Franchise Highs and Lows: Friday the 13th

While there are a number of broad problems with the Friday the 13th franchise (namely the wildly inconsistent continuity/timeline), I thought that in light of today’s date, it would be appropriate to honour a few of the things it did right. But since this is also a day traditionally steeped in bad luck, I feel duty bound to throw some this franchise’s way and point out a few of  its lowlights as well as its highlights – so let’s get to it! (Oh, and I guess there are some minor spoilers ahead…but really,  if you haven’t seen these films by now, then they are probably not that high on your “must-watch” list anyway)

HIGHS

F131980Friday the 13th (1980) – yes, the complete film. If people could view this with a fresh eye and ignore all that has come after it, they might actually find that this ultra low-budget original entry succeeds quite while in creating an atmosphere of dread and creeping suspense before it goes slashing into its final act.

Mrs. Pamela Voorhees – quite simply the deadliest Mother of the Year. Is there anything she wouldn’t do for her son?

That Jump Out Of The Lake – you know what one I’m talking about.

F132amy2b

And she was pretty good with a pitchfork, too

Ginny  – the “final girl” of Friday the 13th Part II as portrayed by Amy Steel was smart, responsible, resourceful and a quick thinker. Special props to her life-saving brains vs brawn tactic – using psychology to stop Jason in his tracks by pretending to be his deceased mother.

The Hockey Mask – an inspired choice, the moment when he first put it on (midway through Part III)  Jason Voorhees instantly went from “generic killer” to “recognized icon”.

Tom Savini – the special effects maestro produced some groundbreaking work for the franchise, including Jason’s infamous skull-slide down a machete in The Final Chapter.

Sense of Humour – for the sixth installment, Jason Lives, the filmmakers had tongues firmly planted in cheeks – most apparent in Jason’s opening credits riff on James Bond’s classic walk-and-shoot opening clip from the 007 films (jump to the :30 mark in the clip below).

Kane Hodder  – THE man behind the mask and all-around F13 MVP, with four consecutive turns as  Jason (Parts VI-IX).

Gimmicks (that worked) telekinetic Tina of Part VII-The New Blood (aka “Jason meets Carrie”),  the far-flung future and Crystal Lake holo-decks of Jason X  and the long awaited stand-off with Mr. Elm Street himself in Freddy vs Jason were all inspired attempts to inject something new into franchise.

LOWS

Gimmicks (that didn’t work) –  the letdowns of the non-existent taking of Manhattan in F138Part VIII – Jason Takes Manhattan (aka “Jason Goes On A Cruise”) and Jason as a body-hopping evil entity in Jason Goes To Hell.

Elephant Man Jason – with a one-eyed sack over his head and sporting a pair of overalls, the Jason from Part II came off more as an inbred hillbilly than a rampaging killer.

Imposter JasonPart V – A New Beginning’s solution to bringing back Jason after his death in The Final Chapter was to just have some random nutjob impersonate Jason. Revealed at the end of the movie, it was the equivalent giving the audience the middle finger.

The MPAA – the Motion Picture Association of America’s ratings board came down hard on the second half of the F13 franchise, and Parts V-VIII were forced to cut away or tone down almost all of their on-screen kills in order to get a R-rating. Nowadays, you’ll find more blood and gore in an episode of CSI than those films were allowed to show to an R-rated audience..

friday-the-13th-2009iiFriday the 13th (2009) – While the return of the franchise was a box-office success and proved there was still an audience eager to visit picturesque Crystal Lake, it ended up being a big missed opportunity that did nothing to elevate the franchise. Equal parts remake, reboot and reimagining, the one thing that wasn’t changed at all was stocking the film with the stereotype characters and tropes that the franchise itself had helped to create and perpetuate. The rich snob, the dumb jock, the party girl, the sweet girl, the potheads, the over-sexed couple – they were all here and all going through the same beats and motions that have been done to death in every F13 film before it. Apart from a few original touches (like Jason’s tunnel system underneath Camp Crystal Lake) the film was mostly just the same old content in a shiny new package.

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