HOW TO HAVE A FRIDAY THE 13TH MARATHON:
If you're like me, you LOVE Friday the 13th. It's the creepiest day short of Halloween. It's also the title of the longest running horror franchise in the United States. What better way to celebrate the day than to watch the movies?
But which ones to choose? The task can be daunting for the Jason neophyte, especially since half the movies are fun-bad and the other half are just bad-bad. So, in order to help you make the most of this Friday the 13th, I've curated a list of the Friday the 13th films you SHOULD be watching.
FIRST FILM. Toss-up. Friday #1 or Friday #2
The long and short is that the first Friday is a better pick for a campy good time, whereas the second Friday is one of the most scary and effective slasher movies of the early 80s.
While both films followed and expanded upon the formula laid down by John Carpenter's Halloween, the series had not yet settled into the familiar rhythms of the Friday the 13th series.
Friday 1 hasn't aged well as a horror film. While Sean Cunningham uses the primordial darkness of the woods to great effect, the film iss tame enough to be shown uncut on TV and the ending fight between the middle-aged women and the screaming camp councilor quickly descends into delightful farce. This is the one to pick for a campier good time.
Friday 2 is more conventionally scary. Director Steve Miner, who would go on to make a career as a slasher director, knows how to work the premise of the lone madman in the words to great effect. We see pre-hockey mask Jason for the first time and this film has Ginny, the psychology major who turns out to be one of the best Final Girls of the series.
SECOND FILM Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter.
A personal favorite of the pre-zombie Jason films, Final Chapter has a lot of good stuff going for it. First, the story is genuinely strong. Sure, it has all the generic touches of a Friday film, but the characterization is much stronger. People go through story arcs, the teenage drama has a sharper focus, Crispen Glover dances like a spaz, and the story holds together better. It also introduces Cory Feldman as Tommy Jarvis, Jason's only consistent nemesis. A horror effects enthusiast with a gift for getting inside monster's heads, he makes an effective foil for the killer.
As this was supposed to be the final film in the series, make-up effects master Tom Savini returned to do the effects work of this film and they work brilliantly. Most of the gore is saved for Jason's death, but it's fantastic work. Tom White, the stuntman in Jason's shoes, delivers my favorite interpretation of the human version of Jason. Jason in part 4 is at once heavy but spry, and White imbues the character with strength and menace.
WHY NOT PART 3
Aside from the fact that the movies REALLY follows the slasher-victim stereotype (stoner hippie, prank playing idiot) and the 3D effects are occasionally fun, the movie is mostly unpleasant people dying off. Worth seeing for the moment Jason gets his hockey mask and for a solid final fight.
THIRD FILM: Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives.
Working off the strongest script of the series, director Tom McLaughlin attempted to fuse elements of the classic Universal Horror films into the Friday film series. Tommy Jarvis returns to accidentally resurrect Jason with a poorly-placed iron pole and a bolt of lightning, creating the first appearance of Zombie Jason. The character is now overtly supernatural and former Marine C.J. Graham portrays the character as a vengeful automatic, moving Jason with surprising grace and sudden violence.
There's a lot to really like in this film. The movie is genuinely funny, although the humor stops when Jason appears. The cinematography is gorgeous and evocative of the fog-shrouded hills of Transylvania. The town of Crystal Lake has evolved in order to forget it's horrible past. Tommy makes for a fantastic, haunted Ahab character and he teams up with my favorite final girl of the series, the playful sheriff's daughter Megan. Finally, it's the most 80s film of the series. You can use it as a time capsule for the styles and sounds of the mid-80s.
WHY DID YOU AVOID PART FIVE?
Aside from the fact that there's an impostor masquerading as the killer, there's a real meanness of spirit in this film. The director, Danny Steinmann, came out of pornography and he shoots the film very much like a porno. People appear, say a few horrible things, and get killed. It has the highest body count of any Friday film (if you exclude the off-camera slaughter of part
It is worth seeing for the crazy gothy/new wave dance scene and the evolution of the Tommy Jarvis character.
FOURTH FILM: Friday the 13th Part Seven: The New Blood.
It's Jason vs. Carrie!
This film has easily the best fight scene of the Friday series, as the emotionally damaged psychic Tina unleashes her full powers against Jason. The storyline is fairly standard slasher stuff (though it does have the best Bitchy Rich Girl of all slasher movies) but Friday Seven also marks the debut of the definitive Jason actor, stuntman Kane Hodder.
Most of the stuntmen who took the Jason role had a fairly mercenary outlook on the role, but Hodder approached the role as an actor. His Jason is Fury Incarnate and all later interpretations of the role owe something to his work.
This is also an excellent film for people adverse to gore. By this point, the backlash against the violence of the series had it's effect and the average episode of CSI has far more gore.
WHY DID YOU AVOID PART EIGHT
First, despite the title, most of the action takes place on a boat. Second, a lot of stuff DOES work, but the elements that do are done better in other films. Third, the sewers of New York City don't flood with toxic waste every evening. Fourth, Jason spends the movie looking like a wet trash bag.
Worth seeing for another Kane Hodder performance, Kelly Hu's overtly supernatural death scene, the rooftop boxing match, and the vision of pre-Giuliani Times Square.
FIFTH FILM: JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY
This is an odd pick because it's the most unconventional of the Friday the 13th series. Jason is blown apart in the beginning of the movie by an FBI team with apparent shoot-to-kill orders, but his essence hops from body to body in order to be reborn by inhabiting one of his relatives.
JGTH is essentially The Terminator in plotting and Twin Peaks/The X-Files in tone. Jason chases his one living family member, which leads to an amazing police station massacre, and the pursuit is genuinely suspenseful. It goes a little too far off the reservation, but I like it all the same. Also, wait for the surprising Freddy Krueger cameo.
WHY DID YOU AVOID JASON X
It's Jason in Space! It's Space Jason!
This is sadly Kane Hodder's final film as Jason and he spends most of it combating the tone. Though the film had been filmed years before Scream, it shares Scream's meta-tone but melds it with sci-fi campiness. The tone is jokey, nobody takes the action seriously, and the film has the breezy tone of a SyFy channel film. It's a good time, it's just a little bit too campy for me.
Worth seeing for the cryo-face smash and the Cronenberg cameo.
SIXTH FILM: FREDDY VS. JASON
While this is far more of a Freddy film than a Jason film, director Ronny Yu invests the film with nightmarish visual style. Made during the influx of Hong Kong directors that followed in John Woo's stead, Yu creates one of my favorite visions of both Springwood and Crystal Lake since part 6. We really get inside Jason's psychology in this film, courtesy of Freddy's manipulations, and the final fight between the two titans of horror is absolutely brutal.
WHY DID YOU AVOID THE REMAKE?
I didn't really. It's worth seeing, especially since Derek Mears does the best interpretation of Jason since Kane Hodder. But it's a Platinum Dunes remake, and there's something slick and soulless about it.
Worth seeing for Aaron Yoo's fantastic death scene, Jarad Padalecki's non-Winchester horror turn, and a solid final fight.
Well, by this point, you've seen the best that the Friday the 13th has to offer. You're in the clear. Smoke some dope, have some premarital sex, and don't worry about getting slaughtered.