I absolutely love horror films, though I’m particular to the slasher flicks. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows me since I grew up during the genre’s heydey of the 80s. Sadly the form has died a slow painful death, being brought back occasionally with a viable remake. It’s films like You’re Next and The Collector/The Collection that keeps my hopes alive for the genre.
But I digress. We’re here to discuss one of the best known slasher franchises of all time, Friday the 13th. By no means do I think the series is the best in quality, but it’s certainly the best representative of a classic that grew up in the ’80s and refused to die in the ’90s. I also find its creation fascinating. In 1972, two future horror titans created a cult classic, Last House on the Left. The director, Wes Craven, went on to create A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream franchises. The producer, Sean S. Cunningham, went on to create Friday the 13th and the extremely underrated House franchises. For Cunningham, all he wanted to do was make a summer camp horror flick. Thirty plus years later, the franchise lives on with a lot of imitators yet no killer quite like Jason Voorhees.
Today I’d like to rank the twelve movies that make up the franchise, from worst to best. My rankings are purely based on my opinion and viewing pleasure. Some I love, others I hate. Most are just there, lacking any kind of originality. I will say the final rankings I thought I had, were not the same as the one you see below. As I wrote about them, I realized I enjoyed some more than I first thought, while others had faults I had forgotten, so had to drop them a bit. I’d love to hear what you, my fellow horror buffs, have to say. So please comment below with what you think of my list!
And without further ado, Friday the 13th!
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988) – I hate this movie. This film was originally supposed to be the first combination of the two titans of horror, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger. It obviously didn’t happen and we got this telekinetic piece of crap.
Our young heroine, the telekinetically powered blond-haired Tina Shepard, kills her father in the beginning of the flick because he’s an abusive drunk. She lives with that regret her whole life. Poor thing. How about we pit her against Jason, the biggest neglected special needs child in history? The results suck. Everything is cliché. I’m not even sure why telekinesis. I don’t remember it being popular at the time. The deaths are cliché to the extreme. And I still have no clue how Kane Hodder, perhaps the best known of all the actors who donned the hockey mask, got his start on this pile of steaming crap and kept going. I also hate the ‘zombie’ Jason that evolved after part six, and this is the main reason why. It’s stupid. The history of the boy Jason is forgotten. In all honesty the only thing I do like about the movie is the poster. Half leading lady face, half hockey mask, separated by a badass looking knife. It definitely fooled many a horror fan into wasting 88 minutes of their life.
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993) – “What the hell?” is all I have to say. Clearly the producers had run out of ideas, so they give the film a badass name and poster, but compile 87 more minutes of crap. At least at this point they realized they had gone way past ridiculous. I have no clue why they created a backstory of evil that can be passed on from Voorhees to Voorhees. Don’t explain my evil. I want to know Jason is a special needs kid who got screwed over by teenage camp counselors sexing it up and letting the helpless child drown. Putting evil into the equation validates why he kills. I’d rather think there is no reason. He just likes it. Or he wants to avenge his mother’s death. Plus what the hell is that stupid piece of poop that slithers around trying to enter host bodies. Granted it picks some intriguing ways to enter bodies, but that’s beside the point. This movie sucks. The true redeeming quality is the ending. I wish the movie was only five minutes long and I could just see Freddy Kreuger’s claw reach up from hell and pull Jason’s mask down to his level. What a great tease! So sad it took as many years to make Freddy vs Jason as it did.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) – To be honest, these three films all suck and tie for last place. I refuse to watch any of them anymore, having last done so this past summer. I suppose I’ll forget how bad they are someday and think I should give them another chance. Hopefully I’ll look back at this article and remember my venom for them. Anywho, Jason Takes Manhattan is the first of the series I remember seeing advertised heavily on television. I wasn’t allowed to see horror movies yet when it came out, but the hockey mask and big city intrigued me. I wanted to know more. Jason looked awesome. When I finally got to see it, as I watched all the Fridays in order, I thought it was okay. It was way better than seven that’s for sure. It was also the last one made in the series for me at the time. Hell had yet to come out, so I thought maybe this was what the series would be. Since that first viewing, I have seen it several more times. It gets worse every time. First, what the hell is that child thing that results in the toxic waste flush of the New York sewer system? To that end, what the hell is New York doing flushing toxic waste in their sewer systems?
Sadly the movie starts pretty good. Definitely a step up from the crap that was seven. I think the movie just goes downhill because we’re expecting to be in Manhattan much sooner. But we’re not. We’re on a boat that somehow ends up in New York harbor. The storyline is okay. Girl is haunted by her awful childhood torture at the hands of her uncle as he tries to teach her to swim in Crystal Lake. Jason tries to tug her under the water. Instant lifelong nightmares. She lives with this horror as she goes on a class trip… Goddam it! I’m actually promoting this flick. I know I hate it because I just saw it. Hell no, It sucks. I will not fall for it again.
Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985) – Next up is only the second flick that doesn’t really include Jason as the killer. Many people probably rank this as their most hated Friday movie, but for some reason it holds a special place in my heart. The producers really tried an original idea to bring Jason back from the dead. They continued the Tommy Jarvis storyline, which I really like. I’ve always been curious what would have happened if they followed through on their idea of having Tommy replace Jason as the hockey masked slasher. Sadly the film is shot on cameras borrowed from the set of Three’s Company (that is not true, just a comment on the crappy quality of the film). To be fair, it would have been impossible for any of the films to follow the genius that was Part IV, and supposedly final film. I also like the revelation after the fact that the mask was different the whole time, thus telling us Jason wasn’t involved. Finally, the opening sequence with the real Jason and the young Tommy Jarvis, played once again by Corey Feldman, was an amazing way to restart the franchise.
Jason X (2001) – Jason in space. This is a special kind of crappy movie. It’s the rare flick that knows it’s 100% cheesy, accepts it and pushes it to the limit. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love the awful way we get transported into the future. I love the Camp Crystal Lake Research Facility. I love that Jason is just a killing machine, ignorantly being groomed by the U.S. government as a weapon (Aliens anyone?). This flick kept my attention throughout, even though I knew it was bad. And the ending, where we end up on Earth 2 with campers investigating a shooting star, what a perfect way to tease a reboot of the famed franchise. They thought of everything! In reality, I am glad this film basically represents the end of Jason Voorhees 1.0. He’d had ten films to date. More then enough to satiate even the most hardened horror buff. It’s also the last appearance of Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees. In my opinion, the actor best known for playing the Camp Crystal Lake killer.
Now I know what you’re thinking, is this guy for real? Jason X sucks. Let me assure you, yes I am. It’s one of only four Friday movies that I own!
Friday the 13th (1980) – And now we get to the good ones. From this point on, I highly recommend watching these movies in the Voorhees cannon. This was the first Friday movie I ever saw. I did watch them in quick succession and knew about the history and mythology of Jason. But this was the days before the internet, so I had no clue how this movie ended. I would guess that upon originally viewing back in 1980 this would have been an okay campy horror flick. But with the additional films that were made this one became more of a legend because the twist became more shocking. Jason is not the killer. And better yet the killer is a woman! It’s his mom! She methodically takes revenge on anyone who wants to reopen Camp Crystal Lake because that’s where her son died. She directly blames the camp counselors who were being typical teenagers… drinking, using drugs and having sex, while her son drowned. Great motivation. Great deaths. Great town loon who warns everyone of the evil at “Camp Blood.” And of course the debut of the one, the only, Kevin Bacon!
Bonus points to Betsy Palmer for desperately needing a new car, thus agreeing to play Mrs. Voorhees.
Friday the 13th (2009) – Thank god for Michael Bay. Now I can’t remember ever having found the need to say that before, but in this instance it’s warranted. His production company saved us from yet another stupid zombie entry in the franchise. This is a true reboot, but with a twist. The creative team wisely summed up several key elements from the first series and incorporated the best of the first four movies into this first fresh entry. That’s not to say this is a duplicate with modern actors and film technique. There are quite a few original elements that I truly enjoyed as well, especially the tunnels created under Camp Crystal Lake. The story itself is very cool as camping kids are attacked with one being taken hostage. A concerned sibling comes to investigate the area and runs into fresh teenage faces on vacation at a rich kid’s getaway spot. There’s a great mix of horror and humor. Jason is definitely back as the special needs kid with extreme strength and bloodlust. The only thing I hate in this film is the ending. They set up Jason to only return in zombie form. Obviously I dread the thought of this.
I catch a lot of crap for enjoying a remake so much, but it is what it is. I think this film took the best parts of Friday the 13th and put it into one film. We didn’t have to plod through four entries for Jason Voorhees to become the beloved killer we now know.
Friday the 13th Part III (1982) – This movie creates the character everyone recognizes as Jason. He gets his hockey mask! I’m still amazed that two films released in the same year in the United States utilized a villain wearing a hockey mask to such great effect. The other being The Humungus in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. The outcome was obviously genius on both fronts.
Admittedly I have never seen this film as it was intended to be viewed, in 3D, but I thoroughly enjoy the cheesy actions used to fully take advantage of the technique. That being said, I like the further history we learn in regards to Jason, specifically how he roamed the woods, terrorizing anyone he came in contact with. I also appreciate the John Hughes exaggeration of stereotypes, like the loser, stoners, bikers, etc… There are some really imaginative deaths in this flick as well, including squeezing a dude’s head so his eye pops out and Jason chopping a hand walking idiot right down the crotch. Ingenious really.
Although very far fetched, we are still at the point where Jason could have survived everything that has happened to him. I mean, this is the kid who survived a drowning, grew up alone in the woods and took several machetes to various parts of his body. Yeah it could happen. Or to put it more bluntly, he’s not zombie Jason yet.
Freddy vs Jason (2003) – Finally! I mean we’d been waiting since 1988 and that piece of crap known as The New Blood. This is also ten years after the tease that was introduced in Jason Goes to Hell. So when I say finally, I truly mean, about damn time!
There were a lot of expectations built up. And both franchises had hit very low points. So could a collaboration really hold up to our hopes and dreams? You bet it did.
Every time I see this film, I’m impressed with how they played this story out. Freddy needs Jason to remind everyone of his horrific ways in order to regain his powers and a mindless Jason needs Freddy to bring him back from the dead. It’s not altogether scary, but there are several great scares throughout. We also get to see good use of CG with some of Freddy’s nightmares.
I think the tone of this film is fantastic, capturing both the fun aspects we’d been looking for as well as the creepy elements of combining the two titans of horror. The final fight scenes are great too. And of course the resolution was perfect. Who finally wins in the battle royale? Truly the viewers.
Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986) – I hate zombie Jason. I mean I really hate just about everyone of the films that involve the undead Voorhees returning to kill. But this entry definitely serves at the exception. I love how this film begins with Tommy Jarvis speeding back to the place of his childhood nightmares to destroy Jason once and for all. With the help of his friend, Horshack, err I mean Allen (seriously how badass is it that Ron Palillo is in the film), Tommy digs up Jason and reveals a rotted, maggot riddled corpse. Jarvis flips out and grabs a metal fence post and stabs the dead killer. FYI, do not attempt to destroy a dead body in a sudden lighting storm with a long medal rod. That’s right, lighting strikes, reviving Jason a la Frakenstein’s monster. I joke, but it really is a genius way to reinvent the franchise. I love this first incarnation of the walking dead Jason. Speaking of which, how exactly do you kill an undead killer? We’ll get back to that.
Jason returns once again to Crystal Lake to take his vengeance. His history is somewhat forgotten though as the town has tried to move beyond their grotesque past. Also, it’s hard to take anyone seriously when they claim Jason Voorhees has returned from the dead. Remember, this is the first time he’s done so.
Finally, I really enjoy the theory as to how they must defeat Jason. Again, it’s original in this film because it’s the first time it has happened. The last of the survivors, Tommy and Megan Garris, return Jason to the bottom of Crystal Lake by tying a heavy chain to a rock and his neck. It helps that a well placed motor boat blade ripped open his neck too. Sadly this well portrayed zombie Jason only helped to serve up awful sequels that destroyed the original concept.
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) – Depending on the time of day, Part II can easily be my favorite. The opening scene is pretty ingenious for the time in that an unseen killer visits the sole survivor, Alice Hardy, from the first movie. She does not last long. We are treated to a retelling of the events of the first film courtesy of a campfire tale. This scene serves two fantastic purposes. One, it reminds us of the earlier story in a pretty crafty way and two, it also sets the tone for the film and invites us the viewers to take part as a camper. Of course the kills quickly begin to add up, but who could possibly be killing these counselors? Mrs. Voorhees is dead. That’s the genius that carried the franchise to the present day. Jason never drowned. He survived, living in the woods the whole time. In fact, he witnessed his mother’s death at the hands of Ms. Hardy and sought his own special type of revenge. This is the Jason Voorhees I fell in love with. And although he is best known for wearing a hockey mask, the one eyed burlap sack he uses to hide his grotesque features is incredibly effective. In fact, it pays homage to the classic The Town That Dreaded Sundown killer (if you haven’t seen that flick, check it out), which is doubly cool. Also, as cheesy as the franchise became, this film provides a lot of real scary moments, including a reveal of adult Jason’s face.
Obviously the first film is necessary to get the horror ball rolling, but the franchise would have been one and done if not for this ingenious turn of events.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) – So this is it. The last film in the franchise. Wait. Sorry. I always fall for that title. In all honesty, it was supposed to be the last entry. So much so that Tom Savini, original creator of Jason as a child in the first Friday the 13th, returned to kill off his creation. Or so he thought.
The cast of this film is pretty impressive as it boasts Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover. They both play their parts to amazing effect, although Feldman is far more important. He kicks off the Tommy Jarvis trilogy within the franchise. Obviously Jason survived the events of Part III and returns to inflict maximum damage to everyone involved with Crystal Lake. The franchise definitely starts to show its age as most everything feels like we’ve been there and done that. The genius comes with involving an innocent little boy amongst all the teenage hormones. Jason kills the guilty oversexed drug addled teens, but the deaths are feeling less and less original. Luckily, the originality comes in the final scene as Tommy Jarvis uses a bit of quick thinking to kill Jason for the final (first?) time. We also see Tommy lose control and unknowingly foreshadow the events of part five with his admission to a psych ward.
So there you have it. From start to finish, Friday the 13th. I will add I’m nervous for the next entry though. We have twelve films in the franchise to date. Growing up there was always this idea that the franchise was waiting for the 13th film, which would be amazing. Granted this thread originated with the first eight films, but I have never forgotten the rumors. Now we are on the cusp of lucky number thirteen. Luckily the found footage film rumored to be next up was wisely killed off. But that still leaves us waiting. And waiting as the release date keeps getting pushed back. Have no fear though, Jason Voorhees will eventually make his triumphant return. Whatever the result, I just hope Friday the 13th continues making fun, scary films!