Happy Friday the 13th everyone!
Jason Voorhees is one of the most iconic slasher villains of all time. He’s right up there with Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger in terms of popularity. With popularity, of course, comes the merchandise. On top of a franchise that includes the films, there have been t-shirts, lunchboxes, action figures, a television show, and even video games.
As today is Friday the 13th, it is only fitting that the first edition of Best & Worst covers the Friday The 13th franchise. So far, there have been twelve titles in the series including the crossover Freddy Vs. Jason and the 2009 reboot. Jason is simply beloved by fans all over the world. However, that’s not to say that Jason hasn’t had his mishaps and, oh boy, is the first film on our list ever a mishap.
12. Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
This movie is abysmal. If you take away the fact that it is a Friday The 13th film, it is still bad. If you add in the fact that the movie does not even follow the simple formula of a Friday film, it is atrocious. The acting is poor. The story is awful. There is simply nothing good about it. It is, by far, the worst Friday movie there is and may also be one of the worst horror films ever made. Unfortunately, Sean S. Cunningham (the director of the original) returned to the series with this installment as a producer but even that could not save this train wreck of a film.
The plot sees Jason (looking rather terrifying) blown up in the opening minutes of the film. A coroner is “hypnotized” (for lack of a better word) by Jason’s still beating heart and decides to eat it right there in the morgue. At this point, he becomes a host body for the murderous Jason and for Jason to be resurrected into his own body, he must continue to transfer to different hosts. The only way for Jason to be reborn is by taking over the body of another Voorhees. Wait a minute. Another Voorhees? As in Mrs. Voorhees? Well, no. See, this movie decided to add in a background for the rest of Jason’s family. His father is mentioned and apparently he has a sister. Mrs. Voorhees is mentioned very little which makes absolutely no sense. The filmmakers even show the Voorhees family home and even make it the site for the climax of the movie.
This storyline is mind boggling because of the fact that this was the ninth film in the series and the filmmakers decided to change the mythos of Jason. They basically just invented their own interpretation, which would be fine, but this was supposed to be the last film, “The Final Friday.” Not that the word “final” really means anything in the Friday universe but still. There is also a bounty hunter named Creighton Duke that does not really serve much of a purpose other than to tell the protagonist (I guess) how to find and kill Jason. Eventually, Jason is resurrected into his own body only to be defeated once again within minutes. Yuck. Stay away from this one.
11. Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
The biggest issue with this film is the title. Jason barely takes Manhattan. The majority of the action takes place on a cruise ship that is going to Manhattan. When it finally gets there, most of the action takes place in a back alley, on a rooftop, and down in the sewers. The only real slice of Manhattan comes during a brief sequence in Times Square in which the characters are just running through it. The deaths are uninspired. The protagonist, Rennie, is as bland as they come. There are no reasons as to why the viewers are supposed to sympathize with her other than she was supposedly attacked and pulled under the water by Jason at Camp Crystal Lake as a child.
It is with this storyline that the film becomes full of plot holes. When Rennie was pushed into the lake by her demented uncle Charles, she was being pulled under the water by the young Jason. Now, Rennie is just graduating high school which makes her 17-18. By this time, Jason has already been slashing his way through a few sequels and, most certainly, a few years. How could there be a young Jason in the lake and an adult, zombie Jason attacking teens over that time? It has already been established that Jason escaped from the lake and lived in the woods around Crystal Lake in a different film. With Jason drowning back in the 1960’s (as learned in the first film), there is no way that young Jason pulled Rennie down in the lake. The ending of this film is just laughable as mask-less, zombie Jason says in a child-like voice, “Mommy, don’t let me drown! Mommy!” before vomiting all over himself and being eaten away by acid.
Jason Takes Manhattan is the lowest grossing Friday The 13th movie. Director Rob Heddon has expressed his disappointment with the film and its lack of scenes shot in New York City. While Jason Takes Manhattan is certainly not a good film by any means, it is definitely not worse than Jason Goes To Hell. At least the filmmakers had the decency to stick to the typical Friday formula and fill the movie with sex, drugs, and murder.
10. Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
He most certainly does. This is the beginning of the undead Jason. In this film, Jason is resurrected after Tommy Jarvis (also the protagonist in The Final Chapter) and his lackey dig up Jason’s body and it is miraculously struck by lightning. Yep. Just like Frankenstein’s monster. Whatever. I guess it can be considered an homage to the 1931 Universal classic but it is a little uninspired. From here, Jason goes on his murderous rampage through the revamped Crystal Lake (now named Forest Green). Unlike earlier installments, there are actually kids at this camp and not just sex-craved teenagers. Jason does not kill any of them however.
The plot… Well, that was it. Tommy made a crucial mistake in digging up Jason’s corpse (who decided to bury him anyway?) and Jason came back to life. Now, Tommy has to put him back down. Unfortunately, the actor who plays Tommy, Thom Mathews, is terrible. There is something very wrong with him and he is extremely unlikable and bland. In fact, the only good things about this film are the kills and there are quite a few of them. Originally, the director, Tom McLoughlin, had thirteen but the studio demanded more.
The biggest downfall of this film is that it’s just boring. You’re able to pretty much tune out from kill to kill because everything else that is happening is just not entertaining. There is some dark humor, but it’s not funny. Oddly enough, fans seem to generally like this installment of the Friday series especially after the lackluster Part V (don’t worry, it’s coming). While not being the worst, Jason Lives is nowhere near one of the best. For its few perks (by perks I mean deaths) it just falls flat due to a poor story and strange casting choice on the part of Tommy Jarvis, who is often cited as Jason’s only true nemesis in the entire series.
9. Friday The 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)
The only reason that A New Beginning is above Jason Lives is because of entertainment value. Where the latter had a boring story and characters, the former excels (slightly) because the characters are much more entertaining. Whether the audience is watching the young kid, Reggie, hitting on Pam (the main protagonist who works at a halfway house), Tommy Jarvis hallucinating about Jason coming for him, or the freaky couple sneaking out into a cornfield to have sex, it’s all somewhat entertaining. The story is practically non-existent but at least viewers don’t have to feel bored whenever nobody is dying. Is this movie good? Certainly not. Is it a worthy successor of its superior predecessor? Not really. For all of its faults though, it’s just not as boring as Jason Lives.
Tommy Jarvis is in a halfway house for troubled teenagers after his encounter with Jason Voorhees however many years prior.The house is full of other undesirables who are there for various reasons. After a misunderstanding over a candy bar, a hefty kid gets hacked to death with an ax by an angry, log chopping maniac resident. After that, Jason returns to kill the rest of the teens. The usual sex and drug use occurs and is punishable by violent deaths at the hands of the hockey masked psycho.
Unfortunately, Tommy is not played by Corey Feldman (who played him in The Final Chapter) but by John Shepherd. Shepherd’s performance as Tommy is pretty bad although not quite as bad as Mathews’ from Jason Lives. Shepherd hardly talks, which is probably for the best, and he’s just awkward and weird throughout the film. This is somewhat understandable due to his mental breakdown following the events of The Final Chapter. However, if Tommy Jarvis is supposed to be the main protagonist, he needs to have some likable qualities. In this film, he doesn’t. The only people the audience is meant to care for are Pam and Reggie.
This film is among the most hated in the franchise for one major reason: Jason isn’t even the real killer. The killer is an impostor who happens to be the father of the fat kid that got chopped to death. He was an EMT named Roy who was called to the halfway house to pick up the body. Now, you may be thinking, “How did he not know his son was in a halfway house and why didn’t his son live with him?” If you’re looking for an answer, there is none. Just take it for what it is. Many fans feel like this whole film is completely pointless as it doesn’t add to the story of Jason Voorhees nor does it introduce any characters we should feel remorse for. It’s just kind of there.
8. Jason X (2001)
As many have learned the hard way, when a franchise takes its characters into space, it can only be a recipe for disaster. For Jason X, this is somewhat true. As a Friday The 13th film, it strays from what you’d expect. As a fun popcorn flick, it gets the job done. Like the previous films on this list, this isn’t to say that the movie is good. It’s not. It’s god awful. However, it’s in that “so bad it’s good” territory. The characters are stupid, the kills are insane, and the plot… I don’t even know what to say about it. Jason and his final victim on earth are frozen and discovered 500 years later and thawed on a spaceship. From here, we all know what happens. Jason does what he does best and he kicks it off with a bang with the best kill of the film.
Basically, after Jason awakens, the entire ship is in danger and its inhabitants need to escape before Jason destroys everything. During the movie, a cyborg by the name of Kay-Em destroys Jason. He is then recreated by a machine and emerges as Uber-Jason and is angrier than ever.
As previously stated, this is not a good Friday The 13th film. It’s an entertaining and somewhat humorous take on the character of Jason and does well to mock itself. Even the title, Jason X, mocks the series. Is it necessary to have ten of these films? No. Should it be in space? No. All of these things show the self awareness of the filmmakers while they were making the movie and Uber-Jason is the punchline. The reason it scores so high on this list is that the entertainment value of the film is much higher than the previous installments. While the other ones lack in fun, this one excels.
7. Friday The 13th (2009)
Halfway through the list is a perfect spot for this reboot. With as much anticipation for this film from fans of the franchise, it is unfortunate that it fell short of expectations despite completely meeting the criteria for a Friday film. That’s the downfall though. It just met expectations. It didn’t exceed them. As a sequel in the original series, it would have been good. However, the filmmakers had a chance to completely revamp the formula that had become stale and mocked across the horror genre. Instead, they decided to play it safe and deliver another installment that was, spiritually, just a sequel. Even with all of the familiar trademarks, this reboot just seems lacking. It wasn’t enough to call to new fans and wasn’t enough to satisfy old fans.
The film starts off pretty strong with a 20 minute introduction where Jason slices his way through a group of teenagers. In fact, a candidate for best kill happens early when Amanda is strung up in a tree while trapped in a sleeping bag and burned to death over a campfire. This was a good move on the part of filmmakers to show the brutality of the new Jason, played by Derek Mears. In the reboot, Jason is much more crafty and is basically a hunter. When he kills, he is hunting prey and using tactics to draw more victims to him. In another close contender for best kill, Jason chucks a full size ax overhead at one of his victims and hits him square in the back; leaving him out in the open behind the house to die and/or call his friends over to help him as he was still alive (so… not quite a kill but still brutal nonetheless).
The highlight of the film was obviously Mears as Jason. He was just a monster. He had the intensity of Kane Hodder (Friday Part VII-Jason X) and the humanity of the Jasons from 2, 3, and The Final Chapter. He was the perfect mix of all things Jason and breathed new life into an aging character. One of the biggest highlights was the discovery of the hockey mask. Before the mask, Jason wore the potato sack as he had in Part 2 but it was designed to look much more menacing than its predecessor. When Jason discovers the mask and puts it on, all is right with the world and it feels like Friday The 13th.
6. Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
There is one reason that this film is as high up on this list as it is: Kane Hodder. Hodder played Jason more than anybody (four times) but this first time he donned the mask was his best. Hodder’s hulking physique and intensity when playing Jason brought much more personality to the zombie that Jason had become by this point. His signature heavy breathing and use of power reinvented the character completely. In many fans’ opinions, Kane Hodder is the only true Jason due to his love of the character and his physicality.
In addition to being Kane Hodder’s first appearance as Jason, this film was originally supposed to be a crossover with A Nightmare On Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger and Jason battling to the death. As Paramount owned the rights to Friday The 13th and New Line Cinema owned A Nightmare On Elm Street, no deal was able to be made in time. Instead, what fans received was a decent sequel in which Jason met his match against a young girl with telekinesis. The threat was not quite as big as it would have been had Freddy Krueger been in the mix but this film ended up being a different kind of Friday. Someone was actually able to hurt Jason and not just evade him constantly.
This film was simply plagued by studio interference. The director John Carl Buechler was declined an R rating numerous times and much of his goriest footage had to be cut to acquire a lower rating. Despite the interference, The New Blood was a solid installment in the series. As previously mentioned, this was mainly because of Kane Hodder’s performance and the presence of a legitimate threat to Jason. Another strength of the film was the look of Jason himself. Buechler, who B-movie master, Roger Corman, described as being “the best in the business,” took great care in creating Jason’s look (IMDb). Every injury Jason ever sustained in the films was presented in some way as well as added decay due to Jason’s time being chained to the bottom of the lake. In a lackluster latter half of the series, this film stands out as one of the better installments.
5. Friday The 13th Part 3 (1982)
Ahhh yes. 3D. I, personally, have never seen this film in 3D but I can’t imagine the effects adding up to much. There are a few cheap instances of 3D used but even if you’re not watching it in that format, it’s not too distracting. Though, you can definitely see where the effects are supposed to be. As a whole, Part 3 is a solid installment in the series. Oddly enough, this film probably has the most story out of any of the others and, unfortunately, that is its lone downfall. Sometimes the characters tend to talk at length about stuff that ultimately doesn’t end up meaning anything in the film. Also, technically Part 2 happens the day before Part 3 so the events in this film should occur on Saturday the 14th as opposed to Friday the 13th.
This film is crucial to the series because it is the first where Jason acquires his iconic hockey mask. Practical joker Shelly uses it to scare Vera, a girl he is (unsuccessfully) trying to get with, at one point and Jason takes notice. He murders Shelly for his mask and then murders Vera with an arrow to the eyeball just for good measure. It should also be noted that Friday the 13th 1-4 are almost universally looked at as a great string of sequels. Sure, there are inconsistencies but, overall, they keep the same tone and clearly define the character of Jason. Although there are some moments of slight boredom, the film holds up as a whole. The characters are decent and the deaths are fresh… even in 3D.
4. Freddy Vs. Jason (2003)
This one may be controversial for some people (I personally was surprised at my actual rank for it). Some people think that Freddy Vs. Jason is great and some thought it was bad. No matter what people’s opinions were, it was a monumental horror film. For the first time ever, these two horror behemoths collided in one epic bloodbath. Among the other Friday the 13th films, it definitely holds true to the style and makes for a worthy installment in the series.
It should be noted that there was some minor fan backlash when it was discovered that Kane Hodder would not be reprising his role as Jason. Hodder had wanted to be in the film, but the studio wanted a bigger, yet more sympathetic Jason. Hodder, who is much shorter than the man who played Jason in this film, Ken Kirzinger, was clearly the fan favorite and, as previously stated, had been referred to as the quintessential Jason. Kirzinger does a fine job as the character but one can only imagine how much more intensity would’ve been brought to the role had Kane Hodder returned as the murderous Crystal Lake killer. Kirzinger apparently got the role because of his eyes (which are shown through the mask a few times in the film). In humanizing Jason, director Ronny Yu took away some of the parts which made him more terrifying during Hodder’s time as the character.
Freddy Vs. Jason is an interesting film in that it is mostly about Freddy Krueger but Jason Voorhees is a character within it. Jason’s role in this film is fairly limited as Freddy uses him as an agent of fear to terrorize Springwood. The other characters in FVJ are fairly good as well. They are all distinguishable from each other, unlike some of the other victims in the Friday series, and are generally likable. Most of them see Freddy as the main threat despite Jason swooping in to claim the actual body count. In fact, Freddy only has one kill in the entire movie while Jason slaughters the majority of the teens.
The visuals in this film are pretty fantastic but Ronny Yu has a tendency to use a lot of “morphing” shots. There are a lot of things turning into other things and it is somewhat distracting if you catch onto it. For the final battle, Yu came up with the only logical way to shoot it. He basically took influence from old giant monster films but used techniques on a smaller scale. Both Freddy and Jason take tons of punishment from each other. Freddy is thrown around like a rag doll and Jason is hit with high impact items in the environment.
So who wins? Well, arguably no one does. Although both seem to meet their ends during a highly emotional gore-fest, we all know that neither of these characters will ever die. Although the ending is a bit hokey, it is actually a fitting end to both original series’ which were rebooted after this film. The reason fans continue coming back to see sequels is because of how beloved the two villains are. No one wants to see them both meet their permanent demise.
Although it is flawed, like most other entries in each respective series, Freddy Vs. Jason is still a lot of fun. It pays respects to both the cunning and witty side of things as devised by Freddy Krueger as well as the brutality and mindless rage of Jason Voorhees. Of course the movie is not perfect, but there is enough to acknowledge that will satisfy junkies for each film series.
3. Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
The first of the top three Friday the 13th films is The Final Chapter; the first time Jason was killed for good. This is an excellent sequel. Young Corey Feldman was actually a good choice for a protagonist although much of the focus is on the teenagers of course. Also, Ted White was fantastic as Jason. He was very intense and physical. He’s probably the second best Jason behind only Kane Hodder. There are some great scenes of him smashing through walls, windows, etc. that serve as some excellent jump scares. Even on set, it was said that White barely talked to the rest of the cast to maintain his aura as the homicidal maniac.
The plot… You know it by now. Some teenagers move to a cabin on Crystal Lake and get picked off one by one. Their neighbors are the Jarvis’s: Tommy (Feldman), his sister, Trish, and their mother. In the film, both houses are pretty much separate from each other. The Jarvis’s have their own things going on as do the teens. The teens are about 50/50 in memorability. Crispin Glover’s character, Jimmy, along with his friend, Ted, and the twin sisters they meet are memorable. There is a quiet, shy girl that is not all that memorable as is her eventual lover, Paul.
The things that make this one of the best is its freshness. As stated previously, the characters are pretty decent even if some aren’t quite as memorable. Tommy and his sister make a solid team of protagonists and give Jason a fair challenge. The special effects work was done by the godfather of gore, Tom Savini, and it’s wonderful. The Final Chapter would have been a fitting end to the series due to the return of Savini after his involvement in the original film and the impending death of the sub-human Jason. This film is simply glorious.
2. Friday The 13th (1980)
This choice is probably the most controversial one made on this list. The original is always the best right? Not in this case. It is, of course, a classic. It is one of the greatest slasher movies ever made. Friday The 13th is a revenge film in that a mother is issuing punishment to anyone who inhabits Camp Crystal Lake after the drowning death of her son over 20 years prior.
However, there is one fatal flaw. The ending. Of course, Jason’s mother is the killer in this inaugural Friday and the part where she gets her head lopped off is amazing but it’s the rest that brings the film down. The ridiculous chase between Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) and main protagonist, Alice, goes on for way too long and leaves a bad taste. There are multiple times where Alice “knocks out” Mrs. Voorhees and then walks away as if everything’s fine. Finally, push comes to shove and Alice takes her head on the shores of Crystal Lake.
This film erupted into an enormous hit from a very low budget. This project was taken up to earn some quick cash for Sean S. Cunningham (director), Steve Miner (producer), and Victor Miller (writer) to embark on other projects. However, as time would tell, Friday The 13th became a juggernaut and helped mold the face of the horror genre. Jason Voorhees became a household name and he wasn’t even the killer in this first film. From an independent, low budget horror picture emerged 9 sequels, a crossover film, and a reboot. This film definitely deserves all of the praise it gets. It’s a classic.
1. Friday The 13th Part 2 (1981)
So how do you capitalize on the success of a surprise box office hit? Follow it up by introducing one of the most legendary villains of all time. Originally believed to be dead, Jason Voorhees returns to avenge his mother’s death against the counselors at Camp Crystal Lake. Of course, the filmmakers did not know at the time that they were breeding Jason to be the face of fear for decades. He is what gives this film the edge over its predecessor. This is the first true “Jason movie.” This film has better kills than the first and more of them. The original is a landmark but this one defined the series for years to come.
This movie has Jason donning his potato sack mask. Among fans, the potato sack mask is classic. It’s even important enough to fans that they included it in the reboot. Although it is not as iconic as the hockey mask that most people are used to, the potato sack still has an appeal due to its history in the franchise. Also, Jason wears overalls and a flannel shirt which is kind of strange and are never seen again in the series.
Although Friday The 13th Part 2 may not be where everything started for the franchise, it is indeed the start of something bigger. The introduction of Jason Voorhees forever changed horror history and helped initiate a new wave of slashers. From a plot and entertainment standpoint, Friday The 13th and Friday The 13th Part 2 are pretty much on par with each other. However, in terms of the importance of each film, Part 2 takes the honor. The original paved the way for a franchise, but the franchise wouldn’t have gone far without a face. That face is Jason Voorhees.
So there you have it! Do you agree with this list? Leave your comments below. Until next time, this has been Cinema Smack’s Best & Worst.