For the week leading up to Halloween, I’m dedicating this blog to all things horror. Over the next few days, I’m going to break down several popular horror film franchises by giving mini reviews of each respective film. And what better way to start off than with the man himself?
The name Jason Voorhees is and will forever be synonymous with the horror genre. Here’s a look at every film that has featured him. Sequels, prequels, remakes, reimaginings – everything goes.
Piggy backing off the success of John Carpenter’s masterful slasher film, Halloween, director Sean S. Cunningham thought it a good idea to take the killing to the woods. The result is one of (or arguably, the) most iconic start to a horror film franchise in cinema history.
A group of teens (including a very young Kevin Bacon) attempt to reopen Camp Crystal Lake and get picked off one by one by an unseen killer. Word around the campfire is that the killer is Jason Voorhees, a boy who drowned decades earlier in the camp’s titular lake.
Dig it, the original Friday the 13th deserves whatever acclaim it receives. It’s dirty, raw, and completely unflinching. Its ending, which is known by many (including those who still haven’t seen it) was beyond bold at the time of its release. I respect that. If anything, it’s nice to see a Friday the 13th movie before the franchise became a parody of itself. B+
Best Kill: Easy: Bacon + arrow through the neck = dead meat.
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Pissed that his momma has been decapitated, Jason seeks out the sole survivor from the first film, ice pick’s her temple, then heads to Camp Crystal Lake for a bit of the old carnage. At the lake, several teens are attending camp and Jason, clad in a trendy burlap sack, goes about offing them one by one. This one contains a pretty nifty scene toward the end when the last remaining girl dresses up as Jason’s mother in an attempt to stop Jason in his tracks. Other than that, it’s about what you’d expect. B-
Best Kill: Gotta be Mark, the wheelchair bound camp counselor who takes a machete to the face, before wheeling down a very long flight of concrete stairs. Poor bastard.
Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
Oh the film? It takes place immediately after Part 2 and is about a group of friends who go to a cabin and are killed in succession by Jason. Shocker. Notable if for no other reason than this is where Jason first donned the hockey mask. D
Best Kill: The head crush, thereby causing an eyeball to pop out in glorious 3D.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Taking place the day after Part III (look… a trend!) this not-so-final chapter has Jason stalking out a group of teens who… oh Christ, you get it. But look… Crispin Glover, corkscrewed and crucified! Corey Feldman, bald and demented!
The Final Chapter is a tad “smarter” than Part III, and features an awesomely gruesome “death” of Jason. Sold. C+
Best Kill: Gotta be the spear gun to the groin. Yikes.
Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
One if the worst installments of the Friday the 13th series, A New Beginning picks up four years after young Tommy (previously played by Feldman) has successfully murdered Jason. Four years later, Tommy (played by John Shepherd – quick math: Feldman was 13 when A New Beginning was filmed, Shepherd was 25… which is noticeably older than what the character should be, but who’s keeping track?!), is a complete whack job who is sent to “readjust” to the “real world” in a halfway house in the middle of the words.
The reason that this movie is so bad is because there is no Jason. Instead, the killer dresses like Jason and kills an insane amount of people for a really lame reason. A wannabe Jason movie at best. F
Best Kill: The road flare to the mouth is a nice touch, but I love the yokel whose head is crushed against a tree via a leather strap around his eyes.
Friday the 13th: Jason Lives (1986)
Jason Lives marks the occasion when Jason went from an improbably strong man with a lust for death, to a supernatural creature.
Tommy (yeah, he’s still around) is determined to make sure that Jason is still dead, so he digs up his grave and is happy to find a rotting Jason six feet under. But soon, lightning strikes Jason (no… really), and he is miraculously awakened through some sort of electrocution recharge. So here we go.
Jason heads back to Crystal Lake and offs whatever teens are around, while Tommy tries to convince local cops that Jason. Is. Back. Soon enough, Tommy figures out that if Jason is somehow kept at the bottom of the lake where he drowned, he will be deemed debilitated. Push comes to shove, people go down, and Jason winds up on Crystal Lake’s floor. Dead, and waiting. B-
Best Kill: Face crush against the metal RV wall. Definitely that.
Friday the 13th: The New Blood (1988)
Although the film opens with Jason dead and incapacitated at the bottom of Crustal Lake, have no fear, because Tina, a young woman with strong telekinetic powers soon revives Jason by accident, and we’re back in the swing of things.
Jason, whose… spinal cord is now visible, rips and rages through the woods, killing sexualized teens in more inventive ways than ever. This results in a final showdown between he and Tina, who does her best Carrie White impression by sending nails into Jason’s skull, wrapping cords around his neck, electrocuting him, setting him on fire – you name it. Eventually, the poor fucker ends up right where he started, at the bottom of the shitty lake. C+
Best Kill: The best kill in the entire Friday the 13th franchise can be summed up with two words: Sleeping. Bag.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Reviving back to life after being electrocuted (under water this time), Jason finds his way onto a charter ship transporting several people to The Big Apple. While on board, he picks the people off, before a handful of them escape in a tiny rowboat. In a glorious moment of absolute absurdity, the group is ecstatic upon reaching Manhattan after a solid 24 hours of rowing, but devastated when they discover Jason has swam right along with them.
Once in the city, the film conveniently dedicates most of its screen time to roughly two square blocks of trashy back alleys, before briefly moving to Times Square, the subway, and, finally, the sewer system. Jason Takes Manhattan is continually regarded as a fan favorite of the franchise, mostly because it is so humorously awful. Good enough for me. C-
Best Kill: My second favorite kill of the franchise is boxer Julius wailing on Jason for a solid four minutes, before Jason delivers one punch, sending Julius’ head rolling into the streets of Manhattan.
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
Jason Takes Manhattan concludes with Jason melted and washed away via toxic waste and a Manhattan sewer flood, but minutes into Jason Goes to Hell, he’s back to terrorizing Crystal Lake. Tricked and trapped by FBI agents, Jason is blown to shit and presumed dead. That is until, you know, the coroner becomes entranced with Jason’s heart and… eats it.
This film ranks with A New Beginning as the worst in the franchise, which is fitting, considering they are the two most pointlessly plot-heavy segments, and feature very little screen time by Jason himself.
For this installment, it’s Jason’s sprit that possesses people and causes them to murder. Bounty hunter Creighton Duke explains that only a real member of Jason’s family can permanently send the killer to hell. Battles ensue, and a small, alien-like creature moves from person to person, possessing victims with Jason’s spirit, before going up Jason’s relative’s vagina (no… really) and coming back in full Jason form. I never attempt to make sense of Jason Voorhees movie, but this one is just insulting to the franchise. F
Best Kill: Not a kill, per se, but nothing tops that dude eating Jason’s black heart.
Jason X (2002)
Jason (despite being dragged to hell in the previous film) is being held at the Crystal Lake Research Facility (because obviously there’s a Crystal Lake Research Facility) before coming back to life, killing a few, then being cryogenically frozen.
Roughly 450 years later and Jason is taken to space where he proceeds to pick off the space crew in typical Voorhees fashion. Although the film gets admittedly groovy once Jason turns into Über-Jason, there’s not really much to work with here. Props to the filmmakers for so blatantly making fun of the franchise’s faults, though. D+
Best Kill: Face frozen in liquid nitrogen. Head smash. Success.
Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Well, it’s best to speak plainly here, right? Freddy Kruger meets Jason Voorhees in hell and convinces Jason to rise and kill people, thereby making people remember Freddy, thereby rising to Earth himself. (Sigh).
The two go on separate killing sprees, angering each other in the process. The result is a movie that makes not the slightest bit of sense, but allows audiences to watch two horror masters battle it out. A last ditch effort to revive two killers who should’ve stayed dead long ago. D
Best Kill: It’s not bad enough that some poor shmuck has to get stabbed nearly a dozen times by Jason’s machete, but then he has his back broken by being in the middle of a folding bed? Damn, bro.
Friday the 13th (2009)
This movie has one of the best openings to any horror movie I’ve seen. Four teens go to the woods, get high, screw, and are picked off one by one by a nap sack clad Jason. Then the title card comes up, then the movie begins. This takes place over roughly 20 minutes, and, when I first saw it, I was genuinely shocked by the filmmaker’s audacity to start the movie with a segment that has nothing to do with the rest of the film.
Sadly, after the title card, this becomes another partying-teens-getting-killed romp. Nothing happens that is worth speaking off. Only that, I wonder if they’ll be more? D+
Best Kill: Oh, easily the restraint in cutting to black, right as Jason brings his machete down onto a screaming girl in the film’s opening segment.