The Friday the 13th franchise is only a few years shy of hitting 40 years old and it remains a staple of the horror genre. Over time the series started to get a bad reputation for being thin on story and lore and heavy on cheap kills and gore. You know what? That isn't exactly wrong, but I'm at a point to where I don't really care anymore. There are plenty of horror films and franchises I can go to that delve into some deep lore and psychological horror but at the end of the day I'm glad there's a franchise that focuses on the meat and potatoes of what makes horror fun, a big dude chasing stupid kids.
With this page, from now until Halloween I am going to write a mini-review for every entry in the Friday the 13th franchise, at least until Jason X. I haven't watched many of these films in a very long time so let's see how they hold up.
FRIDAY THE 13th (1980)
As a kid who watched this a few years after its release in a world where Jason Vorhees was already a pop culture icon it was genuinely shocking to me at the time that Mrs. Vorhees was the actual antagonist of this film as opposed to the character who would go on to be the centerpiece of the series. Even though in 1980 the world didn't have that pre-existing image of Jason in their minds, the direction of the film shows that the reveal is still supposed to be a surprise. We never see the killer from a third person perspective until the very end and throughout there are multiple camera tricks used to avoid showing them.
Even though Jason isn't the lead villain in this entry it does establish many of the norms the series will eventually be known for (picking off young stupid people one by one until one is left, violent and unique deaths, etc.). It also establishes the base story of the franchise. Even though there are some supernatural things at work here (ex. a dead kid returning to life decades after drowning) everything still feels pretty grounded. The series keeps that up for a few entries, too. Eventually we will go to hell and outer space, but let's enjoy things on earth while we can, won't we?
I think this movie is a classic and is still perfectly fun to watch.
Favorite Scene: The shot of Jason emerging from the water in the end has stuck with me my entire life. So good.
FRIDAY THE 13th PART 2 (1981)
Realizing that they had a hit on their hands a sequel was rushed into development and came out the next year. After a 5 minute recap of the story of the first film, Part 2 quickly reminds us that Jason is the captain of this ship moving forward as he uses his mother's head as a dramatic prop in seeking revenge for her death just a few years earlier. The best part about this opening scene, though, was that after he committed a brutal murder, Jason was kind enough to turn off the burner on the stove and remove the teapot.
The formula of how this film is structred isn't too far off from the first. New camp opening up, bunch of horny young people, you get the drill. Jason has built his home out of garbage in these woods and he'll be damned if he lets these kids seize his property. This movie is filled with people making stupid decisions that make it fun for the audience to shout about how stupid they are. There are just enough likable people in the cast though to make you feel at least a little bad when they are killed in horrible ways.
Part 2 doesn't feature the fully realized, iconic image of Jason just yet. For the most part in this film he is just a dad-looking dude in flannel and jeans. Later on in the film he decides to create a makeshift mask out of a sheet so he can move a bit more freely. He just wants these kids off his lawn, okay?
This movie is a blast and I think is probably more fun to watch than the original
Favorite Scene:There is this quick shot near the end in which Ginny is running from Jason and she tries to find refuge in his shack. There's no music playing in this moment but through a makeshift window in the structure you can see Jason run into the shot and closer to the shack. A few seconds later the dramatic music comes in, but in that brief moment I thought the scene was more tense without it.
FRIDAY THE 13th PART 3 (1982)
The franchise machine is in full swing, because a little over a year after the release of Part 2, we have Part 3, which includes the establishment of the iconic image of Jason that would carry on through the rest of the series.
This film takes place almost immediately after the end of Part 2. The main character of the film is Chris, who brings a group of her friends back to her old home for a weekend of fun, despite her hesitations. Later we learn that a few years before the present day, she was assaulted in the woods by Jason, presumably during the period of time in which he was just a creeper living in his makeshift cabin. This event traumatizes Chris, causing her to push away any relationships that come her way. She is, of course, the Final Girl of the film, but I do think that she stands out in that they put some work into developing her as a character and using her backstory to do some world building for the franchise as a whole.
As for the bulk of the film, it's comprised of the usual teenage troublemaking and romance, and is pretty by the book in that regard. Some fun kills and a lot of silly-looking shots that were clearly designed to exploit the 3D fad that had emerged in theaters at the time. The big thing to take from this entry is that about 2/3 of the way in, Jason settles on his trademark hockey mask and drops his Farmer Dad look. This film does take its time in building suspense and teasing the audience, as the bulk of the killing doesn't start until about an hour in.
The blood from Andy's mangled body dripping onto an issue of Fangoria.
(Last Updated: 10/15/18)