Jason and the Adolescents: A review of the first seven Friday the 13ths Part II

Image result for jason voorhees

Image from Medium  (He’s back…The man behind the mask….)

I continue my thoughts on the original line up of Friday the 13th movies save the eighth one with the fourth one, that was going to be Jason’s last night of carnage..until he proved too profitable to stay dead forever.

Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter

Image result for jason voorhees the final chapter vs tommy jarvis

Image from Wicked Horror             (Jason tries to keep Corey Feldman from being a                                                                               Goonie and worse, a singer) 

As has been pointed out ad naseum, the fourth Friday the 13th is erroneously not the final chapter of Jason Vorhees’ serial killing exploits. The next movie would attempt to keep that title sensible by having a new copycat killer take his place but I am getting ahead of myself.

Of the original eight FT13s, this is probably the one, save for the sixth that people would probably call a good gateway movie, for those who don’t have the time or the desire to watch the series in order. This one has a lot to give someone a good idea of the established formula, with some bonuses.

It has the return of Tom Savini doing the practical effects work which really comes into play best with the new and perhaps most well known facial design of Jason without the mask. It has actors which are actually recognizable such as a young Corey Feldman pre-Goonies, Lost Boys and Stand by Me and Crispin Glover, one year before he became Marty Mcfly’s loser dad in Back to the Future.

It does feature as promised the first real death of Jason and it is an impressive result. It’s not necessarily the best of the series but it is the best at highlighting the formula as it stands: of a group of killable characters heading off to where Jason lives, slowly but surely dwindling their numbers and the initially in the dark survivors finally picking up that something has grown terribly wrong on their weekend retreat.

Cue a final act where the characters framed at the start most likely to survive being chased through the movie’s set location by Jason, in this case the Jarvis family residence and a nearby rented house where those doomed out of towners will be staying.

With the right mindset and appreciation for the effort that does indeed come out of making these kinds of films, you start to actually dig the predictable set-up.  It becomes a guessing game of how will this predetermined framework be tweaked uniquely enough for this go-around the (chopping) block.

Aside from the promise of Jason’s death, the tweak that makes part IV stand out best is the Jarvis family. For the first time in the series, there is a group of characters which are really different from the typical teen-young adult crowd with the expected hedonistic objectives. It’s also the first time a pre-teen is placed in danger and it’s a likable if immature one at that.

Corey Feldman is the first actor to portray Tommy Jarvis, the only recurring hero character of the series. He is analogous to Laurie Strode and Dr. Loomis in the Halloween series, Nancy in A Nightmare on Elm Street and for old school horror fans, Van Helsing to Dracula.  Part IV is the first of what is often referred to unofficially as the Tommy Jarvis trilogy.

Having that thread of Tommy’s journey arguably makes 4-6 the entries I enjoyed the most, even if the casting was changed each film.  Tommy has a mother and sister and they at best tolerate the partying teens now living next to them. A separate visitor to the residence situated inconveniently next to Crystal Lake is Rob, who is there for reasons which are strictly business rather than pleasure and his accompanying hunting equipment makes Tommy take a liking to him.

Crispin Glover plays Jimmy, in a role that is actually very close to George Mcfly, due to his social awkwardness and fear of not getting it with one of the girls coming along for the trip. If anything, the teens while still,of course irresponsible partakers of drink, drugs and sex, come across as more likable and it was the first time I can recall in the series where I started to feel bad for some of Jason’s victims.

Of course Glover’s retroactive recognition from Back to the Future is part of the reason why when Jason gets him, his death stands out more. That, and it is a very creative and gross demise.

Part IV may also be the first time that the franchise starts to lightly make fun of its own trashy premise. The stoner goofball friend in the group finds some old silent-era nude films and starts playing it, more for amusement than titillation. Probably has to do with him being stoned.

Seeing frivolous, antiquated depictions of female nudity played for laughs is probably a subtle acknowledgement that the series, despite its critical lambasting, isn’t oblivious to its critics. It knows what it is, tries to make the most out of what it is and responds back, saying to us to try to find some fun in something that is more ridiculous than serious.

Part IV is probably the last film in the series to have some measure of a serious tone or an attempt at it. Starting with part V, the series starts going truly looney-tunes and it gets even more fun from there.

Friday the 13th part V: A New Beginning

Image result for Friday the 13th part 5 roy

Image from Friday the 13th Wiki                (The blue rather than red on the mask is                                                                                             a tip-off that something is off, aside                                                                                    from the rising pile of bodies)

Part V was the first entry in the series to do what was once thought impossible: piss off more than just the critics, who had more or less become resigned to hating this series. It pissed off the fanbase who were expecting Jason’s return. Sure, the title “New Beginning” should tell you that Jason wasn’t back and that a copycat killer was the surefire way to keep the series going, but that is not what people wanted.

After three movies of Jason’s masked rampage, we had, dare we say, come to like the monster or at least have him be our monster. Perhaps having someone else other than Jason be the new killer wouldn’t have been so bad had who the killer of part V been not such a nonsensical letdown, with a motivation that was somehow more contrived than how Jason comes back in the next movie!

Of course, time does heal most not all wounds. For those who like the series for what it is, part V has gotten some retroactive love, even knowing Jason is currently feeding some worms, but not forever. Part V is not my favorite of the series, but it is probably the most entertaining.

This is the entry where the logic of the timeline goes completely out the window and it is best not to think about it too hard. Parts 2-4 happened in the span of under a week, taking place five years after the original. The first happened either in 1979 or 1980. That would put parts 2-4 between 1984-5.

Fair enough. However, after young Tommy Jarvis’ mentally traumatizing victory over Jason in IV, Tommy is separated from his sister, his only surviving relative( who we never see again for some reason) and placed in a mental institution to cope with both what he did to survive and to overcome the fear that his act of savagery might make him Jason’s successor.

By part V, Tommy is between 17-23 years of age based on his appearance. I’ll be generous and assume child Tommy was between 10-12 years old in 84-85. The necessary time lapse needed for his aging up would now place the story somewhere in the 1990s at least. Part V both looks and feels every bit the mid-80s movie it is. True, it would’ve been super expensive to imagine how the 90s would look like and these movies are known for being on the cheap side, but still.

Tommy is the best of part V when it comes to characters, even if that is obviously not the primary focus of a film like this. He’s a worn out, stressed out, haunted individual who cannot stop dreaming, waking or not, about Jason, especially the possibility he’s not truly gone.

A fear that would cause him HUGE problems in part VI. He’s quiet, wants to be alone and as mentioned before, isn’t just afraid of Jason’s memory, he’s afraid of what he could become. Pretty meaty themes for this kind of movie.

The other part I like immensely is the setting of part V: not in Crystal Lake, the first to do so fully. Instead, in a nondescript part of America, Tommy is taken to a halfway house for people being rehabilitated into society.

Not all of them seem to actually need treatment and could just be employees like Violet the goth music lover who is probably one of the victims I least liked see die. It’s an interesting new environment for the series and one that doesn’t have the exact same trappings associated with the series.

It features another child character, who is arguably one of the most endearing characters in the series despite his one film appearance. Reggie, a young black child who lives in the facility not as a patient but because his kindly grandfather works as the house’s cook. He quickly tries to spark up a friendship with newcomer Tommy, which adds to his likability.

If it wasn’t for all of the various issues other members of the house have to overcome, it almost feels like Tommy could find a new family among these semi-freaks and strangers. Sadly, a shocking and totally unprecedented tragedy at the house spells doom for most and the rise of a copycat killing spree.

One of the patients, Joey, who tries too hard to be sociable with one of his angrier co-inhabitants,Vic, gets axed in the process, to the horror of the entire house. Following his sudden death, a new killer springs up and not all of his targets seem to be related to the halfway house which causes something of a narrative error when you factor in the killer’s identity.

For a Jason-less film, part V has one of the series’ highest bodycounts, possibly to compensate for that very reason. Not including the copycat’s own demise at the end, seventeen people die by his hand. It both hurts and helps that more than a few casualties are actually likable and that it’s some of the most gruesomely creative.

There’s more nudity, more sex, more characters in and out of the halfway house that are plain loony and a general sense of imbalance between dread and
“don’t take it seriously” fun, even for a series like this.

Considering part V and most of the films are over thirty years old, I don’t mind spoiling who dun it in the end. If you want to know without spoilers, just skip to my entry about part VI.

 

The killer who copies Jason, down to the hockey mask and even a fake plastic head to mimic his big bald noggin is Roy Burns, one of the paramedics who picked up the remains of Joey following Vic’s violent breakdown. It just so happened that this paramedic was Joey’s estranged father, who happened to be part of a hospital close to his estranged son and that he happened to be called in for the emergency.

If you can get past that astronomical coincidence, he decided to take seeing his son’s death as the moment to take bloody, calculating revenge on the halfway house that let this happen. Maybe I could buy this better if the only targets were related to the house, but several of his victims had nothing to do with them. Practice, perhaps?

At least Jason has the inferred motivation of taking vengeance on anyone related to his and his mother’s death and pain as well as having something of a territorial side to him, not unlike a dragon guarding its lair. Jason is also mentally deformed, though he is very intelligent in the stealthy murdering department.

Roy had no apparent signs of mental illness though perhaps his son’s murder may have set something off that was always there. Because of the difference in motive and logic behind his actions, Roy is much more despised than Jason for that reason. By the time Tommy helps bring Roy’s end, you’ll probably find his death the most enjoyable, a rarity for the series.

An interesting idea that part V tries to express that wouldn’t pan out for the series is the idea that Jason would live on through his legacy in others like Roy. The ending of part IV hinted that Tommy would tragically follow in Jason’s footsteps and the clearly non-canon or dream ending of V where Tommy, after saving himself, Reggie and Pam( his sort of love interest) from Roy, recover in a hospital. What happens next is that Tommy gets out Roy’s mask, grabs a knife and sneaks up on Pam, ready to continue the curse. Oh no!

The lower box office and the backlash from audiences would  have the next movie course correct with a newly cast and heroic Tommy, no mention of Pam, Reggie or his sister once again, a black comic, fourth wall leaning tone and of course the arrival of revenant Jason, the version of the character most are probably familiar with by default.

Friday the 13th part VI: Jason Lives

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Image from Park Circus         (Jason and the filmmakers are saying to the audience,                                                                    “Maybe don’t take this too seriously, we’re not…”)

How does Jason come back to life in his fourth outing out of the six movies so far? Why, like not unlike Frankenstein’s monster, so you know!

Tommy Jarvis, now being portrayed by Thom Mathews from Return of the Living Dead, is dead set on reaffirming Jason as being dead. He and a buddy of his go to the cemetery where Jason is interred and dig him up to make sure. Despite him still being dead, Tommy in a fit of rage over the torment he’s been caused grabs a loose rod from the cemetery fence and slams it right into Jason’s corpse.

Unfortunately, a thunderstorm is overhead and a bolt of lightning strikes the rod and supernaturally brings Jason back. He emerges from his hole, kills Tommy’s friend and Tommy in turn runs to the sheriff’s office to warn everyone that New Jersey’s most feared man is back. In case you didn’t know by now, Crystal Lake was shot and set in the Garden State. As Monstervision’s Jo Bob Briggs once said,”He’s a Jersey guy!”.

The proceedings that follow is Tommy trying to convince, unsuccessfully, the sheriff of Forest Green( the town renamed due to the Vorhees’ legacy) that Jason has been resurrected. The sheriff’s daughter, Jennifer, is more agreeable to Tommy’s plight, especially as the bodies once more begin to pile up. The sheriff suspects a crazed Tommy of being the killer but it can’t be because Tommy is not where Jason is killing.

The series adopts for the first real time a black comedy approach which makes it more enjoyable to see Jason at work. Most of his victims are unlikable, savvy to the sort of movie they’re in and some even have satirical purpose. One of Jason’s victims is a woman who both knows initially they should avoid anyone wearing a mask in the woods and when she tries to buy her life from Jason through money, one of the credit/debit cards shown is intentionally misspelled to become “American Excess” rather than “Express.”

I wouldn’t call any Friday the 13th movie mindless, as thought is brought in to how Jason will be presented, kill and react to those who are actually giving him a challenge. Part VI is possibly the most mindful, in terms of what it expects of its target audience, what the professional critics have long thought of it as well as the nature of slasher films in general up to that point.

Keep in mind that part VI was not only the sixth film in the series, it was one of many, many slasher films that had been made for over a decade by 1986 since Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Black Christmas and especially Halloween (1978) had launched the genre proper.

With so many movies in the genre, many becoming franchises along with FT13, what’s the harm in taking the piss out of itself once in a while? It might actually make you feel a little less personally uncomfortably with what the subject matter really is when you get down to it: a series of murders of varying imagination where more often than not the killer’s behavior is the star attraction. Self-reflection and observation never did anyone wrong.

Due to this, part VI is one of the few entries that critics especially now, feel alright with. They do note that the acting, effects, humor and pacing is also generally on a higher plane as well for the series. If you get past the ridiculousness of Jason’s supernatural return into a revenant, then nothing can really stop this from being one of the more “quality” entries in the series.

Aside from Tommy and Jennifer’s struggle to catch up and defeat Jason, all while evading the understandably skeptical Sheriff father, another hook aside from the comic tone which elevates part VI is that the summer camp normally filled just with stereotypical camp counselors have the kids meant to be counseled for once.

Seeing not just one kid in a Friday the 13th movie but dozens of them not only raises the level of Jason’s danger, it creates instantly sympathetic qualities to a franchise mostly inhabiting neutral or unsympathetic people. One of the kids wryly stating they are all “dead meat” to another adds to the winking charm which probably comes across better when watching the film then me typing it up that way.

So, Jason was back from popular demand and his latest defeat at the end of course left it open for future sequels. Tommy wouldn’t be back as he perhaps finally left the Crystal Lake area for good, reunited with his absent sister and maybe started a relationship with Jennifer. Who knows? What mattered was where Jason was going next, who would he kill next and most importantly of all, who would stand up to him and live?

Friday the 13th part VII: The New Blood

Image from We got this Covered)              (The best looking unmasked Jason, portrayed by                                                                            the most well-liked actor for Mr. Vorhees, Kane                                                                              Hodder)

So, following the logic of allowing Jason to be supernaturally resurrected in the sixth movie, why shouldn’t the series pursue other similar ideas? A new box of possibilities opened up for the series. Combine with a new tongue-in-cheek attitude, what can’t the series do? The sky’s the limit, budget permitting.

For Jason’s next night of terror, he would once again hunt down a bunch of teens who decide to keep on visiting and partying next to Crystal Lake, despite the truly bloody reputation the area has gotten by now. These aren’t thrill-seekers looking to test if the legend of Jason is actually true, this time they’re coming along for a birthday celebration for one of their own.

At the same time, a peculiar young woman, along with her mother and doctor are heading over too. This young woman is Tina, who has telekinetic powers, not unlike Carrie, Eleven from Stranger Things or Jean Grey from the X-men. Yes, Jason will indeed throw down with this woman by movie’s end. And it is awesome.

Let’s Put the usual contrivances of the two groups heading for Crystal Lake, meeting up at the same time and from a place that should honestly be quarantined by now due to Jason’s insistence on never staying dead aside. The biggest leap of logic is Tina’s backstory regarding her powers.

It just so happened that years ago when Tina was a young girl and discovered her telekinesis, he accidentally killed her abusive dad in the process. She dropped a pier on him after one yelling episode too many. Where did Tina unintentionally off her father? Why, Crystal Lake of course. When exactly that incident took place in the confusing timeline of FT13 is your guess but based on her age from young kid to young adult, around the same time as parts 2-4.

Maybe the mother and daughter left before Jason began his three film spree that would culminate with the Jarvis family. If you can make that conclusion, then it makes sense why the shady Dr. Crews wants her to come back there. To help her cope and focus her abilities at the place of her greatest trauma. The doctor has more to his agenda than that, but shouldn’t the infamous legacy of the Lake make this an absurdly bad idea?

Much like Tommy accidentally resurrecting Jason last time, Tina wakes up Jason while focusing her powers, who was left chained under the lake by Tommy and Jennifer. Once again, Jason’s nemesis for the film is also responsible for his return. That’s some recurring irony for you.

While not without its intentionally humorous moments, part VII is not the same type of black,comedic satire that VI was and that can make the movie feel like a regression from the improvements of its predecessor. Just when the series seemed to have a new golden identity, it doesn’t quite stick with it, coming across like it is more of the fair seen in parts 2-5.  Then there is the kills themselves.

The original eight Friday the 13ths were notorious for the cuts made by the MPAA regarding the violent moments which almost entirely revolve around the kill scenes. Part VII was hit the worst with some of the most iconic kills in Jason’s history being cut shorter than they should.

Famous moments involving a weed-cutter, Jason squeezing a poor guy’s head to mush and a sleeping bag were dramatically edited down. The effect for the head crush was and is quite good and seriously gruesome based on the cutting room floor footage.

The sleeping bad scene involves Jason grabbing a teen hiding in a sleeping bag and throwing her against a tree. Originally, it was several whacks rather than one. Jason (the one set in the future and outer space) over a decade later would return to that moment with a more humorous and less bloody re-enactment.

Overall, part VII is still a good entry in the series helped by the likability of Tina and coping with her dangerous abilities and the beginning of Kane Hodder’s run as Jason. Hodder would portray Jason four times, starting with VII, and then with VIII, the ninth(Jason goes to Hell) and Jason X. Hodder wanted to be in Freddy vs Jason, but he was replaced with Ken Kirzinger.

Honestly, none of the portrayals of Jason have been bad or a let down, save for part II and that one moment in part III where final girl Chris actually managed to make Jason, normally dead silent, yell “Ow!”

That being said, the characterization and behavior of Jason has been pretty consistent, so it almost feels as if the same guy has been playing him at least since part III, size and body shape change notwithstanding. Hodder getting the role four times is probably why he is so liked by the fanbase despite the eighth and ninth movies being among the least liked.

Of course, Tina facing off against Jason in the third act is the highlight and best remembered moment of the movie. For a low budget movie, a lot of work came into the work on Tina’s half-chase and half-duel with Jason. Eventually, the brawl leads to Jason’s mask for the first time being outright broken and a convincingly menacing face is shown to make the rest of the engagement no less tense and no less fun.

Save for the ending sequence, it’s understandable calling part VII a step down from part VI. It doesn’t help that the formula that I was praising earlier is now really starting to show its age, especially since VI also did some decent shakeup of it.

 

 

Jason would once again return for an eighth movie and we were promised something truly crazy: a near unstoppable, undead killing machine in New York.

Imagine the possibilities! Sadly, the budget restraints of the series kept the majority of the film on a ship heading for NY, and only a few minutes of the film were actually filmed in Manhattan, most famously Jason in Times Square. The rest was shot, where else, Vancouver, Canada. Feel free to insert the hockey jokes here, what with the nature of Jason’s mask and all.

The ninth film, released the year I was born, 1993, was once again supposed to be the curtain call. Jason goes to hell: The Final Friday was now under New Line Cinema’s production rather than Paramount, due to the disappointing box office of part VIII.

The concept was ambitious. Jason was blown up by the FBI and seemingly, truly gone now. But he lived on through a demonic worm-thing and he possessed person after person to continue his streak of destruction until eventually some dagger brought him down to hell as the title promised. There, he would meet the man who both built New Line Cinema and is the master of your dreams, Freddy Kreuger himself. Another decade would pass until the two threw down to the delight of both fanbases.

In-between part IX and FVJ was the tenth movie of the series, Jason X, where as mentioned earlier, Jason is indeed in both the future and outer space. An incident in the present gets him cryogenically frozen, like Futurama’s Fry, but for 400 years rather than a millennium. He wakes and the cycle begins once more.

You know, if Paramount had kept the license, we could’ve gotten a Friday the 13th/ Star Trek crossover. Imagine the Enterprise-D or E crew facing odds like that! A decade ago in 2009 there was a Micheal Bay produced remake for the series. Fans and critics both didn’t really care for it as little was apparently added to the formula and the editing work made it hard to tell what Jason was doing or what in general was often happening. 

In spite of being a profitable movie, it was not the series revival anyone was hoping for. No followup came. And now Jason waits once more for his likely return. Much like Godzilla, he’s a monster that never stays gone forever.

 

 

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