Hey there, campers. Are you ready for another scintillating installment of our horror franchise power rankings, this time for the blood-curdling series that cannot be killed by conventional means, Friday The 13th? Please note: if you haven’t watched these movies but intend to one day do so, you’d be advised to read no further than these introductory paragraphs.
What makes Friday The 13th, a critically-reviled saga that turned 40 this year, unique among the all-time stalwart slasher franchises is the fact that its formula (and its signature killer) is constantly evolving and wholly permeable to suit whatever type of story its tellers want to create.
The first film was designed as a one-off Halloween (1978) and Psycho (1960) rip-off, transplanted to a cabin in the woods. This tale of a demented arrow- and machete-wielding psychopath meting out puritanical judgment for hormonal young people blinded by lust and illicit substances was a perfect encapsulation of the existential threat posed by reactive Reagan-era conservatism. When the first movie’s inevitable followup arrived, we were treated to a wholly new serial killer, punishing the very same infractions. Eventually, our antihero did battle against a variety of opponents across a variety of horror sub-genres, until we moved out of the woods entirely.
The movies’ fluidity is why, ultimately, the Friday the 13th sequels are so much more re-watchable than the fairly rote Halloween sequels, almost all of which are essentially remixes beholden to the peerless original. Even the noble failures on this list possess a distinctive quality that makes them worth a few dozen watches. The only real consistency among this multifaceted saga’s dozen entries is the gratuitous gore and nudity and its various killers’ aversion to a good time. Some of these placements are more or less in line with traditional fan listings. Others may make your blood boil. Place your bets.
12. Friday The 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
Most fans apparently appreciate this totally disgusting and tasteless flick more than this writer. At least A New Beginning does try to do something different than its four predecessors, transplanting the action from the typical group of randy kids to the troubled occupants of a halfway house summer camp.
Another way A New Beginning distinguishes itself is by carrying over our hero from the previous movie, Tommy Jarvis. That decision, however, is fairly useless, since the movie jumps five years into the future and opts to re-cast Corey Feldman, who played a 12-year-old Tommy in Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter (and during a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it dream sequence cameo here), due to a scheduling conflict.
In a callback to the twist of the original movie, the baddie is actually once again NOT Jason Voorhees. Beyond feeling like one of the most garishly cartoonish of the franchise entries, the stupidest installment of the series mostly loses points for its thoroughly disappointing killer. The big problem with trying to replace someone as iconic as the Jason Voorhees of Friday The 13th Part III and The Final Chapter is that the substitute homicidal maniac needs to be pretty memorable in their own right, too. Here, though, we are treated to a fake-out Jason. Our killer is literally just a guy dressed up in a Jason-channeling getup, replete with the now-iconic hockey mask. Why series producers would think this was a replicable formula for the saga moving forward is beyond this writer. If you’re going to try to improve upon Jason Voorhees, you need a new, terrifying monster, not a fan fiction rendition. The utter failure of Not Jason as a villain did have one happy side effect, however: it yielded some fun supernatural solutions for Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.
Exploitation/porn director Danny Steinmann (Savage Streets, High Rise) brought a manic comic energy to the flick that made for, perhaps, a valiant attempt to significantly alter the franchise. A New Beginning is pure tasteless cheese, but cheerfully loaded with silly gore and ramped-up amounts of T&A — in addition to a really gross enchilada-themed port-a-potty defecation singalong interlude. Speaking of, the best kill was the clearly the garden sheers through the eyes of Debi Sue Voorhees, cast specifically for a pair of assets, per the film series’ comprehensive documentary Crystal Lake Memories (2013).
Things kick off five years into the future of the events of Final Chapter, where the possibly insane character of Tommy is now portrayed by John Shepherd, who has been released from a mental asylum into a more lenient halfway house, loaded with deeply unstable young people. A series of Jason-esque murders prompts the story’s key mystery: Is Jason back from the dead, or is a copycat donning the mask?
All is revealed in a full-on Psycho ending wherein Sheriff Tucker (Marco St. John) then informs Pam Roberts (Melanie Kinnaman) the exact motivation and psychology behind paramedic Roy Burns (Dick Wieand), driven to a copycat killing spree by the candy bar-related murder of his mentally handicapped son Joey (Dominick Brascia).
The acting is wildly erratic, which makes sense since apparently several actors — including this movie’s Tommy Jarvis — had no idea they were in a Friday the 13th movie until after they were cast, per a GQ look back. John Shepherd’s deadly-serious, lamely stoic Tommy stands in uncomfortably stark contrast to the movie’s two best characters, the awesomely-named, gastronomically-challenged Demon Winter (Miguel A. Núñez Jr.) and his girlfriend Anita (Jere Fields). Their improvised barbershop singalong outside a super gross port-a-potty stands as the obvious squirm-inducing highlight of the picture.
11. Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
First of all, Jason (Kane Hodder) mostly takes a high school class on a boat headed to Manhattan, if you want to get technical. He barely takes Manhattan proper. Second — the best moment is an amazing kill: Jason punches Julius Gaw (Vincent Craig Dupree) in the head with his fist so forcefully that Jason decapitates him, sending his head tumbling off a rooftop and into a dumpster, which slams shut in a moment of inspired comic timing. Much earlier than this, hair metal rocker J.J. Jarrett (Saffron Henderson) suffers the film’s second-best death while filming a music video in the bowels of the ship, via pink Flying V to the dome.
During the film’s underwhelming finale, Jason gets pummeled by toxic waste and winds up looking kind of like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters (1984), with a dash of Skeletor and a pinch of the post-acid Emil Antonowsky from Robocop (1987). Things really fly off the rails when, after Jason is melted by toxic waste into this warped Stay Puft incarnation, he reverts into a childhood form — albeit not the wildly disfigured Jason of prior franchise installments.
Most of the cost-effective Jason Takes Manhattan was clearly filmed in Vancouver, including many of the New York exteriors, outside of some epic Times Square crane shots.
The movie continues futzing with the series’s confounding chronology. We learn that aquaphobic Final Girl Rennie (Jensen Daggett) experienced an underwater childhood encounter with a kid Jason during a scarring Crystal Lake fishing trip. Jason “drowned” in Crystal Lake at age 11 in 1957 — although, the events of Friday The 13th Part 2 suggest that Jason actually survived his swimming trouble and lived off the land for decades, until he began wreaking his vengeance as a full-grown adult in the early 1980s. Thus, Rennie would have encountered a very-much-alive child Jason, not some sort of spectral vision. If Kid Rennie witnessed Kid Jason in 1957, she would be… in her late 30s or early 40s during the events of Jason Takes Manhattan, where again, she is taking a senior class trip into the Big Apple.
10. Jason X (2001)
Tired of hacking up camp counselors and demons in Hell, Jason follows the lead of the Leprechaun and Hellraiser franchises and goes interstellar, plunging the franchise headfirst into sci-fi/action kitsch. Mostly set in 2455, Jason X tracks the misadventures of a newly revitalized Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder again), thawed out from cryogenic stasis and let loose onto a ship full of researchers whose curiosity about the serial killer gets the better of (most of) them.
David Cronenberg’s delightful cameo during the movie’s 2008-set prologue, apparently came about because (a) this film was shot in Canada and (b) the film’s director, Jim Isaac, was an effects man on various Cronenberg projects, including The Fly (1986), Naked Lunch (1991), and eXistenZ (1999). The film clearly suffers from poor coverage, with a bevy of tight shots and a dearth of establishing shots. The space age production design looks less like the J.J. Abrams Star Trek (2009) and more like the deliberately cheesy environs of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (1988-99, 2017-18).
There’s actually plenty to like about this eccentric sci-fi franchise outlier. One kill transcends Jason X to leap into all-time Friday pantheon status: Jason dips the face of science student Adrienne (Kristi Angus) in liquid nitrogen and then smashes her face. There are several other solid space murders (Jason fights a hologram and finds creative ways to dispose of the ship’s security detail; Jason reprises the notorious sleeping bag kill from Part V in a holographic virtual reality deck on the ship), but this was clearly the tops. Continuity issues abound: they resurrect Jason and his relentless 2008-era opponent, inquisitive federal scientist Rowan LaFontaine (Lexa Doig), and re-grow the sliced-off arm of the ship’s clueless pothead character, creatively named Stoney (Yani Gellman), but they can’t resurrect any of the other dead characters?
Jason X seems to know it’s basically a colorful cartoon. When Jason is later revived as the red-eyed “Uber Jason,” his outfit is a clear lift from Super Shredder (François Chau) circa the end of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991).
The best line hits us when the ship’s high-ranking soldier Sergeant Brodski (Peter Mensah) gets stabbed through the back and into his ribs. “It’ll take more than one poke in the ribs to kill this old dog.” Then, after a second stab, he says, “Yeah, that oughta do it.” Proving himself remarkably durable, Brodski miraculously returns again to help the gang for a while. Ultimately, Brodsi kills Jason while dying himself, as he literally bodyboards Jason until they burn up while entering the atmosphere of Earth Two — the new pollution-free home for humanity after climate change renders the original model unlivable some time in the future.
Many involved in the film’s creation own up to its less-than-stellar reputation among Friday installments. Star Melyssa Ade, who played Janessa, puts it pretty succinctly in Crystal Lake Memories: “I think the movie does suck on a lot levels and I think that’s part of its appeal.”
“I think in general I should’ve fought a little harder for the script that I fell in love with originally,” Isaac himself reluctantly allows in the doc.
This is all a bit unfair. Yes, Jason X is hokey. But it is also keenly self-aware, and embraces its corny production design and plotting with elaborately inventive set pieces and winking dialogue, courtesy of screenwriter Todd Farmer. It also gives Jason a uniquely futuristic adversary: affectless cyborg Kay-Em 14 (Lisa Ryder).
9. Friday The 13th (2009)
Behold, the Torture Porn Friday The 13th. Michael Bay and original director Sean S. Cunningham serve as two of the film’s several producers on this strange reboot/greatest hits compilation that blends elements of the first four fright fests.
This remake retains all of the key elements of the first four movies: it basically gives us the first movie in a black and white pre-credits sequence, has Jason chasing horny young people around in a burlap sack for a 25-minute Act I (the broad outlines of the second movie) before swiping a hockey mask from a weirdo (Part III). The reboot then focuses on the fourth movie, The Final Chapter, where a character is pursuing his missing sister — although we are treated to a climactic tactical move lifted straight from Ginny’s strategy in Part 2. Trent Sutton, the rich yuppie asshole with the spiffy cabin, suggested to this viewer a mildly more empathetic Donald Trump Jr. during a hunting retreat.
Weirdly, Trent cheats on his earnest, serious-minded brunette girlfriend, presumed Final Girl Jenna Montgomery (Danielle Panabaker), with relentlessly slutty blonde Bree (Julianna Guill) within hours of being left alone with her, and Jenna doesn’t even seem to care when she more or less figures it out. Maybe they swing?
Everyone here is an extreme pervert, to the point of rampant catalogue masturbation attempts. I hate how early Aaron Yoo, playing the geeky Chewie Wong, dies, as he’s by far the most relatable character in the proceedings.
This is probably the third-scariest installment after the first and fourth entries. It has some excessive torture porn-level gore that makes it easily one of the more brutal installments. Painful close-ups of bear traps on human ankles, a torture-porn staple, are not in short supply here. The best kill this time might be another death by sleeping bag, although this time Jason puts an unlucky young lady into a sleeping bag, hangs her upside down over an open campfire and burns her to a crisp.
The flick is joyless and mechanical, yet technically quite slick and competent, with fairly underplayed and realistic performances. That said, there is nothing particularly distinctive to hold onto here. Honestly, the most memorable thing about this might be one of the fakest lines in movie history, given of course to Trent: “Oh wow, your tits are stupendous. You’ve got perfect nipple placement, baby.”
8. Friday The 13th Part 2 (1981)
After killing off Alice (Adrienne King), the Part 1 Final Girl, in a brisk prelude, most of the film takes place five years after the events of the first movie, which transpired in 1979 or 1980, setting Part 2 in 1984 or 1985. Jason (played by Steve Daskewisz, Warrington Gillette and, for a brief sequence, Ellen Lutter) replaces Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer, who makes a cameo here during the finale) as the prime killer for Part 2, ready to chop up a fresh batch of sex-crazed camp counselors.
The sequel scores points by maintaining the eerie, voyeuristic slow-building isolationist woodland dread of its predecessor, and with a smart, self-sufficient Final Girl in aspiring child psychologist Ginny Field (Amy Steel, who would star in another holiday-themed horror, April Fool’s Day). Ginny tactically employs her career training to weaken Jason during the film’s climax, where we finally discover where Jason has been hiding out for the past 27 years, since his apparent drowning at Camp Crystal Lake in 1957. Ginny stands as one of the more beloved Final Girls in any Friday The 13th installment, and indeed, she is a good one, with real hopes and dreams and consistent tonal notes.
That said, Part 2 loses major credibility with its baddie… Jason, wearing a burlap sack over his head and dressed in mountain bro flannel! Yikes. This is his most unthreatening getup in the series’ storied history, and really detracts from some well-paced setups. At least his post-burlap sack face makeup is appropriately haunting.
The top deaths: Tom McBride suffers a machete through the face and then a backwards shove down a rain-slicked staircase in a wheelchair; the human shish kabob murder (mostly off-screen, sadly) of a mid-coitus Bill Randolph and Marta Kober.
Ted Bowen (Stu Charno, who went on to co-star in John Carpenter’s Christine) represents one of the more solid comic relief characters in the franchise. He’s also one of the few who actually survives, opting to linger at a bar that his fellow counselors Ginny and Paul Holt (John Furey) depart en route back to Camp Crystal Lake midway through the film.
Potato Sack Jason stands as the franchise’s second-worst killer, though when he jumps through a window, unmasked, his visage is quite malicious mountain man. Things are further muddied by the flick’s horribly confusing ending, where Muffin the pooch and Paul both face ambiguous demises.
7. Freddy Vs. Jason (2003)
Though there was no way the long-delayed Freddy Vs. Jason could possibly measure up to fan expectations, the franchise crossover remains a surprisingly satisfying adventure. We are treated to a much cleverer-than-usual Final Girl, the tactical, powerful, and — crucially to her odds against Jason — chaste Lori Campbell (Monica Keena), and a fun arc to the development of Freddy and Jason’s relationship. They start off as partners-in-crime, with Freddy tormenting and Jason slaughtering, before Freddy tires of Jason’s significant body count lead and they start fighting each other.
Is this movie some kind of weird pro-Ambien pharmacology lobbying? A major plot point becomes our heroes seeking out “Hypnocil,” a drug that keeps people from having dreams in their sleep (employed in A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors). It boasts by far the best soundtrack in the series. So there’s that. Unfortunately, despite the soundtrack and some inspired battles, this action-horror franchise mash-up is a bit hampered in the fright department by un-scary set pieces and incredibly phony-looking digital effects.
Hot off the success of the horror comedy Bonnie and Clyde, Bride of Chucky (1998), Hong Kong helmer Ronny Yu was brought in to marry two of the biggest modern horror mutilators. To his credit, he packs in plenty of action and comedy, framed with inventive camera work and a splashy lighting scheme.
Though the bed back-crushing of frat bro Trey (Jesse Hutch) is somewhat reminiscent of the memorable sheriff’s back-breaking moment in Part VI, it’s still probably the most memorable murder. Jason (played by Ken Kirzinger, Doug Tait, and Glenn Ennis) essentially teams up with our heroine Lori Campbell (Monica Keena) to “defeat” Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) at the film’s climactic fiery showdown on a small pier. One issue: Kirzinger, at 6’7″ (who plays Jason for a vast majority of the show), is clearly so much more bigger than the 5’10” Englund that all of their actual hand-to-hand combat scenes feel wildly one-sided. Kane Hodder, at 6’2.6″, who played Jason from 1988-2001, might have felt like a better adversary here.
6. Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
Jason Goes To Hell represents a refreshingly bonkers sharp left turn, both tonally and thematically, from the very disappointing Jason Takes Manhattan. An insane coroner (Richard Gant) eats Jason’s magically still-beating heart and becomes possessed. Soon, the evil spiritual essence of Jason (Hodder), manifested in the form of an evil slug, is hopping in between bodies for the lone demonic possession-themed installment of the series. Jason then gets his very own Quint, zany bounty hunter Creighton Duke (Steven Williams)! We are also treated to plenty of creative hell-demons.
New Line Cinema finally takes distribution duties over from Paramount, and delivers the dementedly comic supernatural possession-oriented creature feature cheapie this franchise has always deserved. They Michael Meyers things up by giving Jason a (half-) sister, Diana Kimble (Erin Gray), and they Chucky things up by giving him a motive to reincarnate his slug essence into his infant niece’s body. Original director/co-writer Sean S. Cunningham returns to the franchise as a producer for the first time since he started it all. Hell takes pains to integrate Jason into a broader horror movie universe, featuring cameos from the Evil Dead series’s Necronomicon and Freddy Krueger’s gloved hand.
The best kill here features Deborah Caldwell (Michelle Clunie), after having just achieved a very satisfying orgasm during a condom-less cowgirl session while camping with boyfriend Luke McCabey (Michael B. Silver, with whom Michelle Clunie had just broken up in real life prior to shooting), stabbed through the chest with a road sign that then slices her off from the head through one shoulder. At least Jason is thoughtful enough to wait for Deborah to have one last happy moment before punishing her for premarital lovemaking.
5. Friday The 13th (1980)
The killer is Jason’s Mom (Betsy Palmer)! It’s essentially a Reverse Psycho scenario, where a crazed mother is avenging the drowning death of her handicapped 12-year-old son, birthday boy Jason Voorhees (Ari Lehman), 22 years after his death, which she blames on negligent camp counselors who were too busy partying to notice his cessation. The spooky cabin-in-the-woods atmospherics were really explored in depth with Part I and Part II. Cinematographer Barry Abrams employs terrific POV camerawork to evoke a sinister voyeuristic dread.
The camp counselors here, fans of weed, premarital sex, and strip monopoly, are all fairly bland but pleasant, outside of our sympathetic heroine Alice (Adrienne King), a heroic, realistic figure here. That said, their lackadaisical fun-loving feels relatively true-to-life. The pragmatic way Alice and Bill (Harry Crosby — yes, Bing’s son) handle their own encroaching senses of dread feel The classic score, originated here, is terrific. There are two excellent kills, both different brutalizations of necks: to our poor backpacker Annie (Robbi Morgan), and, most infamously, the arrow through the neck of unfortunate Jack (Kevin Bacon). During the film’s final showdown, the chances of Mrs. Voorhees legitimately returning for a sequel are seemingly ruined when her head is sheared off her body with an ax by Final Girl Alice. Mrs. Voorhees’s arms convincingly flail about as blood gushes from her neck for seconds after the beheading. Another Savini masterstroke.
As we’ve established with our conversation about Part II, the Jason we know and love to loathe does not manifest into his ultimate form until the Friday The 13th Part III; here, he appears to us merely in two grotesque Tom Savini makeups, once as a victim and then again as the villain of a final jump scare nightmare. Savini, a former Vietnam combat photographer, became a special effects superstar in the 1970s and 1980s thanks to his eye for realistic gore.
Props must be given to writer Victor Miller, uncredited rewriter Ron Kurz, and director/producer Sean Cunningham, who made his first memorable foray into budget horror with The Last House On The Left (1972), for creating the franchise. Cunningham later acknowledged in the fantastic seven-hour documentary Crystal Lake Memories that the first Friday was a pretty direct rip-off of Halloween, with a bit of Psycho sprinkled in for good measure, albeit transposed to a backwoods New Jersey campsite. Miller, meanwhile, allows that he strove to make his teen protagonists “dumb without being really stupid” to keep the audience engaged, even as our characters make foolish choices as necessitated by the plot.
Special tribute must be paid, too, to composer Harry Manfredi, who provided one of the all-time great horror movie themes with his creepy chanted main refrain (and accented it with some Jaws and Psycho stylizations for additional creepiness). Manfredi would go on to provide the scores for nine of the first 10 entries in the saga (he is credited as a co-composer with Fred Mollin for Part VII, though he comments in Crystal Lake Memories that Mollin was the primary composer), in addition to scoring two of the House movies, The Hills Have Eyes II (1985), and Wishmaster (1997).
A revelation upon rewatching — per a conversation with Sergeant Tierney and Steven, we discover Crazy Ralph has a wife! WHO IS MARRIED TO CRAZY RALPH AND IS SHE CRAZY TOO?
Though seemingly quite dead, Mrs. Voorhees would in fact return — four times! First, Palmer reprises the role during the film’s climax, when Ginny Field (Amy Steel) channels her essence to lull Jason into a false sense of security. Next, Mrs. Voorhees (Marilyn Poucher) returns in reanimated corpse form during a dream sequence finale in Part III, in much the same way that Jason does during the first Friday. Mrs. Voorhees reappears, albeit merely as a Freddy Krueger-assisted hallucination, in Freddy Vs. Jason — this time, though Palmer was courted, she ultimately demurred after being lowballed in contract negotiations. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993-1999) star Nana Visitor took her stab at the part during a moody black-and-white prelude for the 2009 reboot.
4. Friday The 13th: Part III (1982)
This time, people die in 3D (including a grisly 3D arrow COMING RIGHT AT US)! And Jason finally dons a hockey mask! And there’s a revamped disco theme song courtesy of Manfredini and fictive disco band Hot Ice!
Part III, the first film to transplant the franchise to the West Coast (Saugus, California, to be precise), improves on the eerie isolated forest creepiness of the first two movies and really hones the formula that would come to be so effective throughout (most of) the successive films.
This “new dimension in terror” was first film ever to use state-of-the-art Marks 3-Depix cameras, and the only Friday to be shot in a widescreen 2.35:1 CinemaScope aspect ratio.
Typical of the niche sub-genre of 3D horror, we are treated to some great 3D effects here (knitting needle, yoyo, eye bulb, arrow, both ends of a pitchfork) that feel delightfully superfluous when we take the terror in sans bonus dimension.
3. Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
This is essentially Carrie (Tina) vs. Undead Zombie Jason. Several years after using her supernatural abilities to kill her cruel father (and inadvertently revive Jason) during the film’s prologue, troubled telekinetic teen Tina Shephard (Lar Park Lincoln), her mother Amanda (Susan Blu) and her controlling psychiatrist Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser, the “Bernie” in Weekend At Bernie’s) return to the scene of the crime, Camp Crystal Lake, just in time for a new series of Jason butcheries.
New Blood is notorious among Friday fans for, in a twist, being the victim of an off-camera hack job by the MPAA, whose intense oversight led to some unusually restrained Jason murders. Several of the omitted kills in this underrated franchise entry were restored as bonus features in a 2012 DVD release. Those scenes have been ported over to this year’s fresh mega-deluxe Blu-ray box set.
In New Blood, we are treated to the immortal sleeping bag murder of eager beaver camper Jane (Staci Greason), so good that the gimmick was repeated in Jason X and paid homage to in the 2009 remake. Fans may quibble at this a seeding for such a hammy franchise entry, but damn it, this is my list, and I love how confidently The New Blood explores this terrain, essentially the first King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1962) monster showdown for the Friday franchise.
The hyper-stylized Jason face makeup here, designed by the film’s director John Carl Buechler, is particularly grisly and terrific. Kane Hodder undergoes a litany of abuse in his debut as the character here, getting electrocuted and wrapped up by tree branches and strangled via chandelier hanger courtesy of Tina and later set on fire in a spectacular effect.
2. Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
ZOMBIE JASON ARRIVES. The opening supplies our maggot-headed undead miscreant with a little pre-credits James Bond-style walkout. Jason Lives finally leans into the funny ridiculousness of these movies, and is almost as much a gory slapstick comedy as it is a horror movie. Writer/director Tom McLoughlin provides really great set pieces, expertly filmed by cinematographer Jon Kranhouse and crisply edited by Bruce Green. We also are finally treated to intelligent, hyperaware, resourceful, humorous good guys, whose actions we are not two steps ahead of in a refreshing change of pace.
The town’s superstitious municipality has fearfully renamed Crystal Lake “Forest Green” to allay townsfolk’s fears… but by the next movie (The New Blood), it’s Crystal Lake once again, since Jason clearly was not fooled by the name swap. Good creative kills; the standout element of the movie was its fun, biting wit, as when victims try to barter with Jason for their lives and discuss horror movie cliches like they’re in Scream (1996), and the film deliberately borrows gothic horror movie cliches for its Frankenstein-channeling storyline. This is packed with post-rehab, comeback trail solo Alice Cooper, which is a welcome auditory wrinkle.
Silly visual gags abound, as when we are treated to discovering just how literate and fatalistic the little kiddie campers are, the smiley face blood smear left by the smashed skull of murdered misogynist paintball leader Burt (Wallace Merck), and Jason, harbinger of destruction, walking past the signage advertising core tenets of Camp Crystal Lake — Friendliness, Sportsmanship, Integrity, Courage, Self Reliance, and Tolerance.
We are treated to some really memorable, standout characters this time around, beyond the strict Mike Garris. There’s Cort Andrews (Tom Fridley), a low-rent Vinnie Barbarino, a huge fan of Alice Cooper and driving mobile homes. One of the best Final Girls in the entire franchise (probably the best, although Ginny is close) is mischievous sheriff’s daughter Megan Garris (Jennifer Cooke) who finds herself instantly smitten to forbidden bad boy Tommy Jarvis 3.0 (Thom Mathews). Speaking of Mathews, his Tommy Jarvis serves as a marked improvement from the character’s one-note, deeply disturbed incarnation in this film’s immediate predecessor.
Part VI is fairly tasteful in its treatment of sex, in a severe pivot from the shameless, borderline softcore impulses of Part V. What it lacks in gratuitous fornicating it more than makes up for in creative kills. The best deaths here: Nikki Parsley (Darcy Demoss)’s face is slammed through wall of a Winnebago latrine; the sheriff Mike Garris (named after a certain TFH Guru)’s incredible, wince-inducing back crack, and the three-for-one machine beheading of the klutzy weekend paintballers.
1. Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Much the same way that Son of Frankenstein operates as the franchise installment with the most classic tropes that the general public associates with the classic Universal Frankenstein mythos (the cinematic introduction of Igor, Basil Rathbone’s scheming Frankenstein, art director Jack Otterson’s classic sets), so too is The Final Chapter, the most Friday The 13th of the Friday The 13ths. For more thoughts on the ultimate Friday, check out the full TFH review here.
Continuity-wise, the fourth flick in the series confusingly takes place on Sunday the 15th, the day after Part III (which, again, takes place on a Saturday the 14th, one day after the events of Part II and five years after the events of Part I), and features Rob Dier (E. Erich Anderson) camping in the woods, searching for his sister Sandra (Marta Kober), who died in Part 2… just two days before. News travels fast. Plenty of grisly kills here for masochists, tops among them are “dead fuck” Jimmy’s two-pronged corkscrew/machete death, Samantha’s nude raft death, Paul’s sterilization by harpoon, plenty of nubile bodies being thrown through windows, and an abundance of face-mashings and stabbings.