Hello everyone. Jules here, and since there are two more Fridays left in October, I figured I would take our weekly film review feature here and give it a bit of seasonal tweaking. So for the next two weeks, I will be doing short and sweet reviews of the Friday the 13th slasher series. Look for them here once more next Friday, same time, same station.
Friday the 13th (1980)
Official Score: 4 Stars
I recently bought the entire F13 series on the cheap in several 5 dollar DVD double features, and the wife and I have been watching a couple every week. It is interesting now watching these movies that I used to stay up late watching as a kid. These movies were designed to be seen on dates, or in big group settings, and so I found it useful to have experienced these movies with an extra perspective to take note of. Here’s the plot crunch. Way back in the late 50s young Jason Voorhees drowns in Camp Crystal Lake, while the teenage camp counselors were apparently off getting their jollies. Two of those counselors were murdered (the first two on screen deaths of the series) and the camp was closed down. There were attempts to reopen it several times but they always met with disaster, such as tainted water or whathaveyou. Now the year is 1980 and Steve Christy and a band of teenagers, including novice actor Adrienne King as Alice, and a very young Kevin freakin Bacon as another counselor are reopening of the camp. Now, of course this movie is pure schlock, of the same type and genre of the endless spawn of sequels that followed it. It is an unabashed Halloween rip-off, but unlike many of the later movies of this series is competently directed, decently edited and has a consistent atmosphere/mood throughout. I found that I was rather refreshed to be watching a horror movie that was not as acutely self-aware and obsessed with irony as modern horror movies. There’s something to be said for just a straight up, no frills slasher film that knows what it is. It may be schlock, but it is respectable schlock in any event.
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Official Score: 2 1/2 Stars
If the first film in this series was “respectable schlock” this one was just pure schlock. Friday the 13th Part 2 is as straight of a by the numbers slasher flick as you could imagine. The introduction of the Jason Voorhees character (in unexplained grown up form) is the most historically relevant aspect of this movie, and of course, it is another direct rip-off from Halloween. The teenagers this time around are mostly forgettable, with the exception of the Ginny character that shows some signs of life. That said there are some well constructed scenes and great gory cinematography here (which unfortunately was heavily chopped by the MPAA), such as the campfire scene in which the Jason myth is first explained, a gruesome wheelchair kill on a flight of stairs that was strikingly shot, and the big finale where the main characters have their big showdown with the pillow sack (no goalie mask yet) sporting Jason and his dear old mommy’s decapitated head. This movie is a direct copy of the first one, only with a different killer, and with less care and thought given to some cinematic subtleties. These teenage characters are not presented as naturally as in the first movie. The women’s breasts and butts get more camera time than their face, and to quote Townes Van Zandt everyone is basically just waitin’ around to die.
Friday the 13th part 3 (1982)
Official Score: 3 Stars
Friday the 13th part 3 is one of my favorites of the entire franchise. This movie has a lot of firsts for the series. Most iconically, it is the first film to have the killer dawn the legendary goalie’s mask. I say the killer because, and this may have just been an oversight, he is not named as Jason anywhere in the movie, (spoiler alert) although unlike part five, it is generally accepted canonically speaking to be him. This is also the first movie in the series to realize that this whole deal is a big farce and begin to have fun with the idea. Everything from the thumping 80s techno music, to the 3D gimmickry (my wife and I watched this in 3D with the glasses) including eyeballs popping out and scenes where the hockey masked killer appears to be reaching right through the screen to grab you. The teenagers this time around are slightly more memorable, if only because they are such blatant stereotypes. There’s Shelly, the prankster, a couple obviously modeled from Cheech and Chong, oh, and there’s a biker gang as well. The ending of this movie is also a nice callback to the original. All in all, this one is just good goofy blood soaked fun. And you’ll have the theme music stuck in your head for days.
Seriously, I could see Jason moonwalking to this, it’s so catchy.
Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter
Official Score: 3 ½ Stars
The fourth installment in this series was also supposed to be the last, hence the name “Final Chapter”. With that in mind the creators of this movie went all out in making about as good as a by the numbers Jason flick as one can make. The movie opens with a great montage of the first three movies, giving the entire backstory of Jason from little snippets here and there, such as the campfire scene from part 2 and various bits and pieces from the others. For me this is the movie when the character of Jason becomes inarguably non-human, as a late stage unmasking might suggest. This movie is loaded up with teenagers waiting to be hacked. You have the token nerd, the token slut, twin token sluts even, and finally some likable main characters including a very young Corey Feldman in the role of Tommy Jarvis, who will be the central protagonist of the next two Friday the 13th movies as well. Where part three came off like a ridiculous lark, this movie tries to go back to basics and mix in the dark moody tones of the first two movies, while also upping the gore and sex to the highest possible limits. This movie may be the best of all the sequels, although not my personal favorite. This one does have a good balance between sometimes too goofy entries like part three and six, and the too dull/dark part two.
Until ‘Jason Goes to Hell’ came out, Friday the 13th Part 5 was the closest thing this franchise had to a “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” type installment. If you only edited so that the killer actually was (spoiler alert again) Jason Voorhees, instead of lunatic ambulance driver Roy, then it’s really not that much different from the other entries. Tommy Jarvis is back, although he is now a teenager, and living in a group home due to the trauma he endured in the last film. This time he is play by John Shepard who does a solid job here. This movie was directed by Danny Steinmann, who is also apparently a famous porn director, and it shows here as the nudity count in this movie tops all the previous ones, and most of the latter ones. This movie has a different vibe than a lot of the other movies. The mood is darkly comical, but in a very sleazy kind of way. This is the first of the movies to not be set on Camp Crystal Lake. It’s a few miles inland, in the town, which is populated by a weird mix of guys who act like greasy rockabilly hipsters from the 1950s and deranged hillbillies who wandered off the set of Deliverance . “Jason” spends this movie hacking through a rather forgettable group of mentally unstable teens at the local shelter. This is one to see only if you are a fan of the genre, and of the series.