On May 9, 1980 a cult franchise was born: Friday the 13th.
Even though I was just a twinkle in my father’s eye when the first movie terrified audiences across the nation, I have grown to love each entry in the series.
While there are plenty of sites dedicated to ranking each film, I wanted to take a different approach and discuss what I love about each entry .
I have seen each film many times over, and they often serve as the silent backdrop in my basement studio while I work on new metal music.
Without further adieu, on to the slashin’!
Friday the 13th (1980)
“The Greek word for “return” is nostos. Algos means “suffering.” So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.”
Milan Kundera, Ignorance
For me, like all movies in this series, they elicit a palpable sense of nostalgia.
Obviously, this is the original; the one that started it all and launched a career for newcomer director Sean S. Cunningham. Coincidentally, it is also the first one I ever saw.
It was Summer ‘98, high school, and I was staying the night at Forrest’s house. He had rented a giant stack of tapes from the local Hollywood Video (RIP), and picked up a smorgasbord of snacks to energize us for a late night horror marathon.
What I love about this movie is its simplicity. In many ways, the simplicity of this film paralleled the relative simplicity of my young teenage life. I didn’t have any real responsibilities, and could just stay up all night to gorge on junk food, watch scary movies, and pretend not to be scared.
Though this film’s simple nature seems tame by today’s standards, the timelessness of this film lives on. I compare it to the first time I heard Cannibal Corpse’s The Bleeding. Many albums have followed, but I will never forget the enduring impact of that first listen.
The foundation of Friday the 13th’s effectiveness is the magic of Tom Savini’s special FX. Without Savini, this film would just be another low-budget slash-fest. If you haven’t seen Savini’s documentary on Shudder, you’re missing out. Watch it here.
Also, I think Alice is a great “final girl”, sparring with reckless abandon during the film’s last, tense moments.
Plus, this film has one of the most iconic twist endings AND greatest jump scares in horror movie history. What’s not to love?
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Less than a year after the first film’s release, horror audiences were blessed with a second entry in the series.
This film has more of everything audiences loved in the first: more gore, more frights, more risque shots. And, horror icon Jason Vorhees cut his teeth (and throats) for the first time on screen.
Though this movie’s pacing follows a near identical chase, release, kill, repeat formula of the first, it incorporates a deeper psychology into the masked killer’s inner-workings. Truly unique material for the time.
And, like many others, Part 2 gave me my first major horror movie crush:
Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982)
When I first saw this entry, I didn’t have the 3D glasses, and quickly dismissed it as a cheap gimmick. What a fool I was!
A few summers ago, thanks to the good folks at the Full Moon Cineplex, I was finally able to get the full 3D experience on the big screen and had a total blast!
Part 3 offers a more complex cast of characters, and much appreciated comic relief to offset the scares.
Yes, this entry has the typical rag-tag group of stoners, nerds, girl-next-door, etc. But, each character has a ton of personality, which makes them incredibly endearing.
It also incites genuine remorse when they meet their untimely demise at the merciless hands of Jason.
Speaking of Jason, this is the film where he first dons his iconic hockey mask. What makes Jason so damn intimidating in this entry is his physicality, thanks to the brawn of the late Richard Brooker. Die hard fans of the series know that Brooker was hand-selected by the filmmakers due to his athleticism, courtesy of a career working as a circus trapeze artist.
This film is just fun, easy to love, and insanely re-watchable. Check it out here.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
I fucking love this movie.
Hands down, this is one of my favorite horror movies of all time.
Anticipating this entry to be the last in the series, the filmmaker’s really pulled out all of the stops to give us a phenomenal horror experience.
While I absolutely adore Part 3, the Final Chapter delivers even more of what we’ve come to love and expect of the franchise. Tom Savini’s special FX really shine in this one. Even though the MPAA single-handedly reduced each kill’s screen time, Savini’s sheer creativity and savagery is widely apparent.
The infamous “hacksaw-headtwist” still ranks as one of the most fucking brutal kills in the series.
The comedic timing and camaraderie of the actors is top notch here. Crispin Glover is brilliant as the lovelorn Jimmy, who’s dance moves with the twins makes me laugh my ass off every time. Watch it here. Even better, it’s pretty obvious that the other actor’s laughs in response were authentic.
Fun fact: The original scene featured Crispin Glover dancing to AC/DC’s “Back In Black”, but was later cut by the filmmakers.
A young Corey Feldman adds an unexpectedly entertaining dimension with Tommy Jarvis, the child protagonist character. Fortunately, we get to see Tommy evolve over the next two entries to the series.
No spoilers, but the film’s ending still makes me squirm a little in my seat. To this day, my wife refuses to watch it with me.
This entry really has it all. Oh, and I love that it takes place directly after the events of F13 Part 3, as evidenced by the axe-shaped wound on Jason’s mask.
If you have Amazon Prime, you can stream it here.
Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)
Often pushed to the bottom of many fan’s lists, I still thoroughly enjoy Part V.
No, we don’t get the traditional “Jason” film with this one, but that’s why I think it works. Following the gory climax of The Final Chapter, the producers actively treated this movie as if Jason was no longer part of the series.
Instead of the all-too familiar slasher tropes, we are graced with a classic “whodunit”, mixed with a generous dose of psychological horror. This blends well with the noticeably disturbed Tommy. Is Tommy the killer? If not, who is?
Though many of my close peers find this entry too sleazy, there is still plenty of brutality intertwined (despite extreme dilution by the MPAA) with a clever twist ending.
Just think, the cornerstone of this film’s mayhem revolves around a candy bar. Weird.
You can stream Part V here.
Next Friday, we’ll cover gothic masterpiece Part VI through 2009’s gritty reboot.