dumb things? Well the fact that Jason keeps Whitney prisoner is kind of stupid, even if I understand the reason why. Jason’s just more of a “take no prisoners” kind of guy. Even when Ginny attempted to trick him in Part 2, he eventually saw through it. Other people seem to hate the tunnels he uses, but that just seems smart to me. Jason’s a man through the first half of the series. A man’s gotta have an easier way to get around the woods. Even in Part 2 he had a shack. Finally, it’s really cool to see Sam Winchester taking on Jason, when Supernatural fans were denied the chance of seeing Dean do the same thing in the show.
#7: Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982)
Now you can’t even keep him on the screen! The 3D aspect of this movie was always kind of stupid for those of us who first caught it on VHS and didn’t have that to look at. Now you can actually watch it in 3D and while it’s still dumb, at least it doesn’t feel as pointless. 3D back then was meant to be a fun gimmick, and what better franchise to use that gimmick then a series about some guy killing teenagers? That’s one thing horror movies are getting right these days, they know how to make the 3D showings fun. That’s why My Bloody Valentine and Final Destination 5 remain the best uses of the format.
But for the movie itself, I used to like it a lot more than I do now. I still enjoy it, but it’s not really holding up as well as the other entries in the franchise. You have the same usual problems that plague any generic slasher (dumb characters, etc) but now you also have a pretty terrible heroine and her 40 year old boyfriend. Okay, I don’t think he’s actually supposed to be forty, but there’s no way Rick is supposed to be a young adult. The dude looks ancient compared to everyone else. But it’s still a fun slasher movie, and a lot better than some of the ripoffs that were plaguing the 80s.
#6: Friday the 13th: Part 2 (1981)
Part 2 falls just shy of being even better than the original. It misses it by just a little bit. This is the movie that introduces us to Jason, with a bag on his head and everything. This movie has a really strong heroine in Ginny (Amy Steel) and some side characters that are developed just enough to be more than worm food (although they still end up as worm food). This is just a strong sequel for a movie that wasn’t even intended to be a franchise in the first place.
Jason is pretty good here in his debut outing. He dispatches Alice (the sole survivor of part one) early, to let us know this movie isn’t playing around. He later kills a guy in a wheelchair. You’ve got to give Jason credit, he doesn’t care if you’re handicapped or pregnant, he’ll kill you just the same. Not even Freddy kills unborn babies. Sure, he tries to feed souls to them in an attempt to be reborn, but he doesn’t kill them.
#5: Friday the 13th (1980)
“But the original is a classic!”, you’ll say. “Why the hell isn’t it number one?” Because I don’t like it as much as the others, and it’s not nearly as fun as the next four. It’s true, Friday the 13th is a classic, and it has a lot of things working in its favor. Tom Savini’s special effects are wonderful, as is Harry Manfredini’s score. Adrienne King is a good choice to play the final girl and Betsy Palmer is just fantastic as Jason’s mother. She goes from nice den mother to psychopath at the drop of a dime and it’s wonderful. The ensuing ten minute long fight between the two is even better.
But getting there, at times, can be a bit of a chore. I really can’t tell you who any of the other characters are outside of Kevin Bacon. Say what you will about Jason Takes Manhattan, but at least I knew the difference between the wannabe rock star and the one who tries to seduce Charles. The characters here literally are the definition of cookie-cutter. Luckily they’re dispatched creatively and we get an awesome ending to make up for it.
#4: Freddy vs Jason (2003)
For ten years horror fans were waiting for this. Actually even longer, considering Paramount wanted to do it for The New Blood. But Jason Goes to Hell teased everybody, and writer after writer attempted to put something together to get these two to fight. In terms of match-ups, you’d think Jason would be a better foil for Michael, but then you wouldn’t have nearly as entertaining of a fight. I’d rather watch Jason fight the guy with personality then someone that’s almost just like him.
The reason this movie works isn’t the characters, the story or the direction (although the latter is nice too). No, what works here is when we actually get to see the two horror legends do battle at Crystal Lake in an absolutely bloody battle. Jason and Freddy bleed buckets and you really feel like these two are giving it everything they got. For a fight that good, plus the awesome bed kill in the beginning, I can forgive casting Kelly Rowland and replacing Kane Hodder.
#3: Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
This used to be my favorite, but I’ve grown to love the top two a little more and this one a little less. Time is funny that way. There are some minor problems, such as the MPAA completely missing the point of these movies and cutting out all of the gore. It’s funny, because this movie would get a PG-13 today if the boobs were cut out. Compared to the Saws and Hostels of the world, Jason’s sixth outing is fairly tame.
But you’ve got to love this one’s creativity. Jason has never looked his best than he does in this movie. He’s rotted, decayed and looks like a well placed kick could cause him to tumble into dust. But he just keeps coming. You drop a house on him, and then blow that house up, and he still comes after you. Kane Hodder made his debut here and gave Jason a bit of an angry personality, which just makes his final battle with Carrie clone Tina all the more fun. I crack up every time I see Jason’s face before she lights him on fire. He’s like, “oh you better NOT”.
#2: Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984)
Jason dies for good this time, and he’d stay dead for two years. You can’t really blame them for bringing him back, but at the same time, what a way to go out. Jason was still human at this point, and before Tom Savini offs him in gruesome fashion, the man gets his hand hacked, a tv broken on his head and Corey Feldman playing mind games with him. Who know a ninja turtle would be Jason’s greatest foe?
This movie also has a lot of unintentional humor, but it’s supplemented by such good kills and likable characters that I don’t mind it as much. The entire Jarvis family is actually as developed as you can get in these movies, and because of that I like them. I think the movie does too, because 2/3 of them get to live and you don’t even see the mother actually die. Then there’s Crispin Glover and his wacky dancing. He really is the gift that keeps on giving in this movie.
#1: Friday the 13th: Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
“Some folks have a strange idea of entertainment. This is the one that should be the template for all Jason movies past and present. Here we get the conclusion of the Tommy Jarvis saga and the Friday film of them all. It has everything. It has gory kills, fun comedic moments, three-dimensional (yes, fully developed!) characters and much more. The movie’s even shot better than the other films in the series. It looks more like a bigger budget Hollywood film than a rinky-dink slasher.
Thom Mathews is a great Tommy, and really takes all of the hard work others put into the character and cements it here with a fine performance. The best work, however, comes from David Kagen as Sherriff Garris. In any other Jason movie, this character would have had zero development and just come off as an asshole. Garris does not. He’s layered and well-written. All Garris wants to do is protect his town and his daughter. He dies trying, but there was always a part of me that actually roots for him to just kick Jason’s ass before he gets one of the nastiest deaths in the franchise. That’s more than I can say for 99% of anyone else that Jason’s killed.
That’s it for me. What’s your favorite Jason movie? Let me know here on or my Twitter. Next week I start a three part countdown of the thiry most annoying characters in horror. Possibly even more than that if I can think of more. See you next week for part one!
Closing Logo courtesy of Kyle Morton (get your own custom artwork and commissions at his Etsy account)
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