Friday the 13th Movies: The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
It’s Friday the 13th. Look out. Jason Vorhees may standing right behind you. That is if he isn’t in Times Square, Hell or somewhere in space in the year 2400.
I can’t remember which of the Friday the 13th movies I saw first but I DO know which one stands out as my first Friday the 13th movie memory and it was one of the worst of them all: Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan.
I remember my friend Chuck and me trying to contain our laughter in the theater at the absurdity of the movie’s plot. It was something we still talk about to this day 25 years later. Jason Vorhees is resurrected from beneath Crystal Lake by an underwater electrical cable. He follows a group of students on their senior class cruise to Manhattan where he kills the ship’s crew and most of the students. The most memorable kill would have to be when Jason punches a student’s head right off his shoulders. Oscar-worthy stuff.
With today being Friday the 13th it got me thinking. I’m not sure if I’d rather watch one of the awfully-good Friday the 13th movies or one of the legit ones. I remember a few years back my cable company ran the first 11 films for free on demand. I watched all of them. That’s right. All of them.
You may be wondering which of the movies I would call “legit” and which I would call “so awful they’re good” so allow me to give you a quick review of this classic horror franchise’s scary ride through three-plus decades.
The Legit: The obvious choice is the first Friday the 13th released in 1980. This is a legitimate horror classic. The writer Victor Miller and producer Sean S. Cunningham teamed up for the first and only installment of the franchise and it’s a masterpiece which set the template for all the horror movies to follow in the 80s. And, oh yeah, a then-unknown Kevin Bacon is in this one too. Even Jason Vorhees is part of the six degrees of Kevin Bacon.
The second two legit Friday the 13th movies are parts two (Friday the 13th Part 2/1981) and three (Friday the 13th Part III/1982). Where the original is a five-star horror film, the second is close behind. I’ll give it four and a half stars. Part three starts to get a little campy with the 3-D but what clinches its legitimacy has to be summed up with two words: Hockey Mask. The mask is as iconic as the “Chih-Chih-Chih…Ha-Ha-Ha” theme and it all began in part three.
Friday the 13th Theme by Harry Manfredini
The Awfully-Good, The Bad & The Hilarious: Now we go from the legit to the down-right comical. Let’s start with the final chapter…..or so we thought. Part four, released in 1984, was titled Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. Not quite since there were eight more movies to come. In this one Jason is able to shrug off an axe to the head at the end of part three and move on with his life with merely a scar.
The Final Chapter is also the one where the great Corey Feldman enters the picture. Feldman plays the role of Tommy who ends up cutting his hair and makes himself up to look like Jason from his childhood. This confuses Jason long enough for Tommy’s sister Trish to knock his mask off. Tommy picks up Jason’s machete and plunges it into his eye. But, wait….There’s more. Jason then collapses on the machete and slides down the blade, finally killing him.
Friday the 13th: A New Beginning came a year later in 1985. This time Tommy is in a mental institution and later a halfway house where he fears Jason will return. Jason doesn’t but another patient at the halfway house dresses up like Jason and tries to kill Tommy.
Part six was released in 1986 and this time Jason is alive……Again! Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives steps up the absurdity. Tommy inadvertently resurrects Jason from his grave with a piece of the fence surrounding the cemetery acting as a lightning rod. Sure, why not? Tommy eventually chains Jason to a boulder that he tosses into the lake, where he leaves Jason to die……Until 1988 when Friday the 13th: The New Blood hit the theaters.
In Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood Jason is resurrected by a telekinetic. This telekinetic Tina Shepard was intending to resurrect her father who drowned in the lake. Instead she gets Jason, who kills a bunch of people before being sent back down the bottom of the lake.
Next up is my personal favorite. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan from 1989. Jason is resurrected once again. This time by an underwater electrical cable and that’s where the fun begins until Jason’s face is melted away by toxic waste in a New York City sewer. Game over right? Wrong.
In 1993’s Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, the writers figured, “Why bother explaining Jason’s resurrection? Just bring him back with no explanation.” Sounds good to me. Now we have the FBI setting up a sting to kill Jason. You heard right. The FBI. Through possession, Jason manages to survive by passing his black heart from one being to the next. Jason resurrects himself, but his niece stabs him with a mystical dagger and he is dragged into Hell. This one has since been cited as being the worst of all Friday the 13th films by hard-core fans of the franchise.
From Hell to space we go. Why the Hell not? Seems like a natural transition right? 2002’s Jason X takes place 400 years into the future when Jason has again been inexplicably resurrected, lured into a cryo-chamber and thawed out in space. After a good stretch, Jason gets back to the business of killing people. He is seemingly killed but is then resurrected via nanotechnology as a cyborg version of himself. Finally he is ejected into space and lands on the planet Earth 2. Wow. I mean, really. Wow.
It only took a year for the series to return but this time it involved another legendary horror film character. Freddy vs Jason was released in 2003. It was a crossover with A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddie Krueger. Freddy resurrects Jason and sends him to Springwood hoping that he will create enough fear among the residents that Freddy will be strong enough to invade their dreams.
It wasn’t until 2009 that it was decided the well had run dry. Jason had gone from the bottom of Crystal lake to 400 years into the future on a space ship. It made Fonzie jumping the shark in Happy Days look like Gone With The Wind. It was time to pull the plug and re-boot the franchise. The restart Friday the 13th arrived in theaters in 2009 and this time Jason was back at Crystal Lake and it was as if parts four through 11 never existed.
As of last summer there are plans to bring back another Friday the 13th but nothing is definite. It only seems fitting now since it’ll be the 13th movie in the series.
I can guarantee you that I’ll be buying a ticket to it whether it’s another legit plot or a silly one. It’s going to entertain me one way or the other.
And now, without further delay, here for your scary viewing (dis)pleasure, we bring you “Friday the 13th Top 13 Kills” courtesy of The Friday the 13th Network: