Welcome to today’s installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be talking to creators working in horror and share and recommend various pieces of underappreciated scary media-books, comics, movies, and television-to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
The 80s were a huge time for slashers. That’s pretty much the understatement of that, this, or any decade. While Halloween and its many sequels, requels, and remakes are rightfully seen as the series that kicked that trend off in earnest, and though Freddy Krueger sliced his way through the dreams of the youth to increasingly diminishing returns, there’s one franchise that really feels like it best represents the excess of the 80’s slasher icons: Friday the 13th. Year after year, Paramount (and eventually New Line and Platinum Dunes) churned out sequel after sequel, with Jason rising again and again in the most unlikely scenarios.
But here’s the thing: when the Friday the 13th movies are good, they’re really good; when they’re bad, they’re even better. For fans of the series, it’s a win-win scenario. That’s why we’ve decided to round up some of our resident horror nerds/camp counselors — Nathan, Jason, Patrick, and David — to revisit these flicks for spooky season.
Full disclosure: the original plan was to rank the series, but we realized its impossible when the series means so many different things to each of us. This is all in good fun, so we’re going to give you our nostalgic and occasionally genuinely critical feelings toward each installment in the franchise, scoring them based on just how dang enjoyable each one is (and some them are not). Read ahead, but be warned: YOU’RE ALL DOOMED. DOOOOOOOMED.
Friday the 13th (1980)
Nathan Simmons: While I really appreciate this film for what it did for the slasher genre, essentially aping the Halloween formula and somehow inspiring more imitators than Carpenter’s film did, this may be the entry in the series that I revisit the least. It’s a solid slasher with decent character development and acting (especially from a young Kevin Bacon, who received the best kill of the movie). However, a whodunnit only works if the reveal is of a character we have met before said reveal. Also, I tend to prefer the later, more gonzo entries. Still, I’m grateful for the flick that started it all, and it accomplishes quite a bit with its tiny budget. 7/10
Jason Segarra: I don’t care that it came after Halloween, I love this movie and the beautiful mess of a series that it spawned. Sure there are the performances to enjoy (Betsy Palmer in particular), the revolutionary camera work, and the unique sound work that made a simple breathing exercise into an iconic horror touchstone, but – for me – I love some of the less spoken of things. Tom Savini’s practical effects, for example, are potentially the best in the series, and this is a series high for one-note side characters in both Officer Dorf (who’s super hip list of weed pseudonyms is only surpassed by the motorcycle wipeout he narrowly avoided moments later) and Crazy Ralph. Oh how I love Crazy Ralph. Him saying “It’s got a death curse” was my AIM tone for a while. Just a classic piece of cinema here. Just wish they didn’t murder that snake. 9/10
Patrick Hellen: Still the high point for me in the overall series, there just isn’t anything like the original. I think part of the charm is that I saw it far after I knew that Jason was a thing, and that these movies existed, so the twist ending was even more of a shock for me. The campers are so well cast, the deaths are well done, while not as over the top as some of the later entries, and the mood is pure anticipation. Kevin Bacon’s arrow through the throat is an effect that looks so good on screen, it’s still one of the most talked about in the entire run. The final jump scare is also quite good, as in my mind it centers the fact that Jason is actually dead the entire time, even if he then turns up as a 30 something wearing a bag in the next entry. It’s one of the preeminent examples of a slasher film, and holds up way better than Nightmare could hope to. 9/10
David Hildebrand: I’m with Hellen on the fact that I saw this well after I knew who Jason was. I remember watching it and when it’s revealed his mother was the killer the whole time; I was like, “wait…what?” I think I appreciated it more not knowing that was how the film would end. The campers are fun. You get the expected gratuitous nudity for an 80s slasher and we get to see Kevin Bacon take an arrow through his throat. Even though you can tell it’s make up and fake, I wouldn’t trade the practical effects for some trash CGI. Betsy Palmer does a fantastic job in the end and I love Adrienne King as well. I don’t think this is my favorite in the series but of course it ranks up there. 8/10
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Nathan: NOW we’re talking! This is the movie that took what the original film established and created a formula that several of the sequels would follow, for better and worse. Yes, it’s not quite as intelligent as its predecessor and jumps forward 5 years, kicking off a trend of confusing timeline shenanigans that would plague the rest of the original series, but it also features some of the meanest kills in the series (the wheelchair death has always stuck with me) and one of the best final girls in Amy Steel as Ginny. 8/10
Jason: I love part one, but I do honestly believe that Part 2 is the better film. Ginny, it has to say, is a much more interesting protagonist than Alice was, and Jason is a much more interesting killer than his mother. The wheelchair kill, one of the gnarliest in the series, and this film really cemented the Voorhees family’s aversion to sexy teens as it yielded at least 6 deaths tied specifically to the counselors’ own horniness. It also established a baseline understanding of human Jason’s limitations – one good eye, capable of short bursts of running, sensible overalls and a bag mask – plus we know he has to s--t at this point, as the toilet in his crapshack has clearly been used. It’s a shame that this one gets brushed aside by the casuals, this is probably the best actual movie in the series. 10/10
Patrick: While Ginny is absolutely kick-ass as a final girl, Jason himself is far too human for my tastes. I like my inbred drowned monsters with mommy issues to be absolutely f-----g terrifying, and bag-face just never did it for me. The fact that there’s no explanation as to how this towering monster is alive after either drowning in the ’50s and causing his mother to go on a rampage, or he’s an undead creature that somehow still ages and has enough sense to cover his melon with burlap just confuses the hell out of me. I’m very middle of the road on this one, and think it pales in comparison to part one. 6/10
David: I still think Friday the 13th was searching for its identity with Part 2. But, I like it better than the original! Amy Steel is the perfect final girl. There’s the wheelchair kill that has already been mentioned, but it’s that damn good that it has to be mentioned again! I didn’t mind the bag over his face. But once again, this is another Friday that I saw well after I already knew about Jason. I like my Jason with a hockey mask, not a potato sack on his head. With that being said, the kills are far more entertaining and I enjoyed this group of counselors more than the ones in the original. 9/10
Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982)
Nathan: This one is notable for being the entry where Jason finally gets his iconic hockey mask. Otherwise, things take a bit of a slump here. 3D was all the rage at this point in the 80s, so this one is packed to the gills with sight gags and sequences that don’t make a lick of sense if you’re watching this on one of the home video releases that didn’t include 3D glasses. Then again, you’re just as likely to get a headache trying to watch it in the original 3D, so I hope that shot of a dude juggling apples toward the screen was worth it! 5/10
Jason: Nathan, you ignorant slut. This movie is so much more than movie where Jason gets the hockey mask….well…it’s still good despite the only notable thing being that Jason gets his mask in it. The characters in this one have lost all semblance of subtlety, as one guy is literally just Tommy Chong. Then there’s all the shoehorned 3D effects, which range from the successful shocks to disappearing snakes and bouncing popcorn, and the loosely implied sexual assault of the final girl, which is a storyline (thankfully) never pursued again. It’s a movie with ups and downs. I got to see this movie in 3D at an arthouse theater in college (yes, with those rad old school cardboard glasses) and loved it. Old 3D>New 3D forever. 6/10
Patrick: I actually quite like this one, even though I know it’s pretty meh. Watching 3D movies that aren’t in 3D anymore is kind of hilarious at the best of times, and this one delivers. I actually watched a bunch of YouTube to remind myself of this one, and I chuckled nearly the entire time. With vague memories, and knowing that it’s only remembered for introducing the mask, I’ll throw this one a 6/10.
David: Okay, I love this one solely for the end of the film. Yes, this is the one when he finally gets his mask, but that ending! Chris is drifting off in the canoe and she wakes up to see maskless Jason staring at her from an upstairs window. Jason then frantically begins pawing at the glass and Chris tries to paddle away. She looks at the window and he’s gone, but then he shows up outside the backdoor staring at her intently! She freaks out, I freak out, we all freak out! Still to this day I trip out over the ending! I love it! 8/10 based on the ending scene alone.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Nathan: This was the first Friday flick I saw as a wee lad, flipping channels in the middle of the night (well past my bedtime), so I have a lot of nostalgia for it. It definitely lags in the middle, with a much slower pace than the previous two flicks, not to mention a bunch of fake-out jump scares, but it’s hard to say anything negative about the movie that simultaneously introduced me to Crispin Glover and Jason Voorhees. There’s some really syrupy gore toward the end of this flick, which has such a bizarre finale that it earns a couple extra points on sheer brutality and absurdity. Corey Feldman is also easily the best of the three(!) actors to play Tommy Jarvis in as many entries. 7/10
Jason: Oh man this movie. If part 3 was memorable for the debut of Jason’s mask, this movie is memorable for Crispin Glover’s SICK ASS DANCE MOVES! This is also the movie that introduces a young Corey Feldman as Tommy Jarvis, the closest thing the series gets to a protagonist – and the final film to feature a living human version of Jason. Yeah, spoiler alert, a bald Feldman murders Mrs. Voorhees’ baby boy at the end of the movie, leading to a time jump and (eventually) Kane Hodder. This is mostly just a passable entrance in the series, but it is vital to its enduring lore. 6/10
Patrick: While as an overall movie, it’s relatively weak, nostalgia, Feldman, and the 2nd best annoying teen cast (hello New Blood and your s----y kids), this was the second movie I saw in the series after part one, and it did a decent job scaring the balls off of a very young me. The kills are solid through-out, and pretty god-damn brutal. Tommy’s a great addition to the series, and his final trick to psych Jason out, and then machete him in the GOD DAMN FACE is one of the absolute best deaths Jason takes. This one has a special place in my heart, and the majority of it isn’t because I watched Crispin Glover headbutt a machete. 7/10
- Crispin Glover’s sick ass dance moves
- Corey Feldman
Friday the 13th Part 5: A New Beginning (1985)
Nathan: This one gets a lot of flack, and for good reason. For one thing, it took Paramount a whopping ONE YEAR to make The Final Chapter‘s subtitle an outright lie. However, the characters in this one are truly inane to an entertaining degree. Particularly Demon, a bit part memorably played by future Return of the Living Dead and Juwanna Mann star Miguel A. Núñez Jr. The weak link in this is that Tommy is portrayed as almost completely ineffectual, stumbling around in a daze until an over the top finale that makes even less sense when the killer is unmasked (spoiler alert: this ain’t the Voorhees you’re lookin’ for). At least it has Reggie the Reckless, who is easily the best child character in the entire franchise. 4/10
Jason: Ah, the one without Jason. Yeah, this one is much maligned by the masses for employing a copycat killer rather than the real Jason, but while the man behind the mask was just a paramedic out for revenge, the side characters really pull this movie together. A lot of people will talk about Lil Reggie Reckless and his brother Demon (and his love of enchiladas), but I have to express my undying affection for the non-murderous paramedic who dates the hot waitress and goes out while describing the bump of cocaine he’s doing as the best weather report Crystal Lake has ever seen. Dude really missed his calling. Also shout out to the terrible goth dancing from Violet, and the terrible…everything from the second Tommy Jarvis. Oh yeah, this movie involved a time jump that ensured that each of the ensuing movies effectively took place in the future for a while there. If there’s one major criticism, it’s the kills. They seem weaker this time out, which likely has something to do with the movie being submitted 9 times before it could get anything other than an NC-17 rating. 7/10
Patrick: I never liked this movie. It felt like an episode of the TV version of Nightmare or Friday, where the budget feels smaller, the kills are all offscreen, and everything just feels less grand. Back when TV was a significantly smaller screen, this one felt like a movie of the week. Special shout out to Deb Vorhees, the appropriately named actress who gets killed with garden shears while just lounging around naked, like one does, in the woods. This film also telegraphs the actual killer at EVERY opportunity, making it a total non-surprise when it turns out to be a copycat. Final demerits for a Tommy Jarvis end sequence that’s essentially ignored from this point on. 5/10
David: This is easily my least favorite in the series. I don’t have much to say except I enjoyed Demon and his enchiladas. 3/10
Friday the 13th Part 6 : Jason Lives (1986)
Nathan: Your mileage may vary, but this is easily my favorite film of the series. It unfortunately had all of its best kills hacked up by the MPAA, who were really cracking down on slasher flicks at this point in the ‘80s. Still, this one knows exactly what it is, going for more of an overtly comedic and intentionally campy tone. This is a movie that begins with Jason doing his own version of the iconic James Bond gun barrel intro sequence and, uh, James Bond is kind of my thing. I love its devotion to getting as silly as possible, including a memorable kill where a guy gets his head slammed so hard against a tree that it literally leaves a smiley face embedded there. 10/10
Jason: This is the one that really introduced the status quo of “Jason as Zombie,” as Tommy 3 (teen Tommy?) literally Frankensteins Jason’s corpse back to life. This gave us shambling, teleporting, unstoppable killing machine Jason. We don’t get Kane Hodder just yet, but this is when Jason became synonymous with the machete, so we’re getting there. Not much on memorable kills, though there is an RV wreck that is among the more ambitious stunts attempted in the series, and short of Tommy, everyone’s a bit blah. Again, this one is important to the lore, but is honestly probably the weakest of the bunch. 5/10
Patrick: Another one I have absolutely no memory of, what so ever. (Note from Nathan: I’m not mad, Patrick. Just disappointed.)
David: This is the first Friday I saw when I snuck and watched it on HBO back in the day. So, you can imagine my reactions to all the predecessors after I witnessed Jason being brought back to life in this installment. It definitely isn’t the best one made, but holds a special place in my heart as the first. You never forget your first! Plus, Jason and his machete! 8/10
And that does it for the first half of the series! Join us next Wednesday as we take a look at Part 7 through the remake! What will be our favorite kills? Our worst teenager characters? Who will survive and what will be left of th— wait, wrong franchise.
See you soon, campers!
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