I actually wanted to make this this post and its sequel into videos, but I honestly don’t think I’ll have the time with all the other work I’m making as well as the fact that I think if the next Motorbreath video I release isn’t Twin Peaks, you guys will murder me.
So here we are with me laying down the fruits of my very painful labor: the fact that I rewatched Frank Mancuso’s Friday the 13th franchise over the past few days (and am halfway through Robert Shaye’s Nightmare franchise) for Halloween and the fact that, well, I feel like it’s just something I gotta do every few years to see if I’ve warmed up on it.
The good thing is this: I always find myself warming up on every single one of them, no matter what.
The bad news is liking a movie and critiquing it is not the same thing and there’s no way at all I will see the Friday the 13th as more than… but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me set up shit proper.
See the Friday the 13th films are the face of the slasher genre on account of how it cements itself as a hallmark of horror cinema… fuck it, horror culture in general. The original is not the FIRST slasher genre – Halloween, Black Christmas and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre all predate it and if we especially want to get really into the mess of things, we can find a line of slasher DNA that goes all through the Italian giallo subgenre (Mario Bava especially seemed very kill-happy with that) and ceases proper with Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, but this is all stuff for maybe a later discussion – but it is undeniably the most influential and I believe there is a reason that the REAL boom of exploitative low-budget slasher knock-offs of Friday the 13th didn’t exist until after that movie made buckets of money in 1980 and became quite the sleeper hit.
Friday the 13th is not a good fucking movie. No matter how much I start to like it (possibly from the cinema version of blunt force trauma), it’s not a competent film. The whole franchise is so bad that while the reaction I have towards Freddy vs. Jason as a Nightmare fan is “Look what they did to my Freddy!!!”, the reaction I have as a Friday fan is “Huh, just a reg’lar ol’ Friday.”
Which is a good thing for folks like me who get a kick out of watching slashers anyway, believe it or not. Suddenly, you don’t need to be talented to make a slasher picture, you don’t even need to be scary, you just need two things: tits and blood. And as much of the Friday the 13th franchise will prove, you can even skimp on the latter a bit. We get ’em slashers by the bushelful and all we need to accept is that they might be frustratingly bad.
Yeah, bad caveat. But hey when they do turn out to be good, such as a select couple of Nightmare films, it’s a real gem.
The Friday the 13th movies, as would be of many a franchise, were kind of based semi-indistinguishably on a formula that would of course go on to be ripped-off for every other slasher and by its own in-franchise offspring: Introduce a group of kids with practically no personality (the Final Girl is easy to pick out based on how she seems like a jumble of characteristics I guess that try to pass as a personality), let them indulge in the vices of sex and drugs and other things that be bad for the youth, and then have them all murdered for their delinquency by a killer. Obviously, the face of the franchise has been Jason Voorhees (especially played by former stuntman Kane Hodder during the end of the series, who had a brilliant ability to use his large body to translate into blank menace with no humanity underneath), but there have been other killers introduced in the franchise (although Jason has had an appearance in every single installment).
As such, I don’t think it’s really worth the effort to put in a full amount of reviews for each series (although I already made one for the original film and maybe someday will make ’em for the rest of the franchise) – I mean… what am I gonna do? Talk about how Jason Voorhees is so thematically dense and shit? – so from here on out, it’ll be capsule reviews for each installment based on this recent series of re-watches:
Friday the 13th (1980) or: The One Where Jason Cries Home to Mommy
Same feelings I’ve always had. Fuck its unsolvable mystery, with killing off EVERYBODY and then introducing the killer as though we were supposed to know all about Pamela Voorhees problems the whole time. Betsy Palmer’s Pamela Voorhees, who plays him with all the ripped-off psychosis of Norman Bates and not one of the nuance (from what I understand, she thought the script was shit so she didn’t even try). Fuck the night scenes where Sean S. Cunningham’s incompetence shows tenfold by not having a single thing visible and just a white dot zipping around like a fucking. Fuck Kevin Bacon, because fuck him. Fuck that twist ending, which makes no sense in the end and would only start the constant source of contention throughout the franchise as to what is the Voorhees’ motivation to begin with: Did Jason drown like this movie said? Did he not like Part 2 claims? Was he just a Lovecraftian worm thingy like Jason Goes to Hell? Give us an answer!
I cannot say “Fuck Tom Savini’s work” with the bloodflow, though. Savini, which glad to know he hated the movies too, is the sole guy who seemed to know what he was doing and provide a sense of craftsmanship that only shows when you love what you’re doing, no matter what crappy movie it is for.
The worst part? This is one of the heights of the franchise. Let’s get to the rest!
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) or: Jason’s Turn
See now here’s the one that I can actually say doesn’t pain me to watch or I don’t suffocate from laughing at it. Which is to say that there are still laughable parts of course, most notably the appearance of a cat-through-window gag that is literally tossed into the movie early on. Even A Nightmare on Elm Street has laughable moments. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that I’m willing to shrug them off.
It’s amazing what competent filmmaking does to a movie, though I’m not sure I’d call Steve Miner a competent director based on what else is under his resume. Whatever fluke he went through with this picture worked, though, especially in the final part of the film where our survivor is being chased by Jason Voorhees himself with shots that clearly establish the distance between predator and prey with visual composition that I don’t think any other 80s slasher film was really able to embrace. I mean, isn’t it a standard of slashers that their editing is so bad the killer practically teleports? Not here. Here we know exactly where Jason is in relation to the final girl and let me tell you, it definitely ups the tension in a manner you wouldn’t believe.
Plus, we also got a worthwhile moment of prey figuring out her killer’s weakness in the climax as the Jason actor (Steve Dash this go-round) gets one of his few chances to play the character as the man-child we’d expect somebody with mommy issues to be. Silently. Behind a mask. With only one eye visible. You’d expect that to be hard, but Dash pulls it off with one simply gesture. It’s praiseworthy, man. It’s praiseworthy.
And yet there are still problems. Another confusing thrown-in twist in its last few minutes. The Lead Counselor Paul (John Furey) ruins the spine of the Friday movies by claiming that Jason was never dead which… what? Then why the fuck did Pamela Voorhees run around a-choppin’ and a-slashin’ in the first movie? And, maybe the only one that most slasher fans that would disagree with every other word of this paragraph might agree with, this movie had an obvious lack of blood. It’d be worse if editor Susan Cunningham (related to original director Sean? Must investigate further) didn’t know how to really cut away at the right moment to feel the impact of each death, but it’s ok. She did. We’re cool. Kind of.
A slasher film without blood is still kind of buggy. That’s like… a porno without sex.
Friday the 13th Part III (1982) or: The One Where They Won’t Stop Shoving Shit in My Face
GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY FACE WITH THIS BULLSHIT!
And you know what else you could get the out of my face with… this twat…
Fuck Shelly. Characters I hate and watch die is what makes watching Friday the 13th movies very cathartic to me, but seriously fuck the fuck out of him.
This is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen and whose name is there in the director’s credit?
That’s right, dawg… Steve Miner. The same guy who made the best Friday is now sullied in my eyes.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) or: The One Where Jason Isn’t the Most Frightening Thing in a Movie where…
Oh my god, is that?!
Fuck, man, I was wrong, slasher films can totally be scary. Also this happens:
And then Crispin Glover is called a “deadfuck”. Again and again. Whatever that word means. Do you see why I think full reviews are a bit too much effort for these movies now? They reach a point where they don’t even try and so I may as well just take each blow to my noggin they hit me with.
But hey, Savini is back to use his violent ability in makeup to fuck this movie to death. Because he wanted to be involved in the last one and take it to its grave.
Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985) or: The One Where They Lied to Me
So this is considered a kind of low even for Friday the 13th fans and I’d be beside them as, hey, this movie is actually worse than Part III. But why it sucks is where those fans and I separate.
See it’s obvious from the very get-go that, in spite of a dream cameo, Jason Voorhees IS not the killer in this installment. “He was cremated!” as the mayor says like we’re meant to believe that. The next installment is obviously gonna retcon that for money. Since we know going in that it’s some other killer behind that mask and machete (it’s kind of a great easter egg hunt of this to catch how Jason just keeps on running into machetes like “oh look, a penny on the ground! And a machete!” It’s fucking Jersey! How the fuck?!), fans were butthurt before the movie even finished on account of the killer not being a member of the Voorhees family. That’s essential, they claim! It’s the thoroughline of the franchise, they cry!
Dudes, Dudettes, this movie would have been awful even with Jason a-killin’. It’s the one where its tone is absolute static, where its characters are all pretty much odious, where its meat-to-blood machine begins sort of being rather boring in its repetition rather than how the former two movies were at least able to keep from killing away its cast way too quickly.
It’s tough when a 90 minute movie feels as long as a Bela Tarr flick.
But hey, it’s got one of the largest body counts in the series. And one of those happens to be this gem.
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives or: The One Where Oh, You Think You Funny, Jason?
You think you’re funny, Jason?
You think you funny, ripping off James Bond? Huh, Jason?
You think you’re funny, being ironic, Jason? Huh?
You think you’re funny with your paintball scenes, huh, Jason?
You ain’t funny.
Well, not on purpose.
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988) or: Carrie vs. Jason
Honestly, the final battle of this between
Carrie Tina and Jason is what’s really the fuck up. Certainly better than the battle in Freddy vs. Jason by far.
The rest is of course usual Friday elements: bad writing, horrible characters, sex, blood (oh yes, this has blood), and OH SHIT… this is the first one with fucking Kane Hodder.
Here’s a real point of praise for the franchise: Kane Hodder is the best actor the series ever got, as Jason Voorhees (he took over the role until he was passed for Freddy vs. Jason to the ire of many a Friday fan). This dude has got stature, menace, weight, all this without speaking a word and having his face obscured, it’s all based on some tremendous restraint in his body language that tells us of the violence to come and how lucky we are to have someone as fucking burly as he is to take over the role and actually make Jason feel like a real threat rather than a clown, an inconvenience, or a momma’s boy (though the momma’s boy works in Part 2). Hodder’s Jason feels dangerous and that’s what’s really awesome about his Jason.
Friday the 13th Part VII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) or: I’m Guessing the Boat’s Name is Manhattan
It’s not. It’s named the Lazarus. Although it’s semi-appropriate, I don’t think the writers are really smart enough to know what Lazarus means. Anyway, anybody who has been in Manhattan or Vancouver knows that ain’t Manhattan… it’s Vancouver. So…. they lied to me. Again.
Also, here’s Kane Hodder’s very telling appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show. Which ought to illustrate the downward spiral of the series at this point.
Biggest sign of 1988/1989 being the death of the slasher… here ends Jason’s reign at Paramount Studios… The Friday the 13th franchise was sold almost immediately after this movie’s release to New Line Cinema, the House that Freddy Built.
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993) or: The One Where New Line Didn’t Get the Manual for the Franchise
You know how the whole Friday the 13th franchise is formulaic and repetitive? Well, that’s kind of mean-spirited of me to say… “structured” would be nicer if I cared to amend my words. And heck, they have a gimmick to distinguish each anyway – comedy, 3-D, Fake New York, Carrie, etc.
Yeah, New Line didn’t even try. They didn’t even try to catch the mythology. Suddenly, Pamela Voorhees was a witch with the Necronomicon and she used it to conjure the demon Jason as her son and now Jason can possess anybody anywhere like he ain’t gonn give a fuck.
Yay for shaking things up. But my god does it still not help. It’s the Friday the 13th franchise. It never helps. And it only got them more enemies out of the fans.
Jason X (2001) or: The One Where They Meant to Say Jason Goes to Space
This movie lost New Line money. That should tell you all you need to know about it. A franchise based on a previously lucrative subgenre that it kickstarted and for once, it lost them motherfucking money.
That plus the fact that it looks like a
Sci-Fi sorry, Syfy Channel Original Movie and that’s kind of bad. I mean, look, the reason why I love the Friday the 13th movies is this… they’re supposed to be raw. Amateur. Make me look like Orson Welles. The more polished they get… the less character it has. That’s right, I’d say that franchise has character. A money hungry objectionable character, but still character.
And Jason X takes that away from trying to go all sleek and cool looking. That bugs me. That bugs me so much.
It makes this movie feel worse than A New Beginning and Part III. It makes it one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.
God bless this franchise, can’t wait to jump into A Nightmare on Elm Street tomorrow.