The Spookyeasy's Ranking of The Friday the 13th Franchise
It’s Friday the 13th, so what better way to celebrate than taking a look back down the complete Friday the 13th franchise, to the 1980’s slasher that started the series to the 2009 remake that is, so far, the final say on all things Jason Voorhees. So, grab a beer, sit back, and check out The Spookeasy’s “Worst To Best” of Friday the 13th. Beware, spoilers below!
12 - Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday
Ok. I applaud the fact that director Adam Marcus wanted to do something different. I am also aware that producer/og F13 director Sean Cunningham game Marcus the directives to “get him [Jason] out of the damn mask.” This shows 100% the Cunningham neither knows or cares what makes “his” property popular, and most certainly does not care about the fanbase (how people can defend this film and shit on similar Halloween franchise films is one of the most stubborn and sad cases of cognitive dissonance I’ve seen in fandom). That being said, some of the kills in Goes To Hell are pretty decent, and it does achieve something, in certain cases, that the best of these films do: give us likable, or at least memorable, characters. Creighton Duke? HELL YES. Also, anyone remember Leslie Jordon being in this flick?!?! Sadly, this is a missed opportunity… all the fans want to see is JASON, as JASON, doing JASON THINGS. It’s hard to get wrong… which brings us to…
11 - Freddy vs Jason (as a Jason flick)
Oof. Talk about a missed opportunity. Freddy vs Jason had been in gestation for YEARS, taking it’s cue from both the last visual gag of Goes To Hell, and being the stuff of every 80’s horror kids ultimate horror dreams for years. Seems like a no brainer, right? Pit the big heavies together, like the monster mash movies of the 30s and 40s. Alas, after years of shopping for scripts and a director, New Line settled on what may once have been an “ok” script and then butchered it, and then, IMO, made a major misstep in hiring a director that had no sense of continuity with either franchise, or what made these icons work. All we wanted was to see KANE HODDER’s Jason (more on Kane later) against Robert Englund’s Freddy… and instead we got a fairly mediocre Jason, hardly the replacement actor’s fault, made all the more bittersweet by the fact that F v J’s strongest component by one of the best Freddy performances Englund has ever delivered. The fight at the end is cool, tho, and, as a NIGHTMARE flick, it’s not terrible… but it fails to deliver almost everything FRIDAY fans love about Jason.
10 - Jason X
Ok. Things start to get a little fun here. Jason X is a mess, no mistake. However, that being said, it was a breath of fun, fresh air to the franchise, and when Jason (played by most fan’s favorite Jason, good ol’ Kane Hodder) is transformed into the mechanized Uber-Jason, it’s very hard for me to remove the smile from my sick face. Sure, this entry has some of the worst characters in any of the franchise’s history, but any flick that beings with Jason Voorhees skewering David Cronenberg will get at least one viewing from me. The Camp Crystal Lake virtual recreation sequence is also pretty wonderful. Still, Friday the 13th, for me, works better in the woods surrounding Crystal Lake, so let’s get back to Jersey, asap…
09 - Friday the 13th (2009)
A remake of Friday the 13th was inevitable, right? In the pantheon of modern remakes, F13 isn’t the worst. It boasts some pretty wonderful kills, fun energy, a decent approach to the story (ish), and a wonderful new Jason played by Derek Mears. The bad? The characters are pretty unlikable, and despite returning to form for some of the more controversial aspects of the franchise (tits - i’m talking about tits), it also plays a lot like a forest-set remake of the similarly Platinum Dunes-produced Texas Chainsaw remake, down to the marijuana-as-motivating factor plot element. It’s also a bit disappoint when word was that it would basically take its cues from the first four films, and, while it does this to a point, dispatching Pamela during the opening credits seemed like a dumb rush. Still, you can do worse with remakes, and the first 20 minutes of the flick plays like the ultimate Friday The 13th short film.
08 - Friday the 13th (1980)
The film that started it all. Yes, Psycho is the granddaddy of the slasher genre, Texas Chainsaw and Black Christmas came next, and Halloween put the genre on the mainstream map via its indie roots, but Friday the 13th? Man. When you say “teenage body count flick,” this is the granddaddy. And it’s pretty funny. It’s a bit of a shaggy dog, and, whether it’s needed or not, Betsy Palmer has a point, in interviews, when she says that the filmmakers were hardly being fair to the audience as far as “whodunnit” is concerned, but 10 Little Indians this is not, and the surprising unhinged-ness of Palmer’s performance in the last third of the movie is worth being given no glues of who the killer is throughout the flick. Tom Savini’s gore is used to mostly great effect here, and we’re given the first sounds of Harry Manfredini’s classic “ki-ki-ki, ma-ma-ma” tinged score. The reason this flick sits so low on the list is simple: despite it’s beginnings, Jason made this franchise, and, while delightfully nutty, Mama V ain’t no Jason.
07 - Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
Ok. This flick will probably be on the bottom of many people’s F13 list, but, despite the movie being phenomenally stupid, Jason Takes Manhattan is a hell of a lot of fun. The last of the Paramount films for the Friday franchise, Part VIII spends most its time on the ocean liner that is sailing from Crystal LAKE to New York City (much like Halloween 3’s plot of bringing a piece of Stonehenge to California, this is a feat I’d like to see). Despite that, this entry of the series has some of the best kills of the franchise, impeded by the MPAA or no, including a “sauna rock through the chest” and a rooftop boxing match that ends with a magnificent coup de grace. Jason (Hodder again) is perpetually wet in this film, sports a yellowed, swampy looking mask, and, spoiler alert, is melted with the toxic waste that is regularly pumped through NYC’s sewer system… Yeah, it’s dumb, but it’s fun… and that’s what Friday the 13th should be.
06 - Friday the 13th Part 3
Friday the 13th Part 3 in 3D is a lot of of fun. It’s an entry when the franchise was firing on all of the right cylinders, giving us memorable, likable characters, a fun script, and some great, great kills, including a harpoon to the face and a 3D eyeball launch. Yeah, the aforementioned likable characters are definitely starting to turn to stereotype - the nerd, the stoner, the cast are a lot of fun. Part 3 is not only notable for it’s 3D gimmicks, but it’s the film that gave us the hockey mask, trading in the burlap sack worn in Part 2. Yes, it does include its own weird moment akin to Phoebe Cate’s weird, wonderful, backstory monologue in Gremlins (Chris’ recounting a prior encounter with Jason), but that’s part of Part 3’s charm. It’s really a blast from start to finish, especially considering that wonderful, disco-tinged theme over the opening credits.
05 - Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
What boils down, basically, to “Carrie vs Jason,” The New Blood is what Goes To Hell will, year later, fail to be - a fun and uniformly excellent execution of injecting the franchise with a new idea. Yes, the idea of a telekinetic girl taking on Crystal Lake’s least favorite son sounds like it could be cheesy, but finally pitting Jason against a worthy, equally powered adversary is definitely an interesting idea. Tina is a great, likable protagonist, and the rest of the cast are worthy victims for our favorite mama’s boy. Jason himself, played here for the first of four times by Kane Hodder, is a force to be reckoned with, and his design, created by director and SFX artist John Carl Buechler, is astounding, with Jason’s spine showing through his rotting back. A New Blood is a high point for the Paramount years.
04 - Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
The shaggy dog entry, A New Beginning, at least on paper, has a lot of things working against it, the least of which is Jason not actually being Jason (which, I don’t care, this “Jason” is 10x the “real” Jason in Goes To Hell). Directed by exploitation veteran Danny Steinmann (and please, please ask me, in person, about my Danny Steinmann story, lol), A New Beginning is a sleazy, ridiculous romp, boasting a fun, diverse cast (the highlight being Reggie the Reckless and his enchilada-loving brother Demon), copious nudity, and a few great kills - a New Wave slaughter against a victim doing the robot, a tree-bound garroting, and an outhouse skewering among them. Yeah, it’s needlessly mean at times, yes, the tease at the end goes nowhere, and, again, it’s just a copycat… but this movie doesn’t need a “real” Jason to be seriously entertaining.
03 - Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
Jason Lives, the first flick in which our unstoppable antihero is actually undead, is a blast from start to finish. Tom Maclaughlin delivers a flick that has fun with the property without making fun OF the property, or, rather, let the jokes and meta humor run rampant while also keeping Jason himself deadly serious. Look out for a triple beheading, an RV massacre, and assorted impalings, but the gore never really gets serious - except for maybe Jason’s wormy, rotted face… looking much more like the poster boy of Lucio Fulci’s Zombie than ever before. If you’re only gonna keep one Friday flick on constant rotation, this might be it.
02 - Friday the 13th Part 2
After an ultimately nonsensical opening dispatching the original Friday the 13th final girl Alice, Part 2 forges its own bloody path through the woods of Crystal Lake, with Jason, now a full grown hulking brute, wearing a burlap sack over his face and slashing through the counselors of Camp Crystal Lake. Part 2 is where the ball REALLY started rolling, not just giving us Jason as our main antagonist, but also giving us a cast of very likable characters, lead by my personal favorite of the Friday final girls, Jenny, played by Amy Steel. Part 2 features some wonderful kills, including a machete dispatched to the groin of a handstand enthusiast and a blade-to-the-face of poor, wheelchair-bound Mark. So what if we don't have the mask yet? This entry rocks.
01 - Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
Billed and penned as “The Final Chapter” (HA!), the fourth entry of the Friday the 13th franchise is, in my opinion, the ultimate Friday the 13th. Not only does this chapter introduce us to the closest thing Jason has to an actual foil - Tommy Jarvis, played here by Corey Feldman - but Part 4 has a GREAT cast, including Hell Night’s Peter Barton, The Last American Virgin’s Lawrence Monoson, and, of course, the dancing skills of everyone’s favorite “dead fuck,” Crispin Glover. Jason is supremely pissed in this entry, moving fast and quick, and, for the first time, really feeling like the insidious force of nature he truly is. Savini returns to helm SFX, and the final ultimo, featuring Jason’s face sliding down his own blade, is a gory, wonderful moment in 80’s horror cinema. There are some great, fun films in this franchise, but The Final Chapter holds the crown as the best of the series.
There you have it! Did I piss you off? Did I remind you of how weird and/or wacky the Friday franchise has been? Hell, I didn’t even mention the unrelated television series! Head over to The Spookeasy on Facebook and let us know YOUR ranking! So, this Friday the 13th, stay safe… and wear a mask!