Halloween 2015 Movie Special, Day 3: “Friday the 13th I-X and remake”

For many critics, the Friday the 13th series is where the horror genre got its bad name and in particular the slasher genre its bad reputation from, but it also got a cult following. So what’s behind the series about Jason Voorhees, the man with the hockey mask who kills teenagers? I already opened my review boxes full of gory delights with the Scream series and A Nightmare on Elm Street movies, but now it gets really nasty.

Friday the 13th (1980)
(USA 1980, director: Sean S. Cunningham)

A group of camp counselors reopen Crystal Lake where a young boy once drowned, and a series of bizarre murders occurs.

Classic slashers from the 80s always seem to be revered despite their obvious flaws, and the first installment of a series of slasher movies is no different. It has gratuitous nudity, violence, not much of a plot and often terrible acting. It’s not suspenseful, either, with lots of uninteresting characters talking about even more uninteresting stuff. However, the ending helps the movie to rise above the typical masked-killer-stalks/kills-teenagers template. Without spoiling anything, suffice it to say that it’s a really sick one and also makes the background story of Jason Voorhees quite touching.

The minimalist soundtrack with iconic whispering and scenes with thunder and rain also make the movie rather creepy to watch. It’s unfortunate then that it takes so long (not taking the first few minutes into account) until something actually happens. This is a perfect example of 80s slashers which became more about killing a bunch of annoying teenagers from the POV of the psychopath. However, the killing methods aren’t that original and quite lame from today’s perspective. It’s also the beginning of using cliffhangers in order to make the audience eagerly await the sequel that would continue where the predecessor left off.

Score: 6/10

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Friday the 13th (2009)
(USA 2009, director: Marcus Nispel)

A group of teenagers want to party hard, but have to fight/run for their lives when they’re hunted down by Jason Voorhees who took a young man’s sister captive.

The problem with remakes of 80s slasher movies is that there’s always something lost in translating them for a modern audience. But if the original wasn’t really that exciting in the first place with some dull plot and even dumber characters, how much can go wrong? Fortunately, Nispel’s remake stays true to what the slasher series was known for: nudity, violence, and a badass killer who finds inventive ways to get rid of rather annoying teenagers. Of course this also means that identifying with the victims is quite difficult and that there’s not much room for a plot or suspense.

Unfortunately the director makes the mistake to aim for a runtime that is simply too long for this kind of movie. It’s too bad that the first 15-20 minutes introduce all the aforementioned things that made the series so famous (or infamous) and also moves at a fast pace, but then with some new characters from a different time line, things repeat themselves. It doesn’t help that these are as much forgettable as they’re disposable, and that the plot slowly drags along. Even if the finale is satisfying in violence and some nods to terror cinema, it pales in comparison to the slightly frightening and disturbing last minutes of the original.

Score: 7/10

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Friday the 13th Part 2
(USA 1981, director: Steve Miner)

A camp next to the infamous Crystal Lake is reopened, and the killing teenagers spree starts again.

As far as sequels go, this is quite an uninspiring and (what’s worse) rather boring one. After a mildly shocking first scene, there’s almost an hour spent with characters one doesn’t care about and doesn’t want to listen to. Even if the survivor girl does a good job at the end, she’s as superficial as the rest of the cast.

While the killing scenes are often surprisingly brutal, they’re still not memorable or creative enough to stand out from the genre. As with the original, the movie delivers a chase scene at the end that should be suspenseful due to the use of rain and lightning. But it only works to a certain degree, as 2/3 of the movie is plainly mindnumbingly boring. Some 80s slasher enthusiasts might still love it or brag about the bad remakes and modern horror flicks, but I’d rather have another entertaining Michael Bay-produced movie than this borefest.

Score: 4/10

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Friday the 13th Part III
(USA 1982, director: Steve Miner)

Vacation time in cabin near Crystal Lake brings only death and Jason Voorhees for a groupof co-eds.

This is certainly not a big step up from the tried and tested annoying-teenagers-get-the-machete-or-other-sharp-objects template, but the third entry has a lot going for it. For the first time, Jason wears his hockey mask, while 3D adds to the atmosphere and fun. There isn’t anything particularly exciting about plot and character development, although the setup isn’t the typical Camp Crystal Lake teenagers, as members of a gang join the roster of people getting sliced and diced. And that’s basically what the movie is all about. After a good bloody start and a boring 20 minutes, bodies start to pile up, while it doesn’t really matter who’s who who gets killed. However, at least the director tries to find a connection between the survivor girl and her past with Jason, even if it isn’t really handled that well.

It’s amazing how even a standard slasher like Friday the 13th Part III becomes more enjoyable when watching it in 3D. Sure, it’s very outdated and still only possible with the anaglyph technology, i.e. there are many instances when it’s difficult to focus on parts of the picture. But when it does work, then it makes for some quite disgusting (literally) eye-popping scenes. Of course there are a few moments when the pop-outs come across as forced gimmicks, e.g. with the bouncing of a yo-yo or making of popcorn. But most of the time, the 3D effects work very well, as they actually evoke claustrophobic fear or terror. It’s certainly a great example of why 3D technology is perfect for these kind of movies and makes one think about the possibilities in modern movies if more horror directors would use it.

Score: 6/10

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Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
(USA 1984, director: Joseph Zito)

Jason Voorhees is back again and gets down to his bloody business by making the lives of a family and their Crystal Lake neighbors of young people a living hell.

Obviously the word “final” doesn’t apply to this long-running series, even if the ending seems to say otherwise. Unfortunately, this is the same formula with the same problems: teenagers with nothing better to do than drinking and having sex. They’re slightly more fleshed-out this time, but not much. It’s again the same talk-talk-talk interrupted by brutal killings. Some of these are quite inventive, while others are simply as dull as the characters themselves.

Despite having a higher bodycount right from the start and the return to terror-in-the-house-while-it’s-raining-outside template, the movie doesn’t fare well when it comes to suspense, and what’s even more disappointing is the whiny “heroine”, at least until the surprisingly vicious and sick ending that already hints at a new beginning of the series. It’s all a bit too much Michael Meyers with more blood (as in the Halloween sequels) to really stick out from the controversial slasher genre mud (at least the ones which don’t try anything new).

Score: 5/10

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Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
(USA 1985, director: Danny Steinmann)

Tommy Jarvis who killed Jason Voorhees when he was young has grown up, but he can’t shake the feeling that he’s still alive, as killings start again close to the halfway house he tries to recover in.

Now this is where it all gets a bit too psychological (or Halloween-y. While it’s an interesting idea to have a new location with troubled kids in a small community, none of them are memorable and most of them are as annoying and dumb as in previous installments. But what’s worse is that the new Tommy is difficult to identify with. There’s simply no believable survivor either, making the whole slasher concept quite pointless.

At least some of the kills are quite satisfying, although the most surprising one isn’t done by Jason. And this is when another problem arises. The audience is left guessing if Tommy or an undead Jason is the one who does the killing. Not to spoil the ending, the twist comes across as forced. There’s not much suspense, either, with the killings being as random as the babbling of a hillbilly son and his mother. Weird comedic elements don’t really fit into a movie that tries to be more sophisticated, but ends up as nothing more than a forgettable entry to the series.

Score: 4/10

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Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI
(USA 1986, director: Tom McLoughlin)

Tommy Jarvis wants to make sure that Jason Voorhees stays dead, but accidentally resurrects him, and the killings at Camp Crystal Lake start once again.

After the disappointly boring fifth movie, this one is surprisingly entertaining and one of the best in the series. This is mainly because of fast pacing and a high bodycount with some very imaginative kills and also funny scenes. Yes, the series becomes self-aware with an unstoppable zombie-like Jason who seems to play with his victims, but is still as relentless as ever.

In contrast to the forgettable blabber of the previous movies, there’s not one boring dialogue scene. Unfortunately with so many people getting killed, there isn’t any time for introducing characters one can relate to. Except for Tommy (whose actor is much better suited than the nervous wreck from Part V), the rest of the cast is introduced and almost immediately killed off. This also means there isn’t much of suspense or an actual plot to follow. So if one wants to experience the more claustrophobic and terror-like atmosphere from the first movies, this will be disappointing. But for those who want their slashers bloody, fast-paced, with some goofy jokes and an 80s rock soundtrack thrown in for good measure, then this is the best one yet.

Score: 7/10

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Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
(USA 1988, director: John Carl Buechler)

Jason Voorhees is brought back by the powers of a girl with psychic powers and wreaks havoc on a group of teenagers on Camp Crystal Lake once again.

Now what did go wrong with this one? After the fun sixth movie, it’s back to boredom with forgettable characters and (what’s even worse) death scenes which could have been great if they weren’t cut. It’s still R-rated material, showing what happened to the victims, but when the admittedly creative killing tools (a hockey with a knife wrapped around it, or a hedge cutter machine) connect to the victims, the camera turns away. This is quite ridiculous, as the movie really hasn’t much going for it.

The supernatural element of moving objects (psychokinesis) is an interesting idea, but it’s an unnecessary plot device as much as the gratuitous nudity of characters. Of course the latter was used in the other movies as well, but here it seems to be because the director didn’t know how else to fill the boring minutes when Jason is not around.
It’s debatable if showing Jason without his mask as a zombie is a good idea, either. Sure, he turned into a monster before, and while the make-up is disgustingly convincing, the question remains if this was really necessary. The same can be said about a whiny heroine and her father-daughter complex, resulting in an unexciting and downright dumb ending. The series has never really seen the highs of a A Nightmare on Elm Street or (arguably) Halloween, but it deserves more than this unnecessary installment.

Score: 3/10

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Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
(USA 1989, director: Rob Hedden)

High school graduates take a luxury cruise to New York, but they also take Jason Voorhees with them, which results in much carnage both on board and in the city.

It’s really quite weird how the series jumps from one bad, mediocre to a rather good installment. So here’s another surprisingly entertaining entry. Entertaining because it has some excellent death scenes which have enough punch and are only slightly tampered with in terms of showing just enough to make them brutal or silly. It also has the right amount of horror and comedy, e.g. when Jason is used as a punch bag and only strikes back once, which is enough to decapitate his victim.

halloween2015moviespecial_day3_fridaythe13thpart8_1

For the first time, there are also characters who have something of a personality. Even if they’re clichéd, they’re memorable, e.g. a nerd with a camera or his friend who wants to become a rock star. The inclusion of some background story for the heroine that has something to do with Jason and his/her fear of water is also welcome. So is the change of setting with the claustrophobic ship for the most part and then New York in the last 30 minutes. The movie could have done with some more suspense and crazier ideas, especially when the movie should have been more appropriately titled Jason takes a cruise to Manhattan. But compared to what came before, this is a satisfying sequel and slasher in its own right, even if it lacks the terror of the first movies and plays it rather safe at the end.

Score: 6/10

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Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
(USA 1993, director: Adam Marcus)

Jason Voorhees is resurrected once again, but in the body of a coroner (and others), so it’s up to the last descendant of his family to lay him to rest once and for all.

Now here’s another strange entry to the series with the titular psychopath missing for most of the runtime while storywise being there at all times. If this sounds confusing, then it’s because the plot is as convoluted as it can be. Jumping from one body to the next in order to be reborn again is a little bit too much for a series that relied on the simple kill-teenagers-at-the-camp formula.
This is a shame, because the movie is fast-paced, has some incredibly brutal kills and even more blood and guts with an ending that is so over-the-top (and hints at another upcoming movie) that if it had more Jason with the mask in it, it would have been one of the best entries. That’s not to say it’s perfect. Far from it, because there aren’t any identifiable characters and the mix of forced violence, humor, coolness, or whatever one calls it, is annoying.

As it stands, this is a movie that suffers from doing too much, but delivering too little. All the ingredients are there, with some surprisingly dark, tense moments. But it’s a forced reinvention of a series that is better left in the campy teenage slasher genre, without any Body Snatchers influences.

Score: 6/10

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Jason X
(USA 2001, director: Jim Isaac)

Jason Voorhees wakes up in the 25th century from his stasis and isn’t on a peace mission for the crew who accidentally defrosted him.

It’s interesting that after so many rehashes of the same old formula and attempts to resurrect Jason with all kinds of nonsense, the most nonsensical thing actually works: sending him into space, into the future, and turning him into a robot. Of course the movie is absolute trash, but in a very good way. Just like in Leprechaun in Space, one has to be open-minded about the concept and forget about the serious origins (although it’s debatable in case of the leprechaun or for that matter Jason). The movie is laden with great and imaginative kills. While the crew of the ship is as dispensable as the heroes/heroine(s) before and the plot is as thin as ice, the director shows what Jason does best: being a badass psycho who can’t be bargained with.

If this all sounds a bit Terminator, then this is certainly true with some scenes which are reminiscent of Cameron’s work, in addition to Aliens when it comes to the marines. There’s a lot borrowed from other sci-fi and action movies, so reinventing the genre is out of the question. But the movie doesn’t have to. There are so many cool scenes (like Jason being thrown into a holographic representation of the 80s) and even with some bad CGI, there’s enough action to make this the best entry, even more enjoyable than the original in terms of fun. Horror might have a new face, but it’s still the same guy wearing it and striking the machete…in space.

Score: 8/10

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About nufafitc

Being an avid gamer, cinemaniac, and bookworm in addition to other things the internet and new media present, I'm also very much into DIY music, rock and pop in particular. Writing short or longer pieces about anything that interests me has always made me happy. As both an editor for German website "Adventure-Treff" and UK website "Future Sack", I like to write reviews and news about recent developments in the movies, games and book industry.
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8 Responses to Halloween 2015 Movie Special, Day 3: “Friday the 13th I-X and remake”

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