Friday The 13th: a Complete Investigation and the Full Body Count

It’s important to note that this article is about far more than just dead bodies, this piece serves as a closer examination of the entire franchise, film for film; a look at the pros, the cons, and the outright ludicrous.

FRIDAY THE 13th (1980): In 1957 careless camp counselors failed to save an 11 year old boy from drowning. That boy was Jason Voorhees, and some two decades later Jason’s mother Pamela (Betsy Palmer) Voorhees has made a vow to dispose of any young punks who return to the Camp Crystal Lake locale. Of course, a group of kids show up at camp and quickly find themselves right in the middle of mom's path of revenge. The intelligent, semi-innocent Alice (Adrienne King) is the heroine, and Mrs. Voorhees would be wise to use her head and not underestimate this one…of course, most of us know that doesn’t happen, and instead this disgruntled mother finds herself on the receiving end of the now infamous machete.

By today’s standards there’s not much in terms of originality here. However, in 1980 the path we now recognize as the trail of the slasher wasn’t remotely near as defined, and Sean Cunningham did manage to offer a few unique ideas that played on the blueprints established by geniuses like Bob Clark and John Carpenter (while still implanting a sense of his own imagination). There are some nice visual techniques put to work that enhance some select scenes and definitely add a feeling of gratification that far exceeds what the actual potential should even be. The script as a whole still lacks a bit of creativity just the same, although the revelation that we’re dealing with a villainess rather than a villain is still awfully cool. Any way you shake a stick at it, without the original FRIDAY, there would be no Jason Voorhees, and let’s be honest: Jason is a modern day horror icon that most of us would prefer in our lives rather than out.

Tom Savini is on deck here exercising his skills as one of the best effects men in the business, and while a few shots are easily dissectible – even to the layman – a few are absolutely chilling in their realism. Kevin Bacon makes a short lived (but appreciated, most certainly) appearance, and Betsy Palmer is damn unnerving in the antagonist‘s shoes. While the first installment of this immensely popular franchise didn’t break any new ground, it’s still a solid, entertaining film that moves at a steady and enjoyable pace.

Key Praise: There are a multitude of strengths offered up by Cunningham and company here: Savini’s special effects are great, Kevin Bacon gets an early chance to shine, Adrienne King proves an endearing Scream Queen (sans a few sequences late in the film, in which her character is put in the precarious situation of breaking role, as she suddenly neglects her established wit and embraces her inner dumbass; error on screenwriters Victor Miller and Ron Kurz, not King’s) and Harry Manfredini composes a chilling soundtrack (although I’ll be the first to admit that Harry takes things a bit too far over the top, particularly in a few of the first person POV stalker shots).

Amazingly, none of the aforementioned qualities are what (in my personal opinion) make this film an astoundingly fun joyride worthy of multiple viewings. No, for my money, I like the intrigue and mystery (which feels ironic stating such a thing, because there’s obviously no mystery left after initially viewing the film) of the picture. FRIDAY THE 13th veers from expectation by leaving the antagonist an unknown, a practice not all that widely explored in 1980. In HALLOWEEN, it’s immediately established that the masked Michael Myers is the one to keep an eye on. We learn extremely quickly that it’s Freddy Krueger responsible for the murders on Elm Street. There’s no secret as to who’s fixing to wield a meat hook in THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. But this early film, like Clark’s BLACK CHRISTMAS, forces viewers to guess who is behind the carnage (with loads of the wonderful first person POV shots), even going so far as to cast a little suspicion on Bill, and if you’ll bite easily, Ralph.

We may all know who’s behind the slaughtering in FRIDAY THE 13th, but we’ve had a dozen films and over thirty years to become acquainted with the Voorhees family. Sean went out of his way to leave something to the imagination with this franchise launcher, and I’ll always respect that maneuver, as it does stand out amongst the other films in the series, as well as plenty of other similar genre pieces produced in the late 1970’s through the early 1980’s.    

Beef: I honestly don’t have too many complaints about this film (I’ve noted a few weaknesses already). I think there’s a fair balance of story, gore, quality performances and suspense. I wouldn’t have minded had we been gifted a bit of extra nudity, and I would have liked to have seen Ralph’s highly annoying ass disposed of quite brutally, but sometimes if you wait long enough, well, you get what you want.

Jason Kill Count: 0 (Obviously, it’s Pamela to blame)

Best Kill: Jack's arrow absorbing Adam’s Apple… duh!

Best Line: “I told you to sit on it, Tonto!”

 

FRIDAY THE 13th PART II (1981): After somehow seeing his mother decapitated, Jason decides it’s his turn to pull the revenge card and knock off some horny boys and nubile young ladies. How Jason is even around (did he truly ever even die, and if not, where the hell did he run off to for all those years, and why was he still a boy when he pulled Alice into the water upon conclusion of the first film, yet a full grown man just one year later?) is never really explained, and perhaps it is better that the details of his return remain that of legend and not established “fact”. What really matters is the simple fact that more counselors show up around camp (this time we focus not on Camp Crystal Lake, but a separate campground located on the same lake), more drugs are taken, and more boobies bounce, all of which are firm (see what I did there?) justification for a Voorhees killing spree. This time, there’s no mystery involved, just a lumbering madman with a sack over his head disposing of anyone living a beyond-PG-rated lifestyle.

Steve Miner does a damn fine job (still his career best, in these eyes) in his directorial debut. The cast, while green, makes a strong case for being technically stronger than its predecessor (arguable, no doubt, I should stress), and the dialog is much more fluent and believable in this outing. Savini’s authentic gore is missed, but Carl Fullerton steps in and provides some fairly adequate shocks (though we’re left to desire the gritty onscreen execution for the most part). The film itself is really just a slightly more refined version of the original, sans the mystery killer, and while the intrigue of the first film is absent (and never to return for that matter), the legitimate screen birth of monster Jason Voorhees makes up for any of the film’s shortcomings. Take note, this is the last time you’ll see Jason with an “average” build, it’s all bulk and menace from here on out!

Key Praise: This sequel offers a few noteworthy qualities, including one of the more appeasing finales of the franchise, and a really rare extended look at the disfigured face of a grown Jason. First off, it’s plenty of hand-to-hand combat for Jason, as he tangles with Paul (John Furey) for an extended period before a fun chase ensues, which leaves Ginny (Amy Steel) stuck right in the lion’s den. From here we’ve got machete action, deception, flashbacks from the previous film… well, we’ve got a whole lot of entertainment to take in, let’s say that. As for the lengthy look at the face of Voorhees, well, I’ll put it like this: we tend to catch glimpses of Voorhees minus the mask relatively often throughout the series, but not quite like this. Miner goes all out in the film’s final reel, and pulls out the slow-motion method, just as Voorhees bursts through a window to ensnare Ginny. Unfortunately Fullerton’s makeup work isn’t exactly stellar, and the sight of Voorhees conjures more laughs than legitimate fear; it was nice to actually see him for the first time all the same.  

Beef: While I can look past the fact that no one - Cunningham, Miner, Kurz or Miller included - seem to really be able to explain Jason’s existence, there are just a few elements of the film that are tough to take in. For example, precisely where is it that Alice is living (in the film’s opener)? It’s clearly a city of some sort, far less desolate than the rural regions from which the Voorhees’ come, yet Jason pops up in time to utilize an icepick. How’d he know where to look for his mother’s killer, how did he get there, and if his intent was to avenge Pam’s death, what prompted the shift to full on serial killer after disposing of our former heroine? This is just one of many gray areas proposed by this script (I’ve already noted a few others), and after taking in a handful of extreme improbabilities, it gets a little frustrating wading through the hiccups of the story.

Another major qualm I have with this film is the fact that it’s approached with a serious conviction. Of course there are plenty of pranks and goofs made by the young counselors, but when it comes to the bloodshed, and drive of Jason, Miner shoots it straight… and yet, many exchanges are executed in outright goofy fashion; Jason stumbles about, falls, seems generally uncoordinated and to be completely honest, incapable of overthrowing this group. The sack is just plain silly might I add. Silly!

Jason Kill Count: 9

Best Kill: Mark’s facial surgery (it’s always cool to see cripples get killed!)

Best Line: “These kids smoke better dope than I do.”

 

FRIDAY THE 13th PART III (1982): More kids head in the wrong direction. Jason kills them off one by one, in brutal fashion of course. By now it should probably sound familiar.

It’s tough to find anything positive to say about this film. While Steve Miner made such a splash helming the first FRIDAY sequel, he really seems to have fallen asleep at the wheel for this one. The acting reaches a franchise low, and maintains that position to this day. There isn’t a single likeable character in the film, there isn’t a shred of creativity put to work (I know, we can argue that creativity has been absent since the first installment), and the effects are mediocre, if I’m being overtly kind. The potential to be an excellent addition to the series is certainly present, but there wasn’t much care invested while piecing this one together. Had this film been articulately assembled, rather than thrown together in what feels like a soulless stretch for a dollar sign. I think FT13P3 honestly could have made for a thrilling experience; the first four features of the franchise blend into each other wonderfully in regards to the story, with the exception of this particular installment, which really does feel like fodder you’d toss in your Dane’s direction. At least we finally get the hockey mask.

Key Praise: HOCKEY MASK! Yes, that’s just about all I have for you in this instance. If you’re looking for the weakest link in this series, here’s an early and strong contender for that title. Amazingly, this picture has picked up quite the following, despite too many misfires to count, and is often listed by fans as the franchise’s greatest piece. I couldn’t possibly disagree more.

Beef: Everything but the hockey mask. I mean that whole heartedly!

Jason Kill Count: 12

Best Kill: Rick’s skull-splitting headache (it was hard to pick one amongst this heap)

Best Line: “The quiet is deceiving, it can fool you…”

 

FRIDAY THE 13th PART IV: THE FINAL CHAPTER (1984): This time around we’re not dealing with camp counselors, but vacationers and residents. Part four introduces Tommy (Corey Feldman) Jarvis, a quirky kid with a knack for mask making (who actually makes a return to the storyline further down the road on multiple occasions), and his mother and sister; three (seemingly) innocents. The plot is straight forward as usual, and while more care is given to this script, underneath the subplots, we’re really just looking at an excuse to continue transforming this (now) hockey mask wearing murderer into a household name.

The rundown is simple: Jason awakens in a hospital, disposes of those in his way and heads out to eliminate all these damn kids who have shown up at his lake for a good time, yet again… despite the terrifying history surrounding the location, that would surely scare away any potential visitors. Perhaps part four’s victims are completely naïve, and don’t do much research before heading out for a “good time”. Someone should have tipped these vacationers off: Camp Blood is not the place to get away from life’s troubles!

Here’s where things actually get back on track for FRIDAY. Bruce Hidemi Sakow and Barney Cohen do an excellent job of bringing some definitive direction to the story. The dialog is strong, the characters are strong and the actors and actresses do a fine job with their roles; Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover in particular. Tom Savini makes a much needed return, and as a result we get some awesome kills that should satiate the appetites of all the gore freaks out there, as the series hasn’t seen this kind of carnage since its inception four years prior. The finale ranks amongst the best of the franchise (surpassing the wicked conclusion proffered by part 2), and Tommy Jarvis is the most memorable character to be featured in any of the FRIDAY films. As previously mentioned, had PART 3 been even remotely near decent, the first four of these films would make for a complete, cohesive and thoroughly enjoyable set…damn you Steve Miner for having an ‘off shoot‘!

Key Praise: After the dreadful performances exercised in the third chapter of this ongoing murderous saga, I’m happy to say that we’ve got some solid performances to take in. Director Joseph Zito guides a group of promising youngsters on a trek through Hades and it pays off in a major way. Corey Feldman, even at the tender age of 12 shines like a 3800 lumen LED flashlight, Crispin Glover is great as the socially awkward Jimmy, Peter Barton turns in a strong effort and Kimberly Beck is enjoyable as Tommy’s older sibling, Trish. There are a few other impressive efforts to take in, but I don’t aim to ramble on about the acting, just rest assured it is leaps and bounds ahead of the work put in by the previous cast.

Seeing Tom Savini revisit the franchise also offers a huge boost in entertainment. While Carl Fullerton and Douglas White are certainly proficient in their craft, their skill set clearly pales in comparison to Savini’s. The authenticity that Tom brings to set just completely transcends the work of his peers, plain and simple. While I may not be the biggest fan of the man’s personality away from production, I cannot deny his talents when it comes time to get his hands dirty; very few rival his SFX abilities.   

Beef: I don’t have a whole lot to bitch about here, as this is one of Jason’s most enjoyable platforms. The story is relatively hollow, but the attempt at adding a few layers doesn’t go unrecognized. Barney Cohen really goes the extra mile to make this film more than a simple exhibit of fantastic carnage. However, when all is said and done, I’m still left wondering: what the hell happened to Tommy’s mom?

Jason Kill Count: 13

Best Kill: The Crispy Crispin Corkscrew

Best Line: “You are the super bowl of self-abuse”

 

FRIDAY THE 13 PART V: A NEW BEGINNING (1985): Tommy (John Shepherd, not Corey Feldman unfortunately) Jarvis is back and all grown up (in a years’ time? you ask… I ask the same damn thing). Unfortunately for him, his brush with Jason has left him a little loopy. He heads back out to the place he once called home, which is obviously (if you watched PART 4) Camp Blood territory. Tommy isn’t there to vacation, or counsel any youth though, he’s headed for an institution designed to prepare the mentally unstable for a return to society (yes, Jason’s attack has left him that unstable, understandably). Shortly after Tommy arrives, one of the institutes’ residents kills a fellow resident after becoming enraged over, get ready for it: a candy bar! This act sets in motion a string of brutal murders, and launches a “mystery” about as intricate as a Scooby Doo episode.

I applaud Martin Kitrosser and David Cohen for trying to put a new spin on this story, but ultimately I must fault Danny Steinmann for directing an unbelievable cast, in an unbelievably unfrightening hunk of junk. The big “mystery” (I love throwing that in quotations, if you didn’t notice) is as obvious as the earth’s rotation, and these “actors” are just about as annoying (with a few exceptions, including Shepherd who does a fair job as the film’s lead and Shavar Ross who portrays Reggie The Reckless) as they come. Martin Becker deserves credit for some cool death scenes, and with a plot twist as outlandish as what is offered here, Harry Manfredini’s original score is a very familiar, but very, very welcome addition. It’s almost surprising they stuck with it, considering how left field the film as a whole feels.

Key Praise: I’ve got to say it, and I’ll likely be accused of being remarkably shallow (which I can indeed be), but the greatest element of this film is the presence of Debi Sue Voorhees and her obvious willingness to shed her clothing. This woman is a damn looker with a body worthy of salivation, and in a production as shoddy as this one, she really emerges as a beacon of greatness. I do extend respect to Martin Kitrosser, David Cohen and Danny Steinmann for attempting to bring something different to the story, but I can’t ignore the fact that this film’s twist isn’t exactly impressive.     

Beef: Aside from some shaky script work (I still don’t fully grasp the continuity in general, as I guess we’re expected to believe that Tommy aged a good six to eight years in a single calendar year) my largest complaint is the fact that viewers are really rushed through the butchery here. Director Danny Steinmann completely blows past a handful of awesome murders (I’m sure the MPAA had a hand in this travesty), without ever giving Becker’s effects the chance to really breathe, which is a damned shame, because there are some cool, creative kills in this installment (including a flare to the throat and a wicked dismemberment that we’re not visually privy to). As a whole, I must say, the production feels remarkably rushed, and fairly cheap.      

Jason Kill Count: 0

Best Kill: The promiscuous Tina’s finely pruned peepers

Best Line: “Either you got the car started, or you’re a dead man.”

 

FRIDAY THE 13th PART VI: JASON LIVES (1986): Tommy (Thom Mathews) Jarvis is somehow back again! This makes three films in a row featuring the same lead character (played by three different actors) - a landmark for FRIDAY, as you’ll never see it happen again! This time around Jarvis opens his own can of worms when he heads into the cemetery to exhume Jason’s body, just so he can be sure to…kill him again (don’t expect a lot of rational thought from this one, as the majority of the story is about as plausible as a human being transforming into… well, a hockey mask wearing zombie murderer). His plan backfires, and he inadvertently ’jump starts’ Jason. A fully charged Voorhees makes his way out of the grave, and starts mowing down everyone in his path.

A pish posh script in action, JASON LIVES picks up a few points here and there, but fumbles far too often to ever be taken serious or enjoyed much. That’s not to say that you should be taking FRIDAY flicks seriously, but…seriously - this one’s just bad! I understand there were some issues with Paramount and the MPAA over the years, but this flick has virtually zero detailed gore, and doesn’t offer so much as a nipple slip - these are things synonymous with FRIDAY THE 13th! The acting is decent enough to earn a pass, but the characters aren’t very likeable, and the physical mayhem (which, I will repeat, is extremely watered down) is presented in a fashion that’s more unsatisfying than pleasing. Honestly, this picture is as close to stimulating as a Day’s of Our Lives rerun.

Key Praise: I feel as though my “Key Praise” section is getting smaller as I progress here, but I suppose that’s not all too shocking, considering we’re discussing what is, in effect, the same damn movie, on annual repeat. However, I have to really applaud writer/director Tom McLoughlin for being ballsy enough to bring Tommy back, and allowing him to live, yet again. That’s just remarkable audacity!

Beef: The biggest problem with the picture is the fact that it’s remarkably flat, as I’ve already mentioned. Really, it isn’t entertaining in the slightest, and some of the series signatures are missing; namely, the trademark gratuitous nudity that’s managed to help salvage a few of the franchise’s weaker installments. If you take away the gnarly blood and guts, the bared beasts and booties and omit any genuinely spectacular performances, you’re left to watch an all too familiar antagonist shamble about the woods… and that’s about it.

For a flick with an absolutely massive body count, this one is a staggering disappointment.

Jason Kill Count: 18

Best Kill: Counselor Twist Top

Best Line: “This is gonna be a hairy turn.”

 

FRIDAY THE 13th PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD (1988): Tina (Lar Park-Lincoln) is headed back to the lake where she once drowned her father using her psychokinetic powers. The venture is supposed to help Tina deal with her emotional troubles. Rather than resolving any issues however, said powers end up reviving the silent antagonist Jason Voorhees. The nearby kids get knocked off quickly, and Jason is headed for Tina last. It’s mind versus body in the seventh FRIDAY feature and the score cards have Jason up - but Tina’s got some crazy abilities, and a few tricks up her sleeve - and she’s out to make this showdown competitive. And yes, I made that sentence extra cheesy on purpose - because this film inspired such an unexpected and wild maneuver (I write to match, damn it!).

It’s hard not to (at the very least) respect a script this bold. I mean come on; it’s like a peek at Jason Versus Jean Grey! The story is a tad tough to chew, and the dialog is a gob of gristle awful enough to induce vomiting, but this farfetched flick is definitely enjoyable in spots. Dr. (Terry Kiser) Crews is particularly mendacious, and downright cruel in his intentions, but there‘s something about his demeanor that is really...fun, as weird as that sounds. Lar Park-Lincoln is just timid enough to pass Tina’s character off as believable, and the introduction of a fellow “super” type is worth more than one chuckle. Looking past some wretched dialog, this picture really isn’t half bad, and in terms of pure entertainment value - its stock far surpasses a few of its predecessors.

Key Praise: Like Danny Steinmann, director John Carl Buechler doesn’t step from the box, he leaps. Unlike Steinmann however, his leap isn’t met by cold pavement; this insane twist really manages to work! There’s nothing perfect about THE NEW BLOOD, but there’s a lot to enjoy, as the idea of pitting a would-be victim with some nifty “powers” against the unstoppable menace Jason Voorhees is rather unique. Buechler and screenwriters Daryl Haney and Manuel Fidello take a big risk with this story, but they’re wise enough to keep some familiars intact, namely the rural location, which screams of vintage Voorhees craziness and allows viewers to cling to a piece of the original story. There are some noticeable weaknesses to be juggled, but the overall audaciousness of the story itself is distracting enough to ignore potential drawbacks.

In addition to a wild story, we get to see something special in Kane Hodder’s debut as Jason. Hodder has a thorough understanding of physical acting and presence, and he turns what was becoming a joke of an antagonist into a once again frightening freak. Some pundits point to Hodder’s size as the defining quality in his portrayal, but I disagree; it’s the quirky, subtle gestures that Kane puts in motion that really distance him from those to don the visage prior.

Beef: I can’t lie: this seventh installment is a bit hokey. There’s some serious cheese on the plate here, as well as a handful of dreadful performances, but I think ultimately, the film’s greatest downfall is some extremely embarrassing dialog. The vocal exchanges, at times aren’t simply unbelievable, they’re unbelievably preposterous. I’m a firm believer (there’s a lot of belief going on in this paragraph!) that when a character in a motion picture opens his or her mouth, there should be a reason, and as a viewer, I want to want to hear what’s being said. THE NEW BLOOD may have been a borderline masterpiece, if only it was a silent film.

Jason Kill Count: 15

Best Kill: Sleeping Bag Grand Slam

Best Line: None!

 

FRIDAY THE 13th PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989): In what I view as a cheap and pathetic setup, another electrical charge reanimates good ole Jason (oh how we leap to recycle), because apparently, no one was clever enough to conceive of another means of reanimation. He takes out a couple of frisky teens and hops a ride on their boat all the way to dock. From there, Jason catches another ride (Jason’s apparently been watching THE HITCHER lately?), this time on a much larger vessel, transporting quite a few more teens, all ripe for the picking. After a massacre on water, a few manage to survive the journey and find themselves in The Big Apple. Unbeknownst to these few, Jason has hitched another ride, sooooo - (SURPRISE!) he’s on the island with them. As you can probably guess, Jason stalks the small group through streets and alleys, bumping off what few remain, save for of course - the heroine and her beau.

There really isn’t too much to even discuss here. The majority of the film takes place on a passenger ship, so why it’s titled JASON TAKES MANHATTAN is still beyond me (although I’m guessing it was far cheaper to shoot on a boat rather than actually, you know, in New York). The script offers nothing refreshing, and simply cycles through cliché after cliché. The cast isn’t very likeable, and it’s not completely their fault, as there really isn’t anything in the way of genuine character exploration exercised…at all. The death scenes aren’t very exciting, and the gore in general is laughable. Sadly, the only thing worse than JASON TAKES MANHATTAN, is FRIDAY THE 13th PART III.

Key Praise: While JASON TAKES MANHATTAN is a monumentally boring production, it has its moments. The big winner unfolds in the final reel, when resident bad ass Julius (portrayed by Vincent Craig Dupree, the lone performer with any memorable qualities) engages in a fist fight (yes, you read right) with Jason Voorhees. Unfortunately for Julius, his pugilistic skills aren’t quite crisp enough to overcome the durability of Mr. Voorhees (he’s got a hell of a chin!), and the end result makes for the picture’s finest kill.

Beef: Everything about this movie (Julius’s presence excluded) rubs me the wrong way. First off, depositing the majority of the action on a boat feels extremely wrong. Not just simply for the fact that the idea and execution completely contradict the title itself, but because there’s nothing about the feature that really feels like a FRIDAY flick, even despite the fact that Jason is still Jason, shuffling about with his trademark hockey mask strapped to his noggin, slashing kids up with reckless abandon. It all just feels incredibly wrong, and I aim my frustration at writer/director, Rob Hedden, who metaphorically rapes all that I love about the Voorhees mythos. I know that some will point to the general idea as the primary pitfall, but James Isaac and Todd Farmer managed to take Jason about as far from his element as imaginable (all the way to space) and still made a fun feature. If Jason can hit the Milky Way and entertain, he ought to be able to do the same on a damn boat.

This is a failure of epic proportions, rivaled only by the FRIDAY franchise’s third installment.  

Jason Kill Count: 17

Best Kill: One Decapitated Julius, please

Best Line: “Maybe some of us don’t want our future predicted.”

 

JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY (1993): Jason gets blown to bits in the opening reel, but it’s not enough to keep this masked murderer down. Rather, Jason lives on, because his heart is still alive (that statement sounds so ludicrous that I actually had to reread it!). Jason’s…spirit (?) jumps from body to body via oral transfer after a coroner decides to eat his heart, and the Carnage Carousel takes off at break-neck speed. Creighton (Steven Williams) Duke is a crazy bounty hunter who claims to know the secret behind truly killing Jason (someone should have told James Isaac) once and for all. When Duke and the hero, Steven (John D. LeMay) Freeman cross paths, Duke informs Steven that only a Voorhees can kill a Voorhees - and Steven’s ex-girlfriend Jessica (Kari Keegan) just so happens to be a long lost relative…

This one is definitely a lot more enjoyable than it should be. Steven Williams is absolutely fantastic as Creighton Duke, the overly confident (and extremely tongue-in-cheek) bounty hunter, and John D. LeMay, is surprisingly good as the unlikely hero. Kari Keegan’s character Jessica Kimble doesn’t shine too much, but Steven Freeman, Creighton Duke, and Jason are the clear focal points here. The gore is about as polished as one could ask for, (a few of the kills are pretty creative too) and after the last few FRIDAY’s, it’s a welcomed reprise. While it’s hard to label JASON GOES TO HELL ‘refreshing‘, there are enough plot variations to at least make it stand out amongst most other FRIDAY films.

Key Praise: Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger and the KNB crew bring the gore to an entirely new level for this motion picture. Even Voorhees himself, again played by Kane Hodder, looks utterly disgusting, and significantly more menacing than we’ve seen in the past. Deborah’s sign post-splitting is absolutely fantastic, and that’s really just the beginning, as this flick features plenty of severed limbs, broken bones and well, mutilation in general. Anyone familiar with KNB’s résumé knows to expect some wild, boundary pushing effects work; JASON GOES TO HELL certainly doesn’t stray from the norm for these twisted individuals.

In addition to some kick ass gore, I’ve got to say kudos to Jay Huguely and Dean Lorey, who take an outlandish idea and somehow make it rather successful. I still recall heading in to catch this flick upon release, expecting an absolute train wreck. I got a wild, sadistic, visually appealing film that almost feels a bit too unique to be a FRIDAY feature. In this business risks backfire more often than succeed, so to see a ninth FRIDAY THE 13th film score big creativity points while rediscovering a sense of legitimate entertainment is rather shocking. If you’ve avoided this movie, for one reason or another, rethink things and give it a go, you may be surprised.  

Beef: While I do like this film quite a bit, I’d be a liar if I said I I’ve got no issues with it. First off, there are way too many elements that feel as though they were lifted directly from THE HIDDEN to ignore. Second, Jason Voorhees’s actual screen time is pretty limited, as we’re left to view the soul of the famous murderer encapsulated in the bodies of random strangers. Third, Jason has begun to maul so many random extras, that it’s (we can call it official at this point) hard to separate death from injury, which makes keeping an accurate body count a whole lot more difficult. It’s pretty damn simple really, and it’s always been Jason’s basic MO: Kill 'em - don’t just hurt 'em! Why be vague and leave weirdos like myself to fight to sort out official murders? It’s already difficult enough keeping track of this body count as it is!

Jason Kill Count: 14 (6 as coroner, 6 as reporter, 1 as deputy, 1 as Jason)

Best Kill: Deborah’s Split Persona

Best Line: “In my professional opinion, this guy’s deader than shit!”

 

JASON X (2001): Jason and Rowan (Lexa Doig) manage to get themselves cryogenically frozen in the film’s opening act. When Rowan is finally defrosted, it’s the 25th century, and she’s aboard a nifty spaceship. The problem is that Jason is also on-board, and he too, is now all thawed out. After half of the cast is made a memory, the ship’s resident android Kay-Em 14 (Lisa Ryder) springs into action, blowing the extremities right off Jason! Unfortunately, this ship’s medical ward houses a sweet regenerative machine/feature that not only brings Jason back again, but also modifies his physique, and physical abilities.

First LEPRECHAUN, now FRIDAY…what is the genre coming to? Okay, I’m actually kidding - this one deserves some praise. Despite the farcical plot, there’s a lot of laughs and fun to be had here. It’s unlikely that anyone will ever take this movie serious for more than about five minutes, but you’re not supposed to, and you’ve got to give it to Todd Farmer and James Isaac: these gentlemen are clearly willing to take big risks. I’m not certain how far they truly wanted to push the comical side of things, or if full blown comedy was the clear intent (once New Line opted to lean on laughs rather than the bleak script Farmer initially penned), but they nailed the humor anyway. The cheese never stops; there’s so much cheese this movie actually made me crave nachos. I’m serious. The make-over is ridiculous, the majority of the acting is ridiculous, half of the sets look like cardboard - it’s just unbelievably bad. So bad, it’s (cliché time!) absolutely great!

Key Praise: It’s quite easy to break this down, so I’ll do so briefly, since (if you’ve hung in this long) you’ve already read more than 7,000 words: Jason Voorhees, in space, post physical upgrade, tangling with a bad ass female cyborg with enough firepower to lead a platoon through an open field of Charlie. Go ahead and toss in an appearance from living legend David Cronenberg and you’ve got one astoundingly enjoyable hybrid flick.

Beef: This movie is too much fun for me to sit and pick at. Is it flawless? No, not even close. Does it matter? No, in my opinion it doesn’t matter; everything is so far over the top that it’s remarkably easy to find yourself sucked into the silliness. The wonder of it all is the fact that once you’ve been sucked into this raucous piece of comedy horror, you don’t really have any desire to separate yourself from the inanity. It’s too bad the film only runs 91 minutes.

Jason Kill Count: 15 (possibly 18 - if the tough guys in the beginning die real easy)

Best Kill: The Frozen Face Buster

Best Line: “Guys… it’s okay - he just wanted his machete back!”

 

FREDDY VS JASON (2003): It seems the public has put some kind of an unspoken ban on Krueger, blacking his name from newspaper articles in an attempt to erase the memory of the sadistic child murderer. In order for Freddy Krueger to return to his killing ways, he’s got to get stronger. In order for him to get stronger, he needs to generate some fear and make today’s youth remember him… or become aware of him for that matter. The solution is simple, resurrect Jason Voorhees, get him to kill the kids of Elm Street, and when bodies begin turning up, the townsfolk will (naturally) blame Krueger, thus reigniting the terror and enabling a full return to form from Freddy. The plan actually works quite well, until Freddy gets a bit tired of Voorhees seeing all the action, and decides it’s time to eliminate the hulking behemoth.

The best part about this iconic clash is the brainless entertainment factor. I won’t sit back and tell you that the script is fantastic, or the acting is Oscar worthy, but I will tell you this: it’s highly unlikely you’ll be bored by this picture. There’re plenty of great one-liners from Krueger, and Jason amasses a very hefty body count. The actual battle scenes between the two are F/X abundant and actually quite impressive visually. Though Jason Ritter’s performance as Will is terribly stiff, Brendan Fletcher (as Mark Davis) portrays an edgy, sleep deprived teen quite well, and Lochlyn Munro is more than sufficient in the shoes of Deputy Scott Stubbs. Ronny Yu (BRIDE OF CHUCKY) does a fine job of directing this growing fan favorite crossover, and Ken Kirzinger is just as frightening a figure as Kane Hodder behind the legendary hockey mask. While FREDDY VS JASON isn’t the greatest film out there, it’s an exciting hour and a half, and a solid winner in my book.

Key Praise: Huge respect goes out to this crew, fronted by director Ronny Yu. There’s plenty of passion in this project, and it seeps through the screen. The obvious intent in this specific case was to make a fun, wild and violent movie that didn’t adopt the guise of pretentiousness, and Yu and company pulled it off with the help of a decent cast and a pair of solid writers in Mark Swift and Damian Shannon. Self-aware in every sense is FREDDY VS. JASON and never once does it pretend to take itself too seriously. Combine that with the aggressive comedy, strangely endearing nostalgic value (it really does feel like we’ve rewound time and turned to age old Universal crossover pictures) and vicious pacing and you’re looking at one hell of a viewing experience. Amazingly this movie seems to get better as time unravels; I liked it when it was initially released nearly a decade ago, I absolutely love it now    

Beef: My only qualm with this unlikely gem is the lack of bloodshed brought forth by Krueger. When you take a gander at the massive toll Jason wracks up, it’s hard not to feel as though Fred got stiffed on this deal. Down on body count, down on the judges’ score cards, Fred had an off run in this picture.

Jason Kill Count: 18

Best Kill: Bad boyfriend gets bent out of shape

Best Line: Tie: “That goalie was pissed about something.” and “It’s not my fault this bitch is dead on her feet.”

 

FRIDAY THE 13th (2009): Leading up to the “remake’s” release, news briefs surfaced that claimed this film would be a new interpretation of the first four FRIDAY films, all wrapped up into one picture. I must say, that’s a pretty fair summary. Jason’s mother kicks the picture off, of course losing her head in 1980. From here, we fast forward to present day where a sack headed Voorhees grinds through a handful of campers. Amongst this group is Whitney (Amanda Righetti), who - rather than being killed - is taken hostage by Jason. A month passes, and Clay (Jared Padalecki), Whitney’s brother is in Crystal Lake, searching for his missing sister. Clay finds himself tangled up with a group of vacationers, and falls directly into the path our buddy Jason. Voorhees eventually tracks down a hockey mask, which he happily dons, and the footwork is complete - now all that remains are the few youngsters still alive.

I’ve got to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this retooling! It’s been bashed to Hell and back, and I’ll openly admit it’s no masterpiece, but it is genuinely better than the vast majority of this franchise’s preceding offerings. Marcus Nispel did a surprisingly good job putting this one together, attaching a proficient and promising young cast, solid script and good effects to what many believed (myself included) to be a doomed project. Danielle Panabaker turns in a solid performance as Jenna, one of the film’s female leads, and Travis Van Winkle is perfectly despicable as Trent, the resident asshole. Jared Padalecki is an embraceable hero, and overall, just about every member of his supporting cast are afforded clearly defined personalities (regardless of how shallow they may or may not be). Considering the fact that weak character development has plagued this franchise for years, it was great to see a cast you can clearly root for, or against; there isn’t much of a gray area here. The death scenes are fun, and Jason’s newfound agility is long overdue. Throw in a solid body count and some lovely boobies, and what we’ve got is a fast paced, in-your-face reboot that’s far better than it should be, and well worth a look.

Key Praise: For the first time in years, I can rightfully applaud the cast. This is one well rounded group of performers who deliver 100 percent of the time, which eliminates the inconsistencies we typically spot in Friday films (even those few that boast sound performances). Padalecki is the perfect hero with a logical motive to be roaming about the nasty Camp Crystal Lake, Panabaker is a fine heroine with a nice… head on her shoulders, Van Winkle is awesomely obnoxious and Derek Mears manages to make Jason Voorhees a frightening individual once more; his work as our famous antagonist is stellar, and the impact of his debut feels quite reminiscent of Hodder’s initial take on the role. It feels like something special is brewing here, and that’s an accomplishment I think very few expected.

I loved the idea of an underground lair. I know this has been a major bone of contention for many franchise fans, but I think it offers an interesting explanation for Jason’s ability to exist undisturbed for so long. Everyone has wondered: how the hell could this freak manage to live out in the middle of the woods without ever having been discovered, and I for one never put much weight on the beat up shack concept introduced early in the series. If you’re living out in the woods, especially in the vicinity of a campground, you’re going to be discovered, rather quickly, and probably frequently. Being brave enough to deposit Jason beneath the surface in a maze of corridors and rooms at least helps explain away one of the series’ longest running mysteries (now if only we were informed of how he actually came to be, alive, a grown man!) without stepping too far beyond the realm of reason. Why are these underground passageways even there? I couldn’t tell you, but I can tell you it’s easier to buy into Hockeyface existing underground undetected than a damn shack, plain and simple.   

Beef: The one major thing that disturbed me about the film was the score. I like the adjustments made by Nispel for the most part, but omitting Manfredini from the entire equation was, in my opinion a major mistake. You don’t build a brand to prominence, and then suddenly change one of the basic structure points. Manfredini’s score plays, you know exactly what you’re about to dive into, and you feel that sense of attachment. Without it, it’s like a dog on three legs, it manages to get about just fine, but it could be just a bit more stable.

Jason Kill Count: 13

Best Kill: Trent’s Tow Ride

Best Line: “They don’t call me the Wood Wizard cuz I masturbate a lot!”

 

Friday the 13th Complete Summary

So, the count has been compiled. I can say that these numbers are incredibly close to accurate, but amongst the carnage in these films - I’d be hard pressed to say it’s a dead-on count. Obviously, Jason earned zero kills the first FRIDAY, and zero in the fifth as well. All murders in the remake could, technically be considered repeat kills, but I’ve opted to list them just the same. If I missed a body or so along the way, I apologize, and ask you not to crucify me - this count was quite the daunting task.

Here’s a recap:

THE KILL COUNT:

  • I: 0
  • II: 9
  • III: 12
  • IV: 13
  • V: 0
  • VI: 18
  • VII: 15
  • VIII: 17
  • JASON GOES TO HELL: 14
  • JASON X: 15
  • FREDDY VS JASON: 18
  • FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009): 13

TOTAL JASON KILLS (that I can confirm): 144 KILLS

Take that number for what it’s worth. It is after all, one single man’s count, and I am by no means perfect. You may personally opt to count the bodies that piled up in part five as a piece of Jason’s overall bloody ledger. The same can be said about a few of the questionable assaults to surface in the latter franchise films. I personally didn’t do so: if I wasn’t completely convinced that a, Jason was the actual murderer, or b, the victim actually died, rather than simply being injured, I didn’t add them to my list. That’s just how I personally went about developing my body count, and while I may be a few deaths off, I guarantee you, I’m damn close in my tally.