Created to cash in on the highly successful slasher flick Halloween which came out in 1978, Friday The 13th revolves around Jason Voorhees, a child who drowned at a school camp. Initially, he’s the motive for the killings, and later the killer himself, as anyone who tries to stay on Crystal Lake falls under the wrath of the vengeful…
There are 12 films in total, at least so far, and a lot of tie-ins, from TV series to books, comics and video games. In format, it’s a classic teen slasher, with ever more elaborate deaths killing of isolated members of a group of friends who stay in the area in cabins, until the final girl manages to use her ingenuity to kill Jason. But he always comes back…
Friday The 13th (1980)
A very young Kevin Bacon is a highlight in this first installment, in his dinky 80’s short shorts. A group of school counselors descend on Crystal Lake, restoring the cabins that have fallen into disrepair over the years, since the death of a child there from drowning years before. Though the local townspeople feel the place is cursed, the teens blithely go about their business, until someone starts brutally murdering them one by one… It’s early 80’s and low budget, so the acting tries very hard and the ketchup is used liberally, but it’s a real cracker of a film. In this first film, Jason is the reason for the killing, not the killer himself, (watch it if you want to know who the killer is!) and so he’s not yet a hockey masked killer that he’d later become. You never actually see his face in this film.
Friday The 13th Part 2 (1981)
Opening directly where the last film finished, this continues the story, this time with Jason rising, and ready to take revenge. Of course, since he clearly didn’t drown in the lake in childhood, the revenge is now for the killing of the person who was revenging his death… which is a bit of a skewed motivation, but trust me, you won’t care. No famous faces here, just plenty of ketchup soaked deaths as Jason stalks and murders the guests of a training camp for camp counselors that’s conveniently also on Crystal Lake. He wears a canvas bag over his head, and is a huge lumbering presence, and we learn more about him in this film, but still no hockey mask… We do get to see where he lives though, his creepy shack and personal altar, plus the terrifying face behind the mask.
Friday The 13th Part 3 (1982)
Jason is back! And this time, in 3D! At this point, the franchise is rather silly. Some teens head out to a remote farm belonging to the family of one of the group of friends, and during their stay, manage to run afoul of some local punks, who plan to get revenge on them. One of the group is a practical joker, and puts on various costumes to play pranks. One of those costumes is a hockey mask, which Jason takes a shine to. Mostly, the scenes in this film involve people thrusting random things directly at the camera because of the 3D effect, which makes the film that much more cheesey and hilarious. And the characters here feel much more like stock characters or cartoons than previous installments.
Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Recognise that screaming kid? Yes, this installment has Corey Feldman starring as an awkward kid, staying with his mom and sister by a lake. In the house next door, a party of teens are hanging our for the weekend. They’re all ready to get up to mischief, except one virginal girl. But their plans are about to be brutally interupted by some gory and rather cheesey deaths at the hands of Jason, who has miraculously recovered from death in the morgue… It’s a weird and kind of hilarious film, with really OTT performances and ketchup-y deaths. Definitely better than the previous movie but so so 80’s.
Friday The 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
We’re only in 1985 and it feels like we’ve come a long way since Kevin Bacon went off to be a camp counsellor. This opens with Corey Feldman (above) seeing Jason’s body being exhumed, which turns out to be all a dream and somehow, in one year, he’s now an adult. Having apparently spent his formative years in psychiatric hospitals, Tommy Jarvis is now in a halfway house, ready to rejoin society, except for the nightmares he has regularly about Jason. But the halfway house, with it’s ragtag bundle of rebellious 80’s teen trope kids, is being menaced by a killer… the new Jason, who is a copycat of the dead one. It’s an idea that doesn’t really work, and this one isn’t a fan favorite. It has a lot of deaths, sex, nudity and drug use, and apparently this was a bit of an off screen theme as well as on screen. The performances are really cartoonish, even for a horror franchise film.
Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
Tommy decides to get rid of Jason once and for all, but accidentally resurrects the killer while trying to cremate him. Jason then goes on a killing spree through the Crystal Lake area. Again. And Tommy is determined to stop him. Though Tommy has been portrayed by different actors, this is the last time the character appears in the series. It also takes Jason from being kind of a mortal inexorable force to being a truly immortal monster. It’s a lot more fun than previous entries and has a better reputation and approval than most entries in the series.
Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
Poor little Tina. After witnessing one too many alcohol0fuelled fights between her parents that turn violent, little Tina unleashes a Carrie-like psychic ability and accidentally kills her father. Years later her manipulative therapist takes teen Tina back to the house where her father was killed in order to take advantage of her skills. But the house in on the edge of Crystal Lake and Jason is once again brought back, and now only Tina’s powers can stop him. I quite like this one. It’s silly, has 80’s style and has fun with itself. It was also intended to be a more classy entry in a cheesey franchise that was making less money with each entry, so it has a slightly more big budget feel.
Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
I’m not proud of this, but other than the first installment, this may be my favourite entry in the franchise. It’s just so silly, so very 80’s, it’s largely shot in Vancouver, it has a dog in it, toxic waste in barrels, and at one point a kid gets punched and his head falls off. It’s hilarious. This time, a bunch of teens are celebrating graduation on a boat that’s heading to New York City, and Jason tags along, climbing aboard and slashing his way to the city while one teen has premonitions. For some reason, the boat looks like a tanker rather than a pleasure cruiser, and it has quite a different atmosphere and overall look than other Jason films, which means that it wasn’t really a fan pleasing entry. I like it anyway, it’s really stupid.
Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
Final never means final in a horror franchise. This time, Jason is able to jump from body to body and needs to invade the body of a descendant to cement his immortality. Or something. This one has a different, more 90’s tone than the others. It references TV shows like Hard Copy and doesn’t have teens or a camp them. I mean, it’s very camp but it doesn’t have a Summer Camp. It’s actually pretty boring and things are really incoherent and seem to just happen. It feels like a film from a different franchise because most of the time, Jason is just in the body of someone else, so no hockey mask and no hulking presence. This is the weakest link for me and the cameo of the book from Evil Dead and Freddy Kruegar’s hand feel like desperate cash in’s. (Fun fact: New Line didn’t have right to “Friday The 13th” but to “Jason Voorhees” so that’s why the title doesn’t contain that phrase)
Jason X (2001)
Jason menaces teens in space. No really. I mean, he’s been everywhere else and this kind of theme feels very early 2000’s. Jason has been cryogenically frozen, and it’s about 450 years into the future when some teens awake him from slumber, and he goes about killing them off one by one. This one seems really aware that Jason has well and truly jumped the shark, and though it wasn’t a huge hit, it has it’s fan base because of it’s sense of humour, inventive deaths and enjoyment of the Jason tropes and character. It’s intentionally silly and therefore a lot of fun. Which is more than can be said for a few of the movies in this list.
Freddy Vs Jason (2003)
The film that sets out to answer the question, who would win in a fight between Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees? The plot is that Freddy resurrects Jason and sends him out to kill, which will somehow help him restore his strength and get back to being able to kill teens himself. But really, we’re all here to see them fight each other. And when they finally do… it’s OK. It could have been a lot better, really. The earlier film, Jason Goes To Hell, was actually initially meant to be this meet up, but there was some wrangling over rights, so that film was re-written as a kind of linking plot between the other films and this. It’s not as bad as some of the other films in this series, honestly, but it’s also not as fun and satisfying as you want it to be.
Friday The 13th (2009)
Michael Bay has a hand in this 2000’s reboot. It’s a fun homage to the previous films, especially the first three, and has some creative gory deaths, as well as Jared Padalecki as a star (Supernatural, Gilmore Girls). It makes some clever narrative decisions, and the body count really racks up. The characters are fairly horror stock figures, and some of their teen behavior is pretty obnoxious. It’s a fairly cheesey but fun entry to the list, though I think old school purists will dislike it’s modern touches. That said, it’s way better than some of the mid entries on this list! And the deaths feel more real and scary, of course, than the 80’s originals, because of modern special effects.
And finally, to round it all up, this great image from Tell It Animated, that shows the evolution of the character from film to film. I think we have an idea about what Jason looks like, with his signature hulking frame and hockey mask, but really in each film he really changes quite a lot.
If you like these horror franchise film posts, I have a few more HERE that you can take a look at, including the Halloween and Aliens movies. Next up, I’m hoping to watch all of the Nightmare On Elm Street films. Do you have a favourite horror franchise? Let me know.