Today, I’m talking about the Friday the 13th franchise because…obviously.
What I lack in subtlety, I make up for in dedication, because I watched all 10 films in the series, along with the Freddy Vs. Jason crossover and the 2009 reboot in preparation for this post. Yes, there are 12 films in the Friday the 13th franchise. No, I’m not mad about it. Not at all.
To make sure I don’t totally smash my word limit, I won’t talk about the TV series, novels, comics, video games, or docuseries and instead focus on the films themselves and what makes them so iconic.
Spoilers for all of the movies lie ahead, so be warned.
First, some stats:
Series Run Time: 18 hours and 33 minutes, according to Bingeclock. I watched it over the course of five days, so let it never be said I’m not dedicated to this column.
Chronology: Friday the 13th–Jason Goes to Hell in numerical order, a break for Freddy Vs. Jason, and then Jason X. Start over with the remake if so inclined.
Pretty good, considering for two films (Friday the 13th and A New Beginning) Jason doesn’t get any murders in because his mother, Pamela Voorhees does the slashing for the first movie and Roy Burns, as a copycat, racks up bodies in A New Beginning.
People Who Crash Through Windows: 11. I really didn’t think I’d find a stat for this one, and I was not going back to count, so thanks, linchpinseo (for RIPT Apparel and accessed via Visual.ly) for this and some other cool stats!
My ranking, from best to worst:
- Friday the 13th (original version)
The OG. Tight premise, good, clean slasher fun, twist that still holds up. 10/10.
- Part V: A New Beginning
After rehashing the first movie four times, this one comes up with something new that actually works (unlike…other gimmicks, which I’ll talk about below). A copycat killer with a great motive (the death of a disabled child, echoing Pamela Voorhees) adds some spice. It also makes viewers question who’s behind the mask in subsequent films, which is a cool effect 9/10
- Part II
Probably the best re-hash of the first one, cool Final Girl. 9/10.
- Freddy Vs. Jason
Cool concept, gets into some backstory, rock music. Jason is lowkey the hero? 8/10.
- Part IV: The Final Chapter
Would have been a pretty reasonable ending, as was previously intended. Jason walks the line between undead and just really tricky, a perfect dynamic for him. 7/10.
- Friday the 13th (remake)
Pretty damn good for a remake. Ties together some, uh, super shaky canon in a really skillful way and keeps to the spirit and aesthetic of the original without getting derailed by the insanity of the sequel. 6/10
- Part III
Rehash of the first two. Low marks for a really irritating Final Girl. But he gets the mask in this one! 6/10.
- Jason X
UberJason is a goddamn work of art. This one is self-aware enough to be funny and ridiculous enough to be worth a watch, but not much else. 4/10
- Part VI: Jason Lives
This is the one where Jason officially goes from slasher villain to supernatural foe, a crucial mistake. 3/10
- Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
More “Jason Takes a Cruise” than anything else. Also, why is there a boxing ring and a sauna on what looks like a fishing boat? 2/10.
- Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
So much about this movie sucks. It almost got the last spot, but New Blood uses a trope I absolutely despise and was nearly as bad, story-wise.
First (and worst), Jason SPEAKS in this movie. Which breaks one of the cardinal rules of the killer. Sure, he’s possessing a cop when he does it, but it’s the only time post-drowning that he talks. (He also calls for help in some flashbacks to the drowning scene, but that doesn’t really break canon in the same way.)
Also, he’s got a sister? She works at a diner. He kills her. Some guy (who has a weird penchant for breaking people’s fingers for no reason) has intel that only a Voorhees can kill him. The plotline is never revisited.
Also, it starts out with the FBI gunning him down. 0/10.
- Part VII: The New Blood
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: shitty abusive father redemption arcs are my least favorite thing. If I were Jason, they would be my version of drunk teenagers having sex at the camp I died at, and I would also kill them with a machete.
Also, the telekinesis stuff is stupid. 0/10.
So what’s the allure of these films? Without question, it’s their antagonist. Jason Voorhees is one of, if not the, most well-known horror villains. In the pantheon that includes Freddy Krueger, Pennywise, and Michael Myers, Jason inspires many devotees (hopefully not literally).
His story is pretty simple. Or, at least, it starts out that way. By the time we get to the remake, he’s been to space, so…
Anyway, a kid (who appears to be developmentally disabled), drowns at Camp Chrystal Lake while the teenage counselors who are supposed to be watching him are having sex. His mother goes on a killing spree. Then when she’s beheaded, her darling boy, who it turns out survived all this time in the woods, goes on his own murder adventure, which is 11 movies long.
So what do we love about this franchise, the second-highest grossing (after Halloween)? Partly they’re fun, campy slashers knitted together out of tropes, but we can’t fault them: they invented a fair few aforementioned tropes.
And partly, horror fans are nothing if not loyal. We keep coming back to the ones that started it all, even when the quality deteriorates. Like Jason, we just can’t stay away.
Case in point: it’s been ten years since the last film, but I’m still hoping for a sequel to the remake.