Julien Neaves, Editor: So it’s neither Friday nor the 13th but today is the 40th anniversary of Friday the 13th, the iconic slasher film that spanned a massive multimedia franchise including 12 films, video games, comics, an unconnected TV series, numerous pop culture references and many, many movie imitators. The first movie introduced the world to crazy Mrs Voorhees and her drowned-but-not-dead son Jason, with the latter taking over the teenager killing from the second film and donning his infamous hockey mask from the third. Even if you have never seen one of these films everybody and their mama knows that hockey mask.
Now initially I planned to do this list solo but this is our Horror Head Writer Sommerleigh Pollonais’ favourite slasher franchise, and if I left her out she would chase me through the woods at night with a machete. Metaphorically speaking. Now a quick word from Sommer:
Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer: It’s his birthday! Jason Voorhees that is. And even though Paramount studios won’t be able to gift us, and the hockey-wearing monster we all know and love, with any new movies until they work out all the legal woes suffered by the Friday the 13th franchise, it doesn’t mean we can’t get together and show some love as this slasher classic (Part 1) turns 40.
Now I have a special place in my heart for these movies and as a kid I made it my mission to binge watch all of them once a year. And earlier this week, I got together with a couple of fans (Julien Neaves and Matthew Bailey) on a podcast and we discussed the best and worst of the Friday the 13th movies.
Julien again: Do check out that podcast when you get a chance. For today’s list we will be ranking the best and worst of the franchise in five categories – franchise kill, killer costume, final girl/guy, Jason takedown and franchise film – and both Sommer and I will give our picks. Full disclosure – I had an unfair advantage as she completed her list first. And there are no entries from the fun Freddy Vs Jason nor the surprisingly decent 2009 remake as neither film had the best nor worst of anything. So with that caveat and a bloody SPOILER ALERT here we go:
#1 Sommer’s Best Franchise Kill – Sleeping Bag Kill from Part VII: The New Blood
It was so nice, they did it twice! Not only is this one of the funniest/most messed up kills in the franchise, it comes from one of my personal favourites as well, Friday the 13th VII: The New Blood. Kane Hodder proved without a doubt that he was the best Jason for the job, and his brutality and almost no-nonsense way of putting down his victims can clearly be seen with this one.
Even people who’ve never seen these movies seem to be familiar with this memorable kill. Hell, they even did it again in Jason X, as a nod to, in this fan’s opinion, the coolest kill of the franchise.
#2 Julien’s Best Franchise Kill – Equal Opportunity Kill from Part 2
Wheelchair-bound Mark Jarvis (any relation to Tommy I wonder) was one of the more likeable characters in the entire franchise. After playing some video games with sweet Vickie he was looking forward to playing some more games in the bedroom (wink wink nudge nudge hint hint). But Jason had other plans for him and slammed a machete right in his face.
The image of his body rolling down the stairs with the machete sticking out of his head really sears itself into your brain. And it shows that Jason does not care if you are are abled, disabled, young (thankfully not children) or old, he is an equal opportunity killer. How progressive of him!
#3 Sommer’s Worst Franchise Kill – Smiley Face Kill from Part VI: Jason Lives
As much as I love these movies, I have to admit, they don’t all leave a good impression and some of the kills are pretty meh. We have some off-screen deaths (always the worst in horror films), some “accidental” ones, like Jason pushes someone and they fall on something sharp. You know, meh stuff. But then there are the ones that manage to be memorable, for being stupid instead of stellar. For me, it’s the one when Jay-Jay (I can call him that, we’re friends) pushes a guy’s face into a branch sticking out of a tree and it leaves a smiley face impression behind (check it out from 2.00-2.12 in the above video). A smiley face? As we Trinis would say “STEUPS!” or for my American amigos, SMH!
Now I get that Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, was going for a humorous vibe. I get it, but I don’t have to like it. And I’m so glad most people didn’t either, seeing as they quickly got things back on track with Part 7…well, at least the bad ass Jason part. We can talk about the whole telekinetic teenager thing a little later on.
#4 Julien’s Worst Franchise Kill – Pop Goes the Boyfriend from Part III
Final girl Chris’ boyfriend Rick Bombay (he didn’t look Indian) dressed like he raided Mrs Voorhees’ closet. And maybe that was why the J-Man (I can call him that because we are also friends) got personal with this kill and crushed Rick’s head with his bare hands.
Now this would have been fine if we just saw some blood running from his orifices, but some smart alec decided to have his right eye pop out like a prop you would order from the back of an 80s comic book. It looks stupid and completely pulls you out of the movie. Yes they were milking the 3D effects in the film but this one was one pull on the ole teat too far.
#5 Sommer’s Best Killer Costume – Ooey Gooey Jason from Part VII: The New Blood
Okay, so there’s a bit of a pattern forming here, but I can’t help it guys! I really enjoyed Part 7. I know its cray-cray with all the psychic stuff, but sorry not sorry, it gave us Kane Freakin’ Hodder as Jason Voorhees!
Not only was this Jason the most physically imposing one up to this point, but he looked awesome! He’s in full-on zombie mode, but then we have the gooey-goodness from his body being submerged in water all this time. You can see his spine, his ribs, his mask is basically molded to his face now (which we actually get to see in all its gory glory) and the busted chain hanging around his neck just caps off the macabre and monstrous nature of the unstoppable force that is Jason Voorhees. Now THAT’S how you make an impression!
#6 Julien’s Best Killer Costume – Everyone’s Grandma Look from Friday the 13th
So my pick for best costume would have been the spine tingling, decomposing Jason look from Part 7 as well. But that is the best Jason costume. I want to show some love for the powder blue sweater black jeans combo of the late Mrs Pamela Voorhees.
It is just so unassuming and helps to hide the fact that this is actually the original Serial Mom (anybody remember that movie? Kathleen Turner? No? Just me? Okay). This is not the outfit of a killer; this is the outfit your grandma wears in the evening while baking you chocolate chip cookies. Well played first movie guys. Well played.
#7 Sommer’s Worst Killer Costume – Wannabe Jason from Part V: A New Beginning
Not only is this a fake Jason, but it’s not even a good looking fake. The damn mask doesn’t even fit right AND the color of the markings are wrong (blue instead of red). BOO I tell you! BOO!
#8 Julien’s Worst Killer Costume – Body Snatched from Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
Now I was tempted to go with the burlap sack of Part 2 which did look kind of dumb. And then without the mask J-Man looked like the unholy love child of Dr Phil and The Undertaker. But the worst “costume” has to be Jason wearing random people’s bodies in this abysmal sequel. I didn’t pay my money to see an overweight black coroner running around killing people. What is this crap?!
#9 Sommer’s Best Final Girl/Guy – Ginny Field from Part 2
As much as I would like to give Tina Shepard from Part 7 the win, she does have an unfair advantage over all the others because she’s got powers yo! So I had to go with my true favourite and one of the smartest final girls Jason ever came across, Ginny Field. Fighting him off, she uses her knowledge of psychology to mess with his head (the mama’s boy he is). After coming across his shrine to dear old Pamela Voorhees, aka Mommy, she quickly dons his mother’s sweater, giving her enough time to land the “killing” blow on a confused Jason.
#10 Julien’s Best Final Girl/Guy – Tommy Jarvis(es) from Part IV: The Final Chapter, Part V: A New Beginning and Part VI: Jason Lives
Okay I will admit that Ginny is the best final girl in the franchise. But the best final guy has to be recurring protagonist Tommy Jarvis, who is the most well-known character from the films after Jason and Mrs Voorhees.
There are three very different versions of Tommy: we have kinda weird, Corey Feldman in Part IV; traumatised, Jason-hallucinating, anger management issues John Shepherd in Part V; and no longer traumatised but kinda dumb Thom Mathews in Part VI. Each of the Tommys are interesting in their own way, with the first and the last being quite driven in their quest to take down Jason, while the second Tommy is so off his rocker you really think he might be that film’s killer. It was an interesting change to see the psychological impact J-Man had on one of his intended victims. Good stuff Tommy boys.
#11 Sommer’s Worst Final Girl/Guy – Rennie from Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
It’s no surprise you’ll find my worst final girl in one of the worst movies of the franchise. Rennie (no last name) is a student on a school trip aboard the SS Lazarus which has set sail to NY. Jason sneaks on board because he’s bored of the local Crystal Lake scene and decides to take out the ill-fated passengers one by one.
Honestly Sean (played by then Young and Restless actor Scott Reeves) would’ve made a better Final Guy, as he at least puts up a fight and seems to be using his noggin’. Rennie, however, makes Bella Swan look like Sarah Connor. She’s weak, she’s stupid and she’s utterly forgettable. Not what I want in my Final Girl.
#12 Julien’s Worst Final Guy/Girl (Jessica Kimble – Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
This is the second time I have mentioned Jason Goes to Hell on my worst list but will not be the last. Yes Rennie may be flatter than a steam rolled pancake but I will argue that J-Man’s niece Jessica is equally as bad. One, she is barely in the movie. She kind of just shows up midway through with her baby and has her convoluted destiny thrown upon her. Second, she is pretty dumb, disbelieving her ex-boyfriend Steven but sticking up under her sleazy TV anchor boyfriend-turned-Jason-body-suit Robert. When she does kill J-Man in the end there is zero emotional impact. I hate this movie.
#13 Sommer’s Best Jason Takedown – How About A Quick Dip? from Part VI: Jason Lives
I think why I like this one so much, is because how eerie the final shot is. Tommy and Megan are the final two standing and as Megan is about to be killed, Tommy calls out to Jason from a boat and gets him to come after him (Tommy being his white whale, as the only person to survive his carnage in multiple films).
Tommy throws a chain around Jason that is tied to a boulder. And when Jason fights back, almost drowning Tommy, Megan activates the boat motor and runs it into his head (eewww). Jason is now anchored to the bottom of the lake, seemingly dead, but the final shot is his eye staring off into the water. It’s an image that stays with you long after the credits have rolled, and it’s my favourite Jason takedown of the franchise.
#14 Julien’s Best Jason Takedown – Chop Fury from Part IV: The Final Chapter
This is the bloodiest, the goriest, the most brutal, and the best Jason takedown. While his sister Trish holds off J-Man with a machete, little Tommy gives himself a bald makeover which would win him top prize in a Junior Uncle Fester Impersonator Competition. But Tommy is actually taking a page out of Ginny’s book and using psychology on Jason. He distracts Jason by pretending to be young Jason and then improves his face with a machete. His deformed face sliding down the blade is just make-up effects master Tom Savini showing off and sending off Jason (as he thought then) in style.
The icing on the cake is when Jason begins to stir and Tommy chops him repeatedly while screaming “die”, a moment that will haunt him for the next two films. This memorable takedown is actually the first time Jason is actually killed, as it would take older Tommy’s stupidity and a bolt of lightning to resurrect him in Part VI.
#15 Sommer’s Worst Jason Takedown – Flushed Away from Part VIII: Jason takes Manhattan
Because of course the worst one would be in the worst movie of them all! Just as Jason is about to kill Rennie and Sean, the sewers are flooded with toxic waste and he drowns in it.
Poop water. They killed the un-killable with poop water. I really don’t want to think about this movie anymore, but unfortunately, it’s gonna pop up one more time before I’m done.
#16 Julien’s Worst Jason Takedown – Papa Can You Hear Me? from Part VII: A New Blood
Yes I know Sommer loves Part VII and I like a lot of it too, but I hate how Jason is defeated. It just makes zero sense. After Tina telekinetically hits, strangles, electrocutes, blows up and all around bitch slaps J-Man, she believes he is dead. So she and love interest Nick comfort each other by the lake. But this is a horror movie, and a Friday the 13th movie, so Jason jumps out of the water for one last jump scare.
Before he can kill her Tina’s long dead father (looking not that much worse for wear) jumps from the depths and pulls Jason down with him. That’s it. J-Man is back where he was in Part VI. I absolutely hated the poop water/toxic waste takedown in Part VIII but at that point my expectations for that film were already very low. Part VII got me all excited with telekinetic shenanigans and then just crapped out at the end. Not cool man. Not cool.
#17 Sommer’s Best Franchise Film – Part VII: The New Blood
Now I KNOW I’m gonna get yelled at for this one, as a lot of fans HATE this movie! But this isn’t about them, so I’m gonna wave my Friday flag high while I tell you why I love this movie. One, it gave us the best version of Jason ever, with Kane Hodder’s name becoming synonymous with Jason Voorhees (name one other person who played JV, go on, I’ll wait). He took the character from gold to platinum when it came to horror icons and I love him for it. Then we have those awesome kills, from my favourite (the sleeping bag one) to spines being ripped out, crushed skulls, a horn in the eye and a mean girl getting a much deserved axe to the face! And here’s the part most people hated that I loved – it gave Jason a final girl to fight who gave him a run for his money.
Say what you will about the whole telekinetic thing, Tina was the only person in the franchise I’d ever want to be if I had to go up against Jason Voorhees. Who would want to fight hand-to-hand with an unstoppable killing machine from hell when you can stand ten feet away and strangle him, or electrocute him? She also gets some righteous payback as the poor girl had to watch Jason kill her mother, making her arguably one of the few characters that didn’t just lose a friend, but a loved one to boot.
So you can call it silly, but I’ll always stand by my choice. Part VII is the cherry on the Friday the 13th cake!
#18 Julien’s Best Franchise Film – Part VI: Jason Lives
After the majority of fans were pissed there was no Jason in Part V, and plans for Tommy to be the new antagonist going forward sank faster than the SS Lazarus, the producers brought back J-Man with style. Sure Tommy’s plan to burn up his body was 12 Shades of Stupid, but Jason’s lightning resurrection and maggot-riddled face looked awesome. Hodder is undoubtedly the number one Jason but the duo of CJ Graham and Dan Bradley do a commendable job as new rage zombie Jason.
As far as characters go Tommy and Megan have some nice chemistry, Sissy and Nikki are fun and likeable, and I loved to hate trigger happy and over protective father Sheriff Mike and his equally trigger happy idiot deputy. Sure there is some meta humour and fourth wall breaking but not so much that it spoils the film. And we had some pretty awesome kills, from the triple paintball players takedown to Sissy’s decapitation to Nikki’s bloody room makeover to the Sheriff getting turned into a pretzel.
We also had the tense moment of Jason entering the cabin with the little children, the one time I was actually terrified for a victim in any of these movies. And we had my second favourite Jason takedown with the combo drowning-burning-motor to the face. Part VI is just an all-around fun film and encapsulates the best elements of the franchise.
#19 Sommer’s Worst Franchise Film – Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
Oooooh boy! This was a close one! I wanted so badly, to call out the shenanigans that was Friday the 13th: Part V. But while the ending of that movie was a big middle finger to the fans (again, the killer is not Jason. He’s not even in the damn movie!), the rest of the movie has some stuff that works for me, like the kills and the introduction of adult Tommy Jarvis, a character that with a little more development could’ve been a solid addition to the franchise, the way Andy Barclay is in the Child’s Play franchise.
But I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t let the crapfest that is Part VIII get away with it. This movie has the lowest approval rating of all the films for a reason (it holds an eight per cent on Rotten Tomatoes). It’s lazy, the cast is forgettable at best and unlikeable at worst. The location is a damn boat for most of the runtime and the ONLY good thing about it is a kill that is equally stupid and cool at the same time (guy gets his head punched clean off!).
The pacing is a drag, it’s never scary and the ending…POOP WATER??!!!! REALLY!?!
The best advice I can give you, if you’ve never seen this movie, is skip it. It honestly doesn’t add anything to the mythos and you’ll be better off for it. I mean, people are eating Jason’s heart and getting possessed by him in the next one, and somehow that movie STILL manages to be more entertaining than this one!
#20 Julien’s Worst Franchise Film – Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
Speaking of Jason Goes to Hell, how that film has 24 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes is beyond me. This pile of crap deserves 2.4 per cent. The film gets one per cent for the twist of Jason getting taken down by an FBI team in the opening, though that is way too short. And I will give it another 1.4 per cent for the end scene with Freddy Krueger’s gloved band pulling down Jason’s mask, a precursor to the crossover film Freddy Vs Jason a decade later. Everything else you can throw away.
When you think of a Friday the 13th movie what do you think of? Not Jason Voorhees in a hockey mask stalking and murdering horny teenagers? Well forget all that because someone decided to have a coroner eat Jason’s still-beating heart, take over his body and then have a freakish, mini-monster version of the J-Man body hopping like he was auditioning for The Hidden (remember that film? That was a good film). What is this nonsense? I don’t want to see random possessed people (including one Jason captures and gives a shave for some reason) killing other random people. I want to see Jason killing random people, not showing up for a few minutes at the start and at the end to get killed.
And then out of nowhere we have the central plot line that Jason can only be resurrected by a relative (unlike all the other times he came back by psychokinesis and electricity) and only killed using a special dagger, despite none of this even being mentioned in EIGHT previous films. And how the hell does bounty hunter Creighton Duke (a criminally wasted Steven Williams who would go on to appear in The X-Files the following year) know all this stuff, including that Diana Kimble (a criminally wasted Erin Gray of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century fame) is Jason’s half-sister?
This movie is both insultingly simple and overly complicated. If you are doing a Friday the 13th binge you can easily skip it as it does not connect to Part VIII (which admittedly is a slog) and is ignored by Jason X (which is a campy fun time). Don’t waste your time on this waste of a movie and insult to this long-running franchise.
So that is our exhaustive list. What is your best and worst of the Friday the 13th franchise? For another collab with I, Sommer and a couple of other friends you can check out Freddy vs Jason vs Michael vs Leatherface: Ultimate Slasher Showdown here.