Friday the 13th
Posted: 06 Sep 2013, 20:49
Friday the 13th (1980) **½
Competent, if routine slasher film became a box office phenomenon, turning in a huge profit for Paramount, who treated this series like a bastard stepchild, but were happy to reap the financial rewards. Critics hated them, teenagers loved them. The original is archetypal in every respect and alongside Halloween (1978) defined the splattery sub-genre (although, even the uncut version reviewed here is relatively tame compared to the torturous grotesques allowed in contemporary horror). Producer-director Sean S. Cunningham emphasises suspense over gore and for that reason the film endures better than most. Future star Kevin Bacon appears long enough to take an arrow through the throat.
Friday the 13th, Part 2 (1981) **
Basically a retread of what worked last time, only what little freshness was there has now gone. Steve Miner's direction is sloppy and unimaginative - two of the most memorable moments or 'kills' are stolen from Mario Bava's Bay of Blood. The MPAA gave this entry a harder time than before, but that didn't prevent repeated box office success. The basic suspense/stalk/slash aspects are present and correct, which may satisfy undemanding fans, but even they would find it hard to make sense of the WTF? conclusion. Minimal attention is given to characterization and logic - but would you really expect either?
Friday the 13th - Part III (1982) **
Filmed in the then popular for one-year-only gimmick of 3-D, the third Friday is a frustrating mix of piss poor - basically most of the badly executed first half - and effective climactic shocker - where final girl Dana Kimmel puts up a good fight against the notorious Jason (finding his trademark hockey mask here) and if only the rest of the film had been this entertaining, F13 mark 3 would no doubt be better regarded. The 'kills' are more creative, but having objects constantly thrust into the camera is a 2D distraction (that cheesy eyeball popping gag must've been a hoot in theatres). Curiously, this was the only entry shot in 2.35 widescreen; a shame, as scope photography is an obvious asset. Special nod to Harry Manfredini's funky synth disco theme.
Friday the 13th - The Final Chapter (1984) *½
Inexplicably popular fourth instalment in the Friday series - originally intended to be the last until dollars prevailed. There's absolutely nothing new here, except an awful screenplay, with annoying, cardboard characters (save perhaps Corey Feldman's) and putrid dialogue that makes previous efforts look like the work of Oscar Wilde. If you want to see Jason killed - the sole reason for watching - then best skip to the last 15 mins, as almost everything beforehand is a dull bore. Shocks feel second hand and predictable, just as they did in director Joseph Zito's The Prowler. Tom Savini returned to the fold, but most of his bloody gore effects are trimmed - rabid fans should checkout the extended workprint for an idea of intention. A pre-Back to the Future Crispin Glover dances badly and acts worse. Skip it!
Friday the 13th - A New Beginning (1985) *½
New setting... same old schlock. Corey Feldman (who returns for an effective pre-credit sequence) is subsequently replaced by John Shepard as a now adult Tommy Jarvis. Shepard does what he can with a severely limited role, otherwise performances are rote. However, if you thought the lame-o biker gang from Part 3 was annoying, you ain't seen nothing yet - the hillbilly mom and her idiot son will leave you cursing the screen. Speaking of cursing, the script is more profane than usual, and there's an increase in (admittedly pleasing) nudity, presumably this is to distract male viewers from questioning the plot's total lack of logic. Relocating the story to a youth institution was a good idea, shame it's so ineptly handled. Gorehounds may also whinge at this being the least gory series entry (after MPAA interference).
Jason Lives: Friday the 13th, Part VI (1986) ***
No one would rightly expect the sixth instalment of a horror franchise to be any good, let alone the best in the entire series, yet somehow writer-director Tom McLoughlin managed it. The decision to inject humour and irony into the proceedings (a decade before Scream took credit for it) was a wise move on the filmmakers' part. A slick, classics-inspired aesthetic (think Universal's Frankenstein meets Hammer Gothic) gives the low budget production a professional sheen erstwhile absent from the series. For the first time a Friday movie doesn't look like cheap exploitation schlock. This proved somewhat divisive to fans, many of whom preferred the traditional approach, and also rejected the notion of a Zombie Jason (not that he was terribly human to begin with). Not that it's prefect - I could've done without those Weekend Warriors. Cracking Alice Cooper tracks are icing on the cake. A young Tony Goldwyn appears as a speared victim.
Friday the 13th, Part VII - The New Blood (1988) **
A teenage girl with telekinetic (and clairvoyant) powers inadvertently resurrects (from a watery grave) and then does battle with Zombie Jason (now played by Kane Hodder). It's understandable that with the Tommy Jarvis story arc done the filmmakers would feel the need to create a 'new blood' to face-off against Jason; however, the screenwriters struggle to make this proposition of paranormal vs. supernatural as interesting as it could have been. The formula requirement of gathering a bunch of horny, doped-up teens in a house and then slaughtering them one-by-one gets in the way of what could've been a superior series entry. Make-up artist-turned-director John Carl Buechler achieves little in the way of atmosphere or scares (tellingly this was his only major feature credit) and the conclusion is pretty risible, too.
Friday the 13th, Part VIII - Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) **
The eighth (and last) of the original Paramount series marks a slight improvement over Part 7, if only for writer-director Rob Hedden's attempt to expand Jason's hunting ground. Ironically, this is the reason why most fans dislike this uneven entry - you shouldn't take Jason away from his home, and if you have to take him to New York, it had better be a darn sight more impressive and exciting than what's ultimately delivered (chases through tunnels and alleyways, anyone?). Hampered by a limited budget, very little of the Big Apple can be seen in the end product - most of the film take place on a much cheaper cruise ship setting, proving there's no room for ambition on Friday. Paramount were happy to reap the rewards, but not stump up the cash. Diminishing box office saw the series sold to New Line. A hammy Peter Mark Richman vies for the total-dick-of-the-series award.
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993) *½
What can you say about a sequel that jumps the shark three times within its opening act? Firstly, the filmmakers choose to ignore the fact that Jason was last seen melted by toxic waste - he's just back at Crystal Lake, don't ask any questions, OK? - and then dreams up the notion that Jason only uses human hosts which he travels between via an evil spirit in his heart or tongue (or something...). Also, we learn that Jason has a hitherto unmentioned sister(!) living in Crystal Lake all this time. If ever a Friday film made no sense it's this one and there's little disagreement that this is the worst of the entire series. Obviously New Line agreed as it took them a further seven years to churn out another. There's some unintentional(?) laughter to be had - I defy anyone not to snicker at the method of Jason's Rebirth, which involves a slimy monster crawling into a dead woman's vagina! Kane Hodder's Jason only appears in the opening and closing sequences.
Jason X (2000) ***
Jason in space! If you can handle that outrageous concept you may actually find yourself enjoying this comic book horror, which delivers its gory kills with tongue firmly in cheek. Purist fans of the series on the other hand will hate it, because it's only tenuously a Friday movie and there's no continuity with past entries (not even New Line's own Jason Goes to Hell). Set about 400 years from now - Jason is defrosted on a space ship and wrecks havoc on an unsuspecting crew (whose characters are better drawn and acted than usual). No one is going to confuse Jason X with a masterpiece, but by this series standards, it's imaginative, and, most importantly, fun.
Freddy Vs. Jason (2003-USA-Canada-Italy) **½
A long time promised... New Line finally gave slasher fans the Death Match they'd been craving for with Hong Kong helmer Ronny Yu at the helm. Unfortunately the result is very uneven despite stylish direction and a desire on the filmmakers' part to give both monsters equal amounts to do - it's frankly hard to see how they could've come up with a better story given the demands. The teens are a varied bunch - some you root for, some you're just happy to see 'get it in the neck'. Almost certainly the bloodiest film in either series, it reveals a marked difference in what you can get away with in a post-millennial R-rated picture (this is to-date the only F13 entry passed uncut on first submission). Robert Englund's Freddy is nastier than ever and dominates his every scene, he's worth the extra half star. Given the huge box office, it's surprising that a sequel never materialised.
Friday the 13th (2009) *½
The scariest thing about this unwelcome redux is a producer's credit for Michael Bay - he does more damage than Jason ever could. This isn't strictly a remake since it takes elements from the first four Fridays and melds them together - with the occasional new idea thrown in for measure. In fact, Jason's mommy's noggin is lopped off before the opening credits are done. The filmmakers were aiming for a 'best of', unfortunately what we get is pretty close to a 'worst of'... and the threat of a sequel still looms. Some suspenseful moments toward the end save this from a BOMB rating, but for the most part this is grisly rubbish. The target youths are - with the exception of the two leads - obnoxious twats and there's a peculiar emphasis on dope: the initial batch of slaughterees plan to sell as well as smoke it - I guess that passes for progress in this movie? The girls are hot, even the ones who don't shed clothes. But that's limited compensation for such a worthless piece of dross.