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“Friday The 13th” Movie Retrospective


RavensFilm Productions presents the Forever Cinematic Friday The 13th movie retrospective covering all twelve films in the slasher franchise.  Reviews by Nick Michalak.

Written Reviews:
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)

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Friday The 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)

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.


Friday The 13th, Part V: A New Beginning (1985)

So, Jason Voorhees has been hacked to pieces, and Paramount decided to launch a new direction for the franchise.  Fortunately, it was short lived with this lower grade, poorly conceived sequel trying to position Tommy Jarvis as the new killer of the Friday The 13th films.  Quite frankly, this has a lot wrong with it right from the start, and it’s easy to see why Paramount quickly rebounded with the far superior Jason Lives.  I’ve just never really liked this entry much because of it’s very direct-to-video production quality, bland execution, and lack of decently written characters.  The director and screenwriters simply did not have the talent to make this a good movie, regardless of the MPAA cuts.

A few years have past for Tommy Jarvis (John Shepard) since he saw Jason Voorhees killed, and after some time in a mental institution trying to recover from those horrific events, he’s been transferred to a halfway house far from Crystal Lake.  Unfortunately, soon after his arrival, a volatile young patient named Vic Faden suddenly murders the young, obnoxious, and obese Joey with an axe.  Shortly thereafter, it seems as though Jason has been resurrected from the grave to murder more people.  Meanwhile, Tommy suffers from hallucinations of Jason repeatedly, and they are slowly driving him mad.  As the bodies stack up, and Tommy seems to have disappeared, suspicions intentionally fall upon him.  However, it eventually becomes clear to the audience that this is not the work of Jason, but of a mysterious imposter using the Jason lore as a façade for his murder spree.  The aftermath of this violent experience hints at a new direction for the franchise that would quickly be discarded after backlash from the fans.

Firstly, John Shepard does a partially good job as the new Tommy Jarvis.  I think a lot of the hallucination scenes are excellently handled giving Tommy an obvious mental imbalance.  However, a lot of Shepard’s screentime is him standing or sitting around silent and introverted.  Shepard doesn’t put any effort into making Tommy seem like a troubled young man outside of those hallucinatory freak out scenes.  The screenplay doesn’t give him anything to do to showcase such behavior.  He also has almost no character interactions in this movie, and thus, it doesn’t give Shepard much to work with.  So, it’s a fine line to divide this issue which can also cut towards director Danny Steinmann’s way since he also co-wrote the script.  Instead of directing Shepard to demonstrate that internal turmoil, he just has him be a blank slate that shows nothing of what Tommy is going through.  Still, in the vast majority of his screentime, John Shepard just fills up the frame, and even in the big climax of the film, he still comes off as a waste of space.  Corey Feldman, who does cameo as Tommy in the opening dream sequence, did a stunningly impressive job with the diverse range the character of Tommy Jarvis offered in the previous film.  He hit everything dead-on-the-mark, and made a powerful impression throughout the movie.  There is nothing within John Shepard’s performance to remotely equal that exceptionally well-rounded and captivating performance from Feldman.  In the following film, Thom Mathews would serve as an excellent hero for this franchise, and do so much more than Shepard even tried to do in this sequel.

The mood and scares are decent enough.  I especially feel Violet’s stalk and slash death scene is exceptionally effective with the soundtrack of “His Eyes” by Pseudo Echo behind it.  Unfortunately, you definitely get very little gore due to the MPAA’s stringent standards of the time.  Still, the big problem of this film is the lack of decent characters to give a damn about.  There are a lot of random people added to the body count who only show up for one scene to get killed.  That’s one sense of why I feel it comes off like a bland and cheesy direct-to-video movie.  You can contrast the characters in this film to those in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.  The main characters in both are all in a mental health facility with their own quirks and personal issues.  In Dream Warriors, the roles are smartly written and greatly cast to create a very strong ensemble of young characters that add vibrancy and emotional relatability to the film.  In A New Beginning, the characters all seem very under-developed as if they are just there to just fill up the screenplay.  They are not given any depth or background, let alone particularly likable aspects  They either come off as too weird, too irritating, or just uninteresting.  They bring no life to the film for an audience to really get scared for them, and the casting is not all that memorable.  There are some decently entertaining bits here and there with one or two characters, but other characters are just blandly written or underwhelmingly acted.  Nobody stands out.  They all blend into the background creating a film with no real tension, energy, or charisma.  Considering The Final Chapter and Jason Lives have two of the best young casts of the series with nicely fleshed out characters that are memorable and enjoyable, this makes A New Beginning even more of a sore thumb in the franchise.  Horror and suspense work best when an audience cares about the characters in the story, and I really could not care less about these.

While, like I said, the mood is decent, I do feel this movie is lit a little too brightly.  It feels a little too slick and polished taking away the dark and gritty feeling the series had up to this point.  That takes away from the effective, harder edged horror atmosphere the previously films generally had.  Plus, without having some abundant, high end gruesome gore effects to elevate the graphicness of the film, it all just feels cheap.  The Final Chapter felt like a franchise high point as a standard bearer for what a slasher film should be.  This film is just the opposite.  It shows the bottom of the barrel quality of what the genre should avoid becoming.

The direction of Danny Steinmann is just not very good.  I know there are far worse, more ineptly made movies out there, but for a mainstream horror franchise, this is as bad as you’d ever fear it would get.  Again, everything is cheap – the characters, the gore, the cinematography, the story, and the screenplay itself.  Steinmann co-wrote this with Martin Kitrosser, one of the writers of Friday The 13th, Part 3, a film that shares many of the same problems as this one, only not to this degree.  The third writer, David Cohen, wrote two other films no one’s heard of and that was it.  Steinmann never made another film after this one, and it is severely evident why.  This is not a theatrical release quality film.  It does reek of direct-to-video quality with its abundant cheesiness, poor script, and bland direction.  The attempt to make Tommy seem like the killer in this is lazily handled.  The film tries to throw a number of red herrings into the mix, but really, it plays up no mystery aspect whatsoever.  It’s entire intent is to push Tommy to becoming the new killer of Friday The 13th, but puts nearly no effort at all into fooling you into believing he might be the killer at large.  Anything that is dropped in to allude to that seems like a weak afterthought.

I’m not singling Steinmann out for any personal reason.  His 1984 revenge exploitation film Savage Streets has a strong cult following, and while I have never seen it, I am generally intrigued to see it.  With that cult following, it does seem to say that Steinmann was capable of making a satisfactory film filled with violence, sexuality, and grit.  Maybe Friday The 13th, Part V: A New Beginning was just a wrong choice of film for him, or he worked with the wrong creative team.  Anything is possible, but the fact remains that he did not handled this movie well in any creative aspect.  Even if the gore was re-instated into the film, it would not make up for the poorly executed story, the flat characters, or the overall cheesiness of the film he made.

And it’s hard to even be fooled into thinking this is Jason Voorhees back from the dead.  Frankly, he looks and moves more like a poor Michael Myers imitation than a decent Jason Voorhees ones.  The blue coveralls, the slender build, the more mechanical movement, and the lackluster hockey mask just scream “bad imposter.”  Even the old VHS box cover couldn’t get the hockey mask right.  It looked like some cheap plastic mask you’d buy at the corner drug store.  Everything about this film just drives home the fact that this isn’t Jason, and we’re not even trying to fool you.  Conversely, the Jason seen in Tommy’s hallucinations looks very authentic in every detail.  Now, that clearly shows that the filmmakers could have given the imposter a more faithful design to heighten the second guessing of whether this really was Jason or not, but chose to just cheap out on that aspect.  They even still give this regular mortal man superhuman strength, just like Jason, but in every visual aspect, he clearly is not Jason Voorhees.  It’s simply bad conceptualization and poor execution.

The climax is easily one of the weakest of the franchise.  I really did not like having some wise-ass kid running around this film in Reggie, and him being part of the climactic action is just cringable for me.  He’s treated like a big hero in the whole thing, and there’s even a big music cue to support that intention.  I simply couldn’t get invested in these weak characters to really care who survived or if there was a true protagonist here.  Tommy is such an inactive part of the story that the film, in order to build suspicion that he’s the killer, is able to have him disappear for a good long while, and it doesn’t make a single bit of difference at all.  It’s very hard to sell Tommy as a potential hero when, at the same time, you are lazily trying to sell him as the potential villain.  It just comes off as very shoddy work.  This is a script that just meanders from one death scene to the next with no idea of what story it’s trying to tell.

All in all, this is really a sad sequel that delivered next to nothing worthwhile, and Paramount heard the cries of fans everywhere regarding it.  They ignored what this film attempted to setup for the Tommy Jarvis character, and took the following film into a far more satisfying and enjoyable direction.  I think it was a very fortunate turn of events that Corey Feldman was already working on The Goonies at this time, and could only do a single scene cameo.  It undoubtedly gave his career a massive boost to be working with great filmmakers like Richard Donner and Steven Spielberg on an eventual blockbuster instead with Danny Steinmann on a low grade slasher sequel.  Again, there are vastly worse films you could subject yourself to, but there are also so many better slasher films around than this sad entry in the Friday The 13th series.  However, there is one worse entry in this franchise, in my opinion, but it’s much, much further down the line in the New Line Cinema era.


Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

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.