Friday, September 13, 2013

Jason Vex: Ranking All Twelve Friday the 13th Films

Happy Friday the 13th! You know what that means right? Don’t let a black cat cross your path. Don’t walk under a ladder. Don’t break a mirror. And don’t have sex in the woods in a tent while smoking weed. The Friday the 13th films series is one of the most endearingly popular horror film franchises of all time. You know what? I’m not all that surprised. But the truth is this I’m way more a fan of Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers than I am of Jason. While some of these movies kind of scared me as a kid, Jason was never all that frightening or interesting. As a horror-obsessed film geek though it’s now my duty to take all these films (I’ve even included Freddy vs. Jason, because hey why not?) and put them in my personal preferential order. Let’s be clear that there’s not even one really truly outstanding horror film on this list, as even the original Friday film is basically a cheap rip-off of "Halloween" without any of the artistic merit. I’ve made no attempt to actually analyze and figure out why these films have endured the test of time with horror fans. I think it’s the solid ratio of gore and boobs. But who knows really?

1 - Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

Yes. The fourth film in the series is actually the best. Why? It has the most creative deaths, some of the more memorable characters (which isn’t really saying all that much), and it’s the first movie that features Jason in his hockey mask for the entire movie (he got in in the third movie). Young Corey Feldman goes on a seemingly idyllic summer vacation with his family when he runs into a group of horny teenagers also on vacation and the machete-wielding maniac Jason Voorhees. Gore make-up maestro Tom Savini, who worked on the first film, returned with the promise that he could kill Jason for real. Cue eight more movies. Notable Deaths: the guy who gets his face crushed in the shower, the hitchhiker who gets stabbed through the throat who only wants to enjoy her banana, and Crispin Glover taking a machete to the face.  GRADE: A-

2 - Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)

Part 4 and 6 are practically interchangeable in terms of being my favorite; it depends on the day. By the time the sixth entry came around I think people were a little tired of Jason. But they missed him in part 5 because Jason wasn’t actually the killer. But director Tom McLoughlin, who also wrote the screenplay, sort of had free reign to inject the perfect dose of self-aware humor into the film. In a way it’s the most meta of the entire series. It’s essentially the Scream of the Friday films. So Jason comes back to life yet again after being revived by a bolt of lightning (ala Frankenstein) and wreaks havoc on unsuspecting victims. This entry is notable for also reintroducing Jason as basically an unkillable zombie monster. Also, the film also returns the action back to the camp setting, which actually has children campers. One of them even humorously quips to another, “So what did you want to be when you grew up?” Notable Deaths: the woman who gets her face crushed in the RV bathroom and the 3 paintballers who get slashed with one swipe, and the guy who gets folded in half. GRADE: A-

3 - Friday the 13th (1980)

This is where it all started. It’s important to note that Jason was not the killer in the original Friday the 13th. In fact, the killer is not even revealed until the final act when the kindly, motherly Mrs. Voorhees shows up and says that she began murdering horny camp counselors after they failed to notice her son had drowned in the lake. The whole thing isn’t all that scary and is pretty much just a rip-off of Halloween’s formula of slice and dice but with much more gore and way less suspense. However, of all the Halloween rip-offs in the 80s this one is definitely the best. And it has Kevin Bacon, so there you go. Notable Deaths: Kevin Bacon gets an arrow through his neck after porking his girlfriend, a girl takes an axe to the face, and Mrs. Voorhees gets decapitated. GRADE: B+

4 - Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

The second Friday the 13th movie is practically a remake of the first movie, except with Jason as the killer. He has yet to receive his hockey mask and instead has a giant sack over his head with an eyehole. There are practically double the number of deaths as the first one and some are even more creative. I think Amy Steel as Ginny (I had to look up her character’s name because frankly no one knows any of these people) makes a pretty decent and tough final girl. All the other teens are practically forgettable. Notable Deaths: two teens get shish kebabed while doin’ it and the poor guy in the wheelchair takes a machete to the face.  GRADE: B

5 - Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

I like Freddy vs. Jason simply because it has two of the ultimate horror icons in the same film. Of course, no one realized just how little sense it makes for Freddy and Jason to occupy the same time and space. But whatever. The plot is ludicrous and most of the teenage cast is forgettable, and there’s a disturbingly over-reliance on CGI but this is a decent enough entry in both series. It has the fans in mind and you can tell. Notable Deaths: the guy who gets stabbed in bed, and the chick from Destiny’s Child rightfully gets slammed against a tree after using a gay slur. GRADE: B

6 - Friday the 13th Part III (1982)

Instead of basically remaking the first two movies for part III, the filmmakers decided to remake the first two movies, but film it in 3D! This third entry is notable for several reasons. Jason finally acquires his trademarked hockey mask, he also kills adults (including an entire motorcycle gang) along with teenagers, and it’s not about camp counselors. Part III started the formula of having a group of random young people vacation in the middle of the woods near Crystal Lake a cue that many of the sequels after this would copy. The 3D effects are silly but fun and like all 80s 3D movies seem completely out of place when viewed in 2D. Notable Deaths: a spear shot through the eye, a guy gets macheted down the torso as he walks on his hands, and a guy’s eye pops out after his head is squished. GRADE: B

7 - Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)

I actually don’t hate this eighth entry the way many people do. It’s not very good, but it’s not that awful. There’s nothing really technically wrong with it except that its title is a blatant lie. Jason is awakened from his watery grave, he boards a cruise ship that’s headed towards New York and he spends most of his time dispatching the crew and passengers. It’s sort of Friday the 13th meets The Poseidon Adventure. Once the final act rolls around Jason finally begins to interact with the stereotypical 80s NYC. Gangs, thugs, druggies, you know the drill. He even punches a guy’s head off. Notable Deaths: a woman takes a guitar to the face, a guy in a sauna takes a hot rock to the gut, the guy from Naked Gun 2 ½ drowns in a barrel of toxic waste. GRADE: B-

8 - Friday the 13th (2009)

They should have subtitled this one “Jason Takes a Hostage.” The remake of Friday the 13th kind of frustrated me. It’s really a remake of the first four films and is therefore more a “best of” type of entry. It kind of bummed me out that it wasn’t about camp counselors getting ready to open summer camp and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t have been. And the biggest thing that just doesn’t make sense is that Jason holds a girl, alive, in his underground lair. It just doesn’t make any sense in Friday the 13th terms. Jason is quick about his victims, he dispatches them and that’s all. There’s no reason why he’d keep a girl alive long enough for her brother to attempt to find her. She was the McGuffin and that’s all. The teenagers here are just as obnoxious as any of the other bad Friday films and the death scenes, although graphic, aren’t all that memorable. It’s sort of just meh, but still watchable. Notable Deaths: burned alive in a sleeping bag and party boy gets arrowed in the head. GRADE: C+

9 - Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)

This is where the series really started taking a nosedive. They couldn’t think of anything to really do with this series after the funny hijinks of part VI so they decided to take things more seriously have a teenage girl with telekinetic powers battle Jason. It’s sort of Carrie vs. Jason. The acting and story here are some of the worst the series has ever seen and it didn’t help that by 1988 the MPAA was going through their whiny brat phase and forced the film to cut out lots of graphic violence which basically stunted the film’s impact. The death scenes just feel neutered. Notable Deaths: sleeping bag against a tree, an old guy takes a power saw to the gut, and girl gets axed in the face. GRADE: C+

10 - Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)

Friday the 13th Part V is essentially the Halloween III of the Jason franchise. Jason is not the killer – though it does still follow the storyline of the previous entries. While you think Jason is the killer with this trademark hockey mask, a twist reveals that it’s a random guy who’s dressed as Jason killing everyone. Lame with a capital L. And it’s the most ridiculous reason too. A guy kills an annoying teen at a halfway house and it turns out the killer is actually the boy’s father who goes insane and kills everyone ala Mrs. Voorhees. Needless to say the fans balked at the idea and Jason returned in Part VI. This entry is notable for continuing the storyline of Tommy Jarvis, now a teen, who was played by Corey Feldman in part IV.  This one sort of ranks evenly with part VII but gets downgraded simply for not having Jason be the killer. Notable Deaths: a girl takes gardening shears to the face, a guy gets his head squished against a tree, and a guy gets a road flare shoved down his throat. GRADE: C+

11 - Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)

Oy vey. What can be said about the ninth entry that hasn’t been said before? Jason explodes at the beginning of the film (by a SWAT Team ambush) and his remains and his still beating heart are transported to the morgue. The coroner then eats his heart which then “infects” him with Jason’s “spirit.” As the infected host kills more people its forced to regurgitate a worm-like creature into a new host. So what we’re left with is more of an Invasion of the Body Snatchers type movie than a Friday the 13th movie. It’s sounds stupid. It is stupid. It has some good kills and a very fun teaser ending. And that’s about it. Notable Deaths: Jason literally gets blown up and a fornicating couple gets ripped apart in a tent. GRADE: D-

12 - Jason X (2002)

I’ll admit that I haven’t even made it all the way through Jason X. It’s that dumb. Although I should attempt to watch it again for some “so bad its good” camp value. I can’t even remember what I did see. Though I remember a woman getting her face frozen and then it’s smashed to bits. Its plot has Jason begin frozen by the government and thawed out in the future (ala Austin Powers) and in space. Ugh I don’t even care anymore. Notable Deaths: the aforementioned frozen face death. GRADE: F