Capsule Reviews: Friday the 13th(s)

I'm in a bit of a bind loyal readers. I literally have over 200 reviews from the old site that I would love to post here. The problem? Well to say my writing during the last life of the site was "bad", is like saying that this is terrifying (ie, an understatement).

Okay so they weren't all bad. I do occasionally post old reviews, but they're usually from the last year the site was online. That leaves a lot of films I'd love to have my 2 cents about on the site languishing somewhere in the bowels of my computer. So, here's my attempt to rectify it. These posts will either be themed or just deal with an entire series. Without further adieu, here we go!

Friday the 13th (1980) - Years after a boy drowns at Camp Crystal Lake (due to some inattentive teenagers), a mysterious stranger has returned to off the new set of counselors trying to reopen the place. A thinly veiled cash-in of John Carpenter's "Halloween", "Friday the 13th" managed to lodge itself into the lexicon of horror classics by taking Carpenter's eye for suspense and infusing it with a healthy dose of gore from FX guru Tom Savini. In my opinion, a tad overrated but it's significance in the genre can not be overlooked. Highlights include Kevin Bacon's death scene and the super duper twist ending.

FUN FACT: This film came out the same day as "The Shining", and crushed it at the box office.

Friday the 13th: Part II (1981) - Through some creative retconning, this Steve Miner directed sequel posits that Jason never died as a child and has lived in the woods ever since. After seeing his mother murdered in the first film, he's kept a shrine to her (complete with her rotting head!), and he goes about taking out the counselors at a nearby camp one by one. A decent sequel that ups the ante on the gore quotient. In some ways I enjoy this one even more than the first. Highlights include Amy Steel as a plucky redhead, a dude getting meat cleavered in the face and the ultimate demise of Ralph the town crazy.

FUN FACT: The double impalement scene was an homage to the Mario Bava film "Twitch of the Death Nerve", which many have credited as inspiration for the original "Friday".

Friday the 13th Part 3D (1982) - A group of friends visit a cabin in the Crystal Lake area and aren't very happy when Jason crashes the party. Jason gets his first hockey mask in this film, fulfilling the transformation into the killer we know today. The film drags in the middle but makes up for it with a rousing finale and a twist that plays off of the ending of the first film. Also notable for the 3D gags, which come off as hilariously out of place without the help of those trusty stereoscopic glasses. Highlights include the stereotypical 80's biker gang and the disco inspired theme song that plays over the end credits.

FUN FACT: This film is made all the more entertaining when you find out that lead actress Dana Kimmel not only disliked being in the movie, but felt it was demeaning to women. It adds a whole new layer of strangeitude.

Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter (1984) - The supposed final entry in the series follows another group of unsuspecting teens headed out to the woods to party, despite the fact that there has been nearly 20 murders over the last three days in that very same area. They roll up next door to a young Corey Feldman and his family, and the familiar stuff plays out from there. Very solid entry that sports one of the best finales of the lot. A bald Feldman hacking Jason to bits with a machete is enough to give anyone the creeps. Highlights include Crispin Glover with one of the strangest performances ever committed to film, skinny dipping euro-twins and Jason waking up in the coroners office in the beginning.

FUN FACT: The original ending was deemed too boring, so Savini suggested an effect where Jason's head "slides" down the machete. It worked!

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985) - Years after Jason's death, a teenaged Tommy Doyle (formerly played by Feldman) is sent to a halfway house for teens after being released from a mental institution. While there, very Jason like murders start occurring and begin to test his sanity. The twist ending of this film (shocker, it's not Jason!) has left a lot of fans not willing to give it a chance. Stacked up objectively against the rest of the series however, it's just as entertaining as parts 2 through 4. I would even say that it's more suspenseful in parts. Highlights include Miguel A Nunez Jr. being killed while taking a shit (and singing), Debbi Sue Voorhees (her real last name) showing off what god gave her, and what has to be the greatest on screen "Robot Dance" ever... EVER.

FUN FACT: The scene in the beginning was actually shot in Corey Feldman's back yard on a Sunday. He was working on "Gremlins" at the time and it was the only time he had to shoot the cameo.

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives! (1986) - Years later, after Tommy Jarvis (this time played by Tom Matthews) has finally been released back out into the wild, he drives out to a cemetery with Horeshack to find out if Jason is really dead or not. He digs up the grave and jabs a metal stake into his heart, which is promptly struck by lightning and brings Jason back to life (whoops!). Jason, now reanimated as a rotting zombie, does what he does best: make his way back to a newly renovated camp (this time with actual kids!) to start up his reign of terror once more. This is by far my favorite sequel of the whole series. It's fun, suspenseful and highly entertaining. The only real fault is that it suffered badly at the hands of the MPAA, who were in the midst of a crackdown on gore at the time this was released. Highlights include the amazing heart rip scene in the opening, the thrilling finale, and gratuitous use of Alice Cooper's "Teenage Frankenstein".

FUN FACTS: The original script made mention of Jason's father. Although it didn't make the final cut, it was the only time in the entire series where that aspect of his family is discussed.

Friday the 13th Part VII: A New Blood (1987) - When a girl with volatile telekinetic powers accidentally frees Jason from his watery grave, the decomposing killer resurrects his goal to kill any and all teenagers in the area of his hometown. This entry is also up on the list of my favorites. The final showdown between Jason and Tina ranks as one of the most entertaining sequences in the series to date. Other highlights include the sleeping bag death, Terry Kiser's all too convincing performance as an asshole, and Jason's proclivity for obscure garden tools. This entry was also hacked up by the MPAA, which is unfortunate, but no amount of added gore could save the ending. Seriously, how much peyote was the writer on when he came up with that?

FUN FACT: Rumors are that this film was originally supposed to be "Freddy Vs Jason", but when the deal between Paramount and New Line fell through, producers saw fit to come up with a different sort of nemesis for Jason to take on. The result is the Tina character. This film also marks the first appearance of Kane Hodder as Jason.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan - Jason, resting once again at the bottom of Camp Crystal Lake, is resurrected when some horny teenagers accidentally trip an electrical wire with their boat anchor (okay, they were definitely stretching at this point). Reanimated once again and feeling frisky, he hitches a ride on a cruise ship bound for Manhattan with a group of high school students on their senior trip. Late 80's shenanigans ensue. People bash this film for taking place mostly on the boat (certainly calling it "Jason Takes Manhattan" is a bit of a stretch), but I have a soft spot for it nonetheless.

Late 80's fashion was in full effect here, and the boat makes for a nice change of scenery from the woods. Highlights include a nice breast shot in the beginning (of the itty bitty variety), the crazy cook who looks just like my uncle Paul, and those few moments when we actually do get to see Jason roaming around the Big Apple. (oh, can't forget the part where Jason punches a dude's head off) Unfortunately, a botched ending and Jason's strange ability to suddenly teleport (WTF?) makes this one hard for even me to love. That said, if you've come this far with me you might as well give into it. Resistance is futile.

FUN FACT: The original poster art showed Jason tearing through a poster for New York's famous "I Love New York" tourism campaign. The design was changed after the state threatened to sue. The original posters are still available on Ebay, but they don't come cheap!

Jason Goes to Hell (1991) - New Line's first entry after buying the series from Paramount is a departure in both style and tone from the previous sequels. Authorities surround Jason in the woods at night and blow him to smithereens, then send the parts off to the coroner. Seemingly taken over by something, the coroner eats Jason's heart and becomes inhabited by his soul. He then jumps from body to body while murdering Crystal Lake residents left and right.

It turns out that Jason has relatives, and the only way for him to be killed is with a mystical dagger. The new elements of the story seemed forced, but they still manage to keep the old Friday spirit. The unrated version in particular, sports some fantastic gore moments that aren't to be missed. Highlights include the opening scene, the tent pole scene, Steven Willaims hard as nails bounty hunter Creighton Duke, and the fanboy pleasing appearance of Freddy's glove at the end pulling Jason's mask down into the dirt.

FUN FACT(s): New Line bought rights to make sequels to the series, but not to use the "Friday the 13th" name, which is why both of their films did not use the original title.

Also, early test screenings yielded complaints that there weren't enough sex and/or teenagers in the film, so the campfire scene was subsequently shot. It was then crammed into the film in the 2nd act in order to squeeze in a gratuitous nude scene. Hey, no complaints here!

I'm going skip the rest for now because well, this has already ran longer than I planned and I'm pretty tired. The funny thing is, I could have just as easily typed "I like them all" and gotten the same point across. But then again, what's the fun in that! Stay tuned for more capsule reviews in the near future.

Eric N

Co-Founder / Editor-in-Chief / Podcast Host

Eric is the mad scientist behind the BGH podcast. He enjoys retro games, tiny dogs, eating fiber and anything whimsical.

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