Like the camp counselors in their prized creation, the filmmakers wanted out. They wanted to escape the superhuman grip of Jason Voorhees, and they wanted to get on with their lives, maybe to make a movie about aliens since those were all the rage in the 80s. They just couldn’t do it, though. Jason kept pulling them back in, grabbing them right out of that dinky little canoe and dragging them into the foggy waters of Crystal Lake.
If you missed my tirade recapping the first four Friday the 13ths, I recommend you check that out before continuing. That way we’re all on the same page as far as how big and dumb Jason Voorhees is.
A New Beginning
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter ended up just being the fourth movie in the franchise, and a mere year after it stomped through the box office, Part V came. In an attempt to make the previous film’s conclusive title make more sense, they named this one Friday the 13th: A New Beginning.
Again they employed that fun “time doesn’t matter” storytelling device and young Tommy Jarvis (previously seen as a Corey Feldman child) is now a grown man. It’s still the 80s, even though with the amount of time skipping we’ve already done in this franchise it should be at least 1995 at this point. I guess I’m the only one who cares about the chronology of these movies.
So, Part V. This one is bad. I’ve been scanning the Wikipedia page for more info on it because it’s honestly super forgettable, and even the setup sounds like it’s trying to convince you to go watch something else. Tommy is so haunted by Jason Voorhees, who he pretty clearly killed by hacking off his head, that he ends up at a halfway house in the middle of nowhere. The other people in this halfway house aren’t anyone you’d actually see at a halfway house (because that wouldn’t be fun), but are instead a poor imitation of the cast of The Breakfast Club.
We have a couple who just makes out a lot, a stutterer, a goth girl, a deadly serious one, a compulsive eater, and a guy whose grandfather works as the cook. In addition, there’s the doctor and his assistant. If you’re thinking that’s a lot of characters, don’t worry. You don’t actually have to care about any of them, because they pretty quickly dwindle away in typical Jason Voorhees fashion.
Fans of the series will note this one for being the only film to feature a hockey mask with blue triangles pointing downward instead of the typical red triangles. Everyone else will wonder why that fact is even mentioned. It’s mostly because this movie sucks, and there’s little else to talk about.
There are a lot of good quotes about the making of this one, like how the director reflected back and said it felt like they shot a porno in the woods due to the amount of nudity they cut out of the film. The latter half of this movie plays a game (that really doesn’t make sense) where maybe Tommy is the killer, and then ends on a cliffhanger of Tommy about to hack and slash the doctor’s assistant for some reason.
Nobody liked A New Beginning. The filmmakers had plans to take Killer Tommy into the future of the franchise but they were mailed so many farts that they went back on that and decided to, once again, bring back Jason. Having seen all of these movies, I can definitively say that Jason is one of its best assets. They frequently mess him up in perplexing ways, but Jason Voorhees is a force to be reckoned with, the perfect metaphor for the equalizing powers of the universe and its complete disregard for your wants or desires. He has to be the antagonist, because he is the heart of this franchise.
Part VI is dope. They looked at the sometimes dubious logic of their previous films and instead of trying to explain it, they cranked it up even higher. This is the film where Jason stops being human and becomes the amazing supernatural unstoppable killing machine that we know and love.
In the opening of Friday the 13th: Jason Lives, we’ve skipped a few years since Part V (so it’s what, 1998 now in this timeline?). Tommy goes with a buddy to dig up and stab Jason’s body, and we’re all going to pretend that Part V didn’t very obviously point to Tommy as being the next Crystal Lake murderer. All that Spooky Tommy stuff is just swept under the rug.
It’s storming while they show up to the cemetery because Crystal Lake is under a perpetual thunderstorm, but that doesn’t stop them. Crazed by his persistent nightmares of Jason, Tommy stabs a fencepost through Jason’s corpse. In true Frankenstein fashion, though, a convenient lightning strike hits that fencepost and BAM! Jason Voorhees is back in action. He punches through the heart of Tommy’s friend, and even though I didn’t see this film in theaters I just know there was some raucous applause in that moment. And there should have been – it was cool.
The rest of the movie is spent with Tommy flirting up the sheriff’s daughter (there’s always time for love) and the sheriff really hating everything about Tommy (he might have killed people or something!). They turn zombie Jason into a kind of vampire by saying he can only be defeated on his home turf, so they get him back to the camp where it all began, where we have multiple scenes of everyone-shoot-Jason just to prove that bullets do nothing to him anymore. There are a bunch of camp kids there, but they basically just cry and shriek and hold each other. Silly kids.
Jason almost kills Love Interest, then Tommy lures him into the lake. He somehow manages to tie a boulder around Jason’s neck, then they turn on the boat’s propeller and give Jason’s neck a good whacking. He sinks, Love Interest revives Tommy on the shore, and we’re left with the image of Jason, pinned underwater by the boulder, staring. Waiting.
If you were to think that was the end of Jason, you would be very, very wrong. Part VI is often thought of as the best Friday the 13th, and it certainly has some great moments. Slashers are predicated on the idea that their killer is somehow supernatural, an evil force that will stop at nothing to murder and murder some more, and the Jason of Part VI embodies that perfectly.
We’ve never had Jason speak (thankfully), and he kind of just lumbers along at a steady pace so there’s not much in the way of land speed records that he’s going to be impressing anyone with. But by making this big murderous dummy into a legitimate supernatural, undead killing machine, they created something new and scary beyond the legend of a disfigured boy drowned in a lake. He still has his limitations (how about just don’t go to Crystal Lake?), but by fully accepting Jason for what Jason wanted to be, we were able to escape the doldrums of Part V and enter a brave new world of undying homicidal rage.
The New Blood
Barbara Sachs was the Associate Producer on Part VII, and she allegedly wanted it to feel totally different from all the ones before it. She wanted it to “win an Academy Award.” She considered tons of high-profile directors for this one, including Federico Fellini.
Whoa, man. They did not do that.
This one can pretty easily be boiled down to Jason vs. Carrie. Even though Carrie the book came out in 1974, Carrie the movie was 1976, and this movie was 1988, the magic was still alive in the minds of the filmmakers and they decided that what the world needed was a telekinetic teenager to go toe to toe with our iconic zombie killer.
The movie opens with Tina getting in a tiff with dad, and – oops! – her powers go off and break a dock, killing dad in the process. Heartbroken, she tries to will him back to life but instead of grabbing dad’s spirit she grabs Jason’s, who’s still hanging out underwater staring out of those hate-filled eyes.
Cut to years later, and Tina’s still sad about that time she murdered her father. She goes with mom and her awful therapist to the exact same lakefront property where she killed dad, because apparently that’s going to help her get over it. That makes it super convenient for Jason, because he’s been sharpening that machete and he’s ready for some fresh meat.
A gaggle of partying 20-somethings is next door because of course they are. One becomes enamored with Tina even though all she does is space out and cry, and they kind of build out some kind of love triangle before all the killing starts. And there are some entertaining kills here, like when a woman goes skinnydipping (of course she does) and the guy who admires from the shore is killed with an axe to the face but she doesn’t notice for a while. Later on, a woman is killed with a party horn. No one ever said Jason wasn’t resourceful.
When you hear “Jason vs. Carrie” you might expect a wicked cool showdown. We’ve already established that Jason is immortal and bullets are mere inconveniences to him. Surely a girl with telekinetic powers could do some serious damage, rip him limb from limb or electrocute him or launch him into the space.
None of that happens here, because Tina is basically a baby mutant from X-Men and doesn’t yet have real control of her abilities. This may make you believe she’ll come back in a later sequel, but she does not. Friday the 13th isn’t really about continuity.
So Tina shrieks a lot while everyone around her dies, and then (finally) she does some power stuff and blows up a house on Jason. She manages to get really worked up and…breaks Jason’s mask. I mean, really? We have Carrie lite here, supposedly a psychic so powerful that she blipped out her dad’s life force without meaning to, but when faced with many many murders (including that of her mom), all she can do is break a mask?
With the mask in tatters, we again see that sweet Jason face, weirder still than the last time it graced us. And I’ve got to say, considering this reanimated corpse has been hanging out underwater for a few years, his body is staying together remarkably well. I’d have thought a limb would go or he’d leave some skin behind as a macabre calling card, yet here he is. Fully intact.
Tina is so distraught as her lakefront cabin burns down that she goes back out to that dock where she killed dad years ago, and really breaks down. Thankfully, breaking down is exactly what she needed to do to summon her dead father (who she can now bring back even though she couldn’t when she first killed him). He too looks just fine by the way, even though he was underwater for years. Oh, and don’t question why no one retrieved his body from the lake. He was just there, hanging out, waiting to show up and save his daughter.
He grabs Jason, whisks him away to the land of undead creatures in Crystal Lake, and we end our movie with a guy finding Jason’s broken hockey mask.
This brings us to Part VIII, one of the most perplexing slashers I’ve ever seen. The title is Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, and if that doesn’t pique your interest then nothing will.
After Part VII, there were several ideas on where to take the franchise. Part VII’s director wanted to continue Tina’s story and give us an actually cool showdown. The actress who played Tina was so inspired that she wrote her own screenplay, and another actor from the movie wrote a version in which all of Part VII was a dream and his character was actually the killer.
None of that happened, because this guy named Rob Hedden started spouting off about how Jason needed to get out of Crystal Lake. He had two concepts: one inspired by Aliens and Das Boot in which Jason was on a cruise ship killing people, and the other being that Jason gets to NYC and goes sightseeing with a large side of murder.
Both of these are very silly, and in true Friday the 13th fashion they thought what the hell? and did both. The problem with that high concept approach and its provocative title is that they couldn’t really deliver. Jason doesn’t actually go sightseeing in Manhattan. He only barely gets to Manhattan, mostly because these movies have to be made cheap in order to make money and NYC ain’t cheap.
Most of this movie was filmed in and around Vancouver, which is so incredibly obvious that it took me out of the film. Crystal Lake is supposed to be in New Jersey, which would mean a cruise from Crystal Lake to NYC wouldn’t take all that long nor give much time for killin’. What we actually get in this movie, though, are the moody pine forests of the Pacific Northwest and tons of evocative stormy backdrops. This really messed with me, since all I could think about was 1) how does Jason get onto a cruise ship in the PNW and 2) how does a cruise ship go from the PNW to NYC?
If you find yourself asking these questions, you’re thinking too hard. It doesn’t really matter how, but Jason manages to finally leave Crystal Lake, a place where basically everything goes his way and a constant stream of dumb young things present themselves to him, and he boards a cruise ship full of teens. And just like you’d expect, these teens have all their own cliques and dumb jokes and our main girl is really moody.
Murder ensues. One death is caused by Jason throwing a guy into an electrical box, which electrocutes his body and causes the ship to take on water. Our ragtag group of survivors’ only option is to get into a rowboat and row to New York, which is exactly what they do.
With about 30 minutes left, we finally make the title of the movie come true! But then we waste a bunch of time with some junkie punk guys and further proving that bullets do nothing to Jason. There’s a triumphant scene of Jason in Times Square (look! New York!), and then we end up in the sewers.
A sewer worker conveniently shows up just to tell our survivors that soon the whole sewer will be flooded with toxic waste. What? Is that a thing? That can’t be a thing. Anyway, our survivors decide that’s the perfect way to end Jason. It works, Jason is drowned by toxic waste, and our survivors re-emerge into Times Square (New York!), where they’re reunited with a dog that you rightfully thought was lost in the big city.
Part VIII came out in 1989, and Part I was released in 1980. In the span of one decade, this franchise had eight installments. They were uneven as hell, retconned their plot and lead villain all over the place, and yet they made a boatload of money and inspired countless jokes, tattoos, and helped write the rules of the slasher, for better or worse. As we leave the ‘80s behind, Jason continues to kill, but at a much (much) slower pace.
If you’re reading this thinking that there’s nowhere they could take this franchise next that would be stranger than a telekinetic girl or a rowboat into Vancouver playing dress-up as NYC, then I’ve got a treat for you. Because Jason X is a thing.