There comes a time in every woman’s life when she enters middle age, assesses the paths in her life that brought her to the present, looks at her family, takes a deep breath, and rates the Friday the 13th franchise from best to worst.
My list is, of course, very subjective. I’ll just get right to it. Life is short and I’m holding in a pee.
Friday the 13th (1980)
This film rates first because it is the purest in its intents and purposes. Camp counselors. Serial killer. Wooded seclusion. Echoplex. It’s like cooking in that sometimes, the dish with the least ingredients tastes the best. And I love the quiet, unpolished, even snuff-like aesthetics of ‘70s horror films. While I don’t love that a poor snake gave his life for this film (Sean Cunningham should be thankful that he didn’t film in Italy), and while I don’t really care much for Alice (sorry), the other characters are likeable and relatable, and the death of Annie—who I just love, who advocated for children in that jeep and still bought the farm at Pamela Voorhees’ hands—really gives you the sense that this film could go anywhere.
Jason Lives (1986)
This film gets the second spot because I love it so much, and it has the most nostalgia attached to it. I was the same age as those children at the camp, I was actually going to summer camp in the creepy woods of Pocatello, Idaho in the summer of 1986, and while Jason Lives was not technically the first of the series to feature children (sleeping children can be glimpsed in the opener to the first film), it is the first to make them integral to the plot. We fade out the Tommy subplot (which I have always hated) and bring back Jason, and we get the coolest final girl since Amy Steel. I couldn’t stand Jennifer Cooke in “V: The Series,” but I absolutely love her here. Plus this film has the Alice Cooper song, the shish-kabob motorcycle, paintball kills, the greatest score of the series, and Horschak. What more do you want? Geez.
The Final Chapter (1984)
I am a huge Joseph Zito fan. I love The Prowler. He has an amazing “waste nothing” approach to horror, and you definitely feel that in this one. The Tommy subplot is introduced, but we don’t quite yet know that it’s going to be A Thing, so okay, we get a kid who is into masks and FX and I’m way on board with all of that, plus he has a really nice family, and even the horned-up kids in the party house are nice, and it’s all nicety nice-nice. While progressive in its direction, it retains the feel of an early Friday film, not yet fettered by gimmicks and all the crapola that came later on. And Crispin Glover has some great moments in it. I heart him.
Part 2 (1981)
If you take away Amy Steel, this would still be a good entry, but just not as good. It rips off at least three films that I can think of, and I can see why Steve Daskawisz was brought in to replace Warrington Gillette. But this film has its redeeming moments. First of all, they don’t let the brotha or the Asian sista speak at all (well, not beyond the brotha wrapping up a board game or laughing at a joke), but at least they get to live along with Stu Charno, who is one of my favorite character actors, ever. And even the physically challenged guy gets an equal-opportunity kill, which amps up the terror factor and leaves you thinking that if Jason’s going to off a dude in a wheelchair (who was about to get laid!), then who knows what else he’s capable of? This film was also preceded by that beautiful “countdown trailer,” my favorite of the series.
Part 3 (1982)
On paper, this should be my third favorite. It’s got disco, it’s got the first appearance of The Mask, it’s got Shelley, who I love, and it’s got Tracie Savage, who went on to anchor our Channel 4 News. Even better, it’s got Tracie Savage getting “Bacon-ated” while reading a Fango. But it’s got one of my least-favorite final girls, a terrible subplot featuring her first encounter with Jason (blech), her dopey boyfriend, who looks like a narc dressed for brunch, two inexplicable subplots—one involving a stoner couple (WTF are they even ON THIS JOURNEY?!!), and another involving motorcycling Solid Gold dancers in a barn—and an ending obviously tacked on after the producers watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. No. Just … no.
Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
I was just starting high school when this came out, and it had me from the trailer. But that song. That glorious boner-inducing song by Metropolis … THAT is why this film gets the #6 spot. And there’s no wait you can fight, so show some respect, and try to survive … I know, right?!! @#$%!!! Anyway, this film also features one of my favorite death scenes, in which Julian boxes himself into total exhaustion before Jason takes him out of his misery with one hell of an uppercut. Unfortunately, this film also features the scene I make fun of the most out of any other in the franchise—when that SAME brotha gets a massive chub over getting to New York City. He goobers himself up into such a lather that he sounds like one of the Three Stooges. Yes, we get it, you’re in New York City. Shaddup. And while we’re at stupid scenes (and there are many in this film), how about Jason in the sewer morphing from the Toxic Avenger into a child model? For real?! Did they never see the first Friday? And why are we treating Rennie like she’s a special-needs child? I feel like I’m watching pt. 7, just without the telekinesis. Fuhgeddaboudit.
Friday the 13th: The Series (1987)
Yes, I know. Jason was never in this. It doesn’t count. But I’m gonna make it count anyway, because Frank Mancuso, Jr. created it, and Paramount Television distributed it, and enough veterans of the franchise took a pit stop in Vendredi’s Antiques that I might as well. Plus Robey. Okay? Many of the series’ episodes were better and scarier than some of the films in the franchise. And Jason wasn’t in A New Beginning, either, but we still see that one included in all the TV marathons.
Jason X (2001)
I may be the only one in the world who likes this film (and its score). But I don’t give a damn, as it features my favorite director of all time, two badass heroines in Rowan and Kay-Em, and a nice package of innovative kills that you wouldn’t see anywhere else but in space. Yes, I thought the trend of sending many of our horror heroes into space was lame (which is mostly why this gets the 8th spot), but this one sort of worked. Kind of? Just a little? Well, fine. Look at it this way: there could’ve been a machete-wielding killing machine out there in the Mir space station. I mean, we still kiss Alien’s ass, and when’s the last time the news reported a creature killing all the passengers of a cargo spaceship? Wait, where you going?
The New Blood (1988)
I just can’t get it up for this one. I know so many people love it, and the director is a really nice guy who talked to my husband for quite a while about filmmaking, plus there’s something really exciting about giving Jason a true formidable match in the final girl. It’s just not Tina. Tell me you can’t make a drinking game out of this one. Go ahead, try not to tip it back every time Tina runs out of the room in dramatics. She’s a pitiful character and the most tolerable in a film in which no one is likeable. Like, not even a little bit. If you like Tina, it’s because you either feel sorry for her or you wish you had her powers, or (like me) you really like the actress who plays her, Lar-Park Lincoln. But seriously? If I were Tina, I would’ve wrapped that shit up in 30 minutes, Carrie White-style, starting with her doctor. But then I guess we wouldn’t have a film. And that would be bad how?
A New Beginning (1985)
I should love the hell out of this film. It has Suicide and Spider from the ROTLD films, Dudley from Different Strokes, good kills, a Blue Mask (I love little variations like that), poppin’ and lockin,’ great boobies and chocolate bars. And you know what? I don’t even dislike this film because Jason’s not in it. I dislike this film because Jason’s not in it—and neither is Tom Atkins, or homicidal Halloween masks, or a catchy Silver Shamrock jingle, or all the other things that I love about Halloween 3: Season of the Witch despite Michael Myers not being in that film. This film looks as if the life has been sucked right out of it, and hearing about what a miserable experience it was to make this film explains it all. I have about as much fun watching it as I believe the cast and crew had making it. And who kills a brotha on the toilet? It’s “no” time!
Jason Goes to Hell (1993)
I saw this one just after I graduated from high school, and I remember leaving the cinema looking and feeling as if I had just sucked on a lemon for two hours waiting for it to turn into Country Time. Jason’s got a sister? Whaa? Didn’t we already see this film oh wait this one is different because metaphysics. But at least the Laurie Strode-as-Michael-Myers’-sister twist was something you could buy, considering that in the first Halloween, Myers killed his older sister, then spent the rest of the film clocking some chick called Laurie. Why? Because she saves her babysitting money? Because she has access to hot friends? Because she understands that fate is like a natural element, like earth, air, fire and water? No, it’s because he needs to finish what he started with Judith, duh. So when we find out that Laurie and Michael are related, we don’t automatically think it’s caca. However, we’re nine films in when Jason intersects with half-sister Diana Kimble (yeah, we get it. Dianadana Kimmeble.), so introducing a sibling at that point just seems stupid and lazy. Just two years prior, Freddy was reconnecting with his long-lost daughter, and I didn’t care for that reunion, either. But then, like Freddy, Jason starts possessing people, which makes you wonder why he didn’t just use that ability in part 5. Or in part 7. Or in all the other films. You know why Freddy pulled Jason’s mask into the ground at the end of 9? Because bitch stole his look.
Freddy Vs. Jason (2003)
Man, I hate this film so much. No Kane Hodder (but to be fair, no Richard Brooker, no CJ Graham, or any other Jason that I loved in the series) means no true matchup. You’ve just got one titan (Freddy) versus Hodder’s Manhattan double, who really isn’t all that bad. He’s just not iconic. Yes, we wanted to see this fight for so long, but you know we all really wanted to see Hodder versus Englund. So fine, we don’t get what we wanted, but look at what we do get in return: a recycled kill from Jason Lives (just with a mattress), Destiny’s Child and other annoying people I really couldn’t give a puck about, and Jason and Freddy duking it out for villain supremacy amidst elaborate sets and fi-yah! And then that ending. Is Jason dragging along Freddy’s head like a trophy, or is he saving Freddy’s head for regeneration? I mean, Freddy is winking in that ending. I don’t think it’s because he’s happy he got his ass kicked. Or maybe he’s winking because he’s planning to Lovecraft his way through the next installment? Who the hell knows? And, since it’s now 12 years later and no new films, who the hell cares?
Friday the 13th (2009)
What, they remade it? Oh sorry, I wasn’t aware.