This feature originally ran in May 2016. We’re reposting it today because … well, check your calendar.
Welcome to Dissected, where we disassemble a band’s catalog, a director’s filmography, or some other critical pop-culture collection in the abstract. It’s exact science by way of a few beers. This time, we sort through the best and worst from the machete-wielding monster that just won’t fucking die.
Why do I love the Friday the 13th franchise so much? Most entries feature poor directing, acting, writing, editing, lighting — really every credit involved in making a movie. The best way to describe this series, and the slasher genre as a whole, is to look at it as a roller coaster.
If you look at a roller coaster as a sound, structural piece of transportation, it’s a disaster. The loops are dangerous. The corkscrews look nauseating. Those drops? Unnecessary. But we still ride them because we know we’re safe. We can scream and yell and twist and turn, but we’re strapped in. If we experienced something akin to a roller coaster on a highway heading from New York to Florida, we’d be horrified.
Like roller coasters, the Friday series is a temporary escape. We don’t root for killers in our everyday lives (at least I don’t). We don’t laugh when people get decapitated, impaled, or torn in two. These movies are fun rides for about 87 minutes a pop. You can even be afraid of heights and enjoy them for what they are.
However, if the sight of blood, fake or otherwise, gets to you, look away. I took a deep dive into Jason, his mother, the paramedic who kills all those kids in the fifth movie, and dissected each entry, ranked them, and then went ahead and ranked the kills in each movie. Yes, I even included the spinoff Freddy vs. Jason and the 2009 remake. Please feel free to comment with your outrage below.
Happy Friday the 13th. I’ll let the narrator from The New Blood take it from here…
“There’s a legend round here. A killer buried, but not dead. A curse on Crystal Lake. A death curse. Jason Voorhees’ curse. They say he died as a boy, but he keeps coming back. Few have seen him and lived. Some have even tried to stop him. No one can. People forget he’s down there…waiting…
Senior Staff Writer
P.S. A special thanks to Friday the 13th The Franchise for help with the body count.
12. Friday the 13th (2009)
“Plot”: A group of teens stay at a lake house on Crystal Lake for the weekend while a young man searches for his missing sister. Jason’s back … for the first time.
Jason: Derek Mears, a proper actor, takes up the reigns in this franchise reboot. Because of the new circumstances, this Jason is an actual living, breathing psychopath for the first time since Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, unless you believe he died at the end of Part 3, unless you believe adult Jason was always dead — who cares. Mears is fine. His Jason actually tricks his victims by using others to lure them out (burning sleeping bag, dying post-ax attack, etc.).
Murder by Death — Ranking the Kills:
5. Officer Bracke
11. Trent DeMarco
12. Mrs. Voorhees
Final Girl: Credit goes to the filmmakers for pulling a last-minute switcheroo. There isn’t a moment that we don’t truly believe Jenna (Danielle Panabaker) will be the last one standing…until she isn’t. After helping Whitney (Amanda Righetti) escape, Jenna gets machete’d. I did not see that coming. This leaves the Miller siblings (Righetti and Supernatural’s Jared Padalecki) as the last survivors … until Jason emerges from the water. Roll credits.
Comedy Relief: A progressive movie. The geek this time … is played by an actor of Asian descent! Aaron Yoo plays Chewie, a science nerd with abilities to create fun ways to smoke weed. Aside from Jenna and Clay, everyone in this movie is a total jerk, including the aforementioned geek. This works heavily against the movie. Rooting for Jason is one thing, but actively rooting against the cast of hunks and hotties is another.
Town Crazy: There is an old woman who passes on some guarded information about Jason, but I think the real crazy comes in the character of Donnie (Kyle Davis). A local mechanic/pothead, Donnie has a mannequin in storage he’s been intimate with. I don’t mean to judge, but this guy sounds like a real nut. His habitat also provides housing for a hockey mask, which Jason picks up halfway through the movie.
Best Kill: In an homage to one of the most popular deaths in the franchise, Amanda is killed in her sleeping bag. However, this time the victim is zipped up in her sleeping bag and burned alive atop a campfire. Its little homages like this that make the movie something other than disposable (see also: a wheelchair in Jason’s lair).
Reboot? Sequel? Remake?: Filmmakers seemed confused about what to do with this movie. With a prologue that remakes the original’s ending, gives us a modern-day rag-faced Jason (Part 2), a brother searching for what happened to his sister (The Final Chapter), and Jason finding the hockey mask (Part 3), what is this supposed to be?
Summary: Just read the above. What works most against this remake is a sense of individuality. Even the worst entries have something about them that stands out, what with those trips to Manhattan, demon possession, and when the killer turns out to be someone other than Jason. This plays like the greatest hits re-recorded, and why do that when you can just check out the originals? More pointless than incompetent, but pointless nonetheless.
11. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
“Plot”: The spirit demon of Jason finds new hosts to continue his reign of terror. That’s great and all, but where the hell is Jason?
Jason: Kane Hodder returns for the third time. This go-round finds Jason worse for the wear: His hockey mask sunken into his bloated, living corpse — good makeup. Too bad he’s in the movie for about 10 minutes. Hodder also appears as a security guard who gets offed by a possessee. If my calculations are correct, the guy who plays Jason plays a guy who gets killed by a guy playing Jason who isn’t Jason. Checks out.
Murder by Death – Ranking the Kills:
4. Joey B.
8. Officer Mark and Officer Brian
11. Coroner’s Assistant
12. Sheriff Landis
14. FBI Agent #1 (off-screen)
15. FBI Agent #2 (off-screen)
16. Luke (off-screen)
17. Officer Ryan
19. Diner Patron #1
20. Diner Patron #2
Final Girl: It’s a family affair. Steven (John D. LeMay) reunites with his ex-Jessica (Kari Keegan) and their daughter, literally walking off into the sunset together. Fans may recognize LeMay from his work on the Friday the 13th TV series, where he played Ryan for two years. The series was from the producers of the Friday franchise, but had nothing to do with Jason, his mother, or Camp Crystal Lake. The name sells, baby!
Comedy Relief: Not a lot of humor here. Diner owners Shelby and Joey B. are a couple of stereotypical rednecks with an equally goofy son in Ward. They meet predictably grisly ends, most notably an elbow to the face that caves in Joey’s jaw, or grill — because they work at a diner. The inclusion of The Evil Dead’s Necronomicon is a nice touch, as is the ending (more on that later).
Town Crazy: No town crazy this time, though everyone believes Steven is responsible for all the murders. What’s crazy is that there is no Jason in a movie with Jason. Sure, we get him in reflections of mirrors near crime scenes to remind us that this is supposed to be a Friday film, but is that enough? At least have the common courtesy to trick us into believing there’s a Jason when there really isn’t (ex. A New Beginning).
Best Kill: The best kill is actually in the “Director’s Cut”, which is the only version you should check out. It arrives mid-coitus when Jason (a.k.a. the coroner) shoves a post through a woman riding atop a young fella, tearing said post up and splitting the woman in half. The ultimate example of why you shouldn’t have sex in these movies.
Freddy v Jason: Dawn of Nightmare: The last shot of this movie is the best final shot of the entire franchise. Jason is dead (again). Some dust blows away from his resting place, and we get a glimpse of the hockey mask. Suddenly a familiar gloved hand shoots up from beneath the ground and takes the mask back to hell. It’s Freddy (hand provided by Hodder)! Yes, because New Line Cinema now had the rights to both the Friday and Nightmare franchises, it appeared as though a match-up was just right around the corner. Years of Development Hell meant we wouldn’t see said match-up for another decade.
Summary: JGTH is an utter mess. I didn’t even mention the plot regarding Jason’s family and how only they can destroy him once and for all. Why do these producers need to over-complicate matters? If “Keep It Simple Stupid” ever applied to anything, it’s to slasher movies. Jason doesn’t like people on his turf. The end. The fact that they don’t utilize the real Jason apart from the prologue and climax doesn’t help matters, either. The last Friday movie for eight years.
10. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
“Plot”: A senior class sets sail for New York, with Jason acting as an unwanted chaperone. How their ship managed to port at Crystal Lake, let alone get to New York, isn’t important (apparently).
Jason: Kane Hodder returns as Jason, becoming the first actor to put in a repeat performance. After losing the mask he somehow managed to keep despite two trips to the morgue (thanks to a psychic teen in the preceding entry), he has a new hockey mask to slash around in. This one comes courtesy of some prankster he kills at the beginning of the movie. Said prankster’s name is Jim. Guy was lame.
Murder by Death – Ranking the Kills:
2. Other Boxer
6. Admiral Robertson
10. Gang Banger #1
14. Gang Banger #2
15. Sanitation Worker
16. Deck Hand
17. Irish Cop (off-screen)
Final Girl: A couple of hot students, Rennie (Jensen Daggett) and Sean (Scott Reeves), make it to Manhattan with a group of classmates and teachers, but are the only ones to make it out alive (along with a dog). Rennie’s background includes a tale involving her uncle (Peter Mark Richman) tossing her into Crystal Lake as a kid in order to teach her how to swim. Besides that being a dick move, she was also grabbed by Jason, who appeared as a little boy. If you try to do the math, it won’t work out for you.
Comedy Relief: A pretty humorless movie save one scene (Jason sees a hockey advert on a giant billboard, turns and faces the camera). The marketing for the film is another story. Jason slashing his way through an “I Love New York” poster was ultimately pulled after complaints from the New York tourism board. You can’t buy marketing like that! Too bad it was wasted on this movie.
Town Crazy: Alex Diakun plays a character so crazy he wasn’t even named! He’s the “Deck Hand” aboard the ship who seems to have an idea about what’s going on. Diakun is best known for his work in nearly every Darin Morgan-penned episode of The X-Files, most recently as the Peeping Tom motel owner in “Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster”.
Best Kill: This one’s a “knockout.” Amateur boxer Julius is hanging in there against Jason atop a Manhattan (Toronto) rooftop, punching away until his knuckles bleed. Like any good boxer, Jason allows the young man to tire himself out. When Julius says, “Take your best shot, motherfucker,” the totally imaginable happens as Jason punches his head off. To add insult to decapitation, the damn thing lands in an open dumpster, then the lid closes. Oomph. Down goes Julius.
Jason Goes to Manhattan … in the Final 20 Minutes: One of the big problems with Manhattan is that most of the film takes place on a ship in the open sea/lake/river. This wasn’t the original plan, with writer/director Rob Hedden pitching ideas to let Jason have his way with the Big Apple as early as the second act. Budget constraints and cold feet changed everything. In the end, Hedden had a week to shoot in New York, and it wasn’t enough.
Summary: Should have known something was wrong when they dumped Harry Manfredini’s score for a hopelessly dated ’80s rock song to start off the movie (“Darkest Side of the Night” by Metropolis). Worse yet, the movie has the nerve to end with toxic waste transforming Jason into … himself as a little boy? Without any deformity? And still dead. Is there some urban legend I missed out on growing up? The series had officially jumped the shark, and this isn’t even the one with the psychic teen. Misleading, disappointing, and boring, Jason Takes Manhattan killed the franchise at Paramount. Four long years would pass before New Line’s resuscitation. We know how that went.
09. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
“Plot”: Jason’s dead! So who’s killing all those troubled teens at a facility in Pennsylvania? And what year is this supposed to be? Why is Tommy 10 years older?
Jason: Spoiler Alert: Jason does not exist in this movie. Well, he does, but was killed by Tommy at the end of the previous movie. He is played in hallucination form by actor Tom Morga. However, Roy a.k.a. “Fake Jason” is played by Dick Wieand. You see, ambulance driver Roy’s son is brutally murdered by an employee at a halfway house. When we see how Roy reacts at the scene, it becomes obvious that he will become the killer. Way to build suspense, writers!
Murder by Death — Ranking the Kills:
16. Tina (off-screen)
19. Matt (off-screen)
20. George (off-screen)
11. Anita (off-screen)
18. Duke (off-screen)
Final Girl: A trio of survivors this go-round. Tommy is all grown up, although severely damaged thanks to the events of The Final Chapter. Halfway house director Pam (Melanie Kinnaman) and young Reggie (Shavar Ross) also live through the nightmare. With the outrageous number of people who don’t, they should consider themselves lucky.
Comedy Relief: The mother/son pairing of Ethel (Carol Locatell) and Junior (Ron Sloan) as neighbors of the halfway house. Played redneck to the umpteenth degree, the duo proves more annoying than humorous. Their demise is as welcome as hope that others survive.
Town Crazy: Where do we begin? Ethel and Junior? Roy? The disturbed teens at the center? I guess we’ll go with Tommy, whose Jason hallucinations are the best parts about the movie. By film’s end, it looked as though producers were going to go ahead with twentysomething Tommy as the new baddie of the franchise. Fortunately, they remembered that the series belongs to Jason and Jason alone. Except for part one. And part nine. And the one with Freddy, but you get my point.
Best Kill: Horndog hunk Eddie (John Robert Dixon) gets his head strapped to a tree, which is then tightened from behind by a stick by “Jason” a.k.a. Roy. The on-screen violence is minimal, but the snapping of the stick is cringe-inducing. A rare case of (one-time porn) director Danny Steinmann realizing what we don’t see can be a powerful tool.
“The Demon and Anita Love Song”:
Ooh, ooh, baby. Oooh, baby.
Ooh, ooh, baby. Oooh, baby.
Ooh, ooh, baby. Oooh, baby.
May the angels guide you to the gate. Demon, I hope that upset stomach didn’t follow you into the afterlife.
Summary: The franchise was known for over-the-top violence, thrills, chills, and spills, but this entry comes off as nasty and cheap. Bear with me. These movies have a low-budget, low-expectation feel to them, but there isn’t much fun to be had in A New Beginning. It was gutsy of the filmmakers to go in a different direction with a Jason-less Friday, but it wasn’t what the fans wanted. Corey Feldman (who reprises his role as young Tommy in a dream sequence) is missed. Blame The Goonies shooting schedule.
08. Jason X (2001)
“Plot”: Jason goes to the future. Jason goes to space. Jason is transformed into Super Jason. Jason goes to space.
Jason: Hey, it’s Jason. Actual, real-deal Jason Voorhees. He’s played once again and (sadly) for the final time by Kane Hodder. He’s got tufts of hair on his head that not only mark the most he’s had since Part 2, but demonstrate that zombies can in fact grow hair. Interesting. As mentioned in the “plot,” he gets regenerated near the film’s climax thanks to sciency-wyency equipment. All black get-up, red eyes, futuristic mask, and machete. Ridiculous.
Murder by Death — Ranking the Kills:
2. Dr. Wimmer
6. Sgt. Brodski
7. Private Johnson
8. Guard 3
9. Guard 4
19. Professor Lowe (off-screen)
12. Sgt. Marcus
18. Lou (off-screen)
Final Girl: Three survivors. Kind of. Humans Rowan (Lexa Doig) and Tsunaron (Chuck Campbell) survive Jason’s slaughter aboard the spaceship Grendel, along with the head of cyborg Kay-Em 14 (Lisa Ryder). Did Ridley Scott rip off this ending by having the head of cyborg Fassbender also survive in Prometheus? Probably not, but I have a lot of questions about both of these movies. Doig and Ryder starred in TV’s Andromeda, with roles reversed: Doig played a cyborg, and Ryder played a human.
Comedy Relief: Jason in space is a ridiculous idea, but fortunately the filmmakers are totally aware of it. The best sequence in the movie is set in a holographic field aboard the spaceship Grendel. In order to trick Jason, they create old Camp Crystal Lake, complete with stereotypical hotties (“We love premarital sex!”). The sequence ends with a recreation of the infamous sleeping bag murder from The New Blood, this time with two bags.
Town Crazy: The only thing crazy about this movie is that they got it made. Jason in space. Holograms. Cyborgs. Upgraded Jason. Spaceships. The future. Madness.
Best Kill: One of the best kills in the whole franchise takes place shortly after Jason is resurrected aboard the Grendel. He grabs Adrienne (Kristi Angus), dumps her head in liquid nitrogen, then smashes her frozen head into pieces. Imaginative to be sure.
Is That The David Cronenberg?: Yes, the David Cronenberg, who appears at the beginning of the film as a scientist who wants to cryogenically freeze Jason in the modern day. He is successful, but not before getting stabbed by the guy. The Canadian director appeared as a favor to Jason X director James Isaac, who worked on several films with Cronenberg. R.I.P. to Mr. Isaac, who passed away in 2012.
Summary: Though shot on the cheap and shelved for a couple years, Jason X is far from the worst entry in the series. There is a sense of fun that had been missing from the series for almost 20 years. By no means a “good” movie, but a pretty good and goofy Friday movie. For those so inclined, there was a fascinating piece on the perils of screenwriting in Hollywood written by Jason X screenwriter Todd Farmer for Birth Movies Death. Definitely worth checking out.
07. Freddy Vs. Jason (2001)
“Plot”: Freddy is trapped in Hell and uses Jason to bring back fear to Elm Street. Things don’t work out for the kids, nor do they work out for the icons.
Jason: Ken Kirzinger plays a tall, lean, mean version of Jason, the first actor to play the role other than Kane Hodder in 15 years. Fans were not happy, but director Ronny Yu … explains?: “I’m totally neutral because I don’t know Kane, and I’m not that familiar with that franchise anyway. So for me, it’s just an actor. Whomever the studio wants [is fine].” You’re not doing yourself any favors, brah.
Murder by Death — Ranking the Kills:
1. Freddy Krueger
2. “The Rave Massacre”
6. Frisell and Gibb
7. Shack’s Friend
9. Blake’s Dad
10. Deputy Stubbs
12. Security Guard
Final Girl: Lori (Monica Keena, Dawson’s Creek) and Will (Jason Ritter) live to make out another day. In a deleted scene, the former delivers what would have been the worst line of the franchise, future installments be damned: “Freddy vs. Jason. Place your bets!” It’s even worse than Alexandra Daddario’s “Do your thing, cuz!” from Texas Chainsaw 3D. Well. Maybe not.
Comedy Relief: It’s Freddy! After years of teasing and empty promises, development hells and development hells in other hells, the titans of slasher movies finally faced off. Freddy has his usual slew of bad puns and tasteless throwaways: “No balls, huh, Voorhees?” “How sweet, dark meat.” “It’s not my fault this bitch is dead on her feet.” The audience could forgive the shunning of fan-favorite Hodder, but the idea of a Robert Englund-less “Freddy” would have been unforgivable (see: the remake).
Town Crazy: Poor Will. He’s not really crazy, but the whole town sure thinks he is. He’s broken out of a psychiatric hospital out of concern for Lori’s safety, but is soon blamed for the recent murder spree ol’ Jason is actually responsible for. A shout-out goes to the writers for not only incorporating the same hospital from A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: The Dream Warriors, but the Hypnocil drug, as well.
Best Kill: While the “Rave Massacre” is notable for having a set-on-fire Jason slash his way through a cornfield full of young partiers, the winner goes to him getting the best of Freddy. We all know these two are indestructible, but witnessing the towering Jason tear off Freddy’s gloved arm and stabbing him with it was something fans of these two had been waiting to see for decades.
From Comics to Screen? Ronny Yu’s decision to give FvJ a comic book tone sets the movie apart from any entry in either series. This works for and against the finished product. The lighting helps the movie pop off the screen, whether it be a blue-lit van interior or the hellish red of a nightmare factory. However, any sense of terror is hurt by the bright touch. I could go back and forth on this forever, but the match-up scenario in itself is so ridiculous it really can’t be anything other than comic book-y.
Summary: While Kane Hodder is sorely missed, at least the main course was finally delivered. Freddy vs. Jason is over-the-top from beginning to end and makes no apologies for it. Doesn’t fit the cabin-in-the-woods feel of the Friday franchise and feels like much more of a Nightmare entry, but it is what it is. Enjoy the colors and Freddy actually fighting Jason then call it an evening. Oh, and if had Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland calling Freddy a homophobic slur, you just won bingo.