Directed by: Adam Marcus
Written by: Jay Huguely and Dean Lorey
The entire Friday the 13th series is plagued by faulty mythology, but Jason Goes to Hell is the most flagrant example — and not just because it’s far from “the final Friday.” This is the one in which Jason (Kane Hodder) dies, then possesses a coroner (Richard Gant), who is compelled to eat Jason’s heart during his autopsy. There is very little actual Jason in this movie, and a lot instead of Jason’s spirit moving from person to person, with ever-shifting rules as to how the transference takes place. The Final Girl, Jessica (Kari Keegan), turns out to be the daughter of Jason’s long-lost sister, a twist shamelessly influenced by Halloween. (Nightmare on Elm Street also tried this. It was a bad idea.) The film as a whole feels like a parody of itself with scenes that both approach humor, intentionally or otherwise, and fall flat. The only truly great moment is the cameo by Freddy Krueger’s claw, dragging Jason down into hell. If only their promised showdown hadn’t been stuck in development hell for another decade.
Directed by: Rob Hedden
Written by: Rob Hedden
Jason Takes Manhattan is arguably the most maligned Friday the 13th sequel, perhaps because it has the most misleading title in the entire franchise (yes, even more so than The Final Friday). Jason (Kane Hodder) does eventually show up in New York City, but the majority of the film takes place on a boat: If they had called it Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason’s Semester at Sea, people might hate it less. Regardless, it’s nowhere near good. The new crop of teenagers are too forgettable to name — except Julius (V. C. Dupree), who literally boxes Jason in one of the film’s more ridiculous scenes. (Jason punches his head off, because of course he does.) The only other notable kill is a death by guitar, which earns points for creativity, something the movie otherwise lacks. There are hints of what could have been in the final scenes — Jason on the subway is an intriguing premise that never really goes anywhere — but as it stands, Part VIII is a waterlogged mess.
Directed by: Danny Steinmann
Written by: Martin Kitrosser, David Cohen, and Danny Steinmann
Spoiler alert: The guy in the hockey mask slaughtering teens isn’t Jason Voorhees. Yes, in an attempt to revitalize the series after the seemingly conclusive Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, A New Beginning puts grieving father Roy Burns (Dick Wieand) in Jason’s shoes, cutting his way through the residents of a halfway house where his son Joey (Dominick Brascia) was murdered. Corey Feldman returns, briefly, as Tommy Jarvis before getting aged up to John Shepherd, who looks nothing like Corey Feldman. While it’s interesting to see the emotional effects Jason’s spree in The Final Chapter might have had on young Tommy, New Beginning is not the psychological thriller it thinks it is, but rather a half-assed try at creating a new Jason. And while Tommy is teased as the new killer in the cliffhanger, that was dropped completely by the time the next sequel rolled around. So basically, it’s your standard cavalcade of carnage that sets up a mildly interesting twist, then refuses to follow through.
Directed by: John Carl Buechler
Written by: Manuel Fidello and Daryl Haney
At some point, the Friday the 13th sequels start to blur together. (That point is after the first four, if I’m being generous.) The New Blood is notable primarily for the fact that its Final Girl Tina (Lar Park Lincoln) has telekinetic powers. (Which, sure, why not?) As with each subsequent installment, the attempt to up the gore is clear, but Part VII inevitably shows too much restraint — the violence was edited down to secure an R rating. And so we get several kills that start off with potential but cut away before showing too much. To be clear, you can have a great slasher movie without a lot of blood: Halloween is a perfect example. But Friday the 13th Part VII is not Halloween. Even with Tina’s special abilities, the film just doesn’t have enough going for it to make up for the censorship. The bit of ultraviolence that does work — even though it was overdone by this point in this series — is Tina discovering the bevy of corpses Jason (Kane Hodder) has put on display for her, like a cat delivering a mutilated bird.
Directed by: Marcus Nispel
Written by: Damian Shannon and Mark Swift
Like all 2000s remakes of ’80s slashers, Friday the 13th has plenty of flaws. It’s not as big of a misstep as 2010’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, but it’s nowhere near as creative as Rob Zombie’s Halloween reboot, which — while largely not great — at least tries new things. The most innovative aspect of the Friday the 13th remake is its extended teaser sequence: In the opening 20 minutes, Jason (Derek Mears) slaughters several teens before the title flashes on the screen. (Meanwhile, Pamela Voorhees — played here by Nana Visitor — has her own murder spree and decapitation relegated to the opening credits.) The main problem with the rest of the movie is that it’s just not that interesting. The twist of Jason kidnapping a girl (Amanda Righetti) because she looks like his mother is contrived and, frankly, feels beyond his mental abilities. There’s also too much focus on the male lead, Jared Padalecki’s Clay. That having been said, Nolan (Ryan Hansen) and Chelsea (Willa Ford) have hilarious death scenes.
Directed by: Ronny Yu
Written by: Damian Shannon and Mark Swift
Truth be told, Freddy vs. Jason is one of the most consistently entertaining films on this list. But regardless of the fact that Jason (Ken Kirzinger) emerges victorious, this is really Freddy’s (Robert Englund) movie. It opens with a montage of the Nightmare on Elm Street series, it takes place primarily in Springwood, Ohio, and Freddy does all the talking. (Yes, that’s by default. But still.) The plot is silly and most of the acting is dubious at best (I’m looking at you, Kelly Rowland). But for the sheer thrill of watching two iconic slasher villains kick the crap out of each other, Freddy vs. Jason can’t be beat. Its primary flaw as a Friday the 13th movie is its murky understanding of Jason, who — for the purposes of this film and this film alone — is deathly afraid of water. Nevertheless, watching a flashback of young hydrocephalic Jason drowning is deeply upsetting. It’s an uncomfortable reminder of Jason’s victimhood, and it ultimately makes it a lot harder to root for the more interesting villain.
Directed by: Jim Isaac
Written by: Todd Farmer
Jason X is to the Friday the 13th series as Freddy’s Revenge is to the Nightmare on Elm Street. No, it’s not super homoerotic — if only! — but it is a terrible installment of the franchise and a “fuck you” to continuity that somehow still emerges as a completely delightful camp classic. It is perhaps the most fun to watch out of all of the films listed here, provided you appreciate iconic scenes like an android’s nipples falling off (why?) and lines like, “You’re lucky you weren’t alive during the Microsoft conflict. Hell, we were beating each other with our own severed limbs.” Jason X is thoroughly, wonderfully stupid. In shifting the action to a spaceship in 2455, it is essentially Alien reconceived by people who were very, very stoned. And yet, it is also completely aware of what it is. The scene in which Jason (Kane Hodder) is tempted by virtual reality girls who taunt him with “We love premarital sex” is the comedic highlight of the entire series. To that end, who gives a shit if any of it makes a lick of sense?
Directed by: Joseph Zito
Written by: Barney Cohen
The best thing about The Final Chapter is how ’80s it all is. I suppose that could be said for the preceding Friday the 13th films, but those didn’t star Corey Feldman and feature an incredibly awkward scene of Crispin Glover dancing. The gore and the body count are heightened, but — as is so often the case — the victims are largely interchangeable. And yet, The Final Chapter does feel like a classic Friday the 13th movie in a way that none of the films after it do. It’s the proper continuation from Part III and should probably have been the conclusion of the series. (Imagine if titles actually meant something!) While Trish (Kimberly Beck) is the obvious Final Girl, Feldman’s Tommy Jarvis is more interesting, especially as the ending reveals that his run-in with Jason Voorhees (Ted White) probably cost him his sanity. It’s an intriguing notion, and a new one for a series that generally doesn’t think about the psychological casualties of Jason’s frequent sprees. (It never goes anywhere interesting, but that’s not Final Chapter’s fault.)
Directed by: Tom McLoughlin
Written by: Tom McLoughlin
The third and final Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews) installment of the Friday the 13th series, Jason Lives brings back Jason (C. J. Graham and Dan Bradley) himself, making it a clear improvement over the dismal New Beginning. More importantly, Jason Lives has a sense of humor, something the franchise as a whole could do with a lot more of. “I’ve seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly,” Darren (Scandal’s Tony Goldwyn) quips shortly before being murdered. All of the kills are fun, and the overall tone is tongue-in-cheek. It’s not as laugh-out-loud funny as Jason X, but it manages to walk the line between sincerity and satire with surprising deftness. You also have to admire a sequel that doesn’t even pretend to kill Jason: Instead, Tommy ties him to the bottom of Crystal Lake, where he chills out for a while until he’s brought back in New Blood. Apparently, once you’ve been resurrected via lightning, the whole breathing underwater thing is a total nonissue. Good to know!
Directed by: Steve Miner
Written by: Martin Kitrosser and Carol Watson
To fully appreciate Friday the 13th Part III, you need to watch it in 3D. Luckily, the DVD comes with those red-and-blue glasses that make it almost impossible to see anything except for things occasionally popping out at you. And somehow, that’s good enough for Part III. Even in shitty 3D, seeing Jason (Richard Brooker) squeeze Rick’s (Paul Kratka) head until his eye pops out and flies right at the camera is a wonderful moment. Of course, Part III is also the film in which Jason finally acquires his hockey mask, a bold fashion statement that helped turn him into a horror legend. With his finished look, Jason became an icon alongside Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers. His movies might not be nearly as good as theirs, but damn it, he looks great. As is often the progression in these series, Chris (Dana Kimmell) is a much more competent Final Girl than her predecessors. She seems like a worthy match for Jason, stabbing him, hanging him, and otherwise doing some serious damage to the seemingly invulnerable killing machine.
Directed by: Sean S. Cunningham
Written by: Victor Miller
As Drew Barrymore learned the hard way in Scream, the killer in Friday the 13th isn’t Jason Voorhees — it’s his mother, Pamela (Betsy Palmer), avenging the drowning death of her son by murdering the counselors who should have been watching him. While the movie itself is mostly a standard slasher film — and not nearly as exciting as anything Wes Craven was doing around the same time — the reveal of the killer is still a majorly subversive moment in horror. Few lines are as chilling as Pamela’s “You see, Jason was my son, and today is his birthday.” She might not be the icon that Jason is, but Jason’s mother is what makes Friday the 13th great. (Well, that and the shot of Kevin Bacon’s bare ass, followed shortly by his arrow-through-the-throat death scene.) Watching Friday the 13th now can be a mixed experience: It doesn’t hold up as well as its contemporaries, but it established so many slasher film conventions that respect must be paid. And let’s be real: That final scare is perfect.
Directed by: Steve Miner and Sean S. Cunningham
Written by: Ron Kurz and Phil Scuderi
After rewatching every film in the Friday the 13th series one thing becomes clear: Jason Voorhees has arguably never gotten the movie he deserves. That may be a controversial opinion, but the truth is it’s the most flawed of the horror franchises it’s most commonly associated with. (Maybe not if you count the direct-to-video Hellraiser sequels. And I beg that you do not.) That said, Part II is the closest that Friday the 13th comes to perfection: It’s a classic slasher with a brutal villain (Steve Daskawisz and Warrington Gillette splitting the role of Jason), a crafty Final Girl (Amy Steel’s brilliant Ginny), and a harrowing final sequence that’s honestly more stressful than anything else in any other Friday the 13th film. Jason and Ginny are the ideal adversaries — his arrested development and serious mommy issues, her background in child psychology. The moment in which she puts on Pamela’s sweater establishes her as one of horror’s great Final Girls and elevates Part II to excellence.
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