Chi-chi-chi-ha-ha-ha. It's Friday the 13th! What better way than to celebrate than by judging, ranking and obsessing over the violent cinematic exploits of hockey enthusiast Jason Voorhees? Most of these movies aren't even good!
Friday the 13th has been around since 1980, seen nine sequels, experienced a surprisingly good crossover with A Nightmare On Elm St., and been rebooted once. Of course, they're trying to get another Friday the 13th movie off the ground because these movies never end. I don't want them to, either.
Maybe you've never seen a Friday the 13th movie before and don't know where to start. Eleven movies is a daunting task. I'm here to help. In the last two weeks, I've watched (survived?) every cinematic entry starring the man with the hockey mask, and I'm here to issue a verdict.
Before we get started, some fun facts:
- Well over 100 people are killed over the course of the whole series.
- Jason Voorhees didn't show up until the second film; his mother was the original killer.
- The infamous hockey mask wasn't part of the equation until the third film.
- The series tries to draw things to a close three separate times and fails.
- Like all good movie series, eventually they go to space.
- David Cronenberg guest stars in Jason X as one of the earliest deaths.
- Friday the 13th Part VI doesn't feature any gratuitous nudity -- at all. What the hell?!
Warning: Some of what you're about to see is a bit graphic, and there might even be a bit of nudity. It's a feature about Friday the 13th movies! What'd you expect?
1. Friday the 13th (1980)
Not shocking: the first was actually the best! Friday the 13th was merely cashing-in on the success of John Carpenter's Halloween, but the slasher craze was so dominant in the late 70s and early 80s, Friday the 13th became a hit. Besides being Kevin Bacon's first movie, Friday the 13th remains unique because the killer was an older woman. She merely wanted to punish the character archetypes responsible for her son drowning, as any mother would. While Friday the 13th is known for Jason Voorhees, his mother's fuelled the initial round of killings. Friday the 13th holds up pretty well, largely because it's actually trying to be scary and surprising.
Body Count: 9 Countdown Until Drugs And/Or Pre-Marital Sex: 40 minutes Weapons: Knife (6X), arrow (2X), axe How Pamela Dies: Decapitation Best Kill: Poor Kevin Bacon!
2. Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984)
It's also not surprising when a series knows it's coming to a close, it finds newfound creative energy. The Final Chapter was not actually the final chapter, but it was a really good sequel! It's got Corey Feldman pre-Goonies! It's got Crispin Glover before Back to the Future! It's fun and self-aware! Jason's found his mask, and there's a real confidence to the series, which is why they were probably trying to end it on a high note. Jason remains a formidable presence, and one who doesn't hide in the shadows anymore. He's here to play, and by to play, I mean to kill.
Body Count: 13 Countdown Until Drugs And/Or Pre-Marital Sex: 12 minutes Weapons: Surgical hacksaw, scalpel, knife (2X), machete (2X), spear (2X), cleaver, thrown out window, head crush, axe How Jason Dies: Machete Best Kill: Beware the banana!
3. Friday the 13th: Part II (1981)
Even though Jason Voorhees is briefly part of the original movie, he doesn't become its central villain until the second flick. In fact, he was never intended to be anything more than a gimmick to surprise audiences, but his appearance proved so popular, the filmmakers brought him back. While other Friday the 13th movies might actually be better than Part II, I can't help but applaud the movie that brought one of horror cinema's most memorable monsters to life. The hood might actually be freakier than the mark: what kind of person wears a bag on their head?
Body Count: 14 Countdown Until Drugs And/Or Pre-Marital Sex: 47 minutes Weapons: Ice pick, barbed wire, hammer, machete (2X), spear, knife (X2) How Jason Dies: Machete to the arm Best Kill: Poor wheelchair guy
4. Friday the 13th (Reboot -- 2009)
You can tell the people behind this reboot actually cared about the original movies. There are so many nods to the series -- Voorhees' sweater, a wheelchair -- that it's a shame the whole movie isn't as good as the first excellent 20 minutes. The problem with any series like Friday the 13th is coming up with a way to make the monster scary again. The reboot makes Jason faster, meaner, and more vicious. Instead of walking after his prey, he viciously chases them down. This was a step in the right direction, which explains why they have never made a sequel to it.
Body Count: 13 Countdown Until Drugs And/Or Pre-Marital Sex: 10 minutes Weapons: Machete (7X), sleeping bag over fire, bow 'n arrow, screwdriver, axe, impaled on, deer antlers, fireplace poker How Jason Dies: Tossed into a woodchipper Best Kill: In which Jason learns to use a bow 'n arrow?
5. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
Jason Voorhees may always come back, but it's not until Jason Lives when he's supernatural. When someone tries to dig up his body, he's struck by lightning and gains newfound power. He's always been capable of extreme strength, but Jason Lives amps this up to an absurd degree. He's angry, brutal, doesn't hesitate, and has a great sense of humour (?!) about his situation. It should have signaled an new life for the future of Friday the 13th, but Jason Lives was a brief highlight quickly extinguished. This is the point when the movies go off the rails.
Body Count: 18 Countdown Until Drugs And/Or Pre-Marital Sex: 35 minutes Weapons: Heart ripped out, spear (X2), tree branch, machete (5X), broken bottle, face crush, head twist, thrown through window, dart, head crush, body bent in half How Jason Dies: Tied to the bottom of the lake Best Kill: Smiles aren't common around Jason Voorhees.
6. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
We are not talking about good movies anymore. These are bad movies with hilarious deaths of meaningless characters. Jason Takes Manhattan is Friday the 13th nearly completely running out of ideas for why Jason is doing what he's doing. "Where can we put Jason next?!" "Put him on a boat!" "How does he get there?" "Who cares!" He has no good reason to follow these people to New York, but he hangs onto the bottom of a cruise liner to kill the youngsters getting ready to graduate. The whole movie is worth it for the moment when Jason punches a head off.
Body Count: 17 Countdown Until Drugs And/Or Pre-Marital Sex: 4 minutes Weapons: Spear gun, spear, electric guitar, hot sauna rock, mirror shard, harpoon, machete, strangled, electrocution, impaled, axe, syringe, pipe, head punch, drowned, wrench How Jason Dies: Drowns in acidic waste beneath New York Best Kill: Don't put your head in the way of Jason's fist.
7. Jason X (2001)
This is the infamous space one. Hundreds of years in the future, our government has turned Crystal Lake into the Crystal Lake Research Facility. What the fuck? Exactly. After trying to kill Jason and failing, it's decided he should be frozen for...reasons. Future space travellers find Jason during an excavation to the now-desolate planet Earth and bring him aboard. Jason Goes to Hell was meant to be the final movie, with Freddy vs. Jason taking the reigns. That movie took years to make, and Jason X was basically made to pass the time. Hollywood! So many long running movie series eventually head to space -- Chucky, Hellraiser, Leprechaun. If you've gone into space, you've made it! Or something. Jason X is not be a good movie, but I'm glad it exists.
Body Count: 21 Countdown Until Drugs And/Or Pre-Marital Sex: 28 minutes Weapons: Head bash (4X), choked, neck snap (2X), door, liquid nitrogen, machete (6X), knee, large drill, crane hook, electrocution, back snap, sucked through grate How Jason Dies: Burns up in the atmosphere of Earth 2 Best Kill: A kill so provocative it was eventually examined on MythBusters.
8. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
Let me just explain to you how Jason dies at the end of this terrible movie: a psychic uses her powers to raise her alcoholic, abusive father out of the lake in order to drag Jason to the bottom with him. NONONONONO. I'm half tempted cut everything else on this list, and just pretend they don't exist. Yes, there are only so many times Jason can attack campers before the idea runs out of gas. You know what, that happened movies ago! While it makes sense for the supernatural to come after him, why couldn't it have been something cool, like cloned Jason?
Body Count: 16 Countdown Until Drugs And/Or Pre-Marital Sex: 13 minutes Weapons: Tent spike (2X), heart ripped out, bashed inside sleeping bag, axe (2X), drowned, sickle, head crush, party horn, knife, machete, thrown out window, spear, tree trimming saw How Jason Dies: Drowned by psychically revived alcoholic father (this is true!) Best Kill: Sleeping bags don't come with safety features.
9. Friday the 13th Part III: 3D (1982)
You know a series has quality under control when there's a new one in 3D! At this point, the success of Friday the 13th means they're cranking one out every year. Set the day after the events of Friday the 13th: Part II, Jason is injured and looking for new clothes. Did you know the first three movies technically take place the same weekend? Huh. This movie is where Jason finally picks up his iconic hockey mask, aaaaaaand that's about it. People die, Jason doesn't. You should not watch this movie, but you should watch the GIF below and thank me for watching it.
Body Count: 12 Countdown Until Drugs And/Or Pre-Marital Sex: 18 minutes Weapons: Meat cleaver, knitting needle, pitchfork (2X), spear gun, machete (2X), knife, fuse box, fireplace poker, head crush, wrench How Jason Dies: Briefly hung, then a machete to the head Best Kill: Spears are not meant for eyeballs.
10. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
Jason Goes To Hell manages to outridiculous a movie series built around an unstoppable killing machine. THE MOVIE OPENS WITH THE FBI BLOWING UP JASON BUT HIS HEART SURVIVES. Apparently the comics explain how this works, but I won't read them. From there, we learn Jason has relatives, and they're the only ones who can truly kill him. There's also a scene where demonic baby Jason crawls up a woman's skirt because...I don't know. Who cares? At this point, I've almost given up hope on enjoying life again, but we've got one more movie to rank. Reader, if you're still with me, please keep scrolling a bit further. I can't do this alone.
Body Count: 21 Countdown Until Drugs And/Or Pre-Marital Sex: 4 minutes Weapons: Eats heart, probe, scalpel, rail spike, head crush (2X), car door, knife, head bash (3X), diner counter, deep fryer, mouth bashed in, machete, bear hug How Jason Dies: Stabbed in the heart by his relative, sending him to hell Best Kill: This is not safe sex.
11. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)
The less said about this one, the better. Jason not even the real killer! Go away. I'm done.
Body Count: 22 Countdown Until Drugs And/Or Pre-Marital Sex: 35 minutes Weapons: Machete (5X), ice pick, axe (3X), road flare, knife (3X), garden shears, head crush, spear, cleaver (2X), road spike, eye gouge How Jason Dies: Bed of spikes Best Kill: You probably shouldn't eat a flare.
If you've made it this far, I'm proud of you. If you, like me, decide to tackle the entire Friday the 13th series, I highly recommend doing so with a 30 rack of beer. It's the only way you'll survive.
So anyway, who's up for watching the Nightmare on Elm St. movies? The third one is so good!!
Illustration: Jim Cooke