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Foley’s Friday Favorites: Ranking the ‘Friday the 13th’ Movies

Foley’s Friday Favorites: Ranking the ‘Friday the 13th’ Movies

For Christmas 2016 my son Mickey’s big gift was a Fender Jaguar electric guitar. Retail value $1,200. This Christmas, his big gift was the “Friday the 13th” box set. Retail value $25. He loved them both equally! A few days after Christmas, we watched the original 1980 version. I was hooked!

Before embarking on this cinematic journey with my son, my main connection to the horror genre was that I had tag-teamed with several of the classic slasher villains while wrestling in Japan. That’s not a misprint either; a couple of the “blood and guts” promotions I worked for in Japan in the mid-nineties put some of their foreign heels under masks as famous movie bad guys – and the fans loved it! While the Japanese fans were certainly not under the impression that Robert Englund was entering the squared circle, I’ll be darned if those fans didn’t run in terror (albeit with big smiles on their faces) when Freddie Krueger stormed through the crowd, or when Leatherface cleared entire bleacher sections with the simple revving of the saw. No chain on the saw, but it was still fun to watch those fans flee.

My son and I went through those eight movies in the Paramount “Friday the 13th” box set in just a couple weeks (he and my daughter watched the sequel without me – a point I’ll get into later) and then it was on to the New Line flicks – including the showdown of super-villains in “Freddy vs Jason”, and the 2009 remake. We then concluded our Friday viewing experience with the documentary “Crystal Lake Memories” which, even with a running time of over five hours just seemed to fly by. It’s a great film – highly recommended for any serious Jason fan, and refreshing in its honesty. When something’s rotten, they’ll say it’s rotten. But the entire documentary is done with the deepest respect, and even affection for the franchise – a tone I did my best to adopt in my rankings. While I enjoyed some of the movies more than others, with one exception, I enjoyed them all. And even that one was kind of fun! All of them were a welcome respite from the craziness of the real world, and perhaps most importantly, each of them offered this father some great bonding time with his son. Quite possibly the best $25 I ever spent.

I hope you enjoy my take on this iconic franchise. Here they are, in my inexpert opinion, from worst to first.

12) JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY – I’ve been thinking about this, and the harshest criticism I can offer for this film is that it’s the only one in the series that I didn’t enjoy. While part of the fun in watching the Friday series is pointing out an occasional absurdity or inconsistency (hey, how did Jason go bald between 2 and 3) this one crossed the line so often that it was tough to suspend disbelief long enough to become emotionally invested in the characters or the storyline. More importantly, WHERE THE HECK WAS JASON?

11) FRIDAY THE 13th PART 5: A NEW BEGINNING – If “Jason Goes to Hell” got under my skin for having too little Jason, imagine my dismay when this flick offered up no Jason at all! A fake Jason? Darn near blasphemous! Jason has skills, man – and he’d been nurtured for naughtiness practically since the womb. Maybe the Friday team was looking for “The Crying Game” of slasher switcheroonies; something that would get the fanbase talking about this new beginning Instead, this “surprise” seemed to take the wind out of Friday’s sails – requiring an excellent Part VI to set the franchise back on course.

10) JASON X – Jason is space, 455 years in the future. This is The Fonz on waterskis, jumping the shark. Still, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the earnestness with which Kane Hodder portrayed the killer in space, the imagination of some of the kills, and watching Jason journey back to virtual Camp Crystal Lake. Still, in a genre that is still basically about escapism, when you start having out-loud discussions with your teenage son during the movie about whether Uber Jason could defeat 2008 Incredible Hulk, something has gone slightly askew in the slasher universe.

9) FRIDAY THE 13th PART VIII : JASON TAKES MANHATTAN – While it’s hard not to like a flick in which Jason decapitates a victim with a single right hand, it’s also hard to fully enjoy a movie that so clearly bait and switches its audience.from the promised mayhem in Manhattan to a series of kills (imaginative and impressive as the may be) on board the world’s ugliest cruise ship. I think it’s fair to say that versions 8-10 constitute some mighty lean years for the Friday team and Kane Hodder’s performances under the mask might well be the glue that held the franchise together during this time. Watching Hodder at work and comparing him to some of the other fine actors who portrayed the Jason role is to truly appreciate someone who fully embodies a character. Even with the problems, there’s no denying the power…and the joy, of seeing Hodder as the iconic slasher, finally appearing in Times Square.

8) FRIDAY THE 13th PART III – Cool effects, fun kills, and a debt of gratitude to Shelly Finklestein for having the foresight to pack a hockey mask for a trip to camp. So how did Jason lose his hair, anyway?

7) FRIDAY THE 13th PART II – I know I’m going to take some heat here for not ranking the beloved sequel higher, but it just didn’t live up to my lofty expectations. While it had a genuinely scary and creepy vibe to it, I just felt there were a few too many of those “oh, come on” (moments that make you look at your TV and say “oh, come on”) to truly lose myself in the viewing experience. Amy Steel is terrific as the gutsy heroine, but hiding under a bed in a cabin after a long, moonlight chase seems like a questionable decision at best. Maybe it suffers because of the break in continuity under which I watched Part 2. After tearing through the rest of the franchise in chronological order, I watched this one right after “Jason X”. Somehow, seeing Uber Jason survive a shock and awe campaign of awesome artillery force followed by regular, flannel shirt and overalls Jason selling the heck out of an Amy Steel kick to the groin just didn’t seem right. And how long did the J-man stay down from that car door gently opening on him? A very good movie – just not quite as good as I was hoping for.

6) FRIDAY THE 13th PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD – I know some will feel I placed this one too high, but I thoroughly enjoyed the idea of Jason taking on a worthy opponent instead of another band of horny teens. The well done duel near the film’s finale gave Part VII a big match feel, and in a way, foreshadowed the FREDDY VS JASON showdown so many years later. Plus, it’s Kane Hodder’s first time under the mask, and you get a sense for his commitment to the role with some of the great stunt-work and imaginative kills. Not that this one is without an “oh come on” moment or two – namely when Jason survives a massive house explosion only to be gently taken down into the tranquil waters of Crystal Lake by a dead dude in a button-down shirt.

5) FREDDY VS JASON – The only one of the twelve that I actually saw on the big screen, and I still remember cheering out loud as Freddy utilized a bionic elbow (a tribute to Dusty Rhodes from New Line exec Jeff Katz) on the man behind the mask. While I missed Kane Hodder in the role, especially given his long-term enthusiasm for this dream-match prospect I thought Ken Kirzenger did a fine job, and was suitably menacing in his role as the most powerful Jason to date. The cornfield massacre is Jason’s most impressive show of force – done in a crowd-pleasing style, capped off by that unforgettable image of a flaming Jason in hot pursuit through the cornfield. The writers somehow make the Freddy/Jason storyline plausible, even if any storyline is ultimately just an excuse to finally get these two titans of terror in the same ring (or dream) together. The final show down is bloody good fun; gory almost beyond belief – and seemingly a good humored middle finger to the ratings board people who left so many would-be great Friday moments on the cutting room floor over the years.

4) FRIDAY THE 13th – Who could have imagined this low-budget thriller would become “The Little Engine That Could” of the horror genre. The shoe-string budget didn’t stop make-up effects wizard Tom Savini from setting the bar super high when it came to cool and thrilling kills, even with the MPAA board doing every bit as much slicing and dicing as Mad Momma Mrs Vorhees.

3) FRIDAY THE 13th PART IV: THE FINAL CHAPTER – It feels funny just writing those words “The Final Chapter”, knowing just how much gas was still left to burn in the franchise’s tank. With Tom Savini back in the FX helm, the “death” of Jason is so believable that the Friday team decided to keep him dead in the follow-up, opting for the copycat killer concept that still stands out as a stinker after all these years! But Part IV is still a fun and scary ride all these years and – even though he’s technically a good guy here – young, bald Corey Feldman with a machete is almost as scary as the unmasked Jason himself. By the way, Feldman is excellent as the narrator of “Crystal Lake Memories”, and the enthusiasm with which he embraces his Friday legacy is not only refreshing, but infectious as well.

2) FRIDAY THE 13th: 2009 – Ouch, I can almost feel the heat I’ll get for putting the reboot/remake/re-imagining at the number two slot. I’ve read some of the reviews telling me why I’m not supposed to like it – but yet, even after watching it twice, I still like it. I really, really like it. Part of the charm of the originals was a certain sense of intimacy that comes with low-budget projects. You can practically feel the love in so many of the installments – and with the addition of bigger dollars in the 2009 project, some of that love, that sense of intimacy is bound to fade away. Still, for me, the upgrades in sets, scenery and production values were worth the trade-off. I thought the film was genuinely terrifying – a welcome departure from the wink and nod to the audience that had become a necessity in keeping the franchise alive. I found several characters to invest in emotionally (Jared Padalecki, Amanda Righetti, Danielle Panabaker) providing a nice balance to those blonde-haired hunks (Travis Van Winkle, Ryan Hansen) who we know immediately, absolutely, positively have to go! Tearing up a photo of a missing girl? Oh, Van Winkle, you’ve got to go! Wearing a shirt that says “F Christmas”? You deserve that arrow through the head Hansen! Speaking of arrows, I enjoyed Jason’s upgrade in athletic prowess – from his strong archery game to the axe-throwing that would likely win him a blue ribbon at many a regional Highlands Games, as well as the insight into Jason’s past – and motivations for the present. I know how passionate fans of this franchise can be, so go ahead and let me have it – but this is my pick for number two…and I’m sticking to it!

1) FRIDAY THE 13th PART VI: JASON LIVES – He’s alive! He’s alive! Yes, Jason’s back in this thoroughly enjoyable romp that breathed much-needed life into the ailing franchise. I’ll go out on a limb here and state that, after the Part V fake Jason debacle, if this film hadn’t delivered on so many levels that there very well may not have been a part 7, a part 8, a part 9, a part 10. No trip to Manhattan. No trip to Hell. No voyage to outer space. In the interest of full disclosure, I went to elementary, middle and high school with Jennifer Cooke, who shines as Megan – one of the finest heroines the genre has ever seen. But Jennifer isn’t the only highlight here; there’s a sense of real fun and adventure in this movie, to go along with the scares.

There you have it – my list from worst to first. Feel free to tell me about your favorites in the comments below. Like it, if you like it, and any shares would be appreciated.

Mick Foley

February 9th, 2018

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