Debuting in 1980, the original Friday the 13th cashed in on the slasher craze of the late '70s and birthed one of the most iconic villains in all of horror movie history, Jason Voorhees. Nearly 40 years later, Jason and his battered hockey masks rank him as one of the seminal figures of cinema, up alongside Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger, as well as the Universal Monsters like Dracula and the Wolf Man.
With this coming Friday being the 13th of January, what better time to look back and talk about the highs and lows of the horror franchise who clings to life harder than its main antagonist? With constant rumors of the franchise picking things up again in the near future, we wanted to point out what works for the films and what really, really doesn't.
What's your favorite installment in the Friday the 13th franchise? Let us know in the comments!
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12) Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
Ah yes, if there was one thing that the Friday the 13th franchise needed, it was a badass heroine with the powers of telekinesis! It's not so much that making a young woman square off against an unkillable Jason using the powers of her mind are that much more ridiculous than anything else that happens in the series, it's just much more obvious that the filmmakers had no idea how to reinvent the series and do anything interesting with it so it feels like they threw a dart at a list of horror tropes and hit "mind powers." Fans of the franchise take joy in the complicated and elaborate kills, but this film lacks them severely, oftentimes cutting to Jason's mask instead of giving viewers a complicated special effect prosthetic. Also, what about this movie is "new blood"? Jason has the same blood! Come to think, does he even have blood? Whatever the reason for the title, that doesn't save this movie from the bottom of a lake where it should have drowned.
11) Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986)
Firstly, at least this title makes more sense than The New Blood, since the previous film focuses less on Jason Voorhees and this film really did mark his return. However, he returned by way of a steel rod falling into his torso which was then struck by lightning, so Jason has essentially become a Frankenstein's Monster. The plot and kills in this movie aren't really that good or interesting, but considering we learn Jason can survive such brutal dismemberment ties into him being a zombie, at least his mythology is expanded upon a little bit.
10) Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
This is the fifth film and the previous one was called "The Final Chapter," seeing as it genuinely aimed to end the franchise for good, but with the success of that installment, Friday the 13th had to try to reinvent itself. This film focused on one of the victims from the previous film being committed to an orphanage that is plagued with killings. Ultimately, it's revealed that someone has picked up where Jason left off after having been psychologically traumatized by seeing Jason murder someone that they snapped. The film is a big mess, mostly, but it gets credit for at least attempting to take the series in a new direction, no matter what that direction was. Also, having a Friday the 13th movie where Jason Voorhees wasn't the killer was a bold movie, which, like Halloween III: Season of the Witch, gets an A for effort. Unlike Halloween III, however, this movie is still not that great.
[H/T YouTube/Forever Horror]
9) Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
For a movie with "Jason Takes Manhattan" in the title, it sure takes a long time for Jason to even get to Manhattan. Most of this movie just takes place on a boat! However, much like the thrill of seeing dinosaurs run loose in San Diego in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, it's entertaining seeing Jason wreak havoc in a city, even if he's ultimately destroyed by a vat of acid. By the way, why did so many movies in the '80s features vats of toxic waste just hanging around? I was alive in the '80s and I don't remember ever coming across a barrel with a biohazard warning on it full of neon green sludge. It might not be that great as a whole, but this film also gave us a scene where someone attempted to box Jason, only for Jason to punch his head clear off of his body, like an R-rated Rock 'Em Sock 'Em robots.
8) Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
It would be a stretch to say that any of the previous films took themselves "seriously," but the strengths of this film come from how it not only didn't take itself too seriously, but was also self-referential, in that it included direct references to other popular horror films. For example, one character reads the Necronomicon, popularized in the Evil Dead films. We also saw a wooden crate with the words "Carpenter" and "Arctic Expedition" on it, which reference John Carpenter, horror master who gave us the frozen thriller The Thing, as well as reference a similar crate from Creepshow, which had a monster contained in a wooden enclosure with "Arctic Expedition" scrawled on it. And the biggest reference of them all, Freddy Krueger's razor fingers busting through the ground to grab Jason's mask, hinting at a crossover event that wouldn't happen for another ten years.
7) Jason X (2001)
If the film that preceded this one took itself sort of silly, then Jason X took that idea and ran with it. After all, this features Jason Voorhees IN SPACE. At one point, his body is completely decimated and put back together using nanobots, because it's the future, and he gets turned into Super Jason, much like Super Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. Another highlight is when the people aboard the spaceship use virtual reality to try to slow down the killer by projecting a scenario of scantily clad coeds to hilarious effect. Quality movie? Not so much. Ridiculous and entertaining? You betcha!
6) Friday the 13th (2009)
Although the attempted reboot of the franchise that basically encapsulated the events of the first three movies but with a more modern look wasn't a critical or financial success, it brought Jason back to his roots of a guy who used camping equipment and hunting supplies to barbarically kill teens. The director, Marcus Nispel, had previously directed 2003's Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which looked fantastic, so he brought that look to the world of Voorhees successfully. Perhaps audiences were underwhelmed with the by-the-numbers Friday the 13th, but it's just as quality a film as many of the franchises earlier sequels when it comes to a masked killer creating a cacophony of carnage.
5) Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Years before anyone had even thought of something like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans rejoiced at seeing two of their favorite horror icons, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger, coming together on-screen in a no-holds-barred bloodbath. The plot is a little flimsy, featuring Freddy using Jason as a conduit to kill teens and gain power, but we got the best of both worlds when Freddy Krueger was at his punniest and Jason Voorhees was at his most violent. It might have made more sense to have Jason go toe-to-toe with a similar slasher, like Michael Myers, but the dramatic difference in abilities made for some creative mayhem.
[H/T YouTube/Forever Horror]
4) Friday the 13th Part II (1981)
Jason might not have adopted his signature hockey mask quite yet, but just because he's obscuring his identity with a burlap sack doesn't make him any less deadly! This film actually marks the first time we see Jason himself kill people, so it feels like a completely new story that just so happens to also be set at Camp Crystal Lake. Looking back over the course of the franchise, of course we know how closely linked the character of Jason is to the films, but when this film first came out, no one had any idea who the killer was, so if you keep that in mind while watching, you get a pleasant surprise.
3) Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
Technology is cyclical, and just like 3-D movies are a draw in 2017, the gimmick was an enjoyable novelty back in 1982 as well. Friday the 13th Part III and its 3-D gimmicks helped bring a resurgence to horror films featuring blood and guts flying at the camera, but even watching this installment in two dimensions is entertaining. The movie is very goofy and took full advantage of the gimmick, constantly making things shoot towards the camera lens in such a blatant way that the characters themselves might as well have said, "Hey, put on your 3-D glasses for this kill!" In addition to the wall-to-wall goofiness of the blood-soaked brutality, this film is also notable as it marks the first time Jason donned his now-iconic hockey mask.
2) Friday the 13th (1980)
It wasn't until the 19th century that Friday the 13th was considered an unlucky day to those who were superstitious, as both the number 13 and Friday itself were considered unlucky days, but this filmed cemented the specific Gregorian combination that people will never forget. The original film focuses on campers who get picked off one by one while trying to bring a closed summer camp back to life, but they're so preoccupied with drugs and sex that they don't realize they're being stalked. When the last living character thinks she's found someone who will save her, she learns that her supposed savior was, in fact, the one responsible for the killings, as it was the mother of a boy who died while distracted camp counselors had promiscuous sex instead of supervising her child. His birthday was June 13th, which sometimes falls on a Friday, and the legend of Jason Voorhees began.
1) Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
In all honesty, the bottom half of these rankings are very interchangeable, as installments 5-10 all have their pros and cons, and the same can be said of the first four movies, as they're all equally as strong. Even though this fourth installment is similar in quality to the previous three, this film features a scene where Crispin Glover dancing, Corey Feldman giving himself a terribly shaved head for the sole purpose of distracting Jason, and such a brutal death for Voorhees that the filmmakers didn't want there to be any question about his demise. As a credit to the success of a film with "Final Chapter" in the title, this installment completely reinvigorated the franchise from certain doom and gave us eight more films, for better or worse.
[H/T YouTube/Brandon Vallee]