by Paul Deeter
For Mike Viers, who convinced me to enter the woods.
Listen. There are probably 7-10 official rankings of the famous and prolific series Friday the 13th. And outside of my own, probably hundreds of horror-hounds and hags have their own personal list of these films as well. It's in the top three longest running horror franchises, only beaten by the Halloween series, which has 13 films. It's extremely successful financially with over 468 million globally made...again, only second to Halloween. There's no denying the cult appeal of the series as well, it's not just a popular franchise for the October-Halloween season, but it exists relevantly to the Spring and Summer seasons as well. All year there's a chance for a different month holding the date Friday the 13th, sometimes there's two of these per year! Although Sean S. Cunningham has allegedly been quoted to say these films are not purposed to be lessons, there's no denying the victim trend of horny teenagers being cornered by Friday the 13th. It cemented the 80s as the ultimate slasher film franchise. During the time Freddy Krueger was haunting screens, Jason Voorhees confidently knocked it out again and again with its own successes. While critically and cult-wise, the Nightmare on Elm Street series has aged a bit better than Jason's films have, Jason owned the 80s just like he would Space and Manhattan in later entries.
....Although the films were not popular with critics, Friday the 13th is considered one of the most successful media franchises in America—not only for the success of the films, but also because of the extensive merchandising and repeated references to the series in popular culture...Jason's hockey mask has become one of the most recognizable images in horror and popular culture
These are classic horror films, controversial for their truly undeniable excess of S&M and gore. I think Jason can be credited for his truly creative kills just as much as Kreuger can, they both know how to use any ordinary items as weapons. Just like Jackie Chan mastered prop work with his surroundings creatively, Jason took to the environment in a similar, if more brutal fashion. And that mask is so simple and iconic that it's constantly selling each year for Halloween. As far as the franchise goes on physical media, a box set containing each film and hours and hours of special features was released in 2020, with reversible covers of every title on Blu-ray and lots of never before seen supplemental features. I bought this, and have decorated my own room with a legit Camp Crystal Lake flag, a Friday the 13th Part V Neca Set, (with a Jason action figure and multiple weapons!) and soon will have my own arm decorated with a Jason tattoo! I have three different 4K copies of the original, and two steelbooks for Part 1-2. I'm a big Jason fan, and even that being said, I have almost as much love for Freddy and consider the Scream franchise to be the best horror film series of all time. Was I birthed in Jason's lore and bloody history from a young age? Well, no. Teenage me was most familiar with the Halloween series. BUT! Do I have the right to rank these movies?? You're darn tootin'.
It's easy to shrug past a series of a staggering 12 entries, especially when the majority of the films in the franchise are debatably non-essential. I saw a few of these films for the first time in my life just this last month after buying the beautiful box set, and there was even one film I almost couldn't finish (stay tuned). But I'm a completionist. I believe not just in hindsight, but culturally these films all merit their reputation be it good or bad when they were released. I'm sure some fans of the franchise walked away after a few sequels, or didn't view them until home video rental. But if these films were released today, I'd like to think I'd watch each one upon release, with one of my closest friends, Mike, who introduced me to this and the Nightmare franchise. This article is for him, and his positive influence on me as a horror fan and a film buff. Now let's get to it.
12. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
The cream of the crap. It was tough for me to decide between this one and the 11th on this list, but I have to give Part V a tough time because of just how unreal and unnecessary it feels in the canon of the film. The title of this film is hilariously shameful in the fact that it follows a film titled The Last Chapter. It feels like, oh wait, I guess we have more to say (or want more money in the bank). Enough on the situation of why this film feels awkward in the series, but to describe the film would be confusing for the both of us. I remember (vaguely) watching this film and the seventh entry in the series within the same week, and I feel like the two of these movies kinda blend together in my memory. The bits I remember are laughably bad and sometimes gross: one of the film's most memorable scenes is one where a character sings a song with his girlfriend while he's in an outhouse. I actually Google'd which movie had that scene because it was one of the only moments that stood out for me, and to my surprise, it's got a bit of love to this day. The movie was apparently made under the title Repetition (yep) and featured a new killer who dons the mask. Even while filming actors were weary of what they were making. For example: Actor Dick Wieand stated, "It wasn't until I saw Part V that I realized what a piece of trash it was. I mean, I knew the series' reputation, but you're always hoping that yours is going to come out better", and director Danny Steinmann stated that he "shot a fucking porno in the woods there. If porno in the woods isn't the most accurate negative generalization of the series I don't know what is. The kills are unmemorable, the twist is stupid and the characters somehow more vapid than normal. Why I own the Neca set is beyond me.