Friday the 13th is Not Good, Parts IX-XII

My previous two installments in the Ft13iNT series (catchy!) were many months ago, and I’m sure you’ve been sitting on the edge of your seat awaiting this conclusion. Maybe the edge of your seat has even bent from all the excitement. Maybe your butt’s gone numb. Well fear not, reader, for here is the third and final blog post in which I look more closely at Friday the 13th than any one person ever should.

Jason Takes Manhattan (Part 8) was the worst-performing Friday the 13th movie. It made $14.3m on a budget of $5.5m, so it didn’t exactly bomb, but audiences mostly didn’t know what to do with it. The jokes weren’t funny, the plot was all over the place, and even the kills weren’t particularly fun.

So then they took him to hell.

Jason Goes to Hell

Continuing the naming convention that would later be adopted by It’s Always Sunny (“The Gang Gets Racist”), Part IX takes Jason to hell. Except it kind of doesn’t. Unfortunately we’re never shown a Friday the 13th version of the underworld, and instead just have to imagine what it looks like. There’s probably hella demons.

This movie’s full title is Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday in another desperate attempt to end the franchise once and for all. Even when the filmmakers straight up lie to their audience (let’s go to NYC, which happens to look just like Vancouver!), they still make money. They have an immortal killing machine who has no remorse or emotions but who’s incapable of running, and even though Jason is the only constant in these movies, they keep trying to make one without him. This time that means body hopping.

The movie opens with a SWAT team trapping Jason in the woods, filling him with approximately a billion bullets, and then dismembering his body. The coroner performs an autopsy, sees his still-beating heart, and then he does what anyone would do when faced with an evil, immortal organ: he eats it. This bonkers movie decides that eating Jason’s heart means that Jason now takes over your body, and thus begins our body-hopping insanity.

Out of nowhere, a bounty hunter named Creighton Duke (great name) somehow learns that only relatives of Jason can actually kill him, so he tracks down the last living family members and tries to team up. Meanwhile, Jason’s just hopping bodies all over the place, apparently now determined to kill his relatives despite the fact that Jason’s relatives have literally never been talked about in any of the eight films that came before this.

There’s a baby, a diner, and a magical dagger, and in the final showdown the guy that Jason possessed gets his head severed and then Jason, now a demonic baby, crawls out of his neck. Later that demon baby crawls into a dead body, where it will presumably be reborn? I don’t know, there are no rules here and everything is nuts.

Jason’s defeated (yeah right), and all of the souls he’s consumed pour out of him as he’s dragged to hell. Hey, the title finally came true! Too bad we don’t see it. Jason hacking away at giant demons would have made my year.

A dog finds Jason’s discarded mask, but someone else is suddenly more interested. The gloved hand of Freddy Krueger bursts from the ground and grabs the mask, laughing maniacally.

Jason X: The Finest Film Ever Made

If you thought that very obvious lead-in would take us into the crossover event of our lifetimes with Freddy vs. Jason, you’d be wrong. Because if you learn nothing else from my write-ups about Jason’s marvelous misadventures, I want you to learn that continuity matters not an iota in this cinematic universe.

Instead of doing the sensible thing and picking up the story from exactly where the last one left off, we were instead given Jason X. And honestly, the world is a better place for it.

Here’s Jason X’s plot, in a nutshell. Jason is being studied in a top secret research facility in Crystal Lake (you know, that place that barely consisted of anything more than a summer camp in the first half-dozen movies), and then – surprise! – he escapes and murders everyone. In the process of killing everyone (including David Cronenberg in a bizarre cameo), he just so happens to get trapped and frozen in a cryogenic chamber. 450 years later, he’s awoken by a group of dummies who take him on their spaceship. Murders ensue.

That’s a lot more plot than most of the F13 movies have, and it’s an incredibly ambitious plot even though this movie completely disregards cultural advancements and acts like the world of 450 years from now will be exactly like that of 2001. There are an unbelievable amount of midriffs in this movie, and even though almost a half century has elapsed since Jason’s time, everyone speaks exactly the same, silly lingo and all.

I’ve talked more about this movie than any other over the last few months, striking up conversations with strangers, acting out scenes completely unsolicited, and trying to engage others in inside jokes that they have no idea originated with Jason X. You see, this a special film. It definitely fits the mold of “so bad it’s good,” but it’s also just such a great time capsule of an absurd year, a time ruled by Nickelback, Limp Bizkit, and the first Harry Potter. The early aughts horror film was something truly bad, and Jason X fits right in next to the Paris Hilton House of Wax – although this one at least knows how to laugh at itself.

We get an android who tries too hard to relive the glory of The Matrix, and all of our hot scientists are banging each other for no reason at all other than it makes for a better horror movie than doing science things. There’s a machine that can regrow any part of any person (if you’re wondering how that life-changing technology has altered the future, look elsewhere; Jason X is not interested in actual world-building), and of course when Matrix lady shoots Jason into tiny little Jason bits, he just so happens to land inside that miraculous machine.

Thus we get MECHA JASON, which is exactly as cool as it sounds. Seriously, this is the F13 movie to watch. Just forget the others – they don’t feature scientists trying to distract Jason by putting him into a VR world where two topless campers try to seduce him, only to get zipped up into their own sleeping bags and thumped against a tree until they die.

But alas, I guess we’ll move on from this beautiful little gem. We have two more films to cover, after all.

Freddy vs. Jason

New Line Cinema produced the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, which printed money in a similar way to Jason. Thus is the glory of a low-budget horror franchise – even when the movie is garbage, thousands of people will still pick it for date night. The studio’s reputation was so tied to their striped sweater-wearing psychopathic lead that New Line was called “the house that Freddy built.”

It seemed like a no-brainer to pair these two famed ‘80s slasher stars and have both Jason and Freddy in one movie, but it took a surprisingly long time to actually come to fruition. This crossover was originally planned all the way back in 1987, but they couldn’t decide how exactly these two would cross paths (mainly because Freddy kills people in their dreams and I guess Jason doesn’t dream), and instead they sent Jason to Manhattan (except it was Vancouver).

So anyway, 2003 rolled around and finally the fans got what they wanted, which was both Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees in one movie. The result? Meh.

Don’t get me wrong, this thing did well. It raked in over $116 million on a budget of $30 million, which set a new record for both franchises. It was also the last time Robert Englund played Freddy, and was the last movie in each franchise before they were respectively rebooted. In that sense, this was a last hurrah for the old guard. Also it stars Kelly Rowland from Destiny’s Child.

In it, Freddy is powerless because everyone’s forgotten about him, so he manages to summon Jason and makes him murder everyone. Forget that their respective stomping grounds don’t really cross over; Springwood is where Freddy kills everyone, and it’s presumably somewhere in Ohio, while Crystal Lake is in New Jersey or somewhere. It’s clear the longer you watch the Friday the 13th movies that geography is a mere suggestion to the filmmakers, despite Crystal Lake being nearly synonymous with their masked killer.

A whole bunch of goofy dream swapping happens (if you’ve seen a Nightmare on Elm Street, you know what I mean), and then in the final moments of the film we finally get the showdown, the only reason this movie was ever made. There’s a ton of fire, Freddy gets an arm lobbed off, and Jason’s eyes get stabbed. It’s a raucous good time!

In the end, Jason emerges victorious, holding the severed head of Freddy. Only what’s that? Did Freddy’s head just wink at us?

Friday the 13th (2009)

And here we have it, the latest installment in the Jason Voorhees cinematic universe. It’s a real missed opporunity that we’ve now gone so long without a new F13 movie, since clearly this series needs to consist of 13 films and not just 12. They’ll probably reboot this reboot pretty soon. This one made over $90 million on a $20 million budget, so it’s a little baffling why they haven’t done it already (I blame Saw). Creatively fulfilling this series may not always be, but when you get a guy in a hockey mask hacking away at teens then you can basically print money at the box office.

So once again, despite giving the world’s clearest lead-in at the end of their last movie, they just decided to totally scrap any thought of a Freddy vs. Jason 2. It’s almost a requirement at this point that you end your Jason Voorhees movie with a big ol’ cliffhanger and then start the next one without any mere mention of anything that happened in the last one.

Even though this is technically the 12th movie in our franchise, it’s a complete reboot. And when I say complete, I mean they really ditched Slow But Steady Jason and instead went with Linebacker Jason. This Jason sprints and tackles, and it’s unnerving in its brutality but also in its complete disregard for the lunacy of a slow killer methodically making his way after you. Jason moving really slow is key to his character, and since he doesn’t talk and presumably feels no emotion other than homidical rage, his moving slowly is a defining feature. You change that and I don’t know this killer from any other.

This movie is directed by Marcus Nispel, who also made the 2003 remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and apparently made a 2011 Conan the Barbarian. This guy is apparently who you go to when you want to make a forgettable reboot of a beloved franchise, and boy does he deliver here.

Friday the 13th (2009) is essentially a greatest hits of F13 movies shoved into a modern remake with a lot of gore. We get Jason hunting people around Camp Crystal Lake. We get Jason finding his hockey mask. We get one of the last survivors distracting him by acting like his dead mom. We even get Jason, presumed dead, being dumped into Crystal Lake, whereupon he rises up and grabs our Final Girl in yet another cliffhanger ending!

For a majority of the movie, our Final Girl is caged in Jason’s weird dungeon because he likes her, or something (she reminds him of mom?). It makes no sense that Mr. Murder would suddenly fall in love, but there you have it. Also we get an Asian guy who smokes a lot of pot, because Stoner Guy is a slasher trope that will never die.

It’s not a good movie. It’s going on 12 years since it came out, which is longer than has ever elapsed between movies in this four decade-spanning franchise, and that really accentuates how Not Awesome it is.

The Enduring Appeal

Despite Jason having not graced theaters in 12 years, I’m going to go out on a limb and say he’ll be back. Over his 12 film career, Jason has endured some of the most hackneyed writing, absurd plotting, and most forced genre elements ever put to film, and still he’s one of the most iconic characters in all of cinema.

Thanks to that beloved hockey mask, everyone immediately knows what your lazy Halloween costume is. His visage makes a great tattoo, and now that ’80s nostalgia is cool again, Jason Voorhees is basically Miles Davis. Give me some Adidas and a Camp Crystal Lake vintage tee and I’m off to the races.

But why does he endure? In part, it’s the simplicity. Despite my love for horror movies, it took a while for me to ask the slasher subgenre on a date. It’s one of the most simplistic genres, generally consisting of a group of good guys being systematically killed by a bad guy, and that initially struck me as lazy.

But it’s about the fun. It’s about the fact that life is fleeting, and nothing is more human than to celebrate your life while watching other people lose theirs. Thankfully nowadays no one has to actually die in a coliseum for our entertainment, but the brutal simplicity of the spectacle remains. Pair that with a story (thin though they may be), and watch it with some friends who aren’t shy at telling the dummies on screen what they should have done to survive, and you’ve got yourself a classic good time.

So now that I’ve committed a few thousand words to recapping all 12 Friday the 13th movies and dissecting their financials, creators, and plots, why did I choose the title Friday the 13th is Not Good? Well, because it isn’t. And because that doesn’t matter; we’ll all keep watching anyway.

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