Ed. note- Here at Death Ensemble, we’re celebrating Valentine’s Day the traditional way: with a look at the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise. Enjoy.- P.F.
As I reviewed FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III and THE FINAL CHAPTER, it occurred to me that each film introduced something new to the franchise. For a series that lapsed into imitation with its first sequel—and let’s face it, they’re the same film over and over again— each posited a new wrinkle that added to the lore. Let’s celebrate Valentine’s day with a look at each film’s addition to the FRIDAY THE 13TH lore.
FRIDAY THE 13TH
What it introduced: Sean Cunningham’s initial film established the setting and killers for the rest of the series. It’s here that Camp Crystal Lake and the Voorhees clan became part of horror lore.
Analysis: Camp Crystal Lake is ground zero for the series. Here, the terror begins way back in the 1950s, and will continue its deep run thru the 80s. The camp itself is nothing special, just some cabins, an arrow range and the deep woodland surrounding it. It could have been Camp Anywhere, but the first flick establishes it as Camp Blood, and so much like Elm Street and Frankenstein’s castle, the camp became iconic geography in horror.
It took several murders for the camp to become iconic, and for that we can thank Pamela and Jason Voorhees. When some randy counselors decided to have sex instead of watching her drowning son, Pammy decided she’d play tit for tat and assure the camp was closed. She’s Hell bent on making sure Camp Crystal Lake never opens again, which leads to her killing Steve Christie and his horny band of counselors. Her epic final battle with Alice is a knock down, drag out fight for the ages, which alas poor Pammy loses, along with her head.
And but for a final scene tacked on at the 11th hour, there never would have been a PART II. Leave it to Cunningham to ruin Alice’s serene canoe ride with Jason Vorhees jumping out of the lake to pull her under. Dream sequence or no? It doesn’t matter. History was made, and many sequels would follow.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART II
What it introduced: The potato sack.
Analysis: Five years later, and a new group of counselors has entered the camping business. But they’ll regret it, as Jason is still out there in the woods. Having found a shack and some overalls, he’s presumably running rampant in revenge of his mother’s head, which features prominently in the flick. As for his own head, he has no access to sporting goods stores, so he goes with a potato sack.
Yes, the filmmakers likely ripped off the sack idea from THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (Hell, they ripped off several kills from Mario Bava), but I’ve always loved it. Maybe because it’s a one-off in the series, it stands out from the rest. With its one eyehole and rugged look, it seems exactly what a mongoloid living in the woods would use to cover his mangled face.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III
What it introduced: The hockey mask.
Analysis: Poor Shelly. The awkward, chunky owner of a White guy Afro is so inept with girls, he tries scaring them. Out with his friends on the farm, he’s brought along a hockey mask for use in one of his scare scenarios. Little did he know he’d be creating an iconic look. It took three flicks for the mask to make its appearance, but here it is, in all its glory. To this day, people who have never seen a FRIDAY flick will see a goalie mask and refer to “that Jason guy.” It’s no potato sack, but it certainly stuck.
FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER
What it introduced: Jason’s death.
Analysis: Jason takes beatings in the last two films that would kill any mere mortal. But mongoloid strength and slasher staying power keep him alive and kicking. Not so in the fourth installment. Though he once again withstands a brutal assault, even he can’t take a machete whack to the head. To seal the deal, he slides down the blade all the way to the hilt. This was supposed to be Jason’s final flick, as the title suggests, and it made sense that he would die. What would follow makes little logical sense.
Thankfully, it also introduced subtitles. I hate Roman numerals.
FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING
What it introduced: An entry without Jason Vorhees.
Analysis: Those greedy fat cats in Hollywood couldn’t leave the series dead. THE FINAL CHAPTER was so successful financially that Paramount decided to revive the franchise. The problem is, they didn’t revive Jason.
Hardcore fans will cry foul when people state they don’t like this entry. They’ll say it’s an unfair bias because Jason isn’t actually in it, and that it’s still a great slasher flick. They’re wrong on both counts. This flick is a lazy effort, with a sloppy script that tries to manipulate the audience into believing Jason lives.
Instead of Jason, we get Roy. The final moments of the movie try to explain that he abandoned his son and was shocked into murdering teens when, as a paramedic, he came to clean up his son’s corpse after so many years of absence. This is a preposterous slap in the face, as none of this is even hinted at anywhere in the film. Roy is no Jason (his goalie mask even sports blue piping instead of red), but he is one of the multitude of reasons this flick sucks.
FRIDAY THE 13TH: JASON LIVES
What it introduced: Zombie Jason.
Analysis: With fans teed off about the last entry, the filmmakers decided to bring back Jason and Camp Crystal Lake in this flick. With Jason long dead and in the ground, it takes some chicanery in getting him back to life. Enter Tommy Jarvis, a dug up grave, a metal pole and some lightning, and suddenly Jason is back.
But this is not the same Jason from THE FINAL CHAPTER. This is an undead machine, a rotting corpse who slogs around after teens and is imbued with even greater strength and staying power than he had when alive. It was hard enough to kill Jason before this flick. Now he’s already dead and still trucking.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD
What it introduced: A telekinetic heroine
Analysis: Tina Shepard is different from every foe Jason has previously faced. As a child, the Carrie White knockoff accidentally killed her father with her powers, and upon her returning as a teen, she tries to revive him. Bad move, as she unintentionally revives Jason.
Because she has powers, the elements of the fight change dramatically. She can swing a lamp at him, choke him with a cord, and even bring down a house. It puts her on equal footing with him, making her a more worthy opponent that the (mostly) ordinary teenage girls he’s lost to in the past. I’ve always loved this entry because of Tina. It pops out from the rest of the series, and it’s a shame it’s so poorly received by fans.
Oh, and this entry also introduces Kane Hodder as Jason. A crucial point in the lore.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN
What it introduces: A cruise ship. Oh yeah, and a few minutes in NYC.
Analysis: The less said about this flick, the better. Though it’s billing suggests Jason shambles down the streets of NYC killing people, it should really be JASON TAKES A CRUISE SHIP. Most of the action takes place on the ship, which could never have launched from Crystal Lake, because lakes are self-contained and therefore don’t connect to oceans. And when did the podunk town of Crystal Lake get so affluent that it became a port for cruise ships?
Even when he gets to Manhattan, most of it’s not Manhattan. It’s actually Canada. The film also introduces the nightly release of toxic waste under the city, which somehow has the power to revert adult mongoloid killers into little kids. I’ve lived in Queens for a year and a half and worked in Manhattan for that entire time. Who knew?
JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY
What it introduces: Body jumping.
Analysis: As if the last entry didn’t take things too far afield, New Line’s first entry in the series strayed even farther, from both formula and logic. Disregarding the ending of the last flick, this one involves Jason being blown to pieces. Once a coroner munches on his black heart, the spirit of Jason hops from body to body. There’s a convoluted plot about Jason’s long lost sister and the last living relative of the Voorhees clan, none of which makes much sense. The fact that Jason only appears as a cameo in his own film doomed this misstep to failure.
What it introduces: Jason goes to outer space.
Analysis: Man, New Line had no idea how to make a FRIDAY THE 13TH flick. Having turned their initial entry into a body hopping adventure, the company launched him into space with their second effort. Jason ends up in the future, chasing teens on a spaceship. What’s really amazing is how far the apple fell from Sean Cunningham’s tree, and yet it’s still the same stalk-and-slash formula, down to the dumb teens. New Line rolled the dice twice and crapped out both times.
FREDDY VS. JASON
What it introduces: Freddy Krueger.
Analysis: It took 19 years to bring together these two slasher icons. This was a troubled project that went through a million writers and directors before it was finally realized. Fans who had been drooling over this showdown finally got their wish, and the flick did huge at the box office. This should have set up several sequels, but it never went further than this one film.