Clayton Bambrough
The Navigator

One of the most iconic slasher villains in film is the machete wielding, ultimate momma’s boy, with his trademark hockey mask, known as Jason Voorhees. To date, there have been a dozen films featuring this unstoppable killer, including a 2009 reboot and a 2003 crossover with other slasher favourite Freddy Kruger from the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. There have been comics, novels, and television shows all inspired by this renowned character, and even his hockey mask is synonymous with horror fans and a staple of every Halloween costume store. However, I’m only going to be looking at the film series.

It all began in 1980 with Friday the 13th, a title that would be continually utilized, despite plots not being concerned with the actual day. Directed by Sean S. Cunningham, this film was a product of cashing in on the success of 1978’s Halloween—another film that spawned a string of sequels featuring a killer who continues to come back from the dead. Friday the 13th was a sleeper hit when it came out, and is viewed as one of the scariest films of all time, ranking number 31 on Bravo’s top 100 scary movie moments. Cunningham never returned as director, but did produce a couple sequels.

Ironically, this is the one entry in the series that doesn’t feature Jason as the killer. Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen it, but at the film’s climax, it is revealed that Jason’s mother is the killer. She is trying to keep the camp from reopening by killing everyone, and is getting revenge for her son’s death. Jason drowned at Camp Crystal Lake because some camp counsellors were having sex. At the end of the film, the last survivor decapitates Mrs. Voorhees with what would become Jason’s signature weapon, a machete.

Friday the 13th Part Two reveals that Jason is indeed alive, now fully grown and really disfigured. He returns to Camp Crystal Lake to protect it from intruders. Another group of teenagers show up to start a new camp, but they are all executed one by one. At the end, the lone survivor discovers a rundown shack in the woods, with Mrs. Voorhees’ severed head on a shrine. She battles Jason and impales a machete through his shoulder, leaving him for dead. Not a bad sequel, especially in comparison to some that were to come.

In Part Three, Jason pulls out the machete and leaves the shack, wandering to a local homestead where he hides in a barn and kills anyone who enters. Again, he is seemingly killed at the end, this time by an axe to the head. This was the first film where Jason put on the hockey mask, which he stole from one of his victims. The film was also originally presented in 3D, and features some of the cheesiest 3D gimmicks I have ever seen. At one point, a guy plays with a yoyo, going right at the screen.

The biggest lie of the series came in part four, wrongfully titled Friday the 13th: the Final Chapter. Jason targets teens renting a house on Crystal Lake, slaughtering all except two. One of them is Tommy Jarvis, played by Corey Feldman. Tommy kills Jason at the end, but if we’ve learned anything so far, it’s that a good killer can’t stay down for long.

Only a year later, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning came out. This time it follows Tommy—now an adult and traumatized by his encounter with Crystal Lake’s killer—who is in a mental institution and fearing that Jason will return. Never fear, Jason isn’t gone long. This sequel was where the quality of the story started to seriously dwindle, as we get a guy who takes on the persona of Jason, and then after he is killed, his son who was killed by a patient at the institution does the same.

Next up is Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. Having just got out of another institution, Tommy visits Jason’s grave, where he gets resurrected Frankenstein style by a bolt of lightning. Jason heads back to Crystal Lake and kills the new summer camp workers there. Eventually Jason gets sunk to the bottom of the lake by Tommy, who chains him to a boulder. Besides the ending, this sequel was forgettable.

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood is the first to have Kane Hodder portray Jason. Hodder played the killer another three times. A telekinetic woman accidently brings Jason back to life, and lo and behold, he goes on another killing spree. At this point, the series was really tired, and they needed something new to keep people watching.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan may be the most disappointing of all the sequels. Jason doesn’t even get to Manhattan until the end. Most of the film takes place on a boat, due to budget restrictions. New York was substituted by Vancouver, as well. This one really dropped the ball.

The ninth entry, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, doesn’t even explain Jason’s latest resurrection. He gets killed by the FBI in the first act, and the rest of the film entails Jason surviving by passing on his heart to others. Finally, at the end, Jason is dragged to hell. Freddy Kruger made a cameo in this one, indicating a Freddy vs. Jason movie was in the future.

The tenth film, titled Jason X, takes the only logical next step in a franchise this exhausted: it goes to space. Jason is cryogenically frozen and gets on a space ship. This plot was designed not to confuse audiences with continuity, as the Freddy vs. Jason film was in development hell at the time—how appropriate. The plot wasn’t supposed to confuse us? This sequel is so ridiculous and over the top, it’s entertaining, but for all the wrong reasons.

In Freddy vs. Jason, Freddy Kruger resurrects Jason in order to bring terror to a community so their fear will be strong enough for him to invade their dreams—it’s stupid, I know. Who wins isn’t certain, and overall this made for an even more disappointing versus film than Alien vs. Predator.
As for the 2009 remake of the original, I haven’t seen it. I avoided all the pointless horror remakes from producer Michael Bay (Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Amityville Horror to name a couple) after seeing the Nightmare on Elm Street remake, which I thought was extremely unnecessary and downright terrible. But, I will likely see the 2009 Friday the 13th someday.