Here are some of my reviews of the Friday the 13th films from the last couple of years. I will keep adding new reviews as and when I rewatch more of the films.
As a kid in the late '80s, I was more of a Freddy guy. I liked the Friday films but they all seemed a bit sameish to me, whereas the Nightmare films were chockfull of imagination and variety, even if they did both deal with the brutal offing of a rotating cast of teens. Now in my 40s, the Friday films have become comfort food films - I kinda love them all, even the lesser ones (Jason Goes to Hell).
My rankings at this point in time would probably read 4 / 2 / 8 / 6 / 3 / 1 / 7 / Hell / X. Freddy Vs Jason I've only seen once so need a rewatch to slot it into the ranking. I remember it feeling all a but Nu Metal for my liking.
Friday the 13th (1980) Before the sackcloth, before the hockey mask, before Hell & Space & Freddy, there was a simple little slasher about a grieving mother dealing with issues of loss & anger due to the death of her son Jason. I’m guessing in the 60’s (when Jason drowned) there wasn’t the infrastructure to offer the right help for Pamela Voorhees in her time of need, particularly not in the backwoods of Crystal Lake. If only the health system had given her the help she clearly needed, countless lives would have been saved over the years. Anyhow, this seems quite quaint now, but the blueprint for all the low budget slashers of the 80’s was set in stone here: Isolated wilderness setting. Likeable cast. Crazy man warning of impending doom. Killer POV shots (straight from Halloween). Sexytimes followed almost immediately by death. Final girl confronts Killer. Sean S Cunningham (fairly underrated as a director) gets a nice naturalistic feel with the handheld camera. He even makes all the stolen elements work (aforementioned POV / the fake out end from Carrie). The lake setting feels remote and wild - the eerie birdcalls add to the atmosphere. But the 3 factors that really make the film work is the likeable cast + Betsy Palmer going all out as Mrs Voorhees (“kill her Mommy”), Tom Savini’s makeup FX (the arrow through Kevin Bacon’s neck still hurts to watch) & Harry Manfredini’s iconic score which keeps the pulse moving. The kills are spread out but have some real impact such as Marcie’s axe to the face. And Annie’s death after following her for the first part of the film is a rough one. These early slashers feel like hangout movies where we get to know the kids & watch their goofy shenanigans (strip monopoly) before they are all brutally dispatched. But this was the one that spawned 10 sequels & a remake, while The Burning & My Bloody Valentine (my personal faves) just had the one film.
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) This is a Top 3 Friday film for me and maybe the best one. A great sequel that is better made than the OG, the cast might be the most likeable which means the deaths really hurt, especially poor old Mark who gets the machete to the face & then has the stairwell wheelchair tumble. Steve Miner nailed this flick, from the atmosphere, to the hang out vibes, to some great jump scares & kills. After killing off Alice in the cold open; Amy Steel as Ginny takes the lead & is one of the great final girls, using smarts to defeat Jason. I love how Ted survives just by hanging out at the pub. Harry Manfredini once again does good ki ki ki ma ma ma & even drops a Jaws cue into Terry’s skinny dip scene. Crazy Ralph doesn’t heed his own advice & pays the price. Also baghead Jason is a cool incarnation. He’s not yet a supernatural super murder hero just yet, so he’s a little goofy & gets scared & knocked around a bunch. His face reveal here is one of the best, kind of like Sloth from the Goonies if he was a backwoods killer. From that magical year 1981 when the slasher really took flight & cemented what the sub genre would look like throughout the decade.
Friday the 13th Part 5: A New Beginning (1985)
How do you review a Friday the 13th movie? The movies are basically critic proof and the only judgement that seems to matter is the one made by fans of the series with their constantly evolving ranking of the series in order of favourites. The fifth installment, A New Beginning always seems to rank pretty low, mainly due to the fact that Jason Voorhees isn’t actually in it, with the movie pre-empting the Scream films by having a new character putting on the mask and taking up the mantle of Jason, an idea I’m not as vehemently opposed to as a lot of other fans. This is the one Friday film I had never seen all the way through for some reason. Having watched it finally, it’s a fun little slasher, not as bad as it’s reputation suggested but not as good as the better instalments in the franchise such as 2, 4 or 6. It has the requisite kills and sleaze, this one sleazier than the rest with lots of unmotivated nudity and some terribly overacted redneck characters. The main character (and holdover from The Final Chapter) Tommy Jarvis disappears from the movie for a lot of the runtime leaving the character of Pam to suddenly be elevated to the coveted position of Final Girl, despite not being given much in the way of characterisation or little to do in the first half. The film has a huge body count, but the kills are fairly unmemorable with little tension in how they are presented. Someone walks around in the dark. An axe swings out of nowhere. Scream. The end. Towards the end alot of the leftover characters just turn up dead with no buildup or explanation. So there’s little imagination on display but the movie moves fast, is never boring and the fun 80’s cast really bring it to life. The film also has a barn set finale (like Part 3?) which is always a fun addition and a nice little passing of the torch ending which gets completely ignored in Part 6 when the real Jason is reincarnated. Also where the hell is Crystal Lake in this film? So not bad but also not great overall and not as bad as it’s reputation suggests.
Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) Before Jason went to space, he went to Hell. And before he went to Hell he went to Mahattan (briefly). And before he went to Manhattan he took a long boat ride from Crystal Lake. But he killed a shit ton of people along the way so it wasn’t a completely wasted trip. As a kid this was my least fave F13th, mainly for the well known fact that the movie only spends the last 30 mins in Vancouver - sorry NYC, after Jason stows away on some student pleasure cruise. But watching it again now, knowing most of the movie is on a boat, I enjoyed it as a pretty fun & slick Jason movie, full of varied kills - Flying V to the head and boxing decapitation are my faves - a relentless pace and (when they finally arrive there) some great scuzzed up NY alleyways and subway locations & requisite 80s punk gangs. This has definitely moved up the rankings a few notches, above X, Goes to Hell & Part 5. Kane Hodder is great in this film, all menacing physique & heavy breathing. And so very wet - Jason constantly oozes in this film. The main letdown is his unmasked face, which is pretty underwhelming compared to Part 7. And WTF with toxic waste rebirthing Jason as a young boy?! After 7 films at Crystal Lake it was a nice change to get out of there. And I am a sucker for the graffiti’d, steamy, sludgy urban hellscape that New York seemed to be in the 80’s, so much so that when I went there about 10 years ago I was almost disappointed by how gentrified it was. Oh well, hellish NY will live on forever in films like this, Brain Damage & Taxi Driver among many others. Also as a side note, James Cameron’s boat movie could’ve benefitted from some Jason Voorhees action to up the stakes a tad more.
To be continued...