SYNOPSIS: Upon the reopening of Camp Crystal Lake – a summer camp with a past so troubled it’s better known as Camp Blood – the new camp counselors (Kevin Bacon, et al) are murdered in increasingly gruesome ways. The killer turns out to be Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer), a sweater-wearing fruitcake still upset because her son Jason drowned there years ago and then she had to murder people and then they closed the camp but now it re-opened so she got confused and thought the new counselors were the old counselors so she killed them. So one of the counselors chops her head off. But then a new set of counselors come and it turns out that Jason is actually alive and grown up and he lives in a weird shack in the woods with a shrine to his mother and he’s pissed off because her head got chopped off so he kills people for revenge. So an aspiring child psychologist puts on the dead mother’s sweater and pretends to be her to trick him and then she stabs him, etc. Then all the sudden it’s in 3-D and Jason gets back up and kills some more people. Some more people show up and some bikers and Jason puts on a hockey mask and then they hang him. But then little Corey Feldman is there and some other people and there’s deaths so Corey gives himself a terrible hair cut and tries to freak out Jason and stabs him in the head with a machete and then Jason trips and impales his own head and dies. Then it skips ahead 15 years, Corey Feldman (played by some other dude) is grown up and living in a halfway house with some other maniacs and he’s haunted by Jason, who is alive again. But then it turns out it’s just some asshole pretending to be Jason, so they kill him. But just to be sure, Corey Feldman (now played by yet another guy) digs up Jason’s corpse and he’s gonna burn it but it’s struck by lightning so it comes back to life and kills some more people so they chain that fucker up and throw him back into the lake where he belongs. But then a psychic accidentally uses her powers to bring him back to life and then fight him and then throw him back into the lake where an electrical accident brings him back to life again and he gets on a teen cruise ship where he bores everybody for 90 minutes before going to New York, fighting some silly punk rockers and turning into a little boy. But then he’s an adult in the woods again and gets killed by a SWAT team so a guy eats his heart and then he goes from body to body killing people and a bounty hunter you’ve never heard of before suddenly knows all this magical shit for killing Jason so he turns back into Jason and then some big goofy rubber hands pull him into Hell where he fights Freddy. Then it skips forward hundreds of years (Kubrick style) and Jason is unfrozen in space where he kills people and turns into a cyborg, etc. The end. OR IS IT?
FRIDAY THE 13TH
FRIDAY THE 13TH has an unusual place in horror history because it was this huge breakthrough smash hit, it defined the style of many of the slasher movies of the ’80s (arguably even more than the much better HALLOWEEN) and yet when people say FRIDAY THE 13TH they’re usually forgetting the original and thinking only of the sequels. In the original SPOILER Jason is not even exactly a character, he’s the motive. We don’t really know the backstory of Camp Crystal Lake, we just know it’s called Camp Blood because of some murders in the past and previous attempts to reopen the camp have failed. In the end of the movie all the sudden Betsy Palmer shows up as the sweater wearing lunatic Pamela Voorhees, who starts talking about the little boy who drowned here and eventually starts ranting and reveals that it was her son, Jason, and she blames the counselors for not watching him closely enough, and she confuses any poor motherfucker that crosses her path for those counselors, and she stabs them with various tools.
Jason does show up briefly at the end. He jumps out of a lake and grabs the final girl. His hair is in patches and I can’t tell if he’s supposed to be dirty, decomposed, deformed or mutated. But he’s still a little boy, and this is years after he drowned. So that would make him either a ghost or a hallucination, and it seems to imply the latter.
This is a good movie, I like the whole feel of it, and it set the tone for at least the first couple sequels. It’s a good setting, you get a feel for this small town near this camp and I like the way the townies are suspicious of the camp but don’t really take the curse seriously except for a crazy old bicyclist doomsayer named Ralph. They treat the whole thing seriously and they have some nice gruesome effects from Tom Savini.
I think the score by Harry Manfredini is great. It’s derivative of Bernard Hermann but who gives a shit. This type of score classes it up, I think it’s a big reason why slasher movies they try to make now don’t work as good as these ones did.
To me the highlight is the fight between the final girl and Pamela Voorhees. They really go at it and start wrestling on the ground. It’s funny to see a grandma in a sweater getting down like that. Then she gets her head taken off with a machete which is a worthwhile addition to any story, in my opinion. If I was Leonard Matlin I would automatically add 1 star to the rating of any movie with a head chopped off in this manner.
The weird thing is that in part 2 they make Jason be still alive as an adult, and it doesn’t make any sense, but somehow it makes it way more fun. In the first one the identity of the killer is a secret, so you never see her. It’s usually from her POV. In part 2 you got a very similar tone but you get to see this big lug (actually he’s a regular sized lug at this point) walking around killing people and it’s more interesting that way.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2
In some ways part 2 is my favorite of the series. This is kind of the one that actually started it all since it’s the first one about Jason. The head counselor tells the story of Jason around the campfire to scare his trainees and to get that business over with. It turns out he’s telling it as a joke but it establishes the new story of Jason – actually he somehow survived the drowning (guess his mom owes those counselors an apology) and lives in a cabin in the woods hunting animals and generally living a Unabomber type lifestyle. But the only person he really knows is his mom and he somehow saw her get beheaded (wonder why we didn’t notice him there?) and now he kills people to avenge her death.
There’s alot of parts about the story that don’t make sense, including but not limited to mentioning that the girl from the end of part 1 claims to have seen Jason. Yes, she did, but she saw him as a little boy coming out of the water, this hardly supports the claim that he is actually an adult living in the woods. But I guess if you were investigating bigfoots or UFOs you’d count that as solid evidence, ’cause you’re gonna take whatever you can get. So I guess it is fair to bring it up.
This also stands out as the only one where Jason is in it but doesn’t have the iconic hockey mask. He wears a burlap sack or a pillowcase or something, with two eyeholes ripped into it. A good look. At the end he’s unmasked and he looks like a monster, he’s supposed to be some kind of mongoloid. I’ve heard people say that the first one never establishes that he’s retarded or deformed, but I disagree with that. When Mrs. Voorhees is talking about the drowning she says “They were supposed to be watching him. He was–” and I think she’s going to say that he’s retarded, but then she stops herself and just says he wasn’t a good swimmer.
Another weird thing is that in part 1 it’s mentioned that they tried to re-open Camp Crystal Lake at one point but it got closed down again because the water wasn’t safe. So I like to think that lake pollution possibly increased his deformity and/or gave him his super killing and surviving powers.
Most people think of FRIDAY THE 13TH movies as being dumb, but I think part 2 has alot of clever business in it. For example at the beginning the head counselor is giving an orientation speech, realistically delivered by the actor so the ironic parts come across as sly instead of overdoing it. He’s talking about safety, listing knives, axes and lanterns as the top dangers. And we just know these things (well, except the lantern) are gonna become dangerous, but not on accident. My favorite part is that he talks about bears being in the woods and the precautions people need to take to avoid attracting bears. But of course we know they don’t have to worry about bears in the woods as much as a big ol’ retarded dude who also lives in the woods.
(Man, it just occurred to me – there’s bears in the woods at Camp Crystal Lake! Why haven’t they used this? A big buildup to Jason killing some poor girl and then just before he gets to her a fuckin bear jumps out and mauls him! And Jason would have to fight the bear. If Sonny Chiba can do it then Jason Voorhees can do it. The bear takes some good chunks out of him but he’s Jason, he survives. And Jason starts choppin the bear up with his machete! The crowd would go fuckin nuts!)
One thing I never caught until watching it this time is the girl who’s getting dolled up because she has a chance to score, and she puts on some perfume. This is an understated joke because it was much earlier in the movie when it was mentioned that women should not wear perfume because it can attract bears. And right after she put it on she gets killed by Jason. So either Jason is part bear, Jason heard the part about the perfume and thought it would be funny to kill her right after she put on the perfume, or Jason wants to kill her so as to not attract bears. Or it’s a coincidence. But I doubt it.
I like that in the campfire scene a guy jumps out wearing pelts, a Halloween mask and a spear to represent Jason and scare everybody. But later the real Jason uses the same spear. Something that wasn’t really true becomes true. Also you gotta give Jason credit for passing up the Halloween mask and sticking with the more classical Elephant Man style bag.
It’s mentioned once or twice that the final girl is majoring in child psychology. So when they go to a bar and talk about Jason (at this point because he’s a local legend, not because they know he’s gonna kill them) she drunkenly profiles him, explains his whole psychology and how he must be so confused and he misses his mother and he was traumatized by seeing her get beheaded. And then when she does face him she puts her theory to the test, putting on the dead mother’s sweater and pretending to be her. And I like that she is a child psychologist, not an adult one, so it shows that Jason has the mind of a child.
The director is Steve Miner, who was associate producer on LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and FRIDAY THE 13TH and turned out to be a good choice to promote to director. He does a good job recreating the atmosphere of the first one and making the chases more thrilling. The opening titles are great because it’s the same as the first one, the cool FRIDAY THE 13TH logo flying toward you, but then it EXPLODES and reveals the PART II behind it. So that’s the sequel in a nutshell. The same thing as part 1 except it fucking EXPLODES!
FRIDAY THE 13TH 3-D
This one is the only one I think I might like better than part 2, but it’s mainly because I’ve seen it twice in 3-D. FRIDAY THE 13TH movies are best with an audience, with people oohing at the tension, screaming or laughing at the deaths, cheering for the lines they like, for the death of characters they don’t like, for the turning point where somebody hits Jason with a log or stabs him or whatever.
Because it’s that type of movie it is the absolute perfect thing to do in 3-D. 3-D is all about showmanship and getting reactions from the crowd. This has the good monochromatic 3-D, not the crappy red and blue kind (update: the new DVD has it in crappy red and blue 3-D, because that’s the best you can do on home video so far), and it also has more than your average amount of 3-D gimmick shots. You got the yo-yo in the camera. Juggling toward the camera. A TV antenna being adjusted toward the camera. A snake popping out. A speargun shooting toward the camera, which is a classic shot even on DVD but legendary in 3-D. The two shots that get the biggest reaction though are probaly the 3-D passing of a joint and (my favorite) when Jason squeezes a dude until his eyeball pops out. IN 3-D!
Seeing one of Jason’s dead victims is one thing but when the body is impaled with a pitchfork and the handle seems to be protruding out of the screen into the audience,that’s good fun.
The director is Steve Miner again and he does arguably even better. I’m not sure that the script is as good as part 2 but there’s some funny shit in here. I like the long scene of the dude talking as he’s pulling on a rope that is lifting his girlfriend up into the barn. The whole time you think she’s gonna be dead once she gets to the top, and the audience is tittering. But then it doesn’t happen. But later it does.
There are some funny characters. There’s a guy called Shelly who looks like a nerdier Seth Rogan. You feel sorry for him because he doesn’t fit in and is always making self-deprecating comments like “They went skinnydipping, but I wasn’t skinny enough.” Maybe he’s kind of an Albert Brooks type. But then when the nice girl politely turns down his advances and goes outside he waits until she’s left and then calls her a bitch. All the sudden he loses all sympathy and seems to be kind of an asshole.
Anyway Shelly is an important character because it’s his hockey mask that Jason ends up wearing for the rest of the series. So I guess he’s Jason’s stylist or something.
This movie also has the introduction of three bikers named Ali, Loco and Fox. They are the type of bikers you saw in movies in the ’80s, who wear sleeveless denim vests with spiders painted on them and go around bullying people like they’re still on the playground. But they also show that they are not complete bad guys. They want to get even with Shelly for running over one of their bikes so they steal the gas from their van, one assuring another that “no one will get hurt.” Of course, they all get killed and later somebody gets in the van and tries to drive away from Jason and finds there’s no gas. It would’ve been a hilarious joke. Jason was chasing her, that was the bad part. Otherwise it went well.
I don’t know what kind of music these bikers listen to, but our protagonists have a “Bruce Springsteen – The Boss” bumper sticker on their van. So I wonder if there’s some kind of extra animosity going on here because of musical tastes. Maybe those guys hate the Boss. You never know.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 4: THE FINAL CHAPTER
Well, here we are, the very last one ever. Phew. We’ve been through so much with this series, it’s a bummer to see it end forever like this. For me The Final Chapter is fun, but not as good as those first three. Those had their share of silly characters, but this is the first one with purposely hatable ones. Crispin Glover plays the Shelly-type insecure nerd character, which is pretty good casting because that guy’s such a weirdo. But then some other prick who’s only slightly less nerdy than Crispin (if that) constantly teases him about being a virgin, a “dead fuck” and a “lousy lay.” If I gotta spend 90 minutes with some ’80s youths I don’t see why one of them has to be a giggling douchebag who can’t stop repeating his stupid catch phrases. Even TEXAS CHAIN SAW’s Franklin is more charming than this fucko. I’d rather push Franklin around in his wheelchair all day than have to hang out with the “dead fuck” guy.
On the other hand they mix it up a little by getting some non-20-somethings in there, which is a good idea. Next door to the vacationers is a family of Crystal Lake natives: a mom, a teen daughter and precocious little Corey Feldman, who like most boys in ’80s genre movies fills his room with monster masks and horror props (his budding makeup FX skills will play into the finale).
Most of the movie is not all that memorable, but the end of it is. In the tradition of part 2, Corey Feldman goes psychological on Jason’s ass. Using a newspaper artist’s rendition of Jason as a child, Corey cuts up his hair and makes himself up to look like young Jason, and then he keeps saying “Remember, Jason?” I’m not sure if it actually gets Jason to consider his deep-seated childhood trauma or if he just thinks “what the fuck is this little bastard doing with his hair like that?” but it does distract him and I guess sort of helps them defeat him.
Jason’s death is a classic moment. Corey chops into Jason’s head with his own machete and that doesn’t do it, but later he falls face first and his head is impaled on the machete. His mask is off at this point and they have a funny animatronic monster face that reacts as he slowly slides down the blade. I guarantee you will rewind it and watch it again at least twice.
It’s a great death, but it does seem kind of weird that “the final chapter” just involves stabbing his face. You’d think they’d really have to go to town on him. Cut off all his limbs, mail them all to different countries, cremate his head, mix the ashes in with glass, make a vase out of the glass, break the vase, sweep up the glass and then put it in recycling bins in two different neighborhoods so they end up in different recycling plants. Something like that. But remember, at this point Jason was apparently still supposed to be alive, just a retarded dude out in the woods, not a zombie. So face stabbing should do it. For now.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 5: A NEW BEGINNING
Wow, they must have heard our pleas. They were so insistent on making that one the final chapter, but the world demanded a new beginning. It’s like an encore. The band is getting all packed up ready to leave but, what’s this? Do you hear that clapping? That chanting? Who is all that racket for? Wait a minute, for us? They want us to come out again, even though we were done, and just, I don’t know, play a few more songs? Well what the hell man, I don’t see why not. Let’s do it!
But, uh, this one’s not the best encore. I guess you can’t have Christmas every day. Nobody hits a home run every time. You win some, you lose some. You gotta know when to hold ’em. This is the first truly sucky FRIDAY THE 13TH. Now, if you are reading this review in the year 1985 and you haven’t seen the movie yet then you’ll want to stop reading, because the ending will be discussed in this review. The ending where it turns out Jason is not the killer, it’s some dude dressed up as Jason.
At the time of this movie, I guess part 4 really was the final chapter. Jason really was dead. But America needed Jason. The world was crying out for a dude in a hockey masking killing people in fanciful ways, and the right guy for the job was dead, so some other guy filled that hole. The actual Jason does not appear in the movie except in Corey Feldman’s dream at the beginning.
All the movie has going for it is “good kills,” like when fake Jason shoves a flare in somebody’s mouth and their face lights up. Also there’s a funny part where a little kid runs away and suddenly shows up again in a bulldozer which he uses to crash into fake Jason and send him flying ten or fifteen feet through the air.
There’s no camping in this one, the characters are all mental patients at a halfway house. The lead is the grownup version of Corey Feldman’s character, unfortunately played by a boring and bland dude sort of reminiscent of the guy in SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT. He’s haunted by having killed Jason and they make it seem like he’s gonna turn out to be the fake Jason. They remind you of his makeup skills and they even have him disappear when Jason shows up for the finale. If it was him it would be stupid but it would sort of make sense, the guy killed Jason so he’s gonna remember him. But no, some other dude it turns out.
The twist ending is part of why the movie is lame, but it’s not like everything was going good until then. I think it’s actually influential though, because two years before NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS here is a FRIDAY THE 13TH that tries to cash in on teen angst by making the protagonists mental patients in a halfway house. In the other FRIDAY movies they were good looking people with lots of friends (with one token nerd). Here they are society’s outcasts, at least one of them legitimately psychotic. By 1985 horror was beginning to turn into a subculture, there were kids growing up on Fangoria magazine and worshipping Tom Savini and what not. And those type of horror fans were more likely to see themselves as put upon by society and they were gonna relate to the poor fucked up Tommy Jarvis and the girl who does the robot to her new wave music.
But personally I think that’s part of why the story crashes. To turn the characters into outcasts you gotta have the authority figures, but to make it a FRIDAY THE 13TH you can’t have the authority figures get too involved, because they’re not gonna have a whole movie about the police department chasing Jason around and shooting at him, running him over with a battering ram tank and spraying him with tear gas. Although that would be awesome. Instead of that we gotta waste a bunch of time with the cops suspecting Tommy Jarvis of murders and not believing him and thinking he’s crazy when he talks about Jason and all that type of boring shit. The early ones were more simple and more primal. Running through the woods trying not to get stabbed, that’s just more horror than the ol’ accused of a crime he didn’t commit story.
JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI
This is a big improvement over part 5, but it has a cheesiness the earlier ones didn’t, and like V it feels like the series of ‘kills’ and quickie boob shots that detractors and skeptics always accuse these movies of being. But on the positive side Jason is back. He lives. This is the first one where he’s officially a zombie. Grown up Tommy Jarvis (now played by Thom Matthews from RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD) digs up Jason’s grave to cremate him for public safety purposes. And there’s Jason, more worms and spider webs than flesh. So whaddaya know, the ol’ mongoloid really was dead! Falling face first on a machete did what all those other injuries couldn’t do, what drowning couldn’t even do. It took Jason out. For a while. Way to go machete and little Corey Feldman.
Now, since Jason did come back you start to think well, we can’t really call Corey Feldman “the kid who killed Jason,” because who cares. He came back. Nothing to brag about. But if you think about it, many years have passed here. More than ten. Because when he was Corey Feldman he was 12, then he was that dude playing him as an adult in A NEW BEGINNING and here he’s older enough to be played by a third actor. So there was a good ten or fifteen years of peace at Crystal Lake. And if you think about Jason’s body count, that’s gotta be alot of lives saved. I would say at least 150, probaly alot more, depending on how many people would’ve come to the Crystal Lake area during that period.
Anyway, Tommy is digging up the body and there’s an unfortunate accident. He stabs the corpse with a metal pole, just to make a point I guess, and the pole happens to be struck by lightning. You know how it goes. And that reanimates the corpse. In 1986 when this came out scientists still believed that lightning could reanimate the dead. But in the last couple years studies have indicated that this might not be true some of the time. So in that sense this movie is a little dated scientifically but I like to believe that Jason was not dead, his heart had just stopped, and he didn’t wash his face much, that’s why he’s covered in meal worms. But the lightning jolts his heart back into action just like those electrical jiggers they shock you with in the hospital shows.
This isn’t exactly a comedy, but the writer/director does put some jokes here and there to show he’s kind of above this. I guess it’s a good move though because at this point there were all kinds of mystery science assholes going to horror movies just to laugh “at” them. So you can spin those guys in a circle by giving them actual jokes. The director, Tom McLoughlin claims he even intentionally put in pauses for people to yell at the screen. For example there’s a scene where a woman tries to bribe Jason with money and credit cards, and there’s an extra long shot of her American Express card floating away because he knew somebody would yell “don’t leave home without it!”
Most of the humor is of the lame “I’ve seen enough horror movies to know not to mess with a guy in a mask!” variety, but there’s one joke in the opening title that I think is brilliant. Obviously it opens with Jason coming back to life, then he puts the mask on and turns toward the camera and it zooms on him and says JASON LIVES. No surprise there. But what I did not expect was for the camera to zoom into one of his eye holes, which would sort of become the gun iris from the James Bond opening, so Jason could walk up in profile, then turn toward the camera and (not having a gun like James Bond) slash his machete at the audience. Man, that’s good shit. That shot alone brings the whole movie up one notch.
Another good touch in the opening is Jason’s first kill: the guy who played Horshack. Jason punches Horshack and his fist comes out the other side holding his heart.
FRIDAY THE 13TH VII: THE NEW BLOOD
Well, this is a good idea anyway. It’s Carrie vs. Jason. A traumatized girl with telekinetic powers lives at Crystal Lake. What are the chances that both a Carrie and a Jason would live at Crystal Lake? I’ll tell you what the chances are: astronomical, unless you subscribe to my theory that the pollution in Crystal Lake is what gave Jason his powers. Then the chances are high. People dumpin shit in the water, of course you’re gonna get indestructible retarded killers and traumatized telekinetic avengers. That’s just science. Plus, pollution makes teenagers horny. That’s how the whole series happens.
Although this is a cool idea for mixing it up in the FRIDAY series, things don’t really get going until the end when the Carrie girl and Jason finally face off. The girl starts by knocking Jason into a puddle and causing a power line to go in there and electrocute him. It seems to almost do the trick which is ironic since it was electricity that brought him to life in the first place. I’m not really sure how it works, it seems kind of weird that the dead body would come back via electricity and yet the live body would die via the same force. You’d think it would require some kind of anti-electricity. Whatever is the opposite of electricity, shock him with that. But I guess people with Crystal Lake pollution powers, such as Jason or the Carrie girl, they have different biology and that’s just how it works, it is given both life and death by electricity. Hard to explain.
But he doesn’t die, he just gets fucked up. Then he gets back up and there is pretty good knock down drag out wizard battle. She tears his mask off to reveal that he now looks like some kind of demon monster. Because of the environment. Also she hangs him from the ceiling, shoots nails into his face, knocks him through the stairs, into the floor, etc.
JASON TAKES MANHATTAN
In this, probaly the worst FRIDAY THE 13TH ever, you pretty much know what you’re into from the opening frames. Instead of the creepy atmosphere of Camp Crystal Lake, it starts out with some garbagey shots of fake looking ’80s punk dudes hanging out in alleys in New York while horrible ’80s pop rock horse shit plays on the soundtrack. There are rats crawling around and there is an open barrel of toxic waste. Because this was made in the ’80s by people without taste. So that’s how they show that times are tough. Reaganomics and what not. Rats in the alleys. Punks.
Then it goes back to Crystal Lake where Jason’s body is chained up underwater. Some teens who for some reason have a boat drop anchor and cause an electrical accident which again shocks Jason back to life. That’s just how he works, electricity brings him back to life. He doesn’t have the mask anymore but luckily the dude on this boat was playing a prank where he wears a mask identical to Jason’s , so Jason was able to steal the mask after he spears them to death. So we don’t have to see that stupid demon face.
Jason really doesn’t take Manhattan until the end of the movie. Most of it takes place on a boat where the senior class is having their graduation party. There is a crusty dean type who is also legal guardian of the final girl. Like some of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET sequels, alot of the kids are one-dimensional stereotypes given one hobby or interest instead of a personality, which is then used for their ironic death. For example there’s a Lita Ford type rocker girl who is trying to shoot a rock video in the boat, so Jason bashes her head in with her flying-V. Also there’s a kid with a video camera so when he’s causing trouble that crusty asshole dean uncle guy threatens that he won’t get into film school if he doesn’t watch it. etc.
[sorry, I didn’t finish this project of reviewing all the Jason movies.]
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.