July 5, 2017


A reader asked me a simple question the other day. Why haven't I bothered to review the first FRIDAY THE 13TH film? I thought I did. I was sure of it. I looked through the entire blog roll and what do you know? No review to be found. In fact, there were three films from the franchise missing, not just the first. I thought I reviewed those, too. Turns out, I did review those film, just not on this site. I had reviewed the first film, JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY and the FRIDAY THE 13TH remake over at my old site, Films That Witness Madness. I started posting older reviews at a new(ish) review depository (which you can find a link for over in the sidebar), but as I have an attention span the size of a gnat's dick when it comes to blogging, those updates have not been anywhere close to regular. “Hey”, I thought, “I'll just re-post those three reviews and call it a day”. Franchise complete. All entries reviewed.

But they seem to have vanished from my site backup. Gone without a trace. And you know what that means, right? I have to talk about three more goddamn FRIDAY THE 13TH movies. Yay.

I am not however going to write full reviews for each of the three films. Instead, we're going to nail all three at once in as few words as possible, starting with 

FRIDAY THE 13TH, the film that truly began the slasher craze. And yes, I am well aware of HALLOWEEN and BLACK CHRISTMAS and PSYCHO and the dozens of other proto-slashers of the 1960s and 1970s, and yes, it is true that without HALLOWEEN there would be no FRIDAY THE 13TH, BUT it is far more true that without Paramount, more so than Sean Cunningham or John Carpenter, there would be no slasher craze of the 1980s.

HALLOWEEN was a massive success, but it wasn't a quick success. It was a steady one. After all, HALLOWEEN was an independent film, not a product released by a major studio. It's grosses grew steadily but slowly over many months. FRIDAY THE 13TH however was a sensation.

Sean Cunningham's film was an anomaly at the time, a grimy, gross slasher movie released by a studio whose past projects included THE GODFATHER and REAR WINDOW. Bloody trash slasher films were the purview of the drive-ins and grindhouses, almost entirely distributed by disreputable and dishonest film distributors out to make a few quick bucks. So when Paramount, a company whose trademark had long been an assurance of quality, decided to release a rough and tumble slasher film into thousands of theaters, backed by tens of thousands of dollars of advertising muscle… Well, it was a shock to many.

As was the film apparently, as FRIDAY THE 13TH went on to rake in millions during its theatrical release. Just like that, major studios began buying small slasher films, releasing them en masse into cinemas during the 1980s. We can congratulate HALLOWEEN and BLACK CHRISTMAS for proving the slasher film's worth as an artistic and entertaining endeavor. But proving the slasher film to be a major theatrical draw worth releasing to the public at large at their local multiplexes? Those congratulations need to be given to FRIDAY THE 13TH and Paramount Pictures.

And that's about all the history I care to indulge in. It's also as close as this film will get to me kissing its ass. Truth be told, I was never really a fan of FRIDAY THE 13TH. There are things I admire about the film, for sure. I appreciate the film's single mindedness. There are no artistic pretenses here, no clever uses of camera or sound. I admire the film's deliberateness. It's a slow paced film, one that doesn't feel the need to lay on the body count for entertainment purposes. The relatively small cast allows us to get to know the characters well and believe it or not, the characters in FRIDAY THE 13TH are actually worth knowing. It's clearly a film meant for adults and not teenagers. There are no giggling idiots or slobbering pussy hounds to be found here. It is perhaps one of the most pure slasher films around, made without consideration for the make-out crowd. You need an attention span to watch this film. You need patience. 

But there are plenty of things I dislike about the movie or, to be more precise, plenty of things I don't quite feel the love for. An example would be the special make up effects. With only a few exceptions, the characters in FRIDAY THE 13TH die off screen. Ned wanders into a cabin. Brenda stumbles off into the rain. Steve makes a stupid face by the camp sign. Jack heads off to find the generator. I understand what the filmmakers were attempting to do here, but it does render much of the film unimpressive. And for all the deaths this film contains, precious few are ever preceded by a chase, a fight or even a chance to move. The suspense angle at play here boils down to “when will this character die?” and I don't find that kind of suspense all that interesting. I prefer my suspense to be of the “will this character survive?” variety. There simply isn't anything interesting about the suspense on offer here.

The thing I love most about FRIDAY THE 13TH is also the thing I hate most about FRIDAY THE 13TH. Pamela Voorhess, the old Camp Crystal Lake cook turned grieving mother turned murderess. This film desperately needed an actor of Betsy Palmer's caliber. It needed someone to show up and sell it, to make us believe it, to make us feel really frightened. Palmer's performance does all that and more. She is a goddamn force of nature here, creepy and sympathetic in equal measure. I love her performance in this film. I love it, I love it, I love it. 

But fuck me if the introduction of Mrs. Voorhees isn't a lazy, shallow, cheap and ultimately insulting show of horrible writing. I watch a metric ton of giallo films. Few, if any, pull such a half-hearted trick. I hate the reveal. I hate the laziness of it. I cannot help but feel angry about it. Because FRIDAY THE 13TH is just as much of a mystery thriller as it is a straight forward horror film. It even includes at least one major red herring in good ol' Crazy Ralph. The film never does anything with that mystery. It casually drops a mention of a child drowning in the lake back in the 1950s in its first 10 minutes then expects people to connect the dots. But there are no dots to connect. Mrs. Voorhess isn't seen at all, let alone introduced into the narrative proper, until the final 30 minutes. I understand that not everyone shares my particular revulsion about this topic, but for me, the final reveal in FRIDAY THE 13TH leaves a terrible taste in my mouth.

Speaking of terrible... JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY.

What's there to say really? It's the HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS of the franchise. It's the FREDDY'S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE of the series. Did anyone really care about the origins of Jason Voorhees? Didn't we already establish that? Were our lives enriched by the Thorn cult? Did we gain any new appreciation for cinema by learning that Freddy was an abused child? Did we need ANY explanation for ANY of this? Michael is the Boogeyman, Freddy kills people in their dreams and Jason is a hillbilly zombie. That's all we need to know.

But JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY thinks we need more than that. I honestly can't blame the writers for going to extremes in order to keep the franchise interesting. JASON X might have an outlandish premise, but it's really no different than any other film in the franchise. Well, any film other than this one. JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY is as much of a FRIDAY THE 13TH film as TITANIC is an entry in the HELLRAISER franchise. It re-imagines the hockey masked killer as a body hopping slug-demon, an occult monstrosity that can only be killed by a member of his bloodline. As such, Jason (a killer who has been terrorizing the Crystal Lake area for well over two decades) is suddenly more Michael Myers than himself, hunting down his relatives in an attempt at rebirth. And he desperately needs to be reborn, as his old hulking body was blown to bits by FBI agents 15 minutes into the film. Now Jason is committing murder while wearing the slowly rotting bodies of pathologists, cops and talk show hosts.

JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY runs about 90 minutes. Jason, or at least the Jason we all know and love, is only on screen for about 10 of those 90 minutes. That was a major bummer back in 1993, as was its revisionist take on the source material. Thankfully, the film is actually quite a bit of fun, especially if you're willing to forget that it's a FRIDAY THE 13TH film. It's a parade of violence vacillating wildly between slasher goodness and gross out body horror. Jaws get knocked in, heads pop like balloons, a man melts into a pile of goo, and a wildly attractive (and very naked) woman gets vertically bifurcated by a tent spike. It's a 90 minute effects reel masquerading as a franchise film. If you're willing to overlook all the shitty attempts at mythology and world building (in other words, if you're willing to throw out 85% of the film), there's some good fun to be had here.

Which is more than can be said about the FRIDAY THE 13TH remake.

Look, the FRIDAY THE 13TH films are not about story. They're about selling a specific experience. No one (and I mean NO ONE) goes to see a FRIDAY THE 13TH movie for the characters or the narrative. They go for tits and on screen violence. The fact that the FRIDAY THE 13TH films were released yearly in the 1980s (well, except for 1983 and 1987) gives the illusion that these films are telling some long, intricate narrative. They're not. As evidence for that claim, I give you the 2009 remake of FRIDAY THE 13TH, a film that manages to remake the first three entries in the franchise all at once and in less than 100 minutes. But who cares, right? We don't care about narrative. We care about the FRIDAY THE 13TH experience. 

And this remake offers up that experience. You get the naked girls. You get the violence. You get the… well, you get an ATTEMPT at scares. It's all here, albeit a bit more puke green and baby shit brown than you might remember it looking. Now with that said, allow me to tell you why I hate Eli Roth, a man not involved with this film in any way, shape or form.

It's because Eli Roth thinks I'm an asshole. He thinks you're an asshole, too. The characters he populates his films with, the sneering, closeted racist, sexist mouth breathing personality vacuums... He doesn't just think you like those characters. He thinks you are like those characters. Well, I am not at all like those characters nor do I like those characters one goddamn bit. Watching an Eli Roth film is like having to spend time with every shit for brains jock and frat boy fuckhead I've ever met all at once. It's like locking me in a room with them after you've stapled megaphones to their faces. Eli Roth's films not only include torture, they ARE torture, the hyperbolic trash flicks of a fuccboi that never grew up.

This film is full of characters from Eli Roth films. FRIDAY THE 13TH the remake has, pound for pound, the worst assortment of assholes and dip shits in the entire franchise. Every single character is nails on a chalkboard. Every single moment spent with them is like an evening spent at the DMV. They're not funny. They're not charming. They're not even human. They're purely and simply evil, hands down the single worst cast of characters in any slasher film made in the 2000s.

And what's worse? How about the fact that watching these people die isn't fun at all. Marcus Nispel decided to take a more realistic approach with his installment. Gone are the bifurcations, the spear guns to the groin, the weed whackers to the chest. People are just outright stabbed to death in this film, usually in close up, usually accompanied by the whimpering cries of the obnoxious victim. There's no skill on display here either. Watch this film and count just how many times a character backs into Jason while wandering around in the dark. It happens endlessly. Wade backs into Jason. Bree backs into Jason. Chewie backs into Jason. Lawrence backs into Jason. Trent backs into Jason. And when they're not backing into Jason, he's just comes up behind them and stabs them anyway, like he does with Jenna and Officer Bracke. The deaths that don't involve stabbing someone in the back aren't much better either. Jason shoots some asshole with an arrow then stabs his girlfriend through the brain with a machete. The former would take Olympian precision and the latter is just an excuse to show Willa Ford's bad tit job one more time. The precredit sequence is the best thing this film has to offer (unless you got the hots for Jared Padalecki), a nice and compact 15 or so minute sequence with likeable characters and a genuine suspenseful atmosphere.

But nah, we don't need more of that. We need to learn that Jason has somehow built a series of tunnels underneath the old camp site (presumably by hand). Where did he learn how to install generators and electrical outlets, let alone set up lighting fixtures inside the tunnels? Do I care? Nope. I don't give one single shit about that just like I don't give one single shit about this film. It's terrible.

And that's where I will end this, once and for all. No more writing about the FRIDAY THE 13TH films. I'm done. Every single entry has now been, more or less, reviewed. I suppose I should give some kind of summary, maybe a few words about what I think of the franchise as a whole. 


I grew up with these movies. I know them like I know the backs of my own hands. They're a part of me and will be forever. Overall, I don't think they're very good, but I don't know whether that's an honest sort of opinion or merely a product of overexposure. I'm not exaggerating. I watched these movies over and over again when I was a kid. I can tell you the order of the deaths in each of the film, including the actor's names. There is a percentage of my brain devoted solely to the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise. Part of me will always love it, even the bad films, even the… well, not the remake. I just don't think we've aged well together. I think we fell out of love a long time ago. But these films are important. They belong to history now. Am I ever going to watch them with the same kind of joy that I had back in the mid 80s? No. Am I ever going to write about them again? Fuck no.

But they are what they are and the franchise is what it is. It's a mostly decent, sometimes good, sometimes godawful series of flicks that provided me with some great masturbation material and more than a few hearty laughs and shivers. So adios, my old friend Jason. May your days be long and your sequels endless. Now get off my fucking lawn.

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