A Retrospective of ‘Friday the 13th’

Paramount Pictures, Sean S. Cunningham Films

I watched the Friday the 13th films several years ago and, while I definitely prefer the Halloween series, still found them to be compelling. Since my fiancé had never seen any Friday the 13th films before, we decided order the box set of the first eight (the classic era for this franchise, as far as I’m concerned) and give them a watch. Here are my rankings, in order from best to worst: 

1. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

Featuring notable performances from Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover, this would have been a great place to end things. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is Friday the 13th at its peak. Everything is firing on all cylinders at this point. Plus, there is no question that this one has the best Jason death. It was also nice to get some character development before the murders started. 5/5 stars.

2. Friday the 13th Part 2

This is a very well done sequel to the first film and ends up being of a much higher quality. Improved acting, great pacing, and a much better final girl (Ginny Field, played by Amy Steel). Super campy (Jason places Pamela Voorhees’ severed head on an altar) and a lot of fun! 5/5 stars.

3. Friday the 13th

This is where all the fun started. Inspired by John Carpenter’s Halloween, director Sean S. Cunningham wanted Friday the 13th to be a “roller-coaster ride.” And what a ride it is! Between the iconic score, the camp, the characters, the kills, Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney), Betsy Palmer’s performance as Pamela Voorhees, and the twisty ending, this is a true classic. 5/5 stars.

4. Friday the 13th Part III

While not nearly as good or consistent as Part II, Part III is still an enjoyable lark to Camp Crystal Lake. Aside from the some some really cool shots and the spellbinding finale, this film isn’t very distinguishing. Dana Kimmell did an exceptional job as Chris Higgins, the final girl. 4/5 stars.

5. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives

After the dismal box performance and poor fan reception of A New Beginning, director Tom McLoughlin brought Jason back — except this time as an undead and exceptionally powerful force. For me, this is where the wheels started to come off. I’m not a fan of supernatural horror, and I didn’t enjoy this as much as I wanted to.

That being said, Jason Lives was pretty good. The addition of meta-humor and action film elements, as well as breaking the fourth wall several times, made it a more fresh and compelling film. 3/5 stars.

6. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood

The tragedy of this film is it could have been much better, but numerous explicit scenes were cut to avoid an X rating. This seriously diminishes the quality and leaves very little blood and gore, especially by ‘80s slasher standards. They really would have benefited by including some in the final cut, in particular the entirety of the sleeping bag sequence. However, one positive aspect of The New Blood is the introduction of a psychokinetic girl to battle Jason was a smart move. A Jason vs. Carrie matchup definitely made things interesting. 3/5 stars.

7. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning

This film is known for a high number of on-screen kills, although they are extremely boring and devoid of much imagination. A New Beginning was initially going to set up a new trilogy of films with a different villain for the series, but taking Jason out of the equation just didn’t work. 2/5 stars.

8. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

This was absolutely dreadful. Aside from a few scenes, the film was primarily shot in Vancouver. What a ripoff! So much for Jason taking Manhattan… Aside from the scene where Jason punched a guy’s head clear off and the deck hand telling everyone they were going to die (reminiscent of Crazy Ralph from the first two movies), this was a total letdown and a depressing way to end the ‘80s. 1/5 stars.

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