Hey all, turning the blog over today to my friend and sometime collaborator Jeff Carter (his story of submersible terror, The Wager, appeared beside my own Tell Tom Tildrum in Tales From The Bell Club, and we’re working on an RPG together for Heroic Journey Publishing), whose blog, The Monster Compendium, can be found on my sidebar. Check it out – it’s a trove of obscure stuff from around the world, general geekery, and of course, all things Carterian.
Jeff, like me, is a horror movie fan, and he hosts our annual Black-O-Ween celebration, in which we view one or two African American themed horror movies from the golden age of blaxploitation (past showings include Blacula, Blackenstein, Sugar Hill, JD’s Revenge, The Thing With Two Heads, and most recently, Abby and The Beast Must Die).
For the past couple weeks he’s been viewing the Friday The 13th film series, which holds a dear place in my heart as the novelization of Part VI: Jason Lives by Simon Hawke is one of the first books I ever read that made me want to write.
As an end result, he’s put them in order of enjoyment.
Happy Friday the 12th.
Ed’s posted a lot of movie reviews here, as well as his annual Halloween list of must-see horror. I thought I’d toss my hockey mask into the ring with a list of the top ten Friday the 13th movies.
Not many movies get eleven and a half installments and a remake. Few characters can take that kind of punishment, but Friday the 13th has Jason Voorhees, an unstoppable killing machine with an endless hatred of teenaged hijinks. Having a lead character that wears a mask and disposable casts of unknowns helps too.
So let’s take a look at the first ten, leaving out Freddy VS. Jason and the 2009 remake.
I reached these rankings through a complicated algorithm that tabulated kills, scares, the ratio of serious to goofy, amount of Jason or other core elements, cameos, and continuity. And no, I will not show my work.
So here they are, from worst to best:
10) Friday the 13th Part 5: A New Beginning
This movie has a lot of detractors, but the algorithm nearly spat this out for one fatal flaw: Jason is not in the movie!
9) Friday the 13th Part 7: New Blood
This was a powerfully close tie for last place. The story: A psychic girl accidentally uses one of her 9 million powers to resurrect Jason from the bottom of Camp Crystal Lake. Most of the kills occur off screen, a strange choice for a slasher flick. In the movie’s defense, the MPAA apparently cut it to ribbons before its theatrical release and then slashed it even more viciously for home video. That being said, the end result is boring and inane.
8) Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan
This movie was almost hallucinatory with its surreal, incoherent jumbled plot. Psychic visions, drug addled gangs of rapists, nuclear waste. The Crystal Lake High graduating class take a cruise ship to New York…from Crystal Lake? Via Canada? I don’t understand the geography, but distances clearly don’t matter in this film. Jason teleports, TELEPORTS, more than once.
Perhaps this can all be explained by a certain shift: Marijuana has been replaced with cocaine as the drug of choice. Don’t miss the cameo by a young Kelly Hu, who is tempted to snort up with the line “the night time is the right time”.
7) Jason X
Many would say that this half sci-fi/half farce cyborg flick is the worst of the series, but clearly the rankings say otherwise. Yes, the movie was goofy and cheesy and cheap, but unless you were kidnapped and brought to a sneak preview, you must have known all that going in.
The movie was set in the distant future to avoid any continuity conflict with Freddy VS. Jason, which was being developed at the time. So let’s talk about continuity – in my algorithm, continuity not only addresses the preservation of the established timeline, facts, and use of core elements, but also the broader scope of the Friday the 13th events and their impact on the wider world.
In this future world Jason is still infamous. Scientists and soldiers both want his body for his amazing regenerative properties and black market collectors will pay top dollar for such a gruesome piece of history.
The movie is campy and self aware, and I really liked it. I must confess that I had thought it would be higher in the rankings than the extremely silly self parody of Part 6, but the algorithm does not lie.
Look for the cameo by Director David Cronenberg and a fun performance from genre veteran Peter Mensah.
The highlight is a clever gambit by the space students to distract Jason: a holodeck simulation of Camp Crystal Lake, complete with vapid, indestructible teenagers.
6) Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives
This was a relaunch after the supposed ‘Final Chapter’ Part 4 and the failure of Part 5. This was also a parody, an inevitable stage in the cycle of any genre.
The ‘kid who would be Jason’, Tommy Jarvis from Pt. 4, digs up Jason’s grave to destroy his remains. Jason is brought back to life by lightning.
Jason has now transformed from tough, super strong mutant to indestructible super zombie. A magic ritual of sorts is also used to ‘bind’ and trap Jason at the end, hinting at the mystical nature of Jason’s past.
I didn’t care for this one. The forced attempts at humor undercut any sense of horror. I don’t need a movie to parody itself, I can mock it just fine, thank you very much.
There is a nice nod to another long running series in the intro that I rather liked, however.
5) Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter
Now we’re talking. This movie had a lot of meat for the algorithm to chew on: Cameos (Crispin Glover! Corey Haim!), Core elements (fighting Jason with psychology!) and tons of kills and scares. In the continuity department, we see Pamela Voorhees’ tombstone and the character Rob, who is seeking revenge for his sister who got killed in Part 2.
4) Friday the 13th Part 9: Jason Goes To Hell
I know people hate this movie like O.G. Star Wars fans hate Return of the Jedi for its ewok shenanigans. Fortunately, the algorithm is beyond your petty emotions. It’s all in the data. Consider the cast: Erin Gray (Buck Rogers!) as Mrs. Kimble nee Voorhees, Steven Williams (21 Jump Street! X-Files!) as the world’s most ruthless serial killer hunter and John D. Le May, who stars in this movie AND the Friday the 13th TV series!
This movie has world building in spades. It features the Necronomicon Ex Mortis, the ACTUAL book of the dead from the Evil Dead movies! Jason is such a well-known terror that the FBI forms a special task force to lure him out and destroy him with overwhelming firepower.
When they succeed (or did they?) the entire country watches TV news reports about the incident with relief. One local business celebrates with a “Jason is Dead” sale and special hockey mask shaped burgers.
This movie suffers from a lack of Jason – after the FBI blows up his body, the evil energies that inhabit his body begin to leap from body to body, seeking a body with the cursed Voorhees bloodline that can either resurrect or destroy him. This is another stage in Jason’s life cycle, from deformed child to hulking freak to super zombie to this, the dark scion of a strange occult ritual. Fortunately, Jason is in the beginning and end of this movie, and does a lot of crazy killing in between.
The final cameo opened the movie up, in a big way that blew the minds of horror fans everywhere: after Jason is destroyed by his ancestor with a magic sword/knife/demon broadsword, Freddy Krueger’s glove bursts up from Hell to snatch the iconic hockey mask.
3) Friday the 13th Part 2
Taking the bronze medal is part 2, a strong sequel to the original with an almost perfect score on continuity and core elements. Jason steps out of the lake and onto the center stage, killing teenagers and preserving his mother’s rotting head and grody sweater on an altar.
A savvy co-ed dons the crusty sweater at the end to mess with Jason’s mind. The only core elements missing are the machete and hockey mask – at this point Jason is rocking a sack with an eye hole in it.
This movie also has the original harbinger, crazy Ralph. This colorful local warned the teenagers in the first movie to stay away from Camp Crystal Lake. They didn’t listen, but crazy Ralph was so iconic that he became part of the slasher genre formula.
2) Friday the 13th 3D
Ah, back when all movies with a part 3 were in 3D. It was a simpler time.
This movie exploited the full potential of the third dimension more fully than James Cameron’s AVATAR. Seriously, if it could swing, float, jump, fly or pop out at the audience, it was comin’ atcha. Not just spear guns and pitchforks, either. Yo-yos, popcorn, snakes, EVERYTHING.
The tone was a little more silly, but only to pump up the cheap thrills. There was plenty of scares and violent, creative death to go around. Jason finally gets his hockey mask here, which is why part 3D gets the silver medal. The only thing missing is Jason’s mother…
1) Friday the 13th
The origin story of the most gifted, prolific and hardest working slasher in history. We learn who Jason was, meet his devoted mother, and learn our way around Camp Crystal Lake.
Jason’s mother, Pamela Voorhees, is easily one of the most original and compelling characters of any slasher film. That wild eyed old lady in the christmas sweater with the blade? She’s fueled by grief, maternal love and righteous fury.
“Kee Kee Kee Kee…Kah Kah Kah Kah can only truly be whispered through dentures.”
JAWS stopped night swimming. This stopped lake swimming.
This movie ends with the only image from the series as iconic as the hockey mask: the slimy body of a freakish child erupting from depths of a watery grave.
Jeff C. Carter’s most recent work in print appears in AVENIR ECLECTIA Volume 1, now available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon. Get more Halloween stuff at his blog Compendium of Monsters and say hey on Facebookand Goodreads.