Numerical ratings are at the bottom of the article; also spoilers probably exist, the movies are als old as me so for the classics I will likely ruin plot points. Sorry.
It’s time to talk about Friday the 13th, I’m going to sound negative at first, but don’t give up.
I was never a huge fan of Jason, his movies weren’t that engaging, and he had no personality. My preference for a Hollywood slasher is Freddy, but if I’m going to watch a silent killer I prefer Myers. To me the Friday series was simply a silent, unstoppable, killing machine cutting his way through various sex scenes until the movie needed to end. I could understand the entertainment, but the lack of story caused me to relegate it as the lesser franchise.
However not long back a friend of mine brought over the whole series and we spent a week casually watching all the films. I was left with a few new impressions.
The first is, the Friday films do have a lot of random nudity. Halloween had some, Nightmare is really light on nudity, but Friday embraces it for primal reasons. The cliché about some girl having sex, taking a long shower, and then dying; these movies did not inspire it, they feature and cherish it.
Secondly, there does seem to be effort to put a story of some sort into the Friday movies, plot is still of minor importance, but some of them tried pretty hard; parts 2 through 4 were especially good. The core behind these films is that teenagers are ruled by base desires, and that lead to bad things happening and how Jason punishes them for it. The Friday films are some of the basest movies out there. Do not feel I am bashing these films, as a lifelong Robert E. Howard fan I can’t argue against the occasional indulging of base emotions. The thing here is that by being this way the films nearly achieve a level of genius. They appeal to our desire to see nudity, and violence, and to be diverted from all things around us; this is what the instigators (The counselors who let Jason drown) of the whole franchise were accused of. We are enjoying a film in which the lead character slaughters dozens of people who we are currently emulating.
Third; one should not watch all of these movies in a row; it just feels unhealthy.
Now, on to the films.
The first film, Friday the 13th, is somewhat clever. It establishes a pretty memorable location (We all know that Jason haunts Camp Crystal Lake, but many of the movies take place elsewhere), sets up a legend, and pulls a complete Jaws by only hinting at the killer for most of the movie. The famous score (which is actually Ki Ki Ki Ma Ma Ma and not the cha cha cha so commonly reprinted) was used to subtly alert us to a dangerous presence, in many scenes the music actually backs off as something scary is about to happen; this level of care shows that the creators did in fact aspire to something greater. As we are all well aware of the killer in this initial effort was not the unstoppable Jason, but his mother. Years ago at this camp her son drowned because the counselors were too busy getting busy, so now on his birthday his mother has decided to go completely bonkers and kill camp counselors. It could happen. The mom tries to kill the final girl, but completely loses her head over the deal and the film ends with the young girl heading out to the middle of the lake where no one can get her, and then a young boy leaps from the water and grabs her. That was supposed to be the only influence Jason had in the film, as a jump scene in a dream moment. I like the first movie, it’s a pretty well put together slasher that had real effort put behind it. The twist at the end was great for the time and it functions well as a standalone film. Plus the movie gave us Kevin Bacon.
Part Two is the movie that gave the world what they love: Jason Voorhees. It begins with a little bit of a flashback, showing the final girl from the last movie. And then she dies. Five years later a new group of camp counselors have decided to reopen the camp but are systematically killed. This film apes some of the first movies ideas, such as not showing the killer for the first bit of the film. The big reveal this time is that Jason is the killer, and did not drown; instead he survived and managed to live in the woods. It’s a loose fit with the first movie, but it’s plausible. Anyways, now Jason is pissed that they killed his mother so he decides to become really territorial and just clear out the woods. As a side note, here he wears a burlap sack, and is not the Jason most people know and…love(?). He goes on a rampage, but is ultimately stopped, and apparently goes off to lick his wounds. The ending to this movie is a little fuzzy, with one of the survivor’s fate being unknown, and never really confirmed. Part Two is something of a letdown however, mimicking the first movie too much and adding little to the franchise as a whole. It feels like a cash in, and doesn’t feature any real redeeming elements when viewed in retrospect.
However, when I speak about actually liking Jason this version, and the one featured in the next two movies, is the one I like. Here he is not some undead killing machine, but he is played more like the ultimate hillbilly. He knows the woods, he’s a master hunter, and he hates you. To a lot of people, like the kind who would watch this movie, the woods is a pretty scary place. This fear is justified, the woods is nature’s domain and we are just interlopers. To think that there is someone out there who is so in tune with nature that actually has training in tracking down game and killing it is downright chilling. I suggest this; the ultimate matchup is not Freddy vs Jason, but Jason vs Rambo. Anyways, this interpretation of Jason will continue for the next two films, where he is still a living man, mostly, and this is the interpretation of the character I enjoy. Unstoppable magic killers bore me, but a thinking man who knows how to truly kill, that’s the ticket.
Part Three picks up the next day, and uses an interesting device to propagate the murders. Jason survived his injuries from the last film and has crawled off to heal up, choosing some random barn. The interesting this here is that if people would just stay out of the barn they would be safe, but instead they provoke the wounded animal and Jason has to kill them all. I like this idea, it suggests that Jason realizes that he could be caught, so he’s really just hiding out, but then some kids come along and it’s time for the king of the woods to show them who’s boss. This film is pretty standard, and originally was meant as an ending to the series (this did not take, but they keep trying), but it was notable for a couple reasons. It was in 3D, long before Avatar, and it introduced Jason’s hockey mask.
Deciding that they wanted to continue the series, but that this would really, absolutely be the last one they made The Final Chapter. This is by far my favorite of the original eight films, Jason is still human, it has ties to previous films, it has Crispin Glover dancing like a weirdo, and Cory Feldman. The main plot here is Jason surviving the last assault and the next day escaping the hospital and trying to make his way home. Along the way he encounters several young people and decides to put an end to it. People die, people run, and Jason gets a machete in the head. This film is also host to some neat behind the scenes info. One being that while this was definitely the last movie; the original idea of completely bisecting Jason’s head was too ‘final’ so it was changed. I love the commitment. It also has my favorite ‘Jason’ in the form of Ted White. He disliked the role, but needed money. However he was enough of a professional to give it his all, and it shows. He also stood up to the director when one of the other actors was in pain during a shot and the director was being pretty heartless. I just like that in a film such as this, such great moments can be had.
And that ends the first half of the classic Friday the 13th movies. At this point they have all been pretty decent. The first one is a solid slasher flick, and I really enjoy how the next three told one coherent story. In fact I will have an anecdote about that later.
Tomorrow I will continue with the next four films.
Friday the 13th
As a franchise: Because it can’t seem to die, and because the first four tell one large story 4/5
Part One: A solid slasher flick that still works today 3/5
Part Two: Burlap sacks and hillbillies lead to a 2/5
Part Three: 3D! 3/5
The Final Chapter: It’s just awesome; you have to watch Glover dance. 4/5