Cult Corner: Friday The 13th (3)

1980 – 2009

Words: Oliver Innocent

Often seen as the nadir of the series, Friday the 13th Part V enraged long time fans as – Spoiler alert – Jason isn’t actually the one doing the killing this time round.
In one of the most disappointing denouements in horror movie history, it turns out the guy in the hockey mask is just ambulance driver Roy Burns avenging the killing of his super annoying, chocolate bar-munching son.

Perhaps Part V would’ve been met with a better reception had audiences been privy to the fact it was a copy cat killer from the outset. A mystery whodunit could’ve been an interesting take on Friday the 13th.
Instead there’s just a tacked-on Scooby-Doo-style reveal at the end. The film’s further cheapened by an extremely trashy, seedy feel (even for this series) with even greater levels of drug use, sex and violence.

It’s not all bad, though. Unintentional or otherwise, there’s still a lot of humour, especially the hilariously stereotypical characters such as the foul-mouthed redneck mother and son who live out in the woods. The house for troubled teens makes for an interesting diversion from the usual camp counsellor angle. Plus, there’s also a great opening dream sequence with Corey Feldman reprising his role from the previous movie, looking on in horror as Jason emerges from the grave.

After the misstep of Part V’s M.I.A Jason, things got seriously back on track with Friday the 13th Part V1: Jason Lives.
Delivering on the unfulfilled promise of its predecessor of an undead Jason returning from the grave, Part VI is a fan favourite, not to mention one of the standout entries of the entire series. Self-aware, more action-oriented and featuring killer tunes from Alice Cooper, this entry is a fun blast from start to finish.

Meta before meta horror became a thing, Part VI lovingly sends up the series with genre-savvy dialogue (the cemetery caretaker looking directly at the camera and stating that “some folks sure got a strange idea of entertainment” and a soon-to-be victim proclaiming she’s “seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly”) and the most over-the-top kills yet (triple decapitation anyone?).

There are some great visual gags such as a shot of a victim’s American Express card floating away in a puddle (don’t leave home without it!), not to mention one of the series’ most memorable title sequences which sees Jason’s homage to 007 as he walks in profile before turning and slicing the screen, turning it from black to red. Classic Universal horror also gets referenced as Jason’s grave is dug up and he’s brought back to life by a bolt of lightning, a la Frankenstein.

This sense of fun is further perpetuated by thrilling action set-pieces including car chases, a spectacular camper van crash, and a tense showdown between Jason and the local law enforcement.
Capped off with a memorable climax which sees Jason trapped at the bottom of the lake, it’s easy to see why this film remains many Friday fans’ choice cut.

Its sequel, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood is another fan favourite, mainly due to it boasting what most would consider the most awesome version of Jason ever committed to celluloid. A truly great design, this Jason is a monstrous walking corpse, his exposed bones visible beneath his rotten flesh and tattered clothes.

Portrayed by stuntman Kane Hodder for the first of four times, it’s clear why he’s considered the definitive Jason. In contrast to Part VI’s deadpan zombie, Hodder infuses the character with a hitherto unseen explosive rage which reveals itself in his visibly heavy breathing (making him look perpetually peeved), and the force with which he dispatches his victims.

Indeed, Part VII features what is perhaps the most brutal, iconic kill of the series; the sleeping bag kill. This is the one where Jason drags a helpless victim from their tent and whacks them against a tree while they’re still in their sleeping bag.

While most of the film’s kills are neutered by the censor’s cutting, the sleeping bag kill actually benefits from the snip. Before the cutting Jason slams the victim against the tree multiple times, but after the censors were through it’s only once. This actually works in the movie’s favour as it reinforces the volatile power of Hodder’s Jason, that he can destroy a victim with a single swipe against a tree.

The reason this entry works so well is that it embraces the inherent overblown nature of the Friday series, and exaggerates some of the already over-the-top elements even further. The kills are ridiculous (death by party horn!), the heroine has psychokinetic powers allowing her to bring a roof down on Jason’s head with the power of her mind (it’s often lovingly referred to as Carrie vs. Jason), and at one point there’s three sex scenes occurring simultaneously.

There’s also an amazing final showdown showcasing great effects and stunt work as Jason falls through a staircase, is crushed by a roof, and is set on fire (a record for the longest uninterrupted on-screen burn at the time).
The ending also boasts an impressive explosion and the unmasking of Jason, revealing his monstrous decomposing features.

The last Friday the 13th movie of the ‘80s and perhaps the most underrated, Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason takes Manhattan gets a bad rep.
This is predominantly down to its misleading title and marketing which promised Jason stalking the Big Apple when, in fact, most of the action takes place on a cruise ship. Due to budgetary restrictions, only the last half hour actually takes place in New York.

While it’s disappointing we didn’t get a full movie’s worth of Jason terrorising New York, Jason terrorising a cruise ship isn’t such a bad consolation prize. It’s undeniably pretty cool seeing Jason stalking the ship’s dark corridors and secluded cabins, and the trapped at sea in a raging storm scenario lends the movie a nice old school horror feel.

Jason takes Manhattan boasts some iconic kills too. There’s death by electric guitar, hot sauna stones through the chest, and drowning in a garbage can of what looks like raw sewage. Most memorable of all, however, is the one where Jason literally knocks a bloke’s block off, sending his head plummeting from atop a building into the trash below.

Back for a second time, Kane Hodder proves once again why he’s the definitive Jason as he hacks and slashes with panache, imbuing the silent killer with plenty of character and a bad to the bone attitude to boot. What’s not quite as impressive is Jason’s look. Gone are the exposed bones and zombified features of The New Blood, and in its place is a less intricate, slimy pale lake monster design in keeping with this entry’s watery themes.

Of course, this being the eighth entry in the series and with a title like Jason takes Manhattan, it’s absolutely ridiculous and not much about it makes sense.
You can now somehow get from Crystal Lake to the ocean in a ship, so a landlocked lake has become an estuary; so many years have elapsed since the first movie that the year should now be around 2002 even though everything is still so ‘80s; the heroine keeps having visions of Jason as a little boy and he appears to turn back into a boy after being destroyed by toxic sewage at the film’s climax.
If you’re willing switch off and embrace the silliness, the film’s inherent ridiculousness just adds to the fun.

Fast forward 4 years to 1993; the ‘80s were over, Paramount had sold the Friday the 13th rights to New Line Cinema, and the big horror franchises seemed to have died with the ‘80s, Halloween coming to a close in 1989 with Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, and Nightmare on Elm Street ending in 1991 with the critically-derided Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.
Could the newly resurrected Friday the 13th series return horror to the glory gory days of the ‘80s with Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday? In a word; no.

If you thought Jason takes Manhattan was disappointing, just wait until you get a load of Jason Goes to Hell.
Sure, most of the Friday movies are quite juvenile, but this one has the kind of plot that only seems cool to those 13 and below, and they shouldn’t even be watching this kind of movie. It involves Jason getting blown to pieces following an FBI sting then body-hopping, possessing victims as a demonic worm passed mouth to mouth!

It’s absolutely barmy but sadly, despite a few in-jokes (“Planning on smoking a little dope, having a little premarital sex and getting slaughtered?”), it ultimately lacks the same conviction to camp fun as its predecessors.
It’s a messy blend of fun-poking dialogue, extreme gore, David Cronenberg-style body horror, demonic possession, and action revenge-thriller which never seems to coalesce into a unified whole.

It also never really feels like a proper Friday the 13th movie due to the fact that Jason – at least the hockey mask-wearing, machete-wielding monster we know and love – only has a minute amount of screen time.
In striving to do something completely new, the movie completely disregards what the fans want. They don’t want to see possessed people acting like Jason, they want the real deal. Didn’t the filmmakers learn anything from A New Beginning? Even though it wasn’t actually Jason, at least that one had a guy in a hockey mask doing the killing.

Impressive effects work and creature designs courtesy of KNB, some creative kills and action sequences ensure it’s an okay B-movie when you’re in the right mood.
The best part, however, is the ending where Freddy Krueger’s clawed glove pulls Jason’s mask into the ground, sewing the seeds for a clash of the horror titans that would take ten long years to materialise.

Big, dumb and set in outer space, 2001’s Jason X proved to be a much-needed shot of fun while providing a nice stopgap slice of Jason action to tide fans over until the much-anticipated Freddy vs. Jason was unleashed.
Following a fast-moving opening sequence (featuring a David Cronenberg cameo) where Jason ends up cryogenically frozen, the action fast-forwards to the distant future where he’s awakened on a spaceship.

A blast from start to finish, Jason X is a fun rollicking space adventure that thankfully never takes itself seriously. It embraces the futuristic cheesiness with badass androids, holograms, reconstructive surgery performed by tiny ant-like robots, and dodgy fashion choices.

This also extends to the kills with Jason making full use of the sci-fi setting. He smashes someone’s face to pieces after shoving their head in a vat of liquid nitrogen, hacks an alien to bits in a virtual reality game, and reprises the sleeping bag kill when, in a standout scene, he visits the virtual eighties.

It’s also notable for being the last time Hodder was to don the infamous hockey mask. He once again does a fine job here, it’s just a shame the design isn’t great with Jason looking a little too human compared with the impressive rotting zombie designs of the past few entries.
However, all is forgiven when, after being blown to smithereens, he’s resurrected as Uber-Jason. A mixture of demonic zombie and shiny killer machine, Uber-Jason’s design cannot be faulted and is definitely one of the best things about the movie.

Then finally, after years of waiting and much speculation, Freddy vs. Jason arrived hot on the heels of Jason X.
But does this clash of the ‘80s horror titans live up to the hype? For the most part, yes it does. The end battle where Freddy and Jason literally tear each other to shreds in glorious fountains of blood and viscera is worth the price of admission alone. It truly is a ‘80s horror fan’s dream come true.

It certainly isn’t perfect though. The fact that Kane Hodder, the ultimate Jason, wasn’t cast to go mano a mano against Robert Englund’s ultimate Freddy is pretty unforgivable. It also suffers from making Jason a bit too sympathetic and stupid, mis-casting him as something of an anti-hero to cheer on against Englund’s sadistically evil Freddy.

Despite Jason doing most of the killing and the universes melding really well, it feels a lot more like a Nightmare on Elm Street movie than it does a Friday the 13th movie with the majority of the action taking place around Elm Street and Springwood as opposed to Crystal Lake.

Despite these minor gripes, Freddy vs. Jason delivers. We get an awesome battle, plenty of blood and gore, and vacuous teens being despatched with aplomb. It also boasts a good sense of humour, and features great direction from Ronny Yu who had previously helmed the equally brilliantly-deranged Bride of Chucky. It’s safe to say it’s the best monster mash since Godzilla fought King Kong, and it’s a hell of a lot better than Alien vs. Predator.

The box office success of 2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake lead the way for a glut of slasher movie remakes. Friday the 13th jumped on board the remake bandwagon in 2009 with a back to basics origin/straightforward Crystal Lake massacre-centred movie.

Jettisoning years and years of convoluted, conflicting back story was both a blessing and a curse.
On the one hand, it allowed for a new generation of horror fans to be introduced to Jason afresh without having to catch up on 11 movies before seeing the new one. However, on the other, it felt like a disservice to the long time fans who’d persevered through the highs and lows of the entire series waiting to see where the story would be taken next.

This isn’t to say the movie doesn’t pay respect to what’s come before, though. On the contrary, it pays homage to its forebears with nods to some of the series’ most memorable moments.
The entire opening act feels like a greatest hits compilation, going from the decapitation of Jason’s mother, to Part 2‘s sack head Jason slaughtering the movie’s first batch of teens, and finally the donning of the infamous hockey mask a la Part 3.

Following this relentless non-stop opening, the movie slows down and settles us in by introducing the next batch of disposable teens. This is where it starts to fall a bit flat. Sure, there are still the hilarious stereotypes, prerequisite bloodletting, and a truly vicious version of Jason, but it’s not nearly as ridiculous as it should be. The kills are unimaginative, there’s no bad hairdos or fashion disasters, and there’s a distinct lack of cheesy tunes.
In moving with the times and going for a more gritty approach, it loses that joyous ‘80s silliness that buoyed even the worst of the original series.

After the remake’s decent if unspectacular stab at Jason, the 13th Friday has yet to materialise.
There have been rumours of a direct sequel to the remake, a brand new ‘80s-set reboot, and even a found footage take on the series. Fans did get a very faithful multiplayer video game in 2017 which allowed you to play as Jason or his victims.

However, this turned out to be very short-lived as an ongoing legal battle over the Friday the 13th rights between original writer Victor Miller and director Sean S. Cunningham prevented any new game content being produced.
It unfortunately also has bigger implications with the future of the entire franchise now at stake. So sadly, it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting that long awaited 13th movie any time soon.
Hopefully, like Jason Voorhees himself, the franchise won’t stay dead too long…

 

revisit Part 1 of our retrospective look at Friday the 13th >here<

or look back at Part 2 >here<

 

 


 

 

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