Tomorrow is Friday the 13th. In and of itself, that doesn't mean much (it's the first of two in 2012), but it's also the opening date of Joss Whedon's genre-twisting horror movie The Cabin in the Woods. I've seen it (review pending), and while it veers pretty far from what you might expect, it still starts out as a movie about a bunch of young people stranded in the woods and stalked by...something.
It's no coincidence Cabin is coming out on the 13th...or maybe it is, it's been in the can since 2009. Whatever, it's *fitting* this movie's release date dovetails with the film that created the "Isolated Teens Threatened By Mysterious Assailant" subgenre, Friday the 13th.
Thirty-two years, 12 movies, ten Jasons; that's quite the cinematic legacy, and I've seen them all. On the off chance you're planning on checking out one or two or five of the fine flicks in this series, allow me to use my vast powers for good and steer you towards the better selections.
And I hate to be the one to say this, but we really need to make one more sequel and end the series on 13 installments, it's what Mama Voorhees would've wanted.
12. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) -- By the time we finally get to
Vancouver Manhattan, there are only ten minutes left in the movie. From the previews, I had high hopes that the movie would be a dizzying cavalcade of carnage in the streets of New York. Little did I know they could've just as easily called this Jason Takes a Cruise. Weak even by the slasher standards of the late '80s, JTM has bad F/X, bad acting and would only have been redeemed if Jason had been on one of those rock and roll cruises and murdered Styx and REO Speedwagon.
Best Death: Would you call this a TKO? Julius's head may still have been technically alive after the ten count, and Jason never went to his corner.
11. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993) -- The beginning is interesting enough: SWAT troops stake out Camp Crystal Lake after Jason's disappearance from Manhattan, where they lure Jason into a murderous crossfire. At this point, you'd be better just ejecting the DVD, otherwise you'll be forced to hear how Jason is some sort of parasite who hops from body to body (à la The Hidden) in an attempt to kill the last of the Voorhees women (they being the only people who can kill him...don't ask).
Best Death: The rude interruption of Deborah's tryst with Luke, and the subsequent tearing in half. He interrupts a lot of trysts, and tears a lot of people in half (1:15 mark, NSFW):
10. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985) -- Another bad one, in large part because it isn't even Jason killing the teens, but some dude named Roy who's using Jason's MO to get revenge on the punk kids who caused the death of his son. Little Tommy Jarvis, confined to an asylum thanks to the traumatic events of The "Final" Chapter, is forced to kill Roy, which can't be good for his convalescence.
Best Death: Girls in the '80s were simply unable to do anything but scream when confronted by a mutant with garden shears, and Tina is no exception.
9. Friday the 13th (2009) -- We start off in promising fashion, with five murders taking place before the opening titles even run. From there, however, we settle back into predictability. This is really a remake of the second movie, since according to the opening sequence, the first mass murder already took place at the campsite. Unfortunately, minus a mild plot twist you'll probably see coming from the first five minutes, nothing original is in the offing. This lack of creativity wouldn't be a problem except at this point we've already seen Jason rise from the dead half a dozen times, demonstrate the ability to jump from body to body, and travel into space. Just watching him stab somebody in the head again seems...uninspired.
Best Death: A variation on the sleeping bag kill from the first movie. This is the 21st century, however, so naturally it has to be that much more horrific.
8. Friday the 13th, Part III (1982) -- I wasn't around in the 1950s, so I can't speak for the initial appeal of 3-D, but why the resurgence in popularity 30 years later (to say nothing of the current glut)? No matter, this second sequel is unremarkable not because of weak effects or the sheer goofiness of the gimmick (how many times can Jason point a knife at us?), but thanks to uninspired death scenes and rehashing an already formulaic plot. Could the series possibly recover? That would be telling.
Best Death: Tie -- Rick getting his head squeezed like an overripe melon (with similar results) or Andy sliced in half with a machete, while walking on his hands.
7. Freddy vs. Jason (2003) The two baddest dudes in town are going to scrap eventually, especially if both are moribund properties in need of a goose. Mildly intriguing in concept, the movie itself was mostly dull, livened up only by the ambiguous King Kong vs. Godzilla-style ending and some admittedly inspired death scenes (almost all courtesy of Jason...seriously, Freddy can't hang).
Best Death: Shack. Because I always hated the Lakers.
6. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988) A teenage psychic accidentally raises Jason from Crystal Lake (no, I don't know when they changed the name back), where he'd been drowned by Tommy Jarvis in Jason Lives while trying to resurrect her father's corpse. Why Dad's body was left at the bottom of the lake for four years is anyone's guess. Deaths ensue and Tina eventually sends Jason back into the depths, which I'm willing to bet he's getting pretty tired of. TNB marks fan favorite Kane Hodder's first appearance as Jason.
Best Death: Jason picks up camper Judy, sleeping bag and all, and bashes her brains out against a tree. That wouldn't have happened with an REI bag.
5. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) The good news: Tom Savini returns after a two-movie hiatus (reportedly because he wanted to kill Jason), and Crispin Glover (as Jimmy). The bad news: Corey Feldman, though he's not that bad as Tommy Jarvis. TFC is also where Jason's immortal qualities really kick into high gear, to the point where you begin to suspect he can't be killed by anything less than a thermonuclear device (and even then...). There's also an arid 30-minute stretch right after the warm-up murders where no one dies. Faux pas for a slasher film.
Best Death: Paul -- harpoon to the groin wins every time (0:18).
4. Friday the 13th, Part 2 (1981) Alice, the plucky heroine from the first film, inexplicably returns to Camp Crystal Lake and is promptly ice-picked (bet you didn't see that coming). By Jason this time, who obviously holds a grudge against the chick who did his mother in. No hockey mask yet, and the pillowcase over the head is an obvious homage to the killer in The Town that Dreaded Sundown. Tom Savini didn't return for Part 2, and the film sacrifices gore for increased suspense, with mixed results.
Best Death: The postcoital double impalement of Jeff and Sandra is perhaps the seminal (heh) cautionary example of why you shouldn't fornicate unless you're in a state-recognized union.
3. Jason X (2001) -- Oh, shut up. Freeing Jason from the present day and its continuous reliance on farm implements helped amp up the body count in new and occasionally interesting ways. And don't fool yourself, the series stopped being horror around the seventh installment. By then, Jason had morphed from villain into an antihero we root for to kill stupefyingly idiotic teens (there's even a VR flashback to the original movie here). I won't lie and say the comedy is great, or that the various sci-fi cinema references can forgive the obvious flaws (horny counselors, horny astronauts...who cares, right?), you'll either like this one or absolutely loathe it. Watch at your own risk.
Best Death: Liquid nitrogen is nothing to fool around with.
2. Friday the 13th (1980) -- Dismissed as schlock when first released, the original...is still schlock, though it's gradually gained recognition as the film that spawned a new genre. Grisly cinematic murders were nothing new in 1980, but Ft13 introduced the horny teenager element that would be often imitated, never duplicated, for the next 20 years. The twist? Of course, it isn't Jason offing all the pot-smoking degenerates, it's his mom, herself killed by spunky counselor Alice.
Best Death: Is there even a question? Kevin Bacon. In the cabin. With an arrow. Don't smoke in bed, kids.
1. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986) -- Wisely ignoring the reference to Jason's cremation in A New Beginning, Jason Lives sees Tommy seek revenge on the psychotic killer the only way he can: by digging up his body and setting it on fire. Unfortunately, he inadvertently reanimates the corpse (never exhume someone during a thunderstorm), kicking off yet another quest to rid the world of sexed-up adolescents. Jason returns to "Camp Forest Green" (renamed for PR reasons, seriously) and sets about tallying up the highest body count of the Ft13 series to date (18). Jason Lives is also one of the funniest entries in the franchise, which offers a welcome change for audiences desensitized by five movies' worth of disembowelments.
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And I saw it on a double date, but that's a story for another time.
Best Death: I'll have to go with the triple decapitation of Stan, Katie and Larry, though ripping the sheriff in half is a close second.