Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday the 13th Retrospective

Happy Friday the 13th readers! I hope you having a wonderful day with nary an unlucky moment to be had. By the way - Friday the 13th film franchise retrospective. Scratch that overly positive opening. This is going to be rough. Where’s my lube…?

So I’ve been wanting to do reviews of each of the Friday the 13th films for a while now, not unlike I did with the Halloween franchise when I first started up this blog back in late 2012. This seems like as good a time as any. I mean, today is its namesake. Why not! But I realized that I really didn’t have much to say about the storied and highly questionable slasher series that began way back in 1980 and will soon find itself with a sequel to the horrible reboot from a few years ago in the not to distant future. So I decided to combine them all into one big all encompassing mega-review!!!

Here we go. 

Friday the 13th (1980)
Plot: The counselors of Camp Crystal Lake are being killed off one by one by a mysterious stranger as they prepare the grounds for the summer season.

Review: I can totally understand why this film is as popular and enduring as it has been for 35 years. It took what Halloween had done two years earlier, added lots of gore and gruesome make-up effects to amp it up for the horror fans that turned out in droves to see this when it was released. Some of the kills are cool, some not. The amazing music by Harry Manfredini is iconic and it’s fun in spurts. The first person perspective of the killer is a nice variation of what was seen in Jaws and succeeds in keeping the killer’s identity a secret until the ending. My problem is that once (SPOILERS!) Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) shows up at the end it’s immediately obvious that she’s the one on the killing spree since her sudden appearance is out of nowhere and she has never really been brought up before. I mean, duh. It’s also a slow and quite dull affair with characters that aren’t all that interesting or relatable (although seeing a young Kevin Bacon get an arrow through his throat is amusing for a few moments). Plus the final scare is kind of dumb and random. But it did cause a spark that would ignite a dynasty that never seems to end.

2.5 out of 5 

Friday the 13th, Part 2 (1981)
Plot: A few years after the Crystal Lake murders a new group of counselors find themselves hunted by a killer.

Review: You starting to notice how similar the description of this sequel is to that of the first film? Basically they are the same movie only this one is more polished, better written and features a few characters that are smart and sassy. This is the film that introduced (SPOILERS!) Jason Voorhees as the killer who is out to avenge the death of his mother by taking out fornicating teenagers left and right. He’s actually a scary vision in this flick with his dirty overalls and burlap sack hood covering his deformed face (when you finally see it its a great piece of make-up design). He also murderizes the characters in some truly effed up ways (love the spear double kill and the machete to the wheelchair guy’s face). But it’s Amy Steel’s Ginny who is the real star here. She plays the character not as a screaming girl in distress, but as a true “final girl” who takes matters into her own hands and lays down some pain. This twist really elevates the film in my eyes over its predecessor. Part 2 is a cool, gross and thoroughly entertaining piece of shit.

3.5 out of 5 

Friday the 13th, Part 3 (1982)
Plot: A group of college students vacationing at a cabin on Crystal Lake become the target of Jason Voorhees’s wrath.

Review: Yup. Wash rinse and repeat. Although I give the writers props for not making all the characters camp counselors again. This flick takes place directly after the events of the second film, and this is the one where Jason gets his iconic goalie mask. Although I cannot say anything more positive than that aside from a few creative (machete through the crotch of the dude walking on his hands) and disturbing kills (knifing a pregnant woman?!). This flick is dumb. Dumb, annoying and kind of boring. None of the characters are likable (even fan favorite Shelley is kind of an asshole), some are introduced only to become murder fodder (the motorcycle gang and the shop owners), the cinematography is abysmal and overly dark (it was shot in 3D and actually revolutionized the way those films were made) and the acting is atrocious beyond measure. Plus it kind of hints that Jason is a rapist. Ugh. Aside from a gleefully cheesy disco infused opening theme song this sequel is the pits.

1 out of 5 

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Plot: Jason returns from the dead (maybe?) to take out a group of teens partying at a cabin on Crystal Lake and may have met his match in the form of a young local boy (Corey Feldman).

Review: We all know the title to this sequel is misleading. Part 4 definitely wasn’t the final chapter in this franchise. Not by a long shot. But at the time it seemed as if the creators of this series really did want to end it here and move on to greener pastures. Too bad this film made serious money at the box office or it might have actually stopped with this lame and frustratingly annoying mess. First the positives – Tom Savini returned to provide the make-up effects (he also worked on the first) and he goes above and beyond on many occasions (that dude who gets his face crushed in the shower is tops). Too bad that’s where the positives end. None of the characters are, once again, likable at all. They seem to revel in being immature fucktards (“You’re a dead fuck!”) and not even the little hero Tommy Jarvis, played by an adorable Corey Feldman, comes off as a complete character. Events that transpire here are totally laughable (“He’s killing me! He’s killing me!”) and the big finale, which provides an extremely gory end for poor old Jason, is about as random as they come (I hate the "Remember me, Jason?" bullshit) and isn’t satisyfing in the slightest. At this point I was glad that the filmmakers decided to end it here because this is about as creatively bankrupt a film can possibly get.

0.5 out of 5 

Friday the 13th, Part V: A New Beginning (1985)
Plot: Tommy Jarvis (John Shepherd), after being traumatized by his encounter with Jason Voorhees, is sent to a secluded halfway house where a string of familiar murders begin once he arrives.

Review: This sequel attempts to do the same thing John Carpenter tried with Halloween III after he killed off his antagonist, create a series of films that are loosely connected to the ones that came before it while doing something different at the same time. In the case of A New Beginning it’s set up as a whodunit. Someone is impersonating Jason for reasons unknown and the body count piles up fast. Unfortunately there isn’t much more going on here except really awkward soft core porn moments, lame kills and some of the worst scenes ever conceived for a film (that girl randomly dancing like a robot to new wave music tops my list). None of the characters are likable once again, the actor playing the teenage Tommy looks disinterested and embarrassed and there is yet another open ending to set-up another sequel. They should have ended the series here.

1 out of 5 

Jason Lives: Friday the 13th, Part VI (1986)
Plot: Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews) accidentally resurrects Jason Voorhees and unleashes him upon the small town of Forest Green, once known as Crystal Lake.

Review: Okay, now we’re talking. This is probably the most genuinely enjoyable film in the entire franchise due to how intentionally campy and meta the script is. Writer/director Tom McLaughlin went all out to make a satirical slasher film (which did a lot of what Scream got attention for years later) and he succeeds for the most part. This is the first time we actually see kids at the camp, Jason is brought back into the mix as an undead killing machine with super strength, the characters are somewhat likable and everyone seems to be having a good time either hamming it up for the camera (the over the top deputy) or being set-up as a victim. Sure there’s some dumb filler crap to lengthen the film and amp up the body count (the paintballers and the late night picnic couple), but I have a blast each and every time I watch this entry. It’s incredibly funny at times, some of the kills are hilarious (love the bloody smiley face in the forest) and for a movie with such a high kill count this one isn’t all that gory. Sure there’s blood splashed about more than once, but it’s relatively tame compared to some of the other slasher films out there. Plus, Jason finally gets a creative death scene that puts a smile on my face every time. This one is a winner and is one of the best films in the entire franchise as far as I’m concerned.

4 out of 5 

Friday the 13th, Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
Plot: Mentally disturbed and psychically powered Tina (Lar Park Lincoln) unwittingly brings Jason (Kane Hodder) back from the dead with her abilities to terrorize the partying teenagers surrounding the lake.

Review: After the awesomeness that was Jason Lives, this seventh film returns to the basics of the series with a new twist… Jason vs. Carrie. Not Carrie per se, but a young girl with telekinetic powers that unleashes unholy amounts of whoop ass upon the undead death bringer. The final twenty minutes sees Jason getting the everloving snot beaten out of him in every way imaginable. It’s insanely rad! There are plenty of nasty and somewhat gruesome deaths this time around. Unfortunately this film was heavily edited due to the MPAA cracking down on gore in horror films something fierce at this particular moment in time. Sadly there will be no “Uncut” version as most of the deleted shots were destroyed. Most of the tertiary characters are just human sized balloons filled with blood waiting to be popped, but at least Lar Park Lincoln brings a certain likable vulnerability to her part, and Terry Kiser (Weekend at Bernie’s) goes for broke as her manipulative therapist. Plus, this was the first appearance of fan favorite Kane Hodder as Jason, the only actor to play the role more than once (four times to be exact). This one is another winner to me due to the weird direction it took to keep the series fresh and hip. It’s just as entertaining as its predecessor and is my personal favorite in the franchise.

4 out of 5 

Friday the 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Plot: Jason (Kane Hodder) is revived just in time to stowaway on a cruise ship filled with partying high school graduates on their way to New York for the weekend.

Review: This putrid and nearly unwatchable entry in the never ending franchise happens to be the first entry I had the displeasure of sitting through in a movie theater. After seeing The New Blood on cable, and becoming an instant fan of the series due to it, I was extremely excited to see what the filmmakers decided to do next. Sadly it was in the form of a bunch of underwritten and extremely annoying teenagers spending ¾ of the film doing nothing of note on a boat, and once they reach New York (one scene was NY, everything else was Canada) they stand around waiting to be offed in extremely dumb and unimaginative ways (except the uppercut beheading… that was rad). And the way Jason was taken out… a toxic waste bath in the sewers that turns him into a little kid?! Who the fuck thought that was a good idea?! Wow. After two great films that tried to do things a little bit differently to keep fans interested this one comes along and pisses all over it. It ruined the franchise for me in that I lost interest about as quickly as I fell in love with it. This is trash, plain and simple.

0.5 out of 5 

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
Plot: Jason (Kane Hodder) is dead, or so everyone thought. His spirit lives on and moves from person to person like a virus looking for one of his kin to spark his rebirth. 

Review: When Jason Takes Manhattan flopped at the box office Paramount gave up on the franchise and sold the rights to New Line Cinema. The new owners decided to give the character one last hurrah, just as they had given their flagship franchise a couple of years earlier in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. Just like that steaming turd of a sendoff, Jason Goes to Hell is the worst sequel in the entire franchise and probably one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. Everything about it is absolutely putrid! There’s the ridiculous body hopping plot device, the terrible acting, the godawful special effects and career ending direction from Adam Marcus. Everything is dark, murky and ugly. Sure some of the kills are gruesome and disgusting (that girl getting vertically split in two gets me every time), but that doesn’t automatically give this film a pass. There is no entertainment value to be found here at all. It’s a joyless, painfully cheesy and awfully written endcap to the series. The stupifying mystical Voorhees lore that is added here is just as fucking ridiculous as the Thorn bullshit from Halloween 5 and is not welcome in the slightest. Even the way Jason is killed off once and for all sucked the big one. So friggin’ dumb. Kane Hodder deserved a better curtain call. 

And what’s worse… the ulterior motive of this film was to set-up a Freddy vs. Jason film (that we wouldn’t get until a decade later).

Absolutely worthless.

0 out of 5 

Jason X (2001)
Plot: Jason in space.

Review: Yup, you read that right. New Line Cinema and screenwriter Todd Farmer (My Bloody Valentine 3D) actually followed through with taking Jason to the place horror franchises go to die – outer space (see Leprechaun 4: In Space). Surprisingly it kind of works! The set up is fun and inventive, the kills are insanely graphic and extremely creative (I’m all about the frozen head smash), the world in which the film takes place is kind of cool with rad tech and surprises around every corner and Kane Hodder returns as Jason for the final time. Most of the characters are written as dumbasses, but what’s great is that they are self-aware dumbasses and that is part of this flick’s charm. It also has a wicked sense of humor (“It’s going to take more than a poke in the ribs to put down this old dog.” <stab> “Yeah, that’ll do it!”)! The actors, while obviously WAY TOO OLD to be playing teenagers (one actor was in his thirties), all are fun to watch flail around in the dark with laser guns. Plus David Cronenberg has a great bit part in the opening! While it all builds up to what is to be an epic finale, I’m sad to say that it goes out with a whimper. The last few minutes are underwhelming in the extreme and that was supremely disappointing in my eyes. And the music by Harry Manfredini sucked donkey balls. This movie needed a heavy metal score to amp up the on screen happenings, not some lame ass Casio keyboard bullshit. It’s one of the worst scores ever recorded, bar none. But this is one of the biggest surprises in the long ass franchise. This concept should never have worked, but it did. It’s flawed, but a blast nonetheless.

3.5 out of 5

I’m choosing to not review Freddy vs. Jason due to it not being a true Friday the 13th film.

If you want to read my review of the 2009 remake of Friday the 13th, click here.

As you can see, this is a very uneven and somewhat lackluster horror franchise that lasted longer than all the competition regardless of the sometimes horrible quality. Still, it holds its place in history for being mindless schlocky entertainment, and in that regard it delivered repeatedly. You’d be surprised how much money these films managed to rake in before audiences started to tire of the stale formula and dumb gimmicks. The series holds moments of greatness and some of the lowest of lows. But what long running franchise doesn’t? Even though a lot of these flicks are downright terrible I still watch them on the regular, and that speaks for the longevity of this character and this series. As much as I hated the remake of Friday the 13th I’ll probably be first in line to see the sequel.

The entire Friday the 13th franchise gets:

3.5 out of 5

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