3. Jason X (2001)
“You’re not gonna bring him back are you?”
We seemingly open in Hell so it can be established that this operates in roughly the same continuity as the other 9 Fridays. Somehow some evil scientists have summoned Jason (Kane Hodder) back to this plane of existence for his regenerative abilities to be researched, and they’ve decided to cryogenically freeze him along with one of his victims. He wakes up 400 years in the future.
In the strategy video game ‘Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3’, Tim Curry’s character famously (and meme-ably) proclaimed “I’m escaping to the one place that hasn’t been corrupted by capitalism… space!”. Over 20 years after his debut, Jason Voorhees had the same idea.
The idea of just doing an Alien movie with Jason is a sound one, and not a stretch to the usual formula that worked so well. A group of people are running from him in a confined space and can use futuristic technology against him, but so can Jason (or, as he eventually becomes thanks to futuristic nanotechnology, Uber Jason).
It’s definitely a knowing sci-fi throwback. Everyone’s wearing this weird sexy knitwear. The self-awareness certainly excuses this to an extent, but the performances leave a lot to be desired and the visual effects rarely rise above those of a PS2 cutscene.
Jason’s best kill: After a failed post-unfreezing autopsy, Jason shatters a doctor’s face on a table after a dip in cryogenic fluid.
2. Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
“Sex sex sex. You guys are getting boring, you know that?”
Even horror movie teens don’t try to start up a summer camp again after two massacres, but groups of good-looking young people do go on vacations in isolated cabins, and unluckily you sometimes encounter Jason Voorhees (Richard Brooker) hiding out in a barn across the way.
3D gimmickry be damned (look at all these things coming right at you – opening credits, popcorn, an eyeball!), this is where the franchise starts to get a hell of a lot more fun.
The now-adult and much more physically powerful Jason (who seems to have bulked up and shaved his head in the one day gap between Parts 2 and 3) ditches the potato sack and finally finds his hockey mask here. It’s not even a big moment when he dons it, he just saunters out of his barn casually wearing it after killing its owner offscreen.
The teenagers are annoying but almost endearingly so (notably Larry Zerner’s practical joker Shelley), and consequently it is more entertaining to guess in what order Jason will knock them off. The final stretch is also a little different, becoming more a haunted house movie as the final girl runs around the cabin discovering the bodies of her friends and guessing whether all those noises are the blustery weather or her hulking hunter.
This film’s dream-within-a-dream ending almost seems purposefully designed to take the piss out of the original.
Jason’s best kill: Jason strides out onto a dock, wearing his natty new face wear, and proceeds to kill a girl with a spear gun in the eye.
1. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
“I’ve seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly.”
Getting your head split in twain by your own machete can’t keep a good serial killer down.
In Jason Lives, a botched cremation results in Jason Voorhees’ (CJ Graham’s) body being struck by a life-giving bolt of lightening and the killer rising from the grave to start his Crystal Lake rampage once more.
It’s no wonder this is often cited as the best in the series by the fanbase, because it does so much right. Getting a really solid director in Tom McLoughlin on board did wonders – he brought the best out of his cast and added some of the most atmospheric imagery and visual gags in the series, like how they celebrate Jason’s proper franchise return with a James Bond walk on. 10/10, no notes.
Much like the similarly successful New Nightmare, the film goes a bit meta in its knowing dialogue and trope-conscious character behaviour, and it is far more entertaining for it.
Rather than a slow, durable but definitely mortal stalker, Jason becomes the invulnerable zombie he will remain for the rest of the series, with convenient teleportation powers thrown in for good measure.
Credit where it’s due: you do notice CJ Graham’s unique physicality as Jason – the purposeful stride, the inquisitive head-tilt – so it’s a shame he only got to play the role the once.
The kids actually get to arrive at camp this time. And, to add to the evidence that he isn’t all bad, Jason won’t kill actual children, just the horny teens looking after them and the misogynistic paintballers who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Jason Lives is the most balanced and purely enjoyable film in the series, being funny, thrilling and scary, and really making the most of Jason as a silent, unstoppable, but somewhat self-aware force.
Jason’s best kill: Jason fights a girl close quarters in a motor home toilet before forcing her face through a metal wall, leaving a perfect imprint in the process.
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