In 1978, John Carpenter’s Halloween was released and the teen slasher film was truly born. While other horror films (Black Christmas, 1974) had trod similar ground in the preceding years, Halloween well and truly opened the floodgates for Michael Myers sequels, the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise from 1984 onwards, and Friday the 13th.
Built around bullied kid turned hulking, hockey-masked butcher of horny teens Jason Voorhees, the Friday the 13th series initially follows a succession of bloody massacres in and around Camp Crystal Lake before taking a now-undead Jason’s killing sprees on the road.
As well as the base thrills of elaborate, creative death scenes, excessive, practical gore effects and plenty of good-looking young people bonking (Scream’s horror oracle Randy: “First, you must never have sex!”), fans of the franchise are helplessly drawn to Jason as a character. Yes, he’s deformed, masked, and has a machete as a signature weapon (which is surprisingly rarely employed), but he’s also quite moralistic. He’s not got an empty void where his soul should be like Michael Myers, nor does he derive pleasure and power from his victim’s fears like Freddy Krueger; he has more in common with Norman Bates (only without the Oedipus complex) – he’s just a mommy’s boy taking revenge on behalf of his mother against young people who morally transgress conservative norms (don’t drink, don’t do drugs, don’t have sex out of wedlock!).
In this edition of Ranked, we at The Film Magazine are judging each entry from the Friday the 13th franchise on sheer memorability, the way established formulas are played with, and just how creatively Jason kills everyone he encounters. These are the Friday the 13th Movies Ranked.
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12. Friday the 13th (2009)
“Are you looking for this? Because, uh, it completes your outfit.”
Young Jason Voorhees (Caleb Guss) witnesses his mother being beheaded by a camp counsellor, putting an end to her revenge killing spree for what was done to him. So, years later, the grown-up Jason (Derek Mears) mercilessly protects his home of Crystal Lake from twenty-something invaders looking for good times and a bumper crop of cannabis.
From Marcus Nispel, the director of the equally misjudged The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake from 2003, and the writers of crossover Freddy vs Jason, comes this monotonous slog of a reboot that offers nothing new and little that won’t prompt groans of frustration despite the involvements of solid actors like Danielle Panabaker and Jared Padalecki.
A Friday the 13th should never be boring, which this often is, and at times, particularly in the punishingly drawn-out 20-minute prologue sequence, this comes off as a Friday the 13th spoof that intentionally exaggerates the vapidity of the characters and the levels of gratuitous sex and nasty gore.
Jason’s best kill: Jason impales the uber-jock on hay bale spikes on the back of a truck.
11. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
“I told the others, they didn’t believe me. You’re all doomed.”
Following a handy rapid-fire recap of the first film and an unexpectedly sudden character death necessitated by real-life fan stalking concerns, we cut to five years later and wouldn’t you know it they’re still trying to reopen Camp Crystal Lake to welcome kids over the summer, just as another killer wearing a burlap sack on his head is stalking the woods.
The ominous doom-saying local weirdo “Crazy Ralph” (Walt Gorney) is back to offer advice for another group of kids to ignore, and it’s clear even from this first sequel that a go-to formula is starting to develop.
There are a couple of funny edits, like cutting from someone screaming to camera to a face-melting guitar riff, and from an inquisitive dog looking up at the killer to a hotdog on a barbecue, but there’s nowhere near enough memorable imagery here to lodge in your mind in the same way the original and many of the subsequent chapters did.
Part 2 has a tryingly slow start with Jason (Steve Daskewisz) very slowly picking off teens in the woods, but it eventually gives way to an entertaining final chase of the resourceful Ginny (Amy Steel) with some decent jump scares, not including a lazy retread of the final shock of the first movie.
Jason’s best kill: The sweet guy in the wheelchair gets a machete in the face before bouncing down a staircase.
10. Freddy vs Jason (2003)
“I had to search the bowels of hell, but I found someone. Someone who’ll make ‘em remember. He may get the blood, but I’ll get the glory.”
Freddy Krueger returns to Springwood and finds a teenage generation that have forgotten him, so he resurrects Jason Voorhees to slaughter teenagers and cause panic on his behalf.
It’s actually incredible this didn’t happen much sooner, but that’s development hell for you.
The Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchises had both died a death by this point and were a few years out from being outright remade, so this was a blindingly obvious move for studio execs. Let’s just bash together two complimentary money-making properties and hope the resultant mess is fun at the very least.
There’s no denying that there are things to enjoy here; the story might not be up to much at all but the splatter set pieces are good, the titular battle delivers once it eventually arrives, and Robert Englund is clearly having the time of his life.
On the downside, most of the acting is awful, the film feels padded despite only being 95 minutes, and you end up cheering for the paper-thin and abrasive protagonists to die as quickly as possible. It’s always a bad sign when hulking, silent killer zombie Jason Voorhees is the easiest one to root for.
Jason’s best kill: A jerk boyfriend is folded in half along with his entire bed.
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