It’s a Friday the 13th, so I couldn’t help but weigh in on the popular film franchise. The horror series continues has been strangely missing from pop culture since 2009, when the “Friday the 13th” semi-remake hit theaters. The film was actually a pretty solid entry in the series, giving audiences a gritty restart of the franchise. Considering the series had sent its chief antagonist, Jason, to space, Hell, and New York City, they probably needed some grounding.
The popular horror franchise continues to hold a cultural relevance despite the lack of films featuring the horror icon. What started as a cheap ripoff of slashers and “Psycho” now holds its own special place in horror mythology. However, the franchise is an interesting case study in quality versus gore thrills. Few horror series that hit this level of popularity struggle to release good titles the way this one this. So the question is, which “Friday the 13th” film is the best? That’s easy. “Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter.” Fun fact, there have been an additional 8 films in the franchise since “The Final Chapter” hit theaters in 1984.
“Friday the 13th” follows Jason as he returns to Crystal Lake once more. He had been considered dead at the end of “Friday the 13th Part III” so the mortician doesn’t care very much when the body comes in. Clear mistake, as Jason is mystically healed while in cold storage. As our hockey-mask villain emerges from a chilly cocoon, he proceeds to get some fun kills with a hacksaw and scapel. We leave Jason, but just for a moment.
Somehow, local Crystal Lake officials let another group of teenagers make their way to a house on the storied lake. You know the saying, fool me once, shame on me. Fool me three times, you’re getting murdered by Jason. The posse of kids exit the van and explore the area. We’ve got a who’s who of high school stereotypes. Paul (Alan Hayes) is the hot guy. His girlfriend, Sam (Judie Aronson) is the raunchy one. Sara (Barabara Howard) is the virgin. Doug is the sexually frustrated boyfriend (Peter Barton). Jimmy (Crispin Glover) is the socially awkward kid. Ted (Lawrence Monoson) is an obnoxious moron, aka the jokester. They’re joined by twins Tina and Terri (Camila and Carey Moore). The group begins to throw a party, which is essentially honey to attract Mr. Vorhees.
This group is full of red shirts. They have no chance to survive from the moment they stepped out of the van. They die in hilarious fashion throughout the film. While these kids have no chance, cosmic fate intervenes. They meet two important neighbors, Trish (Kimberly Beck) and Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman). Tommy will become a shepherd of the franchise, essentially becoming the Angel of Death for Jason. This relationship would help sustain the franchise through some of the worst sequels ever made.
With the stage set, the killings begin. The film unfolds like any slasher. The killer finds a teenager. The killer murders a teenager. The cycle repeats. The “plot” doesn’t really matter at this point. Instead, let’s talk about why this is the greatest “Friday the 13th” film.
First of all, it is the best representation of Jason Voorhees. Jason is able to take on a Michael Myers modus operandi. He becomes a slow-moving, stalking villain. He had been one in the previous two films, but his look was far less intimidating. He doesn’t even obtain his trademark hockey mask until halfway through “Part III.” The full package is here, from the mask, to the physicality, to Jason’s rotting hands. It’s the best Jason had been at any point.
Second, the kills are creative. Other films had relied on Jason wielding an ax or macheting up teenagers. It was fine but wasn’t overly creative. This is not the case here. Jason’s kills are far more nuanced. He uses spears, machetes, an ax, his hands, and even gravity (he likes to throw people out of windows). The diversity adds style points and keeps the film fresh. The more creativity, the fun the team working on the film had. The kills become a source of comedy and tension, rounding out the film and making it an exciting ride.
There are some who might argue that a different film might take the top spot. However, unless you ride for Part II or potentially VI, there’s not much reason to tout the series as “quality” filmmaking. Instead, IV contains the perfect amount of comedy, horror, and enjoyable insanity. If you’re looking to tune in to a single movieto understand the franchise, you can jump in on this one without any previous knowledge of the others. It’s the film to watch to satisfy your Friday the 13th.