Friday the 13th. Jason Voorhees. Teenagers behaving badly and being slaughtered. Hockey mask. We all know these movies, whether we’ve watched one or not. And while Friday fans and everyone else might debate the quality or merits of individual entries or the franchise as a whole, we can all agree that the formula is pretty much the same from sequel to sequel.
Now, the fans tend to divide up the series in different ways: some see Kane Hodder’s portrayal of Jason as the definitive take on the character and so they tend to think of the films as pre-Hodder and post-Hodder. Others would note that the first several films are basically one continuous story, while later sequels are kind of all over the place. But for me, you can divvy it up like this: alive Jason and undead Jason.
Why? Because while Jason was alive, the films were, although highly implausible, TECHNICALLY possible. I mean, a crazy person goes on a killing spree. That could happen. Sadly, it DOES happen. But halfway through the series, Jason becomes a living dead being, which means that now, he is truly unstoppable. Oh, sure, he was pretty much an indestructible juggernaut all along, but knowing he CANNOT be killed really adds to his threat factor. It also changes the tone of the movies, because it introduces a supernatural element that has allowed for sequels with psychics, demonic possession, even Freddy ‘Dream Demon’ Krueger and, inevitably, Jason in SPAAAACEEEEEE….
Some folks like undead Jason, some don’t. I couldn’t care less if you paid me (NOTE: You ARE paying me for this, guys, right? The last QRE check bounced. Liquor and bath salts don’t buy themselves. Be sure you leave this part out of the final article). I mean, if you go to a Slasher flick expecting realism, you’re sadly deluded. So for the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on my two favorite F13 sequels: the last one with live Jason and the first with undead Jason.
Friday the 13th: the Final Chapter (1984) was, as the title suggests, intended to be the very last entry in the series. This is hilarious, obviously, and it happened more than once (Jason Goes to Hell is subtitled ‘the Final Friday’. It wasn’t), but at the time, they meant it. Seriously. Because of this, the movie is like a textbook example of the F13 formula. You’ve got everything that makes a Jason flick, from every one-dimensional teen stereotype ever created to some REALLY varied deaths. You also have Corey Feldman, who is one of the best things in the movie. That’s not an insult, by the way – before he became whatever the heck he is now, C-Feld was a great child actor. Honestly!
It breaks down like this. A bunch of teens show up at Camp Crystal Lake and decide to have themselves a big old party with drinking, drugs and promiscuous sex. So right away, we’re on familiar ground for one of these movies. But added to the mix is, not only Jason, but also this tough guy whose sister was a victim of Jason’s and is now out to kill the big dumb bastard. And you have the nice, single parent family who live right next to the campgrounds but, somehow, have not been embroiled in any of the earlier massacres. The youngest is Tommy (the Feldster), a kid who likes horror movies and makes monster masks and horror props. Tommy is the real hero of this film (and a major character in the franchise, returning for the next two sequels, although not played by Feldman).
Long story short, Jason kills everybody real hard. There’s a big final showdown and little Tommy KILLS JASON. As in, dead. Like, really. Really, really. I promise. For sure this time. And BRUTALLY. There is absolutely no doubt, thanks to the special effects wizardry of Tom Savini, that Jason isn’t just dead, he’s been BUTCHERED. It is a truly great moment in cinema. Sadly, Tommy is now crazy. But hey, he got to kill Jason. That’s worth a little mental instability, right?
Okay, but as we all know, the story didn’t end there.
Let’s just skip o’er part 5, shall we?
In Friday the 13th, Part 6: Jason Lives, Jason is dead. He was also dead all through part 5. But Tommy, who is now all grown up and released from the whacko ward, is afraid Jason’s not dead enough, despite being buried for 10 years. So maybe Tommy is not entirely cured…
Long story short, Tommy digs up Jason and a bolt of lightning brings the J-man back to life, because science. Or magic. Not sure. The rest of the flick is, well, the usual. The only real difference is that CampCrystal Lake is now called Camp Forest Green, because attendance really dropped off, what with every single camp counselor having been brutally murdered for several years in a row. Jason heads back to his old stomping grounds and gets back to the murderin’.
One of the things I like about undead Jason is that he no longer bothers to run. People run away from him; he just strides along, but somehow he catches up. I think that’s cool. I guess it’s because he’s supernatural? Dunno. But I like it.
Meanwhile, the cops think Tommy is the killer. Yes, there are cops in this one. They’re pretty vigilant, which is odd, considering how much murder went on in their jurisdiction. Or maybe that’s why? Anyway, the movie eventually ends.
Now, are these great movies? No. It’s a guy in a hockey mask hacking up oddly old looking teenagers. But for Friday the 13th movies? I’d say these are the absolute best. Plus, the sex and violence quotient is cranked up to 11, which is a compliment, considering that those are the only two elements necessary to the franchise (other than, maybe, Jason himself). So, since they really are all pretty much alike, if you feel like watching or rewatching any of the movies in the franchise (12 so far, if you count Freddy vs. Jason and the lousy remake), I recommend either of these. Or, heck, why not both? Just slip on your hockey mask, grab your favorite lawn and gardening implement that could easily be used as a murder weapon, and enjoy!