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Ranking: Every Friday the 13th Movie from Worst to Best

on September 13, 2019, 12:00am
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06. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1987)

POSTER-FRIDAY-THE-13TH-PART-VII-THE-NEW-BLOOD

“Plot”: It’s “Carrie vs. Jason” as a troubled teen takes on a resurrected Jason at Crystal Lake. There are also teens partying next door. It’s a situation.

Jason: Kane Hodder is to Jason what Robert England is to Freddy. Forever tied to the role, Hodder’s Jason has more personality than all of the previous takes put together. This is a living-dead, breathing-without-lungs, machine of terror. The makeup effects work best before his full face is revealed, with an exposed section of teeth and ribs from the damage piled up over the years. Hey, he had it coming!

Murder by Death — Ranking the Kills:
1. Judy
2. Michael
3. Ben
4. Dr. Crews
5. Melissa
6. Jane
7. Dan
8. Russell
9. Mrs. Shepard
10. Kate
11. David (offscreen)
12. Eddie
13. Maddy
14. Sandra
15. Robin

Final Girl: Tina (Lar Park Lincoln) and Nick (Kevin Spirtas, then Kevin Blair) make it out alive. In a bit of a switch for the time period, the stronger of the two isn’t hunk Nick, but Tina with her psychic powers. Yes, Tina’s psychic abilities introduce the supernatural to the series, unless you count the innumerable amount of times Jason has come back to life. She’s also responsible for bringing him back to life in this movie, so demerits there.

Comedy Relief: That would be aspiring sci-fi writer Eddie (Jeff Bennett). He’s the stereotypical how-did-this-guy-end-up-in-this-group supporting dork in a slasher movie. He lusts after the unattainable Melissa and commits the genre sin of making fun of the virginal lead. Eddie was doomed from the start. ‘Twas a machete that killed the geek.

Town Crazy: No town crazy to speak of … but Walt Gourney is back! Yes, the actor who played “Crazy Ralph” in the first two installments returns to deliver an opening narration complete with a best-of reel from earlier Fridays.

Best Kill: I could bore you with words, but I’ll just leave you with this: SLEEPING BAG SCENE.

Worst Kill: The worst kill was committed by the MPAA. The New Blood was cut to shreds by that committee. Nearly a second or two is eliminated from every offing, and in the case of one particularly gruesome scene, the whole damn thing. We see Ben getting his head crushed by Jason, but not the outcome. Only in a grainy outtake do we see his head condensed to chestnut-size. It’s a queasy effect killed off by an evil ratings board.

Summary: Dumb telekinesis and cut-happy MPAA aside, there is fun to be had with A New Blood. Most of this is down to Hodder as Jason, who was so good producers kept him around for the rest of the 20th century. The other secret weapon comes in the form of Tina’s psychologist, Dr. Crews, played with dastardly motivation by Terry “Weekend at Bernie’s” Kiser. You’ll want him dead more than ol’ Jason as the movie marches on. Sadly, the last entry in the series to feature the credits-atop-the-black-screen opening.

blood divider Ranking: Every Friday the 13th Movie from Worst to Best

05. Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982)

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“Plot”: Jason’s just killed off a group of counselors-in-training, only to discover a group of kids (and a couple of hippies) staying in a nearby cabin for the weekend. This time it’s in 3-D! And isn’t it technically Saturday the 14th?

Jason: Richard Brooker as a larger, taller, balder version of Jason. He’s also the first to don the famous hockey mask, acquired halfway through the film. Brooker’s real-life British accent gives him a hint of civility you wouldn’t immediately associate with Jason, and there’s no way to transition from that to telling you that the stuntman passed away in 2013.

Murder by Death — Ranking the Kills:
1. Vera
2. Andy
3. Debbie
4. Rick
5. Fox (off-screen)
6. Edna
7. Chili
8. Loco
9. Harold
10. Ali
11. Shelly (off-screen)

Final Girl: Chris (Dana Kimmell). The less said about the performance the better. It’s the stereotypical wooden line readings that plague so many slasher movie leads that do Kimmell in, although her reading of “Can’t be alive” is quite effective. That could be because of its placement in the pre-credits montage of The Final Chapter. She “kills” Jason with an axe to the head.

Comedy Relief: Shelly. Poor Shelly. Practical joker with a horny heart of gold. He just wants to fit in. He just wants Vera to like him. He reads more as a loser than a comedian, but at the end of the day, he’s a crucial part of the franchise: It’s his hockey mask Jason adorns. Thanks for the laughs, Shell!

Town Crazy: TV veteran David Wiley appears as Abel, a local drunk passed out in the middle of the road. He awakens, only to present the visiting kids with an eyeball he found nearby, holding it rather close to the camera for what’s obviously a 3-D gag. This trend pops up again via juggling, knives, eyeballs ejaculating (from heads!), and of course, harpoons!

Best Kill: Andy getting axe’d in the groin is gross, but the winner (loser?) goes to Vera (Catherine Parks). She thinks that Shelly is slowly walking up the pier towards her, but it’s really Jason wearing that hockey mask for the first time. He’s also quite skilled with the harpoon. You know what happens next.

The People Vs. Tracie Savage: Tracie Savage, who played Debbie, went on to star on the small screen, but not how you would have guessed. As a reporter for an NBC News affiliate in L.A., she was called to testify in the O.J. Simpson case regarding her sources. She survived a talking down to by Judge Ito, but not the ol’ machete-through-the-hammock from Jason way back in ’82.

Summary: While the 3-D gags don’t make sense when, you know, you’re not watching it in 3-D, Part 3 packs a punch. Steve Miner’s return to the director’s chair gives the movie a familiarity it needs, although the continuity can go hang itself. Why is Jason bald with a shaved face if this is directly after Part 2? When it comes to this franchise, the fewer demands for logic the better. Oh, and let’s forget about the disco-fied opening credits, shall we?

blood divider Ranking: Every Friday the 13th Movie from Worst to Best

04. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

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“Plot”: A group of camp counselor trainees gather ‘round Crystal Lake. Mrs. Voorhees may be dead, but her son is a whole ‘nother story.

Jason: Up for debate. Billing goes to Warrington Gillette, though there is also a stunt double credit that went to Steve Dash. Usually Jason is played by a stuntman to begin with, but apparently Gillette wasn’t the best a producer could get. If you’re like so many people out there wondering whatever happened to Steve Dash, I found him: He drives a cab in West Palm Beach. Don’t laugh, it’s better than ending up Corey Feldman.

Murder by Death — Ranking the Kills:
1. Jeff/Sandra
2. Mark
3. Scott
4. Vickie
5. Alice
6. Ralph
7. Policeman
8. Terry (off-screen)

Final Girl: Amy Steel, who gets my vote as the best actress to make it to the end of any Friday entry. Steel later appeared as a lead in April Fool’s Day, an underrated horror comedy from 1986 that pokes fun at the slasher genre. She also popped up in an episode of Quantum Leap. Can we bring back Quantum Leap already?

Comedy Relief: Lanky Stu Charno as Ted, a character so likeable and goofy he is saved. At the end of the day, a good number of the trainees survive because they went out to a nearby bar when most of the murders went down. Charno is best remembered as the killer from the classic X-Files episode “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”. He also blew up in Christine.

Town Crazy: Crazy Ralph is back! After doom-splaining and watching a couple counselors get it on, Ralph is taken away from us via barbed wire to the throat. So long, Crazy Ralph! We hardly crazy knew ya’!

Best Kill: The best dispatching was apparently so graphic that it didn’t even make it to the final cut (a double impalement of Jeff and Sandra). If that’s the case, then why is a still from said scene on the back of the Part 2 VHS box for any young kid (me) to see. What’s more irresponsible, MPAA?

No Hockey Mask? No Hockey Problem Adult Jason’s debut is a callback to The Town That Dreaded Sundown, complete with pillow-case mask and overalls. It’s still chilling and another example of misremembered origins. When people think of Friday the 13th, they immediately go to hockey-mask Jason. That iteration doesn’t show up until halfway through the third entry!

Summary: Pivotal entry in the series, seeing as how it introduced grown-up, psycho Jason to the world. Hockey mask be damned, mountain-man Jason is more effective than mountain-man Michael Myers (see: Rob Zombie’s Halloween II). With an above-average lead (rare in this or any other horror series) and a creepy final shot, Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part 2 makes the cut. I couldn’t help myself!

blood divider Ranking: Every Friday the 13th Movie from Worst to Best

03. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)

friday the 13th 6 Ranking: Every Friday the 13th Movie from Worst to Best

“Plot”: Tommy Jarvis wants to make sure Jason’s dead. He is. Then he isn’t. Now he must protect a summer camp from Jason’s reign of terror that is actually full of kids! And Alice Cooper provides a song, too!

Jason: Mostly C.J. Graham, but a few shots remain of the original actor to play the part in Jason Lives. Producers decided they didn’t like what Dan Bradley was doing and got rid of him. Don’t weep for Bradley. He’s enjoyed a solid career as a stunt coordinator, and you still get him in the paintball sequence. It’s Graham the rest of the way, though.

Murder by Death — Ranking the Kills:
1. Nikki
2. Allen
3. Sheriff Garris
4. Burt
5. Lizbeth
6. Katie/Larry/Stan
7. Paula
8. Sissy
9. Martin
10. Darren
11. Annette/Steven
12. Cort
13. Roy (off-screen)
14. Officer Thornton
15. Officer Pappas

Final Girl: In addition to Tommy (played this time by Return of the Living Dead’s Thom Mathews), we get camp counselor survivor Megan, played by Jennifer Cooke. Cooke’s other big role was in the original V TV series, in which she was blessed enough to share screen time with the greatest person to walk the planet, Michael Ironside. Ironside’s name on that show was Ham Tyler. Has any writer topped that name?

Comedy Relief: All the comic relief in Jason Lives comes down to the film’s writer/director, Tom McLoughlin. There’s the James Bond-inspired intro, the AMEX nod, Smiley-Face bloodstain, the breaking of the fourth wall, and countless other bits that are responsible for this film’s placement on our list. The humor remains polarizing to this day, but after the dreary misery of A New Beginning, levity was much needed. McLoughlin delivered in spades, albeit bloody ones. Even Ron Palillo a.k.a. Welcome Back Kotter’s Horshack makes an appearance!

Town Crazy: Gravedigger Martin is drunk as a skunk throughout his few appearances in the film. He isn’t so much crazy as he is an alcoholic, but he fits the category close enough. As it happens, it is the bottle that does him in, although it’s a smashed one, and it gets jammed into his throat. Another humorous, dark demise courtesy of McLoughlin.

Best Kill: Despite all the humor, there is some effective dispatching. There’s a three-person decapitation in one swing, a body is bent backwards, and a head is twisted off. The winner has to be Nikki’s demise. After a roll in the hay inside an RV, she has her head crushed through a wall hard enough to make a full-face indent out the other side. A great, practical effect.

Children Shouldn’t Camp Near Deadly Jason: As I mentioned earlier, for the first time there are actual kids at Camp Crystal Lake, wisely renamed Camp Forest Green. This adds innocence to a series full of decadence and finger-wagging material. One strong sequence involves a little girl tucked away in bed, only to have Jason hover over her in the dead of night (pun absolutely intended). Don’t worry. No children were harmed either in the making of or within the film.

Summary: At this point, fans in the series were having fun with being scared or, at the very least, watching this machine mow down their fellow man. With Jason Lives, McLoughlin delivered a fun-ny movie that wasn’t replicated in future installments (though Jason X tries its best). While there are bright spots in the films that followed (notably Kane Hodder), Jason Lives remains the strongest entry the franchise has had in the past 30 years. And keep an eye out for a young Tony Goldwyn, a.k.a. the president on ABC’s Scandal. Or so I’ve been told.

blood divider Ranking: Every Friday the 13th Movie from Worst to Best

02. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

friday the 13th 4 cover Ranking: Every Friday the 13th Movie from Worst to Best

“Plot”: A group of friends (sound familiar?) take residence next door to a family of three. Jason’s dead, so no worries. Isn’t this technically Sunday, Monday, Tuesday the 15th, 16th, 17th?

Jason: Ted White, whose Jason has lost some weight since the last installment but is still a tall cat. Outside of this role, White is best remembered as the guy who killed the deer that Jeff Bridges brings back to life in Starman. He also popped up on an episode of The X-Files.

Murder by Death — Ranking the Kills:
1. Jason Voorhees
2. Jimmy
3. Axel
4. Samantha
5. Paul
6. Doug
7. Hitchhiker
8. Nurse Morgan
9. Tina
10. Terri
11. Ted
12. Sara
13. Rob
14. Mrs. Jarvis (off-screen)

Final Girl: …and boy! Yes, we have multiple survivors in this Friday entry. Trish and Tommy Jarvis (Kimberly Pierce and Corey Feldman, respectively) overcome Jason thanks to young Tommy’s initiative. He cuts off his hair to resemble the killer as a boy, distracts him for a few moments, and ultimately delivers a machete to the side of his face. Outstanding makeup effects by Tom Savini, who returns for the second and last time.

Comedy Relief: A two-fer. Lawrence Monoson as Ted and Crispin Glover as “Dead Fuck” Jimmy. Ted is the Costello to Jimmy’s Abbott. They’re two friends who somehow get along with the hunks and babes in the group, though how they pull this off is beyond me. Who needs these dweebs hanging around? At the end of the day, enough can’t be said about Glover’s insane dancing, a precursor to the bizarre and fascinating career that has endured for decades.

Town Crazy: No town crazy! I guess Ron (Erich Anderson) has been driven “crazy with revenge,” running into Trish and Tommy during his quest to find the maniac who killed his sister (guess who?). Anderson went on to play Felicity’s father on the WB series of the same name. Never watched it, but I once attended a birthday party in the early ‘90s and Keri Russell was there. Ask me about it some time.

Best Kill: Already discussed, but another shout-out to Savini for his makeup effects throughout the movie. His brutal “final” offing of Jason is truly a technical achievement.

I’ve Heard of Bathtub Gin, But Bathtub Mom?! A dream sequence that occurs just before Trish wakes up in the hospital has resurfaced on DVD extras. Trish is at the house when she discovers a leak coming from upstairs. She goes to the bathroom to discover her mother dead in the tub. To add to the discomfort, Mom’s eyes turn white, and we see Jason over Trish’s shoulder. It would have kept in line with the dreams from the earlier movies, but we’d been through enough.

Summary: This was supposed to be the end. No, really. Paramount was ready to move on from the property, but The Final Chapter made too much money, baby. Sequels, reboots, and offshoots were still to come. The fourth entry has not been matched by anything that followed and is the best “Jason” entry of the series by a pretty long shot. Everything is in its right place. Cue the Crispin Glover’s Jimmy dance!

blood divider Ranking: Every Friday the 13th Movie from Worst to Best

01. Friday the 13th (1980)

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“Plot”: Camp Crystal Lake is about to re-open for the first time in over a decade. The counselors have arrived. The cabins are set up. It’s too bad about all the murders.

Murder by Death — Ranking the Kills:
1) Jack
2) Mrs. Voorhees
3) Marcie
4) Bill
5) Annie
6) Ned (off-screen)
7) Claudette (off-screen, but freeze frame into opening credits is effective)
8) Brenda (off-screen)
9) Steve
10) Barry

Jason: Ari Lehman plays young Jason, and we only see him briefly. What little we do see of lil’ Jason drowning is made up for by his grotesque, shocking emergence from the water near the end of the film. The one doing the actual offing is Betsy Palmer as Jason’s mother, whom I grew up watching in Disney’s Not Quite Human film series as a wealthy owner of a yacht (it’s been awhile). Talk about bucking stereotypes! Palmer died in 2015, but her legacy as the fiercely loyal Mrs. Voorhees lives on.

Final Girl: Alice (Adrienne King). She’s an artist with a heart of gold, and although she is a virginal, “innocent, final girl”, there are allusions that she might have been sleeping with the camp’s new owner, Steve. I could look up that actor’s name, but to me he’ll always look like my high school’s choir instructor, only shirtless and with a bandanna around his neck. Anyway, Alice ends Mrs. Voorhees’ reign of terror courtesy of a machete decapitation.

Comedy Relief: Ned (Mark Nelson). You’ve met Ned. Ties shirts around his waist when wearing an Indian headdress. Does a killer Bogie impression. Yearns for the young lady that’s way out of his league but somehow charms her. As we know, Ned never got his chance with Brenda (Laurie Bartram), but to be fair, she gets offed, too. Awwwww…

Town Crazy? The one and only Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney)! He provides some needed exposition and most important of all, the crazy. He’s in pretty good shape, best displayed by the fact that he manages to ride his garbage bicycle from the town square to the deep woods of the camp. Maybe he was an off-road racer? Is that even a thing? Keep your X-Games off my lawn!

Best Kill: Where to begin? The biggest get producer Sean S. Cunningham achieved was snagging makeup maestro Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead). Mrs. Voorhees’ head getting lopped off is a memorable moment, but the winner has to be the arrow making its way through Jack’s throat.

Six Degrees of Camp Crystal Lake Counselors: Speaking of ol’ Jack, he was played by none other than Kevin Bacon. The young actor had limited on-screen experience aside from a minor role in 1978’s Animal House, but his career spawned the party game of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” so it’s been a successful one. Easily the biggest name to make it out of the series. Harry Crosby (Bill) gets a special shout-out for being the son of Bing Crosby.

Summary: Funny how a Friday the 13th movie that doesn’t feature Jason as the killer is the best in the series, but here we are. The first entry sets the table for the movies that followed. In addition to the creative kills (courtesy of genius makeup guru Tom Savini), we’d see similar opening credits, hear a similar score (by Harry Manfredini), and deal with similar sub-par acting in the many entries to come. The franchise peaked before poor Jason grew up!

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