Unsurprising confession #1: I like horror.
Unsurprising confession #2: I particularly like bad horror.
Consequential unsurprising revelation: So, given these stated facts, it should come as no surprise that I have recently given over a good amount of my time to watch (actually, re-watch) the entire Friday the 13th film series in order of release date. Below is a list (from worst to best) of what is perhaps the greatest horror series of all time. That last claim may or may not be hyperbole.
Before all the listy stuff, though, let me reminisce and ruminate for a moment.
I first watched all of the Friday the 13th films (that existed at the time) when I was about fourteen and the local TV network played one at 11:45pm each Friday for the requisite number of weeks. For some reason, Jason captured my imagination. Clearly, I’m not the only person that has fallen under his spell (even really cheap films don’t get 12 sequels). Many times since those days, I’ve mulled over what it is about Jason that makes him so appealing to watch – especially since he is a brutal, sadistic prick. No answer has ever satisfied me though I’m sure that there is something (horribly) human about him. He is a kind of id. More over, he is an id that has been suppressed (by his mother and society no less!). Jason is doomed to wander the woods of Camp Crystal Lake in isolation and watch what he knows he should not – drugs and sex – and then to kill those who engage because he can not kill himself – just like our own brutish ids. Oh, if there is a cohesive context in which to understand Jason, then it’s as deep as Crystal Lake itself.
Anyway, on to the list!
12. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART IX: JASON GOES TO HELL
No respect for the canon! I actually said that about four times (out loud even though it was four AM and I was alone… oh, so sad) while watching this shambles of a film. The synopsis? Jason’s heart becomes some sort of spirit thing that can possess other people. Dumb. Plus the whole Freddy Kruger thing at the end. Dumb.
In Jason Goes to Hell, he doesn’t actually get to hell until the end. Similarly, in this one, when Jason hitches a boat-ride to NY it takes the whole movie for him to get there. Additionally, all the characters are annoying except the “punk” chick with the guitar – and she dies about 15 minutes in.
This should have been called “Jason vs. The Psychic”. Dumb.
9. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART X: JASON X
Okay, I ranked this very low because it all honesty it is terrible. However, I also enjoyed this one more than some of the more highly ranked films. It could so easily have been Leprechaun 4, after all, it is Jason in space but somehow it manage to find a passable balance of cheese, stupidity and genre. Also, it has two of the actors from Gene Rodenberry’s Andromeda. I’m not sure whether that adds or detracts.
8. FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009 Remake)
This “reboot” (a.k.a lazy attempt to cash in) is stylistically decent but misses the point of Jason entirely. Plus, Jason doesn’t hold people hostage – he just kills them. That’s what makes him so charming.
To the uninitiated it may come as some surprise that this is the first Friday the 13th film in which Jason is the killer. He makes a split second appearance in the first film but is not the culprit. The ongoing Hitchcock Psycho themes are good (esp. the shower part at the start – that’s really well done). Also, the music is so fucking good.
I like to think of this as the Alien vs Predator of the slasher film world. It gets a high ranking because it is actually pretty well written and relatively well acted (though Kane Hodder is not Jason which is sad). The tone of the film is pitched perfectly which is absolutely crucial – gore, fun, stupidity. A little too much Freddy for my liking, though. It does have one of the best lines in a Jason film ever – after Jason’s wholesale slaughter at a teenage rave, some stoner says “Dude, that goalie was pissed about something.” I laughed.
5. FRIDAY THE 13TH
Yeah, I don’t need to put the original in top position just to achieve a sense of esoteric superiority. I always have that sense (…of others). As mentioned earlier, Jason is in this one for about 2 seconds in total. However, you need to watch this in context. Jason wasn’t then what he became later i.e he was a character in this film as opposed to a cultural “icon” (which happened after Part III). Overall, this film is well shot and constitutes a solid schlock slasher although, admittedly, it probably wasn’t schlock at the time. Anyway, it’s always nice to see Kevin Bacon get stabbed through the throat.
4. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III
This is the film in which Jason gets his mask and the rest, as I’m sure they say somewhere, is history. I particularly love the bad-ass multiracial 80’s gang of three bikies. Also, there is a super hot chick in this one but I don’t think Jason should have spear-gunned her in the eye. Not because it’s wrong but because Jason doesn’t understand mechanical things. Canon, people!
3. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART IV: THE FINAL CHAPTER
Oh yeah, Corey Feldman loses his shit in this one.
Very interesting. Veerrrryyyy interesting. 10 points if you read that in a Viennese psychiatrist accent. Jason steps into the anti-hero role to the fullest extent of the series in this one. Also, it has the worst character tagging in film history. Ah, it makes me laugh.
Jason brought to life by a lightning strike. Love it! This is the Return of the Jedi of the core Jason trilogy (Parts IV, V and VI). Most people think Jason V (Empire Strikes Back) is the best one, but I like Part VI (just like with Star Wars).
Mildly Interesting Trivia: From 1987 to 1990, a TV series called “Friday the 13th: The Series” ran for three seasons. Jason never made an appearance and there was no reasonable connection between the films and the series (although the guy who produced films 2 through 8 did produce the series).