The Friday the 13th franchise holds a special place in my old, decrepit heart. I was around for its initial run, which makes me ancient, but also give me a different perspective on the series and what it might mean. Shout Factory has released a gorgeous box set of all the movies on individual Blu Ray, with most of the extras imported from other release versions, as well as a few new ones to spice up the mix. I’m going to be going through the movies, three at a time, doing a little walk down memory lane/review of each as I go along. I’m not going to be dipping into much talk about the Extras found on each disc, because I simply don’t have the time of day to watch everything in one go. So here are some mad ramblings from a big fan of the series. Hope you enjoy them!
Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter This was it, the last word in Jason. The epic conclusion to an epic series of Slasher flicks. Anticipation could not be higher amongst the horror community and fellow Fangoria readers. In addition to all of this excitement, this was my first chance to see a Friday movie in the theater. And it did not disappoint. That cast! The violence! The gore and the suspense! This was maybe the meanest Jason had ever been. He killed Tommy’s mother! How could Jason do such a thing? He only went after horny teens, right? Nope. If they were on his turf, they were fair game. Or if they got in his way. There was the Crispin Glover character, and his dance, of course. There were the hot twins. There was the tight family unit of one Tommy Jarvis, and the spectacular performance by Corey Feldman. And then there was the assault towards the end, when Jason just wipes out a whole group of younger folks, plowing through them with relentless speed and efficiency. We see the girl who looks like she’s going to be the Final Girl get an ax to the chest. And there were other, spectacular deaths. And then that ending, man, where Tommy takes Jason down, with Jason falling on his own machete. And that look in Tommy’s eyes at the very end, letting us know the madness had been passed on. I don’t think they could have done a better job “ending” the series, and to see it in a packed theater, full of people laughing and screaming and yelling at the screen. Perfection. And then, just a few months later…
Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning Oh my, what a difference less than a year made. I was there, in line, excited to see another Friday, but also more than a bit apprehensive. What were they doing? Why would they bring Jason back? Or were they? Was Tommy going to be the new killer now? While that intrigued me, I was also skeptical. The “Final Chapter” had been so good, why risk spoiling it all? My worries were well-founded, it seemed. I watched the movie, and while it had its moments, with plenty of squealing girls and shouting patrons in the theater, it ultimately was a let-down. I remember leaving that showing thinking that yeah, it wasn’t bad, but it was probably the worst of the series so far. I tried watching it again, many times over the years, and always came away feeling the same. Now, watching it as part of this blu ray set, I still like it, but “like” is about as far as I’ll go. It’s missing the panache of the earlier movies. I’m not sure if it’s because psychologically, I know it’s not Jason, so it feels like I’m drinking a diet soda, not the real thing. But the first one with Mama Voorhees doesn’t have that same Styrofoam feel to it, so I dunno. What was good about it: POC getting a play in the action (Reggie is awesome!), some cool kills, and more jugs than maybe all the other movies combined. I didn’t hate it then and I don’t hate it now. But pretty much, my original opinion stands: too goofy in parts, and not very inspired. The least of the series, but still decent.
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives Besides the original and Part IV, this may be my favorite. I was jaded at this point, going into the theater, hoping for the best but knowing this would be a dud. The Nightmare on Elm Street movies had kind of taken over as the “Big Thing,” and Freddy was the new “king.” Not totally with me, because, you know, Jason. But Jason was “gone” and Tommy had taken the mantle, and despite the promise in the title, I wasn’t sure if this one was going to swing. Would this be the death-knell for the series? Oh, my, no. Right from the beginning, this one was cooking with gasoline. It was sharp, funny, poignant, full of robust characters and creative kills, and most of all, it was fun. Fun! Imagine that! It was bursting at the seams it was so full of good times. I laughed, I gasped, I cheered, I screamed, and I wasn’t the only one. That audience was primed and ready and it was like I was repeating the experience of watching Part IV all over again. What a blast! Every time I watch this I feel the same, the old ghosts of that long-ago audience still dancing with me in the dark. This is the ultimate Jason Popcorn Flick of the series. It’s easily the most fun and exciting. And it just gets better with age.
Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter: ★★★★
Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning: ★★✮☆
Friday the 13th Part IV: Jason Lives: ★★★★