RavensFilm Productions presents the Forever Cinematic Friday The 13th movie retrospective covering all twelve films in the slasher franchise. Reviews by Nick Michalak.
Friday The 13th (1980)
Friday The 13th, Part 2 (1981)
Friday The 13th, Part 3 (1982)
Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Friday The 13th, Part V: A New Beginning (1985)
Friday The 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
Friday The 13th, Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
Friday The 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Paramount Pictures had run their course with Jason Voorhees, and gladly sold the rights to New Line Cinema for them to do with it as they pleased. What they gave us was something that remains a mixed result for many fans. Personally, I really love Jason Goes To Hell. I believe it to be a great, original storyline that dared to do something drastically different with the franchise. The filmmakers populated it with a very solid and impressive cast, and put together an inventive script.
An FBI sting operation at Crystal Lake succeeds in blowing Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder) to pieces, and all believe he is permanently dead, except for bounty hunter Creighton Duke (Steven Williams). Interviewed on the news program American Case File by Robert Campbell (Steven Culp), Duke claims that Jason is not dead, and that he is the only one who knows how to send him to hell for all time. He sets a bounty of $500,000 to paid for doing so. Meanwhile, Jason’s demonic heart takes possession of person after person on a path of death back to Crystal Lake in the effort to be fully reborn in the body of another Voorhees. Coincidentally, Robert Campbell is dating Jessica Kimble (Kari Keegan), the daughter of the woman Duke seeks out in Crystal Lake, but he doesn’t get far as he is locked up for insulting the town Sheriff. The father of Jessica’s daughter, Steven Freeman (John D. LeMay), eventually encounters Duke after Diana Kimble (Erin Gray) is accidentally killed, and he learns the truth about Jason and what it will take to destroy him forever.
Many fans are content with just leaving all the origins and explanations for Jason being whatever he is unknown. However, at a certain point, a franchise has to look back on itself, and realize that some sense has to be made of its menacing slasher juggernaut that continually comes back from the dead. In this case, I believe Dean Lorey and Jay Huguely succeeded in conjuring a story that takes itself seriously while dealing with some fantastical ideas. This film turned the franchise around from its campy decent into cheap horror, and back into a far gorier and violent direction. It lays several implications upon Jason’s undead origins such as with the Necronomicon from Army of Darkness sitting inside the Voorhees house. Granted, it was likely a prop happenstance due to the same effects company working on both films, but it’s presence alone enhances the occult and supernatural implications of the film. It certainly helped spark the idea for a Freddy vs. Jason sequel, ultimately adapted into a comic book, featuring Ash Williams fighting against both slasher foes.
The addition of the Creighton Duke character was pure brilliance. A hard edged bounty hunter with the secrets to what Jason is, and what became of his family lineage injects that air of mystery and urgency into the plot. I have become a big fan of Steven Williams from 21 Jump Street to The X-Files. He’s an incredibly talented actor capable of a wide range of characterizations. As Duke, he’s got charisma that really grips an audience. He can have an mischievous wit when he offers answers to Steven Freeman in the jail, but also has an intense, captivating energy when finally delivering those answers. Duke’s a man with a dedicated purpose, and a confident, bold attitude backed by his rugged skill set. He doesn’t offer trust easily, thus, reinforcing a sort of loner attitude. He doesn’t back down from anyone, but has the intelligence to remain focused and level headed. He’s not blindly obsessed with destroying Jason. He knows he cannot do it by himself, and must come to trust that others will do what is necessary when the time comes. Creighton Duke is one of my absolute favorite characters of the entire franchise, right up there with Tommy Jarvis. Steven Williams’ performance is immensely entertaining and compelling.
On the opposite side of the hero spectrum is John D. LeMay as Steven Freeman. He’s very much just an average guy with no special skills, but has his motivations. He desires to see and hold the child he helped father with Jessica, and wants to see both of them protected from this murderous evil out stalking them. LeMay starred in the unrelated Friday The 13th: The Series where he solidly played a similar protagonist, but Steven is even more unlikely. He’s not at all a man of action, but when forced into extraordinary circumstances, he rises to the challenge by doing whatever it takes to survive and protect those he cares about. LeMay gives the role plenty of light-hearted charm, and an audience easily feels for him when things go terribly awry.
This is undoubtedly the best cast assembled for a Friday The 13th movie. There is just a wealth of credible talent throughout the ranks, and they are all handled excellently by director Adam Marcus. For the most part, they project a grounded feeling that works towards the very serious dread and horror that is present in this film. The diner owners, Joey B. & Shelby, are kind of comical, but in a way that sells Joey’s heartless exploitative nature and Shelby’s warmer sensibilities. However, Steven Culp is probably the best of the supporting cast giving us a very sleazy, unscrupulous news anchor in Robert Campbell. This is a guy who has deceived Jessica into a romantic relationship only for the chance to exploit her family for his own personal gain. Culp puts in an excellent performance as a character you love to hate, but there’s more to it that I will touch on later.
This is undoubtedly the goriest movie of the entire franchise. The filmmaker made the blood thick and plentiful. The scene of the coroner consuming Jason’s enlarged heart is beautifully disgusting and graphic. The gooey black blood oozes and splatters all over. It’s an amazing effect, yet again provided by the masterful talents at KNB EFX Group. They really went all out for this installment creating very elaborate effects which are seen in all their glory right there on the screen, in the unrated cut, of course. New Line Cinema was the first to officially release an unrated version of a film in this franchise, and this couldn’t have been a better film to do that for. The practical effects work is absolutely spectacular, and the visual effects are also highly impressive. There is nothing at all that is just mediocre or sub-standard in this film. Everyone was fully dedicated to making a high quality feature, and I applaud each and every one of them for that commitment and hard work.
Yet, this isn’t just a mindless splatter flick. There is plenty of classic Friday The 13th style suspense. Adam Marcus shows a talent for crafting solid atmosphere and tension. The film has a dark visual tone creating a gritty feel that tells you this is going to be straight-on horror. Lighting is quite moody with rich, deep blacks that really strengthen that hardened atmosphere. It’s a hell of a great look for this film that really sets it apart from the rest of the series in a very good way.
What many fans count as a negative mark against the film is that Jason himself is barely in it. He spends most of the runtime jumping from one temporary body to another in pursuit of a permanent resurrection. However, this does allow for an unexpectedly menacing and kick ass performance by Steven Culp while possessed by Jason. He tears through the diner massacre sequence savagely. It’s absolutely awesome. Of course, there is no discounting Kane Hodder, but he does appear lethargic in this film. Possibly, this is due to the padding added to his costume to reflected a bloated and malformed Jason. It definitely adds more bulk that works well in contrast to everyone in the film, but Hodder just seemed to have a harder time throwing himself into the end fight scene. Regardless of that, he still delivers a performance up to his established standards for Jason Voorhees.
Now, Harry Manfredini’s score in this film is a split opinion for me. It is quite good, and might be one of his best of the series. Unfortunately, instead of using an orchestra, the entire score is synthesized. He takes what he regularly would have done with an orchestra and apply it to a synthesizer, and it just loses far too much in that transition. While the composition is very good, the sound of shrieking strings on a keyboard sound like the score to some cheap direct-to-video horror flick. There are times it doesn’t sound that bad, but certainly from the opening credits and elsewhere, it has always given me that feeling.
I know I am not the only one who believes there are many places to take the Friday the 13th concept outside of its formulaic comfort zone, and to me, this film shows it can be done with the right ambition and talent. It’s certainly a concept that you will either like or won’t, and it’s understandable if you don’t. Many are happy to revisit the standard formula, and just see Jason killing innocent campers. However, I find that many franchises could use an infusion of new ideas. It’s only unfortunate that most times, those new ideas become bad ones that result in poor movies. Thankfully, the right talents were employed that did love the series, and wanted to do something more supernatural, graphic, and demonic with Jason without betraying the core of his character. Many would argue otherwise, but this is my opinion on Jason Goes To Hell.
I do hardly believe that even New Line Cinema was serious about this being The Final Friday considering they just picked up the rights to the character. The ending of this film blatantly and cleverly sets up Freddy vs. Jason, so, there were obvious plans to keep utilizing Jason however they could. Regardless of that issue, Jason Goes To Hell is one of my top favorite Friday The 13th films, and I feel it is one of the best and most successfully innovative of the series. There’s a first rate cast here that really push the film towards that more serious, convincing tone instead of one of camp, which is refreshing. The make-up effects are off the chart incredible giving us more gore than any other film in the franchise, before or after, but it has no lack of genuine suspense or terror. If you care for a return to more serious horror for this franchise, and don’t mind more fantastical ideas injected into the concept, I strongly recommend giving Jason Goes To Hell an honest chance.
Now that the Tommy Jarvis storyline had concluded, it left the door wide open for anything to be attempted in Friday The 13th, Part VII. Paramount had a great decision by hiring the awesome make-up effects master John Carl Buechler to direct the film, and then, there was the debut performance of Kane Hodder as Jason. There were workable elements in this film to make it great, but whenever I watch it, I just feel this doesn’t hit the mark. I don’t even think it’s a fault of MPAA censorship on the gore, of which there was an excessive amount. It just sort of feels like a poorly executed concept with not enough talent behind the script or in front of the camera to make it what it could’ve been.
Tina Shepard (Lar Park-Lincoln) has the ability of telekinesis, but this ability has haunted her for years now as it caused the death of her father on the docks of Crystal Lake when she was a little girl. As a young woman, she has returned to the lake with her caring mother Amanda (Susan Blu) and the deceitful and manipulative Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser), who wants to exploit Tina’s powers for his own fame. However, the teenage residents of Crystal Lake have something more to fear than Tina’s emotionally charged powers as she accidentally frees Jason Voorhees from his watery grave. He begins yet another killing spree, but is not prepared for the challenge Tina’s powers pose for the undead killer of Camp Blood.
I believe what I don’t like about this movie is the lack of worthwhile characters and fun. There was always a sense of levity in these movies from even a few light hearted characters. People that were just fun to spend some time with before the slaughter began. The only characters in this film making any jokes are the insensitive jerks that are not worth spending time with. Our female lead of Tina is far too troubled of a character to gain any levity or much relatability from. There’s really nothing accessible about the character in how she’s presented. I really don’t think Lar Park-Lincoln was a good casting choice in this instance. She really does nothing interesting with the character, and spends most of the time with very dour or pouty expressions on her face. The film starts out when Tina’s ten years old, but her behavior never matures beyond that of a child when we flash-forward. While she is an active part of the story, it still falls back into that trap with Tommy Jarvis from A New Beginning in trying to make a hero out of a depressed, introverted character. The potential of what this character could’ve been really required an actress of more textured emotional ability. I don’t have an issue with the telekinesis idea as it’s something that really could’ve worked very well, but I don’t think it was well realized here. It feels like a concept that was nothing more than something on the page. It wasn’t developed with a sense of depth in concept or with the actress. Like so much in this film, it’s flat and hollow. The various effects are good for it, but it just needed a stronger character and performance behind it to really sell that this is someone worthy of combating the powerful undead Jason.
The rest of the cast is rather forgettable due to the uninspired writing. These characters are once again shallow stereotypes played up for one note gags or bland character conflicts. Not much effort is put into writing them. I’ll grant that they are better realized stereotypes than most, maybe due to the decent acting talents here, but that doesn’t make them good. I’ll certainly take this cast and its characters over the boring, disjointed group from Friday The 13th, Part 3, but I’d still rather spend my time with a more entertaining array of people. On a side note, it’s an interesting retroactive quirk that Terry Kiser happens to be in this movie, and does get killed since he’s partly best known for playing a corpse in the two Weekend at Bernie’s movies. Kiser is a solid actor with a fine range, but the role of Dr. Crews is such a badly written, one note, obvious bad guy that there was nothing substantive here for him to work with.
The music of the film is terribly uneven. It features Manfredini cues recorded for Jason Lives and original pieces of score from composer Fred Mollin, and they don’t mesh at all. They have very different tones and approaches. Clearly, the Jason Lives music is a little lighter and more fun than the usual Friday The 13th scores mostly utilizing horns, and Mollin’s stuff is very heavy, dark, and menacing primarily using percussion and strings. It suits the more grim, merciless, and dark edge of the film’s tone. I have no idea why this mish mash of different scores were used, let alone why they used recycled recordings from the previous film. This would be fine if they were comparable, but they clearly are not. It would’ve been better to solely use Fred Mollin’s music throughout as I love everything he did in this film and in Jason Takes Manhattan. Mollin also did some fine work as the composer on the unrelated television show Friday The 13th: The Series. I think he took this film and the next into a far more dynamic and foreboding musical realm than Manfredini ever demonstrated.
The climax of this film, how Jason is defeated, is just a horrible idea that is terribly executed. There’s just so much possibility that could have been taken advantage of with the film’s premise, but what the filmmakers do is just plainly bad. I mean, you’re telling me that no one ever fished the body of Tina’s dad out of that lake to have a proper funeral? They just left him to decay at the bottom of the lake forever, and he just happens to come back to life without a bit of decay on him? In theory, it’s a nice reversal of the dream sequence ending from the first film, but I can’t buy Jason getting taken down in this ridiculous, piss poor manner. The build up to this moment is excellent. Great action beats with high production values really ramp up the danger and menace of Jason. So much is thrown at him, and he just keeps coming back, more pissed off than before. Kane Hodder even does a full body burn in a rather long take (slow motion or no). Buechler really makes the whole third act impactful and visually impressive, but to have it end the way it does just feels like someone’s slap dash idea who got too tired to write a proper ending to the film. It’s just a bad idea, through and through, which makes me want to forget I ever saw it.
I will credit the film for having a distinctly darker tone than the rest of the series. Visually, it’s very dark and imposing. It surrounds Jason in far more presence and aura than ever before. This is also a credit to Hodder’s performance. He created a very thorough body language and mentality for Jason, and it truly penetrated through the screen. It truly made Jason frightening again, even if the film itself lacked suspense, a decent plot, or good lead acting. I get that people are supposed to scream in horror movies, but Lar Park-Lincoln seems to inappropriately scream at the top of her lungs at almost everything in the third act. It’s like she’s not there inhabiting the scene as an actor enveloping herself in the mood, but just screaming as if that’s the only reaction people are supposed to have in a horror movie. There’s just no genuine fear or intensity in her performance, despite how purely menacing Kane Hodder is as Jason. I think his debut performance was absolutely his best. It’s just unfortunate that it wasn’t in a better movie.
Hodder is greatly aided by the stunning make-up design Buechler created for Jason Voorhees. Seeing the bones stick out from underneath the decayed flesh, and making use of the partially shattered mask to show just a glimpse of Jason’s zombified face are brilliant touches. This is a masterwork of special make-up effects artistry and craftsmanship, and is something that has not even been remotely challenged anywhere else in the franchise since. What gore we do get after the MPAA’s severe slashing of this film is exceptionally good, but even still, you hardly see any of it. This really was the most heavily edited down entry in the whole series of films, and I’m sure an uncut version would be filled with hardcore gore and graphic violence. That surely feeds into the overall darker, more aggressive tone of the movie. John Carl Buechler does give us a film that is nicely and consistently paced with a lot of creative kills that have become classics. However, it all does just feel like a blunt instrument due to a lack of real suspense. Anyone can show brutality and gore splattering across the camera lens. It takes a skilled filmmaker to tightly craft suspense, and Buechler hardly makes an attempt to deliver that integral part of good horror.
It’s been said that Paramount Pictures and New Line Cinema considered the crossover idea of Freddy vs. Jason at this time, but the two studios simply could not come to an agreement. Thus, what ideas Paramount had for the film were adapted for The New Blood – which is a horribly generic title for a slasher sequel. It’s hard to picture it aside from a protagonist with a supernatural ability, but I doubt they had anything more than a vague thought of a plot for a 1988 Freddy vs. Jason movie. Maybe just the thought of it got the screenwriters anxious to throw a more powerful adversary at Jason this time, and really push the supernatural angle further. Of course, I think the script could’ve used more work overall to develop its premise and characters beyond just base concepts.
The New Blood had some potential, and did deliver on inventive kills and a hard edged approach. It feels like a brutal horror movie, but without the graphic visuals to complement it, due to the MPAA required cuts. However, it really comes down to a weak script, and some uninspired casting choices that just make this an unimpressive sequel for me. This could’ve delivered it all, but ultimately, delivered very little of anything, in my view. There’s not much entertainment value that I take from this sequel as the characters are often yawn inducing with the lead of Tina Shepard being the biggest offender. Again, it is very difficult to give a damn about who lives or dies when the characters are badly written or poorly acted. I know this film has its big fans, but I just need more than edited down, suspense deprived brutality and Hodder’s great debut performance as Jason to win me over.
This has always been one of my absolute favorites of this franchise. It delivers largely on entertainment value, and a far superior script and cast than A New Beginning had to offer. This wraps up the Tommy Jarvis trilogy of films with a very satisfying climax, and there is so much that goes into making it such a great film.
Crystal Lake has been renamed to Forest Green in order to distance the town from its blood soaked past, but Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews) is not yet free of his past. Tommy and his friend Allen Hawes (Ron Palillo) return to the town to dig up Jason’s corpse and cremate it to eradicate the nightmare that’s plagued Tommy since childhood. However, an iron rod and a lightning strike resurrect Jason as an undead juggernaut, and he immediately resumes his killing spree. Tommy attempts to motivate the local police into action, but knowing of Tommy’s institutionalization, Sheriff Mike Garris (David Kagen) writes him off as disturbed and has him locked in a holding cell. However, the Sheriff’s daughter, Megan Garris (Jennifer Cooke), becomes intrigued and invested in Tommy while she and her friends re-open Camp Forest Green for the weekend to host a bus load of kids. As Jason closes in on the camp and builds up his body count, Megan chooses to aid Tommy in bringing an ultimate end to Jason’s reign of terror.
Slasher films of the mid-to-late 1980s were getting tamed down by the MPAA requiring a lot of gore to be cut to gain an R rating. That hurt the quality and effectiveness of so many horror movies at this time, but Jason Lives was able to offer more entertainment value beyond the gore. Writer / director Tom McLoughlin approached this film with a love for classic horror, but also, a desire to add some appropriate humor to liven up the movie. Bringing Jason back from the grave required a bit of leap for the franchise, but it was handled very smartly with the use of some classic monster movie ideas. Jason being resurrected by a lightning bolt much like Frankenstein’s Monster is a clear example of that. The atmosphere McLoughlin added stands out amongst the franchise. The whole film has this wonderful blue tone with shadow and fog which sets a great visual atmosphere that is evocative of those old noir like Universal monster movies. Unfortunately, the Deluxe Edition DVD of the film screwed up the color timing so the blue tones are now green, and if this ever gets a Blu Ray release, this is possibly the transfer they will use.
Thom Mathews is my favorite Tommy Jarvis. He’s finally a full fledged hero taking action to combat Jason directly. Mathews has plenty of diversity to easily handle the dramatic, action, and lightly humorous demands of the script. Tommy’s presented as a stronger character than before, but still with an underlying twinge of obsession. Still, he is ultimately driven to destroy Jason in order to prevent him from killing more innocent people. That is the right turnaround from the previous film where Tommy just stood around and did next to nothing. He’s still haunted, but is taking action to rid himself of this waking nightmare once and for all. Thom Mathews is a strong lead that really shines through, and sparks up a wonderful chemistry with his female lead Jennifer Cooke. She provides a very spirited and strong willed young lady that is hard to handle for her father or Tommy. Cooke has charisma, energy, and allure to spare. She carries herself very well amongst this fun and talented cast – always standing out but never eclipsing anyone. Megan Garris is a tremendous lively addition to the formula as a smart, fun, assertive, and sexy female lead.
David Kagen is very impressive as Sheriff Garris. He’s smartly written to be a well-rounded character that is never dumbed down for convenience’s sake. Kagen makes a big impression right from the start as an assertive man of authority. Yes, he’s antagonistic to Tommy Jarvis, but anyone would be hard pressed to buy his story of Jason rising from the grave. Looking at it from Garris’ perspective, he’s acting entirely properly since he doesn’t know what we know as an audience. He’s an excellent protector for the people of Forest Green and his daughter. Kagen does a great job making him both a realistic hard ass that you don’t want to mess with, and a rational and often fatherly man with a heart. It’s wonderfully diverse from McLoughlin’s writing to Kagen’s acting. Certainly by the third act, he becomes a solid heroic figure that you’re rooting for all the way.
The rest of the cast is a lot of fun. They feel very much of the 1980s with their fashions, haircuts, and just their general personalities. Each character has plenty of richness to them to feel like fully realized people, and the cast have plenty of chemistry and charisma to remain entertaining and pleasant to spend time with. This is one of the most talented casts of the whole franchise, and truly the most fun of them all.
The role of Jason Voorhees eventually fell to C.J. Graham in this film. However, there are a few scenes, most notably the paintball one, where Jason is portrayed by someone else, but he was quickly replaced with Graham. That was a very good choice because C.J. truly defined the undead Jason. He gave the slasher a more menacing body language that was just enough zombie while still being aggressive and intimidating. He’s definitely one of my favorites.
To aid Graham’s notable turn behind the hockey mask, Jason Lives offers up a slew of creative kills and substantial gore. While a good deal of graphic content still had to be cut, the horror aspects still sell very well. Hawes getting punched through the chest, and Jason ripping out his heart is very shocking early on. It’s an excellent first impression of the strength of this resurrected Jason. Tom McLoughlin definitely showed he had fun conceiving and creating this film with all the original kills, and indulging in some nice action sequences. An RV gets flipped on its side driving down the road, and there’s a nice car chase between the cops and Megan’s classic red Camaro. It’s all very exciting and new stuff injected into a franchise that needed a breath of fresh air at this point. The addition of several great Alice Cooper tracks from his Constrictor album was just brilliant. It gave the film an additional promotional boost, and for Cooper, it gained him me and many others as fans. However, the song “Hard Rock Summer” didn’t see release until the 1999 “The Life & Crimes of Alice Cooper” box set along with the Movie Mix of “He’s Back.”
I’m sure the dark humor of the film turned a number of people off in 1986. The box office takes of the films steadily declined after Part 3 until the big success of Freddy vs. Jason, and so, this was no bigger of a hit than A New Beginning. However, since its release, Jason Lives has gained a strong standing in the franchise. It’s regularly praised as one of the best, and it is easy to see why. Again, it’s very exciting and filled with a strong visual atmosphere. Of course, it’s the story and its pacing that are the strongest. The film has almost a constant urgency about it with Tommy facing the obstacles of Sheriff Garris and the police while Jason is out slaughtering people. There’s enough going on with the Tommy / police conflict to keep it exciting with him being escorted out of town, getting apprehended in the car chase, and then, having to breakout of his cell with Megan’s help. It’s a very solid build up to a especially fresh, strong, and fiery climax. Intercutting between two stories is usually the most surefire way to maintain momentum and rhythm in a film, and McLoughlin shows a great sense of both. Editor Bruce Green deserves a lot of credit for also keeping the pacing tight and sharply to the point.
Composer Harry Manfredini’s music changed distinctly with this sequel. I’m sure there are those that would have preferred him sticking with the classic sound of Friday The 13th, but I have no particular preference either way. It’s become part of the overall identity of the film which tonally sets it apart from most of the other films. While I’m sure a first time viewer might have difficulty adjusting the new sound, I still feel it’s appropriate for the film Tom McLoughlin made.
While Friday The 13th Part 2 is my favorite of the classic formula, Jason Lives really is my favorite of the undead Jason era. I believe writer / director Tom McLoughlin put together a thoroughly satisfying sequel which strongly wraps up the Tommy Jarvis storyline, and is filled with a fun 1980s style. After the creative failure of A New Beginning, he gave us a film that felt lively and entertaining with some highly memorable and enjoyable characters. The self-referential humor is nicely balanced with the horror aspects, and careful avoids falling into self-satire or parody. It remains light and realistic, never making the characters appear dumb or foolish. It is a very smartly written film that is executed with an equal level of intelligence. I give this film glowing praise all around, and I highly recommend it.
This purported “Final Chapter” of the franchise would not be the last, but it made for a convincing conclusion. However, as is the way in Hollywood, if it makes money, make more of it! So, they did. Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter is arguably the best of what I call the classic formula before Jason rose from the grave or any self-aware satire crept into the films. However, I do have one terribly stinging point with this film that has actually forced me to turn it off time and again. Now that I have you intrigued, let me break down the premise for this fourth film.
The film begins, again, where the last one left off. Jason’s supposedly dead body is carted off to the Wessex County morgue, but it is only a matter of time before Jason Voorhees is back on his feet killing his way back to Crystal Lake. Arriving at the lake is the Jarvis family which include the mother (Joan Freeman) along with daughter Trish (Kimberly Beck) and the pre-teen Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman). Of course, there is a whole station wagon full of teens on the way, and soon after, there is also a man named Rob Dire (Erich Anderson) camped out in the woods who is on the hunt for Jason. He has caught word that Jason’s body is missing from the morgue, and believes that Jason is alive and headed back to Crystal Lake. His sister was a victim of a previous massacre, and he’s out to stop Jason himself. He crosses paths with the Jarvis family, and becomes an instant friend with young Tommy who shows him his collection of personally created horror monster masks. Shortly after Rob departs back into the woods, Jason begins to pick off the fun-loving teens next door one-by-one, as usual. However, the climax of the film shows Jason getting the tables turned on him in the worst way, despite how madly he fights to off these final few potential victims.
Okay, the positives here are many. First off, Tom Savini returned as special make-up effects artist to kill off Jason. His talent and quality elevate the film very high up beyond the previous two films. It’s not just the quality of the effects, but the dynamic ideas that Savini can put into practical execution that make for more inventive kills and scenarios. This only gets better and more graphic as the film goes on. They don’t hold back in the climax, and really drive home the “death of Jason” intent with highly convincing and elaborate make-up and physical effects. It’s one of the most successfully graphic films of the series being able to put more of the unsettling violence on screen than ever before.
Director Joseph Zito does a wonderful job to make this a more cohesive piece than the previous entry, and also brings along some character depth. Screenwriter Barney Cohen develops the characters well giving them strong introductions with distinct personality. As with Part 2, we get actors with some charisma, energy, talent, and rich personality. They jump into their roles fully, and have an enjoyable time in front of the camera. Among the young talents featured are Crispin Glover and Corey Feldman. Both of which turn in solid work. Glover is mostly known as George McFly from Back to the Future as well as the Thin Man from McG’s Charlie’s Angels films. Director Zito clearly knows how to work well with actors, and how to bring some entertaining qualities out of their performances. He also crafts some of the best suspense of the series using Manfredini’s music, smart camera work, and nicely plotted scenes to create a tense atmosphere for Jason to thrive in.
This is one of Manfredini’s most tense scores, yet. I think it tends to depend on the director he’s working with on how good his scores end up being. On the films where the directors have a strong, vivid vision for the film, and know how to craft horror with suspense, we get his musical talents at their best. This is a prime example of what Manfredini can do when collaborating with the right filmmakers.
Focusing back on the cast, Feldman richly demonstrates the potential he had as a young actor here. He’s essentially a lead actor, but an unexpectedly so. He surely charms an audience, and is highly relatable. Still, one would not focus on him as the real forefront character of the film until they see where the story weaves itself in the third act. As Tommy Jarvis, he starts out like any young kid – fun, energetic, and imaginative. However, when the story finally takes a more dangerous turn near the end, Feldman shows his diversity with a very intense and dramatic performance. It sells the ending of the film entirely, and could have been a gross failure with any lesser of an acting talent.
Ted White has never been a standout Jason performance for me. From many accounts, it seemed like he didn’t care for the job himself, and was just collecting a paycheck. How accurate that is, I’m not sure, but where Richard Brooker seemed to have a definite and distinct personality for his portrayal, White’s seems less distinct and more generic. There’s nothing particularly bad about what he does, it has just never made much of an impression on me. However, he does do a quality job that some fans do appreciate and enjoy.
Now, the big negative mark I personally put against this film is the character of Trish Jarvis. In the latter end of the film, she becomes so painfully DUMB that it literally becomes a chore to continue watching the film. Now, this is a bit of a spoiler, so, avert your eyes for until the next paragraph if you wish to avoid such things. It’s the dead of night, Rob Dire goes down into the pitch black basement, and gets bludgeoned to DEATH by Jason! So, what does Trish do? She runs away, but then, changes her mind – as if she suddenly came to her senses (when she really takes all leave of them) – and goes back to find Rob in that basement where Jason is undoubtedly still lurking around! This is moronic beyond comprehension! Anyone who would get anywhere NEAR believing this to be a good idea deserves to have their brains bashed in! Sorry, but this level of moronic incompetence just pisses me off, and I think Barney Cohen owes me an explanation for writing the character like this. Unless you’re doing a horror movie parody, this sort of writing is just ridiculous, and is reflective of the worst, most clichéd writing in the horror genre. It’s dumbing down the characters to the point where they are just short of brain dead to service some idiotic need in the storytelling. Furthermore, she continues on from this point being a total moronic idiot making the stupidest decisions in the midst of an attack from a homicidal madman, and it is only a total shame that it’s her who embeds that machete in Jason’s cranium!
This is all just sad because the film is filled with smartly written characters. The cast has great chemistry, and make for a very entertaining film. Zito balances the light-hearted moments out well with the hard hitting horror elements. It’s all solid examples of what the genre can offer at its best, which many films don’t tend to strive for, or don’t have the talent involved to make happen. So, it baffles and angers me to see such a dumbass character be given the run of the third act of the film. Actress Kimberly Beck does nothing in her performance to make it any more bearable. He flashes these dumbfounded expressions over and over again throughout the movie further instilling no confidence in Trish’s intelligence.
If you ever wonder why I don’t tend to post numerical ratings on my reviews, it’s because of maddening conflicts like this. It’s a great, excellent film except for this one terrible element. I should look on The Final Chapter as a crowning achievement in the franchise, its high point, but because I have to spend a third of the film watching a badly written character run around like she’s looking to get killed, I can’t do that. I have literally turned this movie off after that basement scene and not gone back to it. It’s at that point where the film takes a nose dive for me, but that’s just me. For whatever reason, other fans can look past that, or just never viewed it in the same light as me. I just can’t tolerate a stupid character unless there’s something endearing about them, but there’s none of that here for me with Trish Jarvis.
Aside from that, this really has all the best elements the franchise has always strived to bring together in a cohesive whole. The previous three laid the ground work, some doing a better job than others, but this entry got it right in spades – suspenseful tension, high quality make-up effects, and a solid story with wonderful, memorable characters. Regardless of my sole gripe with the film, you can hardly pass this one up because Joe Bob Briggs says, “it’s got important plot points,” in regards to the following two sequels. This begins the Tommy Jarvis trilogy of the Friday The 13th franchise, each film starring a different actor in the role Feldman originated, and I have contrasting opinions on the following two films.
Oh, 3D. You are the current bane of my cinematic existence. Back in the 1980s, there was a short run of 3D horror movies trying to revive this quick cash grab gimmick, and they all sucked – Amityville 3D, Jaws 3D, and Friday The 13th, Part 3: 3D. Straight up, this film is a prime example of leaning heavily on the 3D sight gag gimmicks to provide entertainment value instead of actually making a good film. Even in current times, this is still done, but my disdain for 3D is the fact that it’s never worked right for me despite me having no visual impairments. It detracts and distracts from the theatre going experience instead of enhancing it. I have never seen this film in a 3D presentation, and so, there will be no assessment on it. Still, it does factor into the lightweight quality of the film.
F13, Part 3 begins where Part 2 left off where Jason Voorhees has been wounded, but is able to slip away into the woods and the night. He wanders to a small market in Crystal Lake, and while he kills the cranky couple which own it, he grabs himself a new set of clothes (and apparently a shave as well). Meanwhile, a sizeable group of teens set out on a weekend at Crystal Lake at Higgins Haven, the woodland retreat for Chris Higgins (Dana Kimmell) and her family. Also, tagging along is the uptight Rick (Paul Kratka), and the jokey Shelly (Larry Zerner) along with a pair of old stoners. Chris is very weary of returning to the area because of an attack by a freakish man in the woods two years prior, but Rick does what little he can to comfort her. In the meantime, Shelly and one of the teenage girls take a ride to a convenience store where a trio of bikers cause them a bit of trouble, but Shelly leaves them a bit humiliated. This provokes the trio to follow them back to Higgins Haven, but their snooping around the barn costs them a great deal more than they bargained for. Jason gradually kills off each and every person in the area – as per usual – until the climactic confrontation with the heroine.
This is the first misstep in the franchise for me. After a great outing with Friday The 13th, Part 2, I’m rather disappointed in how uneven and disjointed the direction and story are here. Not to mention the quality of the cast and characters fall down one big notch, and the makeup effects aren’t anything to note. Steve Miner does return as director, but it just feels a little lazy. I think the problems mainly boil down to a flimsy script and the irritating and stupid 3D sight gags. Co-writer Martin Kitrosser also co-wrote Friday The 13th, Part V: A New Beginning, an even worse entry in the series, and so, you can easily judge his lower grade talents by that. Aside from a few sparse screenwriting credits, Kitrosser essentially only works as a script supervisor since this film. That means he just maintains a film’s internal continuity during production and records the daily filming progress. The other co-writer, Carol Watson, has extremely little on her filmography. So, it really doesn’t inspire confidence looking back on everything. Ron Kurz, writer of Part 2, also has very little on his résumé, but he wrote a solid and coherent script that worked and flowed well. The same cannot be said for this movie.
Whereas Part 2 had some vibrant performances, this falls into flat stereotypical characters. These screenwriters attempted to bring some emotional depth to Chris Higgins with her previous frightening encounter with Jason, but it falls flat because of the actress in the role. Amy Steel and Adrienne King were head and shoulders above Dana Kimmell. Her performance is a little too one dimensional to fill the character out, but even then, it’s written with nothing but vulnerability. The best female heroes of the series have always been ones that had a strength to pull on to fight back in the end despite their emotionally vulnerable sides. Chris Higgins really is just an increasingly hysterical would-be victim. Her uptight boyfriend Rick does not inspire strength or confidence, either. Larry Zerner’s Shelly is a loveable misfit that pulls too many cheap practical jokes, and ends up pissing everyone off – unlike Stu Charno’s Ted from the previous film who was a master of practical jokes, and everyone still had a good laugh afterwards. The difference? Ted was everyone’s friend. Nobody seems to really like Shelly even though he is supposed to be, at least, someone’s friend in this group. They treat him like a lame annoyance, and I can’t disagree with that sentiment. His only redeeming act is that he provides Jason with his very first hockey mask.
And instead of tight pacing, too much time is dragged out to indulge in those atrocious 3D sight gags. Beyond that, the screenwriters throw in a lot of extraneous characters who eat up screentime for the sole purpose of increasing the body count. They really add little to the entertainment value. Other films later did this, but they would be more to the point and the characters usually would have something to do with the plot. The three bikers are okay, but it just feels like a frivolous side plot which amounts to little. It’s just another blah element piled into this film that further disjoints the story’s flow. Not surprisingly, I have many of the same issues with A New Beginning.
And really? A disco theme? This movie was released in 1982. Disco was deader than Jason’s mother by then. Thankfully, this horrid opening credits tune is the extent of this bad 70s flashback. Still, Harry Manfredini and Michael Zager should be ashamed of this. It also horribly dates the film as older than it actually is because disco was long gone by the time of release. The hippy stoners don’t help either. In 1982, the big hit songs were Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky III along with tracks from John Cougar Mellenkamp, Hall & Oates, Foreigner, The Cars, Journey, J. Geils Band, Tommy Tutone, Rick Springfield, Soft Cell, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, the Steve Miller Band, and Fleetwood Mac. All solid pop, rock, or new wave songs. Manfredini and Zager could’ve gone for something more contemporary, and made it fit into the musical landscape of the time. Instead, they drudge up disco for no good reason. The theme hardly sets a good tone for the movie seeming more akin to a parody than an actual straight horror film. Beyond that, the score is not too memorable. When the worst part of it is what you remember the most, that’s an ill sign.
The only real highlight of this movie is Richard Brooker’s performance as the now hockey masked Jason Voorhees. It’s a more nonchalant, confident performance that exudes a menacing quality. He’s more calculating and focused in his slaughter. The body language is very strong and deliberate. He takes his time and wastes no motion. He doesn’t need to rush his actions, he can stalk with patience, and strike at his leisure. What Brooker does also adds to the blankness of the character. He shows no panic, no rage, no urgency. He is without conscience or contempt. He merely kills because he’s imitating what his mother did, but possibly also due to a territorial mentality that these are his woods and anyone who enters is a trespasser.
The kills are still good, but the make-up effects fall down in quality a little more. I just know that little from this film has stuck with me in a good way. The climax is pretty good starting to show off more of Jason’s tolerance for pain and ability to survive injuries that would kill anyone else. Brooker just gives Jason a lot of consistent personality here, and the climax is boosted by his talent and physical ability.
I wish there was more to delve into with this sequel, but it’s just too thin and shallow. The tension is not very taut, and the storytelling is quite lax. There’s no real urgency or looming suspense to maintain interest for me. I just groan at the flat stereotypes that populate the screenplay – the stoners, the hysterical heroine, the heroine’s comforting boyfriend, the sexy girls, and so on. It comes off like a lesser grade film compared to its predecessors with less talent in front of and behind the camera, aside from Richard Brooker. No one was really trying to make a good horror film, they were just riding on the gimmickry of 3D to pull in the bucks, and of course, it worked. This out-grossed both of the previous films in the series with just over $36 million. However, bad movies that use 3D still top the box office today, and it makes me sick. Yes, I still hate you Jim Cameron. As for Friday The 13th, Part 3, I know there are people out there that do like this film, and so be it. That’s your opinion, and this is mine. I don’t like it very much because it pales in comparison to the far more tightly structured, more lively, and more intelligent Part 2. There won’t be another Friday The 13th film that I 100% enjoy until Jason is struck by lightning and rises from the grave. Let that act as a cliffhanger for my inevitable, almost entirely positive review of The Final Chapter.
There are few sequels that manage to improve upon the original, and even fewer in the horror genre. However, when the main filmmaker behind the project is superior to the original, it is no surprise. This was Steve Miner’s directorial debut, and of course, no one could anticipate anything of his quality at the time. However, he has gone on to have a very successful career as a director of films and television, and so, in retrospect, it is easy to see that Friday The 13th, Part 2 was in more versatile hands than the original. This is indeed my favorite film of the classic formula, despite being in the pre-hockey mask era. This is a good, classic piece of horror cinema, and I want to detail why it was a marked improvement over the first film.
Two months after the events of the previous film, Alice Hardy (Adrienne King) is trying to put her life back together, but that is short lived as she is murdered in her own house by a silent killer. Five years later, Paul Holt (John Furey) is opening up a counselor training camp near the now shut down Camp Crystal Lake. Holt is joined by many young men and women including, among others, the practical joker Ted (Stu Charno), the wheelchair bound Mark (Tom McBride), the sly Scott (Russell Todd), and Paul’s spirited girlfriend, the film’s female lead, Ginny Field (Amy Steel). The locals like what he’s doing with these young people, but don’t like that he’s doing it so close to “Camp Blood.” Paul even tells the story of Jason Voorhees around a campfire, but with a jokey scare at the end treating the legend lightly. Even the prophetic warnings of Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney) don’t scare them away. As night falls, while some go into town for a fun time, many of these teens begin to fall prey to the film’s new killer, an adult Jason Voorhees seeking vengeance on anyone who treads through his domain.
Okay, before the true highlights begin, I do have to admit that the special make-up effects are not as good with the departure of Tom Savini. That is almost inevitable as his talent is not easy to replicate. At this time, Savini went to work on the Friday The 13th rip-off The Burning. It is a film I did see many years ago, and did not care for at all. It is only a shame that I had to purchase the VHS tape to see it. That aside, with this film, Carl Fullerton and his team still deliver some high quality physical effects that serve the film well. It is merely a disservice, as would become a regular stinging point for the franchise, that the MPAA required numerous cuts to be made to tone down the violence and gore.
The pacing this time out is increased and steadier. The film begins with a great suspenseful sequence that jump starts the hearts of the audience. The character introductions are more tightly woven together, allowing for the film to keep moving forward instead of lingering. The kills are nicely interspersed throughout the movie to maintain the tone it sets from the start. It keeps an audience gripped into the film as the terror continually stalks these characters.
Speaking of such, we are treated to some charismatic and enjoyable characters this time out with more distinct personalities than before. The actors in the prominent roles such as John Furey, Amy Steel, and Stu Charno are great and memorable. Furey nicely projects Paul Holt’s maturity and level headed sensibility while still being a light-hearted, fun loving guy. Ginny is a fun challenge for Paul, but it is clear they have a lot of affection for one another. Amy Steel portrays her with a lot of likability showcasing an assertive attitude that is playful. She displays intelligence while still being able to have fun. Ginny has enough strength to carry her through the madness of the climax, but surely shows moments of vulnerability. I also really love Stu Charno’s prankster Ted. He’s all kinds of fun playing some elaborate and inventive practical jokes on his friends. He keeps the tone light at times, and because of Charno’s charisma, he is instantly entertaining. He makes things lively and vibrant while never descending into bad one liners and wisecracks. He’s a very realistic friend that many people have who just likes to have a great time, and an even better night out on the town. However, this never betrays the overall tone of the movie, it merely enhances the versatile enjoyment of the picture. The chemistry of this cast is some of the franchise’s best, and even the supporting cast gets fine opportunities to add to the flavor of the picture.
Director Steve Miner gives this film some solid suspense and tension in every potential stalk-and-slash scene. From all accounts, he had heavy influence from Mario Bava with this film, and it really helped deliver a great first sequel. Miner knows how to handle his acting talents well and balance them out evenly to excellent effect. Everything is shot very well to enhance the slight unsettling vibe flowing through the film. The addition of the storm during the climax was an excellent touch. It just adds more to the atmosphere and intensity of the sequence, but it never dominates or disrupts what each individual scene is doing, tone wise.
The score by Manfredini is possibly a step up from the previous film. With a more evenly paced film, the music has more chances to slip in and out to create individual moments of horror than a chain of kills clumped together. Again, atmosphere and tone is set early on with the intelligent visual storytelling and underplayed music. The filmmakers let the score, subtle sound effects, and performances play up the unseen killer until he finally strikes, and creates a deeply disturbing moment that jumps straight into the opening credits. The film is able to continually create great sequences like this all the way through to the clever ending that throws in some nice psychological elements to Jason. It’s also smart that Ginny raises the idea of her deception earlier in the film so that the audience grasps onto what she’s doing as she’s doing it.
Warrington Gillette and his stunt double Steve Daskawisz do a very good job as Jason. He’s not the more refined or confident killer as we have come to know, but the physical acting is well done. The sack on the head look is very similar to the killer in the 1976 film The Town That Dreaded Sundown, which was based on true events. The hockey mask surely became a much better iconic image which forged his personality, but for this version of Jason, I think that one eye peaking out of the hood works very well.
Writing this review, I never realized just how good of a film this is beyond just being highly effective and enjoyable for me. There is no reason why this can’t be viewed among the best of its genre. It delivers everything a solid slasher film should as well as a lot of what good horror is meant to. While it doesn’t have the technical elegance or subtle brilliance of a Halloween, it has good atmosphere, tight suspense, intense scares, and entertaining characters who never devolve into moronic stereotypes. They might not all have great depth, but they are grounded in reality. Overall, this is a strong highlight of the series, and surely set the bar higher than the original Friday The 13th. Subsequent sequels would vary in quality to great degrees, some just as good, some not nearly, but not for the lack of having a solid reference for doing it right and well with Friday The 13th, Part 2.
Sometimes, the first film in a franchise is the best and all sequels are just watered down retreads. Other times, the first film is merely a rugged blueprint for future installments to build upon to create better films. I believe the original Friday The 13th fits into the latter category. That is not to say it doesn’t have admirable qualities, but the formula and execution is not as refined as some of the other films in the franchise later became. There are numerous elements that downgrade this even in comparison to the first sequel, and the difference in who the killer is does not factor into my opinion here.
Camp Crystal Lake used to be an idyllic summer camp for kids, but for over twenty years, it has had a supposed death curse upon it. Camp counselors found dead, the water gone bad, and various accidents of sorts have plagued it. Even the local prophet of doom, Crazy Ralph, tries to warn all comers to the danger ahead. However, Steve Christie is determined to re-open the camp and mend its reputation. The teenage counselors feel safe and comfortable in the deep woods, but soon, on this Friday the 13th, an unseen killer stalks them all intent on seeing their bloody corpses litter the campgrounds.
First off, the positives. You can never deny the high quality talents of Tom Savini. He’s a master make-up effects artist, and he had honed his skills most notably on George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead prior to this film. Here, he created some of the best gore effects and special make-up of the series. They are seamless, and that only enhances the surprise elements of the movie. I believe the success of this Friday The 13th owes a lot to what Savini accomplished as it raised the bar for gore very high, and that gave it something different than the more atmosphere-driven Halloween. This film really started the bloody slasher film craze, and it is due to the effectiveness of these physical effects.
The score by Harry Manfredini has always been a divided issue for me. In some ways, it is suspenseful, but in others, it is just wild strings shrieking on the soundtrack with no sense of tension or rhythm at all. However, it rarely feels like a Friday The 13th movie without his signature style, but there are exceptions. For what Manfredini offers, his first foray with the franchise is a solid effort. It creates a good atmosphere that services the film’s style of horror.
The acting from our two leads is very admirable in a subgenre known for a lot of cringable performances, to say the least. Adrienne King is a fresh faced, likable talent here, and reflects a lot of vulnerability and sympathy. Yet, she is able to demonstrate some strong will in the more intense fight-for-your-life sequences. The other talent I mention is who portrays the killer, and that acting talent really elevates the film above its unrefined shortcomings.
What truly detracts from this movie are two things. The first is the pace. Even by my patient standards, the film drags along at a very slow pace. By modern cinematic standards, it’s terribly sluggish. This is mainly due to the fact that very little occurs in the story. People slowly arrive in town, and it goes along like a slow, calming weekend until the killings really pick up the pace. That doesn’t start happening until about halfway through the movie. The characters don’t offer up much personality or charisma to maintain interest or momentum in the first half of the movie. By the time the film really gets a good stride going, it’s almost over.
The second issue is that Sean Cunningham is not a very inventive or dynamic filmmaker. There is nothing outright bad about what he does, but there’s also nothing exceptional or impressive about it either. The incessant use of the killer’s point of view shots tend to take away from the tension and mystery since you always know where the killer is, and who the killer is stalking. Some sequels would lay off of this idea, and create suspense and tension through more clever methods. Here, it works for a little while, but ultimately, it overstays its welcome by wearing thin quickly. It’s almost as if Cunningham saw the opening scene of Halloween, and wanted to recapture that idea and feeling for this entire film. I don’t feel it works to that extent. Hiding the killer’s identity was key to the story, but better filmmakers later demonstrated a more diverse approach to maintaining that idea.
If, by chance, you have not had the identity of the film’s killer revealed to you by now, I won’t be the spoiler. Let’s just say, it is an unexpected twist in the story that is probably the most intelligent part of the screenwriting and casting. This is before Jason Voorhees began his killing spree under a burlap sack or a hockey mask. So, it has a different sort of ending as we get a killer with dialogue who can showcase their madness without a mask. There is a further twist ending beyond this that captivated and terrified audiences in 1980, and gave the franchise a jumping off point to actually become a franchise. It truly is nightmarish.
Friday The 13th does deliver some good scares that remain effective to this day, and again, Savini’s work has been key to maintaining that effectiveness. However, there’s little beyond that to hold the film together through its run time, and even then, the scares are not spread out enough to keep that heightened tension going for the majority of the film. It was not a film written with compelling characters, and not vastly cast with charismatic acting talents. So, it shouldn’t have been plotted out where the performances or characters needed to carry the movie for a hefty distance before the horror aspects took over. Again, this works as a template for future installments to build upon to make more well balanced and tighter films. The Friday The 13th franchise is my favorite slasher film series, and just because Jason is not the killer in this film does not affect my opinion of it. At one time, I had hoped that a remake could take this film, and re-manufacture it into a more evenly paced and tighter movie. Bring it up to the more intense and entertaining levels of the better sequels. Sadly, the 2009 remake from Platinum Dunes was an utter failure, and like many horror remakes, put a death nail in the franchise. I will give credit that this 1980 film was a horror milestone, and it launched the entire slasher subgenre that ran rampant through most of the decade. However, it was not the best of the genre, and there are better films within the franchise than Sean Cunningham’s original.