Although the date Friday the 13th had superstitious connotations long before this franchise was created, it has since become synonymous with arguably one of the most recognizable and iconic horror movie slashers to date. Nearly four decades after Friday the 13th first crossed the silver screen and there are talks of a new reboot of the franchise premiering sometime in 2018. From 1980 until now, there have been 12 films released to create this franchise, either featuring the Friday the 13th name or Jason Voorhees in some capacity. This Halloween, we will briefly touch on each of these features as we browse through the entire collection of Friday the 13th films. Some are good, some are bad, and some are notoriously awful, but nothing gets left out of tonight’s Franchise Focus.
Friday the 13th (1980)
Starting the franchise, we have the original camp counselor slasher film – Friday the 13th. Unlike most franchises, this does not feature the same killer throughout all of the films, and actually, the hockey mask-wearing killer does not feature in a single scene in this one. Interestingly enough, he is actually dead in this movie, which provides the motive for his mother – Pamela Voorhees – to carry out the killings. You see, in 1958, Jason was a young boy when attending Camp Crystal Lake and due to negligence from the camp counselors, he ended up drowning in the lake. This film takes place many years later, in 1980, but that crazy mother of his still holds onto her grudge. With the camp re-opening, she takes her opportunity to kill all of the counselors who have shown up to camp days before the children arrive. She manages to kill all but one girl, Alice, who survives her encounter with the psychotic Mrs. Voorhees and even manages to chop off the old broad’s head with an axe. When all is said and done, we see Alice asleep in a wooden boat on the lake, with police standing at the edge of the lake, calling to her. Suddenly, we see a deformed child, presumably Jason, jump from the lake and drag Alice into the water. Overall, it’s not a bad movie. There are some cheesy practical effects during some of the death scenes where you can obviously tell a prosthetic was being used, but I still find that preferable to CGI. On an interesting note, this movie stars a young Kevin Bacon in only his 6th acting role ever. Also, the writer for the film, Victor Miller, admitted he only created the movie to profit from the success of John Carpenter’s 1978 slasher, Halloween.
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Months after the events of the first Friday the 13th movie, we see Alice alone in her apartment. She receives a strange phone call from an unknown caller who says nothing, but shrugs it off and continues her nightly routine. Alice then opens her fridge to find the decapitated head of Pamela Voorhees inside. Her stalker, who then has the foresight to take the boiling kettle off the stove before leaving, silently kills her. This leads to the opening title sequence, which displays the “Friday the 13th” title before exploding like an 80’s action movie to show the metallic-textured text, “Part 2”. Assuming this is Jason who has killed Alice in the opening sequence; it has to be the most stealth, intelligent portrayal of him I have ever seen in the entire franchise. Not only does he not kill her in a brutal manner, but he takes the time to prank call her and remove the kettle from the stove? That doesn’t sound like Jason to me. Continuing on this track of thought, if this Jason is the same Jason that drowned 22 years ago, it means he didn’t actually drown 22 years ago. Even if you argue that it could be Jason back from the dead, that doesn’t explain how a boy drowns at age 12 and comes back as a 34-year-old man, so the closing scene from the first film of him jumping out of the water must have just been a super detailed dream sequence. Not only that, but it completely detracts from Pamela Voorhees’ motive to kill all of the counselors in the first movie. If Jason never drowned, then that means he’s been alive for 22 years and his mom just killed a bunch of people for no damn reason.
It turns out there is another camp opening near Camp Crystal Lake, and after the counselors arrive, one of them tells a ghost story that is supposed to serve as a narrative for the plot of the movie – Jason never drowned and instead has been living with his mother, whom he watched get decapitated at the hands of Alice, which is driving him to kill in this movie. This explanation proves my fears to be justified and creates another issue – how does anyone know Jason watched his mom get decapitated that night? The only possible witnesses would have been Jason, his mother, and Alice, and I know none of them were talking to this guy. It doesn’t make any sense. Following the pattern of the first movie, the counselors are killed before the camp can open, but not with the same finesse as Alice in the opening scene. Now, Jason just runs around with a sack on his head, clumsily running and stumbling as he kills his victims. Was he hit in the head since the opening scene, or was that someone else entirely? Two counselors, Paul and Ginny, manage to stumble upon a makeshift shack in the woods, which apparently has served as a home for Jason and his mother for two decades. They find a shrine that Jason has built for his mother, with her head placed ceremonially in the center after being retrieved from Alice’s refrigerator. Jason corners them in the shack, but they trick him and cut him down with a swift machete strike to his shoulder. The closing scene depicts Ginny and Paul relaxing in a cabin, but then Jason breaks through the window and grabs Ginny. This scene immediately cuts to paramedics loading Ginny into an ambulance but Paul is nowhere to be seen. I have no idea what really happened, and can only assume the explanation is laying somewhere on the editing room floor. Paul and Ginny are not referenced again for the remainder of the franchise.
Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
This is the only 3-D entry in the franchise, and it doesn’t let you forget it. A bunch of teenagers rent a cabin near Crystal Lake to have a good time, until their time is cut short by the murderous Jason. Since he’s still alive, I guess we are to assume the final scene of Friday the 13th Part 2 did in fact take place – the scene that depicted him jumping through the window – but I guess the police never found, or searched for, Jason Voorhees. I mean, the teens seemed to find his shack in the woods fairly easily, so I don’t see why cops wouldn’t be able to find it. This film differs from the rest of the franchise in a few ways: it was filmed for 3-D, it depicts the only time I recall seeing him smile on screen, and it’s the first film to bring us Jason in the trademark hockey mask. The concept of watching a horror movie in 3-D sounds cool, but if you don’t happen to be watching this in 3-D, then it just looks like people are shoving things in front of the camera for no reason. In the end, Jason only leaves one lone survivor, who kills him by hitting him in the head with a hatchet. She then falls asleep on a boat out on the lake, and we are shown a dream sequence of a dead Pamela Voorhees coming out of the lake to get her. I guess they were trying to make these nonsensical dream sequences at the end of all the movies a recurring thing, but luckily this is the last film to feature one. When the survivor does wake up, she is hauled off by police, having clearly lost her mind due to the whole experience.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
This movie picks up immediately after the events of Part 3, with Jason being transported to a nearby hospital morgue. Naturally, Jason wakes up at the hospital and kills all of the hospital staff, before taking off into the woods. Jason comes upon some teens renting a house for the summer nearby, and of course cannot resist the urge to kill them all. One of the teens renting the house is a young Crispin Glover, just one year before his role in “Back to the Future”. Glover and his infamous “dancing” scene are some of the many reasons that make this movie one of the most noteworthy and enjoyable entries in the franchise. Across the street from the teens lives a woman and her son and daughter. Her son is Tommy, played by a very young Corey Feldman. Feldman also starred in “Gremlins” that same year, and the next year followed it with “The Goonies”. Feldman (Tommy) and his sister are the only survivors in the movie, with Tommy actually being the one to kill Jason in the end. The final scene depicts the pre-teen shaving his head and then stabbing Jason in the face with his own machete, causing Jason to fall to the floor, pushing the machete in deeper. Tommy then removes the machete and begins wailing on Jason with it. Tommy’s sister worries about the mental health of her little brother after this ordeal, and the final cutaway zooms in on little Tommy’s face. This, of course, is a precursor for movies to come, as “The Final Chapter” is actually the first part of a trilogy of films focused around Tommy.
Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
5 years after the events that took place in “The Final Chapter”, we see a now 17-year-old Tommy arriving at a halfway house belonging to a mental institution. Presumably, the events that happened 5 years ago scarred Tommy mentally and emotionally. The opening scene of the film shows us a 12-year-old Tommy, still portrayed by Corey Feldman, visiting Jason’s grave and witnessing two rednecks dig up Jason’s body. We see Jason immediately get up and kill both rednecks before making his way over to young Tommy. This was just a dream that 17-year-old Tommy was having, so none of that actually happened. This film is unique in that Jason is not the only killer in it, nor is he the only disturbed character in the movie. Soon after arriving at the halfway house, Tommy witnesses another one of the “troubled” teens get impatient with another one of the teens while he’s chopping wood. Suddenly, he stops chopping wood and starts chopping the annoying teen up instead, right there in pure daylight, in front of all of the teens and halfway house leaders. It’s quite a shocking scene that comes way out of left field. The teen is arrested for murder and a couple of paramedics show up to collect the remains of the murdered teen.
In an odd turn of events, it is one of these paramedics that ends up being the killer in this movie. You read that correctly. Jason is actually not in this movie. Instead, it is revealed that one of the paramedics was the murdered teen’s estranged father who never got the chance to reveal his true identity to his son. After coming across his son’s grizzly murder scene, the paramedic snaps, puts on a hockey mask, and goes on a killing spree pretending to be Jason. Frankly, they got the kid that murdered his son, so I don’t know why the paramedic would want to kill innocent bystanders. The plot is very shaky, but there are some good scenes in the movie. There are also some detracting factors, including but not limited to a hillbilly mother and son duo who overact to the point that they come across as cartoon-ish. I cringed during every scene that had them in it. Tommy and another female teen end up being the only survivors. The final scene has Tommy waking up in a hospital room, opening the dresser next to the hospital bed and pulling out and wearing a hockey mask. The other survivor enters his hospital room, and it’s insinuated that he kills her, but I don’t know why. Maybe this was supposed to be a dream sequence, but it doesn’t play out like one. I find it very unlikely one of the hospital staff put that hockey mask in his dresser, which would have to be the case as Tommy was unconscious when they brought him in.
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
As if living out some self-fulfilling prophecy from the opening dream sequence of “A New Beginning”, Tommy and his friend from the mental institution are seen digging up the corpse of Jason from his grave. Once dug up, Tommy begins stabbing Jason’s corpse repeatedly with a metal rod he pulled from the cemetery fence. By now, Jason’s been dead for at least 5 years, which means everyone’s been able to enjoy 5 years of peace without the fear of Jason lurking through the woods, but alas, that peace was not meant to be long-lasting. This film and the next two that follow all have one thing in common – Jason is legitimately dead and then brought back to life due to interference from others. This fact is important because it means Jason is not immortal and can be killed, he just doesn’t stay dead due to the actions of dumb teenagers. Ironic, isn’t it?
This time, Jason is brought to life due to the metal rod that Tommy leaves stuck in Jason’s corpse being struck by lightning. The lightning serves as a resurrection conduit, akin to Frankenstein’s monster, and Jason pops out of his grave and immediately kills Tommy’s friend. Tommy runs to the police while Jason meanders off into the woods headed toward Crystal Lake (which has been renamed to “Forest Green” due to the reputation gained from Jason’s murders). I will admit it was refreshing to see Jason back in a Friday the 13th movie, but overall it was a disappointing movie. For some reason, this film was edited to cut away right before Jason actually kills anyone, which I assume was to make the film more suspenseful, but these are supposed to be gory. With the gore taken out, the filmmakers chose to implement more “action” into the movie, with scenes showing big explosions and car crashes and flashy scenes that don’t make me think of a Friday the 13th movie. The film climaxes with Jason stalking Tommy in a boat from under the water, in a weird, Jaws-esque scene that culminates with Jason fighting Tommy atop the boat surrounded by a ring of fire. Tommy manages to lasso Jason with a chain attached to a really big rock, and then drops the rock into the lake, effectively anchoring Jason underwater. Tommy’s new love interest deals the final blow by cutting Jason’s neck with the boat’s propeller blades, leaving Jason presumably dead at the bottom of the lake. There are quite a lot of survivors, including Tommy and his love interest, who I assume live happily ever after.
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
One of the more unique entries in the franchise, “The New Blood” opens at the same cabin on Crystal Lake where “Jason Lives” ended. I’m not certain when in the Friday the 13th timeline the opening scene takes place, but we see a little girl named Tina use telekinetic powers to kill her abusive father by crushing him with the dock he’s standing on – a dock on Crystal Lake. Flash forward to Tina being a teenager, and we discover Tina’s mom is taking her to meet her psychiatrist at the same cabin where she killed her father many years ago. Tina’s psychiatrist is aware of her telekinetic abilities and secretly seeks to exploit her for financial profit. Tina is suspicious of her doctor already, and during a session, she runs outside and, in a psychic fit, attempts to resurrect her dead father from the lake. By mistake, she accidentally resurrects Jason and he once again goes on a killing spree.
Now, I have a couple of problems with this: If her father died in the lake so many years ago, they surely would not have left his body there, so it couldn’t have been her father’s life she was sensing. Second, there is no way in hell they would have left Jason’s body at the bottom of the lake, either. They would have recovered both bodies from the lake and given them proper burials. Even if Jason’s burial was a less formal one, they would not have left him down at the bottom of the lake for anyone to just stumble upon. The town apparently renamed themselves Crystal Lake again, deciding against the “Forest Green” name. Tina’s psychic powers extend beyond resurrection and telekinesis, as we are shown Tina can also receive visions of the future. These visions show her people dying at the hands of Jason, but of course no one believes her. A group of teens are renting the cabin across the lake, because Jason needed people to kill, of course! There’s a sort of awkward fight scene at the end in which Tina is telekinetic-ally throwing objects at Jason for 20 minutes until finally setting him on fire and blowing up the house. Jason survives the explosion and corners Tina on the docks, where she resurrects her dead father from beneath the lake, who drags Jason underwater to the same place where Tina found him.
On a good note, they decided to take Jason back to the suspenseful, forest stalker that he should be, differing from his portrayal in “Jason Lives”. His kills are much more brutal in this movie, as well. Several death scenes depict him literally tossing people around like rag dolls, and it’s hilarious. Zombie Jason definitely has more strength than regular Jason. The plot is weak, the psychically empowered Tina is ridiculous, but Jason is represented well here.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
While “telekinetic Tina” was a red flag, “Jason Takes Manhattan” is a blaring red beam to signal the steady decline of the franchise. I must warn you, from here on out, the movies only get worse. The film opens with two teens floating across Crystal Lake on a boat much too big for a lake. For some reason, their anchor is dragging across the bottom of the lake, and for some other reason, there is a massive underwater power line sitting at the bottom of the lake, as well. Naturally, the anchor hooks onto the power line and drags it across Jason’s body, immediately resurrecting him, because electricity. Jason kills the teenage couple and steals a hockey mask that one of the teens had on board. Then, without explanation, we see Jason pop up out of the ocean next to a ship that is taking high school seniors on a trip to New York. He rides the anchor to the top and sneaks on board, being the stealthy ninja that he is, where the plot is set up for the rest of the film.
Jason manages to kill nearly everyone on board except for 2 teachers, 3 students and a dog, who all manage to escape via a rowboat. By the time the survivors escape, the ship is on fire and slowly sinking into the ocean, still miles from New York. The group eventually finds New York, but almost immediately after they make landfall, so does Jason, who apparently swam the whole way through the ocean. If you think that’s ridiculous, you haven’t seen anything yet. After finding the group, Jason decides to fight one of the students on a rooftop. “Fight” might not be the right word, because Jason just stands there and lets the teen punch him until his knuckles are bleeding and he can’t stand up, then Jason just pops him in the head one time and sends his head flying into a dumpster. Jason then recovers the head from the dumpster and puts it on the dashboard of a cop car, because who the hell knows why? Jason eventually corners the main couple in the sewer, but luckily the one girl has a bucket of acid which she immediately dumps on Jason’s head. This causes Jason’s face to melt off and him to let out a scream that had me laughing until I cried. In the end, Jason is melted by a rush of toxic waste flooding the sewer (which also temporarily transforms him back into a child for some reason).
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
Oh boy, Jason Goes to Hell. What the title meant was “Jason” the franchise Goes to Hell. I’m going to set up the first 15 minutes of the movie for you and let you decide if this sounds like a movie worth watching. We see a woman arrive at her cabin on Crystal Lake at night and Jason shows up to try and kill her. Already I’m disappointed that, for the first time ever in the franchise, we don’t get to see how Jason came back to life. Not only that, but how did he get back to Crystal Lake from New York? Did he swim across the ocean again? I guess the filmmakers couldn’t come up with a resurrection scene as original as “anchor drags power line across Jason’s body” so instead they said “Fuck it!” and didn’t bother with an explanation at all. The woman escapes her cabin and leads Jason on a chase through the woods, where a SWAT team was laying in wait. Once clear, they turn on their lights and light Jason up with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, finishing him off with a grenade launcher, blowing Jason into bits. After taking Jason’s remains to the morgue, the coroner starts performing his autopsy. All is going well until the coroner notices Jason’s heart on the table is still beating. What is his natural reaction to this? Why, to pick up the heart and eat it, of course! He inexplicably and vigorously devours Jason’s heart, starts roaring like a lion, and then a bunch of yellow lights begin floating around his body and into his chest. The coroner is now possessed by Jason. The remainder of the film depicts Jason jumping from body to body as he continues his killing spree.
Luckily, we have the voice of some random bounty hunter named “Duke” to explain things to us, the audience – the audience who has been watching the series since the first film and has never seen anything like this before. Duke eventually explains that Jason is jumping from body to body in order to possess his niece’s baby and become reborn again. This is vital, as Duke explains, because apparently only a Voorhees can kill Jason, and Jason’s niece and her baby are the only living relatives he has left. Deciding to make the movie even weirder, the filmmakers decided Jason didn’t need a living relative to become reborn, and luckily the corpse of Jason’s dead sister is right underneath the house. Duke and Jason’s niece destroy the body Jason was possessing, causing a weird, worm-like demon creature to crawl out of the body and into the vagina of Jason’s dead sister. Suddenly, a full grown Jason Voorhees bursts through the floorboards of the house – hockey mask, jumpsuit and all – as a reborn version of himself. He didn’t even get reborn as a baby; just a grown man with a hockey mask and jumpsuit. I have no words. As chance would have it, Duke was carrying a special, super dagger that Jason’s niece used to stab Jason and end his reign of terror. Once stabbed, light flies out of his chest and into the sky, and a bunch of hands shoot out of the ground and drag him to hell, leaving only his hockey mask (which is subsequently dragged underground by the hand of Freddy Krueger).
What the hell did I just watch?
Jason X (2001)
The year is 2010, (The actual year the film came out was 2001, but I guess this was their vision of 2010). Jason is being held in a cryogenics facility where scientists hope to discover his secret to cellular regeneration. After breaking free of his restraints, Jason gets lured into a room by a female scientist and tricked into being frozen inside a cryogenic chamber, freezing him, but not before stabbing the scientist through the chamber door. Freezing gases pour out and into the room, freezing both Jason and the female scientist. 445 years later, Jason and the scientist are discovered by a college professor and his class who are traveling across the galaxy in search of relics from the past. The frozen pair are taken back to the class’s spaceship where the scientist has her body repaired thanks to Nano-bots, which are microscopic machines specifically engineered to repair damaged tissue. If you’re still with me, hold on, because it doesn’t get any better from here. The students are all dressed like they’re going to a rave in the 90’s, and they can’t seem to stop having sex. Presumably, the flashy clothing and horny teenagers are meant to distract us from the garbage film, full of terrible actors and awful stock music. This reminds me of those terrible sci-fi movies that are released straight to the Syfy channel, with no intention of actually making any money.
Shortly after the female scientist comes back to life, Jason springs back into action, as well. He wasn’t given the Nano-bot treatment; he just wakes up because he hears teenagers having sex and that’s his queue to start killing people. Luckily, an Android on board the spaceship goes toe to toe with Jason, like Terminator vs. Jason, and the Android eventually just shoots the hell out of him and blows up his head. Unfortunately, Jason ended up dying right on top of the Nano-bot bed, and the malfunctioning ship ends up repairing Jason with the Nano-bots. Wait, I thought he could regenerate. Wasn’t that the whole reason they had him in the lab in the opening scene? If he can regenerate, why would he need Nano-bots? Anyway, the microscopic machines bring him back to life, and for some reason they used metal when repairing his body, so now Jason looks like fucking Super Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Super Jason kills the Android and all but two people on the ship – the female scientist and her love interest – before the ship blows up in outer space. The final stinger shows Jason’s flaming corpse falling into a lake on Earth 2, (because Earth is dead, apparently). I didn’t think they could make a Jason movie worse than Jason Goes to Hell but they did it. Against all odds, they did it. This is set so far in the future that no matter what takes place from here on out in the Friday the 13th franchise, eventually, Jason will end up in outer space.
Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Ever since fans saw Freddy’s hand come out of the ground and grab Jason’s hockey mask at the end of Jason Goes to Hell, they’ve wanted a movie featuring both horror icons. Well, after years of waiting, fans finally got what they asked for – sort of. Instead of just a horror movie featuring both killers, we got a horror comedy that pitted both slashers against one another – Freddy vs. Jason. I remember the hype surrounding this movie when I was a teenager, and the theater was packed on opening night. The theater audience was split in two groups – fans of Freddy and fans of Jason – and when either killed someone, the fans of that respective killer cheered. It was like going to a football game for horror fans, and I’ve never experienced anything like it since.
The film opens with Freddy finding Jason in hell and pretending to be his mother, Pamela, in order to convince him he’s only been sleeping and that he needs to wake up and be alive again. Surprisingly, that’s all it takes to wake up Jason from his death, and he climbs out of the ground and heads into the woods. Considering the flashy, ritualistic death he suffered in Jason Goes to Hell, I thought it would be more difficult to resurrect him, but apparently, it wasn’t. I also remember Jason being sucked into the ground outside the Voorhees house in the front lawn. However, we see him climb out of the ground in the middle of the woods in Freddy vs. Jason, so I guess we are to assume either the trees magically grew through the home of the Voorhees family, or his body was moved to an undisclosed location in the woods, or he was able to resurrect wherever he wanted. Freddy’s motive in all of this is to get Jason to kill teens on Elm Street so the town will think it’s Freddy doing the killing, thus making kids afraid of him again and allowing him to return. His plan works, for the most part, until Jason starts killing sleeping teens before Freddy has a chance to kill them in their dreams. This begins the feud between the two killers.
Since neither killer technically “exists” in the same plane, (with Jason being in the real world and Freddy being in the dream world), Freddy is forced to possess a teenage stoner and inject Jason with enough tranquilizer to put him to sleep. After entering Freddy’s dream world, Jason has virtually no power against him. Jason is tossed around like a pinball, buried under piles of metal, and even transformed back into a child at one point. During this scene, Freddy appears to play on Jason’s fear of water, which he’s never had in any other Friday the 13th movie before this one, so I was confused. Considering “Jason Takes Manhattan” had him swimming across the damn ocean, I think his fear of water would have come into play at some point, had it existed. The teens decide one of them needs to go into the dream world and grab Freddy before waking up, thus pulling him into the real world, which would allow Jason to kill him. They decide Freddy is the real threat since he can kill them anywhere just through their dreams. One of the teens injects herself with tranquilizer and somehow enters the same dream as Jason, (they don’t explain how that works), and she grabs Freddy before she wakes up and he is pulled into the real world.
The final fight between Freddy and Jason is what fans were waiting for through the whole movie, and I will say it is not disappointing. They cut and slash and burn and break each other to the point that neither can stand anymore. The teens wait for the two to take their fight to a dock before setting the dock on fire and blowing up a gas tank, sending both killers flying into Crystal Lake. Freddy emerges from the lake wielding Jason’s machete, but Jason manages to stab Freddy through his chest using Freddy’s own razor-gloved arm. One of the teens takes this opportunity to chop off Freddy’s head with the machete and both Freddy and Jason fall into the lake. The final scene depicts Jason emerging victorious from Crystal Lake, holding Freddy’s severed head, which looks at the camera and gives the audience a sly wink. I’ll never forget the uproar from the audience in the theater that night when Jason came walking out of the lake at the end of the movie.
Friday the 13th (2009)
There was a Friday the 13th reboot in 2009, but it was just a standalone reboot of Friday the 13th Part 2 except with a cast of actors who look like they belong on an after-school special.
There you have it. You now know the complete story of Jason Voorhees and his background in the Friday the 13th franchise. While the first half of the franchise is certainly the better half, I think having the second half to compare it to lets us appreciate how bad the movies could be. I hope you’ve enjoyed the first “Franchise Focus” and stay tuned as there are many more franchises to focus on in the future.