Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter? Yawn. Been there, done that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for giving thanks and feasting on copious Christmas films (and cookies), yet the traditional holidays just don’t cut it anymore. And while they’re filled with home cooked meals, there’s generally more family fighting than food. One holiday my parents are guaranteed to never celebrate, is that rare Friday the 13th, which by my observation won’t come around again till September of 2019. That right there is enough cause for celebration.
In the spirit of the holiday, my love of marathoning countless films, and ultimately my fandom for the most iconic killer in the slasher genre, I decided to rework a ranking I put together last holiday (found here!). So order a pizza, leave the phone off the hook, feed your pets, and celebrate the rarest of slasher holidays with a definitive ranking of the Friday the 13th films. En en en en joy joy joy joy!
12. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984), Joseph Zito
After being hung and left for dead by Chris, Part 3‘s final girl, Jason Voorhees (an uncredited Ted White) is taken to the county morgue. Looking to get back to his home turf of Crystal Lake, he escapes and proceeds to kill anyone who gets in his way. Luckily for Jason, a group of partying teens have just arrived at the lake in a cabin that neighbors Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman), a young boy who’s into making monster masks.
A fan favorite, the franchises supposedly final film reunites Joseph Zito with special effects master Tom Savini, who helped impale the slasher genre with 1981’s The Prowler. While expanding the universe of Friday the 13th by introducing Tommy Jarvis, a vital force to the franchise, The Final Chapter takes its time in between kills, offering an insufferable horderves of characters for Jason to devour. Yes, Jason’s pissed, Savini’s effects wizardry is on glorious display and Crispin Glover’s dance is one for the ages, yet there’s a severe lack of momentum behind it all, only managing to prop itself up when it has a machete to slide down.
11. Jason Goes to Hell (1993), Adam Marcus
Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder), now haggard from over a decade of beatdowns, is lured into an open field by a government agent posing as a scantily clad woman, only to be shot and blown to bits by ambushing FBI officers. Presumed dead, Jason is sent to the morgue where the coroner (Richard Grant) proceeds to literally devour his heart. Now possessed by the spirit of Jason, a killing spree begins with his soul jumping from body to body in order to continue his murderous ways. Only a mythical dagger has the power to trap Jason’s soul and send him straight to hell.
It’s a preposterous plot that opens with a bang (both literally and hyperbolically), yet spirals out of hand as multiple, inconsequential characters are introduced as Jason. There’s certainly a lot to chew on given how supernaturally themed it all is, yet for a film that focuses on a body-swapping soul, it’s unfortunately one that’s devoid of the Friday the 13th spirit we’ve come to love.
10. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985) Danny Steinmann
Looking to continue cashing in on the success of everyone’s backwoods momma’s boy, Paramount decided to start anew after the climax of The Final Chapter saw Jason hacked to bits by Tommy Jarvis (played by John Shepard), who’s plagued by hallucinations of Jason Voorhees while residing at the Pinehurst Halfway House. After the murder of one of the residents at the hands of another boy, a hockey masked killer begins stalking the grounds, forcing Tommy to confront his traumatic past.
While many fans of the franchise write A New Beginning off for a particularly significant omission, the 5th entry stands as the most impeccably directed of the films outside the original. While a lot of the kills favor gore over execution (or even creativity), there’s a lot to absorb within the films use of blue lighting, which electrifies the redundant nature of the films hackneyed farm setting.
9. Freddy vs. Jason (2003), Ronny Yu
In good old Krueger fashion, a hell-trapped Freddy (Robert Englund) manipulates Jason Voorhees (Ken Kirzinger, the man thrown across a diner in Jason Takes Manhattan) into butchering the teens of Springwood in order to regain the strength necessary to enter their dreams. With Freddy regaining power back in the real world, a group of teens devise a plan in order to once again defeat Freddy, pitting him against Jason Voorhees.
It’s a simple concept that had been years in the making, and it explodes onto the screen with comic bloodshed that only two of the genres greatest slashers could concoct. A lot of the humor and dialogue exceeds political correctness (Freddy refers to actress Kelly Rowland as dark meat, while Rowland calls Freddy a faggot), and many of the characters are stripped of any real personality, yet the film still manages to relish its absurdity while offering up a showdown only our dreams could conjure up.
8. Friday the 13th (2009), Marcus Nispel
Blending the first three Friday the 13th films, Marcus Nispel’s remake opens with the beheading of Pamela Voorhees (Nana Visitor), quickly segwaying thirty years later to a group of friends searching the woods of Crystal Lake for weed. After Jason (Derek Mears, wearing the iconic bag from Part 2) murders each one, the film turns to another group out partying at a lakeside cabin while Clay (Jared Padalecki), the brother of one of the girls missing from the previous group, treks through the backroads looking for any information. Soon, the lake begins running red with booze and blood as Jason crashes yet another lakeside party.
Director Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre [’03]) injects Jason Voorhees with that 21st century life blood that 28 Days Later [’02] kick-started, turning everyone’s favorite fast walker into a towering locomotive. And even though the kills are painfully forgettable, Jason effectively plows through people (and scenery), creating a refreshingly new sense of dread that the franchise hasn’t felt in a really long time.
7. Friday the 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989), Rob Hedden
Following the events of New Blood, Jason Voorhees (again reprised by Kane Hodder) is unleashed from his watery prison by a boats anchor. After dispatching those onboard (as a killer does), Jason stows away on a ship titled SS Lazarus (yes, Jason’s awakening and ultimate trip to the Big Apple is a miracle), which harbors graduating students from Lakeview High School on their way to New York City. And like clockwork, Jason begins creating a life preserver out of human bodies (not literally, though that would have been awesome).
While it takes over an hour for the ships survivors to reach the docks of Manhattan, it ultimately pays off, as one pissed off Jason trudges through the streets of a late 80’s New York City that would make Abel Ferrara smile. Not everything works on mainland as it should – final girl Rennie’s (Jensen Daggett) increasing hallucinations of a young Voorhees never hits the ghostly mark they aim for – though simply witnessing Jason in the playground that is NYC is a wonder to behold. Plus, who hasn’t wanted to see Jason punch someone’s head off?
6. Friday the 13th: Part 3(D) (1982), Steve Miner
Originally supposed to follow Ginny after she checks herself into a mental institution following the events of Part 2, the script had to be reworked after Amy Steel declined to reprise her role. Instead, Part 3 focuses on Chris Higgins (Dana Kimmell), who heads to her home (laughably called Higgins Haven) on Crystal Lake with some friends. There, a wounded Jason (Richard Brooker) takes shelter in the family barn, slowly picking off unsuspecting weekenders in 3D fashion.
On the surface, Part 3 appears to be just another entry in the Friday the 13th fashion, yet underneath its 3D appeal and butchered co-eds lies a grim tale of trauma. Chris details her grapple with an assault that happened years ago with a disfigured man (an aimlessly wandering Jason), and it’s an event that she wears on her sleeve. As the body count rises in various 3D ways – including one of the franchises greatest technical kills, in which a handstand goes awry – Chris must relive the events, creating a deviantly wounded final girl that injects the third film with a powerful message of perseverance.
5. Friday the 13th: The New Blood (1987), John Carl Buechler
With Tommy having successfully sent Jason back to his watery grave in Jason Lives, troubled and traumatized Tina (Lar Park Lincoln) accidentally reawakens our Crystal Lake killer (Kane Hodders first time donning the mask) with her telekinetic powers; capabilities that also sent her abusive father to the bottom of the lake when she was just a child. Now back in her old home (shot entirely in Alabama) with a malicious psychiatrist (Terry Kiser) bent on harnessing her telekinesis, Tina must confront her trauma and put an end to Jason’s killing spree.
Borrowing from the telekinetic teen-girl craze of the late 70’s (think De Palma’s The Fury [’78]), the 7th entry in the Friday the 13th series is a bit of a rough patch. Avoiding an X-rating, a good heft of the films gore was edited out, and it ends up being one of the more glaring details in an otherwise applaudable film. Despite the massive censorship, New Blood allows Jason to go buck wild with his arsenal, using just about every weapon you can find in a toolshed. And sure, final girl Tina pouts throughout most of its 88 minute runtime, but when it comes time to throwing down with Jason Voorhees, she manages to bring down the house in a telekinetic bout of rage.
4. Jason X (2001), James Isaac
After being pulled down to hell by demons in Jason Goes to Hell (a continuity this film completely disregards), our favorite backwoods slasher (Kane Hodder) is captured by the United States government, accidently cryofrozen after breaking loose, and is defrosted in the year 2455. Now aboard the space station Grendel, students of Earth II (it seems we killed Earth in the 445 years since being frozen) must defend themselves against a threat as old as time, and far deadlier.
If you’re looking for serious Jason, you’re in the wrong century. Jason X puts the camp in Camp Crystal Lake, and while it won’t be for everyone (statistically it appears it’s for nobody), there is a lot of trashy fun to have. Despite having a budget of almost 5 times its previous entries, Jason X looks, feels, sounds and maybe tastes (I wouldn’t know) like a low-rent Syfy movie, and I mean that lovingly. Jason barrels through tight corridors in pursuit of future teens (despite wearing tops that would make Carrie Bradshaw reach for her credit card) and disposes of them one by one, eventually coming face to face with android turned final girl, Kay-Em 14 (Lisa Ryder). It’s an entry that’s kinky (nipple clamps), absurd (nipple clamps?) and a futuristic blast that never tries to be more than an Xtreme version of its original.
3. Friday the 13th: Jason Lives (1986), Tom McLoughlin
Taking place over a year after Roy sought revenge for the death of his son at the Pinehurst Halfway House, Jason Lives begins with a paranoid Tommy Jarvis (fan favorite Thom Mathews), who after all these years is still plagued by visions of Jason Voorhees (C.J. Graham). Convinced he’s alive, Tommy excavates his remains only to accidentally resurrect him (ala Frankenstein’s monster), once again unleashing his blood-stained terror over Crystal Lake.
Despite A New Beginning being a financial success, Paramount wanted to appease the fan outrage over a severe lack of Jason, and we’re all better people for it. Tom McLoughlin, who shopped around a couple comedy scripts with only one directorial effort (One Dark Night [’83]), cuts an invigorated slasher that plays off postmodern meta humor while riffing off action films (if you need evidence, look no further than the James Bond opener). Don’t let the films disproportionately pudgy Jason fool you; he’s still as gung-ho and determined as ever at shutting down any campers dream. This time, he’s adorned in survivalist attire – spear, gloves, camping knife – as if all those years living in the woods has crafted a bastard sized Bear Grylls. And watching Jason prey on the counselors at Camp Forest Green while being hunted by a determined Tommy is without a doubt, the most exhilarating the franchise has ever been.
2. Friday the 13th (1980), Sean S. Cunningham
Originally titled A Long Night at Camp Blood with a script by famed soaps-scriber Victor Miller, Friday the 13th tells the story of Jason Voorhees, a young boy attending Camp Crystal Lake who drowns while the counselors were off playing R-rated games. Shortly after, two counselors are brutally murdered, closing the camp down for good. Now over 20 years since the murders, a group of young counselors attempt to reopen Crystal Lake, which ends in a night of bloodshed and terror.
Friday the 13th, Sean S. Cunningham’s first feature film, remains the most intimate and bare-bones of the entire franchise; traits that continually keep me coming back every summer. Our unseen and unknown killer stalks the grounds of Camp Crystal Lake the way a blade-wielding assailant stalks a giallo; plenty of POV shots keep us fixated on the actions, grounding us in a film that could have easily let our interest slip away. The term “slow-burner” is often used for psychologically driven horror of today, though it’s a term that, in a sense, could be applied here. Much of what goes on at Crystal Lake (or Camp Blood, as the locals call it) is the antics and shenanigans of its counselors (Adrienne King, Kevin Bacon, the late Laurie Bartram, to name a few), who effectively reel us in with their conspicuous and natural charm. It isn’t until the final 25 minutes does Friday the 13th begin to pry open the lid of its pressurized contents, leading to an explosive finale that remains one of the greatest reveals in horror history.
1. Friday the 13th: Part 2 (1981), Steve Miner
While opening only months after the first film with the death of final girl Alice (Adrienne King) at the hands of Jason Voorhees (Warrington Gillette), Part 2 begins nearly four years later with the opening of a counselor training facility near Crystal Lake. Jason, wearing a sack over his head in a nod to The Town That Dreaded Sundown [’76], begins avenging the death of his mother (the first films surprise killer), picking off unsuspecting counselors as they come. Before the weekends over, only a few will have made it through the night.
The second film in the franchise and the first to feature Jason Voorhees as the iconic killer, Part 2 follows the lean formula Sean S. Cunningham established in the first, with more of everything. Where Friday the 13th‘s setting was much more intimate, Part 2 creates a rowdier affair with more counselors, and while it doesn’t up the body count (one less death courtesy of Mrs. Voorhees), there is more on-screen mayhem. With the stakes raised and audiences ultimately hungry for more bloodshed, throats are slit, faces stabbed (poor Mark), entangled couples impaled, police hammered, and crazy vagrants strangled (again, poor Ralph) right before our very eyes. What’s raised even higher is the intuitiveness and intelligence of the final girl, Ginny (Amy Steel); a psych major with a serious sense for danger. Her confrontation with Jason culminates in one of the franchises most perceptive and clever finales, as she dons Mrs. Voorhees musty sweater in one final, desperate act, momentarily persuading Jason that she’s his mother. It’s brilliantly smart and morbid (Jason’s shrine to his maternal figure features her shriveled head), leading to one of the franchises (and genres) most effective jump scares.