Ah, well. It had to come to this at some point, right?
If you’ve met me in the last five years, you’ve probably been strongarmed into a conversation with me about why I think Friday the 13th is the best of the original classic horror movies of the seventies and eighties, whether you liked it or not. This was a movie that my dad, the horror-loving uber-nerd that he is, introduced me to when I was at the beginning of my horror gestation, and I just fucking adored it. The first real classic slasher I ever saw, I grew up in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by woods and lakes and plenty of room for deluded killer mothers to hide, and so the first movie just hit home with me in a familiar way that others like Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween didn’t. I was passionate about this flick, in all its cheesy, goofy, g(l)ory. And there were ten other films to watch! Amazing! And then I could go back and watch the original again, and…
I really think that, to be quite honest, Friday the 13th is the objective and technical worst of all the franchises I’ll be writing about this month. Yes, yes, I know I said I liked Halloween the least, and that’s true, but it’s really pure nostalgic love that rescues these films from the lowest vestiges of my opinion.
Okay, fair enough, I do think the first movie is a perfectly acceptable horror flick: the twist with Pamela Voorhees being the real killer is fun, the kills are inventive and unsettling, and the soundtrack is far better and more striking that even the iconic Halloween score (fight me on this, I dare you). Oh, and Jason X (or Jason in Space, for those who care) is fun in a pulpy sort of way. But the franchise takes a screaming nosedive within minutes of the second movie, and it hits the lowest lows of all these films we’ve covered thus far.
And a big part of that, I believe, is Jason Voorhees himself. A character who really only because a big deal because of that Simpsons gag (look it up, it’s true) and due to the fact that it was a piss-easy outfit to chuck on for a last-minute Halloween party, Jason is really just an abominably lazy bad guy. He’s the only one in these franchises who isn’t the villain from the start of the series, and that shows – his backstory is confused and overwritten, his powers nebulous, his actual purpose answered with a shrug and an “iunno, ask the other guy”. I complained that Michael Myers, at some point, becomes just a knife-wound delivery device, but at least Myers had the good manners to be a little unsettling for at least a movie before he descended into thrummingly dull slasher villain territory.
I think the worst part about it is the way it indulges all the worst habits of the stuff people use to write the horror genre off with: the constant nubile teen girl nudity, the “sexy” sex, the moorless, logicless villain, the lazy writing, the bad characters, all dragged out over a gruelling eleven-movie run. Freddy vs Jason is perhaps the nadir of the franchise, just dipping into utter stupidity and shameless money-grabbing, but there’s a sense of grinding duty to the rest of the series that renders it all but unwatchable. The second movie was released less than a year after the first one in a hurry to capitalise on the unexpected success of part one, and that rushed, grotty, bandwagon-hopping sensibility carries over into the rest of the artless series at large.
And, as I’ve said before, horror doesn’t have to be cerebral to land points, but it should be at least competently told, with a decent rise and fall of tension over the course of the film. Trust me, it pains me to admit this to you, but I’m trying to deliver a reasonably honest look at these franchises and I have to say, out of the goodness of my heart, that you should really, really try to avoid this films if you can. I’ve watched a lot of shit over the last few weeks in writing these articles, but the Friday the 13th franchise is the only time it’s truly felt like a waste.
Movies, Ranked Best to Worst: Friday the 13th, Jason X, Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, Friday the 13th Part VII: New Blood, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, Friday the 13th Part III, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Friday the 13th Part II, Freddy vs Jason
By Louise MacGregor
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(header image courtesy of Digital Spy)