Off The Shelf: Friday The 13th (Reviews in Progress)
On Wednesday of last week (for anyone finding this on some random future date, that was Oct. 24), an idea dawned on me. Sparked by a love of the latest free game on PlayStation Plus, Friday the 13th, and several fan boy conversations with my brother, I decided to purchase the series of Friday the 13th movies. Somewhere amidst the stabbings, many of which I was laughing at, it dawned on me that my blog deserved a Halloween entry, and what better way to celebrate the brilliant holiday than by reviewing and ranking every Friday the 13th film that I can possibly find?
Quick disclaimers: these reviews may contain light spoilers. I will rank each film in the order from worst to best. Unlike my podcast episodes, these rankings may have more of a slight edge of my own personal bias. I will always acknowledge my own bias if it plays a role in my ranking of the films. This is a review in progress because unfortunately this brilliant idea dawned on me too late in October, but I will be updating it with each slasher film I watch in the series. I am not including Freddy Vs Jason or the reboot as of now, but that is possibly subject to change. Enjoy...
3. Friday the 13th: Part Three
The one where they tried to do 3D. I’ve never liked 3D in film because it always feels like a gimmick instead of a way to better tell a story. This film is perhaps the biggest example of exactly what I’m talking about. Fling a yo-yo directly into the lens, or point a bat right at me and my only thought will be how you are wasting my time. It doesn’t tell me anything about a character, it doesn’t give me any sense of tension, it doesn’t even make me feel entertained. And yea, maybe you’re saying I’m harping too much on the 3D thing, but that’s only because it’s the one memorable thing about this movie. This movie has a slew of nonsensical characters, and if they aren’t making you roll your eyes, they’re making you say, “wait who is that again?” Seriously, why is the biker gang even in this film? On the plus side, there’s finally a smart character in this franchise, kind of. Our final girl manages to hide from, and even hang Jason, which is undoubtably clever. And jason is finally imposing! This is the Jason I think most of us think of when they picture Jason. Hockey mask, huge, menacing. I never was a fan of Jason getting knocked around because it feels like it betrays exactly how imposing he is (he crushes someone’s skull with his bare hands here), but mercifully they only do it sparingly in this film. The barn is an exciting set piece compared to Packanack and the Crystal Lake. That’s about where the positives end though. Kills are still brutal, but this is where they start to feel gratuitous. The beginning of this film shows the end of the last film AGAIN. The ending does have some semblance of finality though, so credit where credit is due. This film’s biggest downfall is that it’s the first time in this series where I am annoyed by characters. So much so that I can’t even enjoy their deaths. I’m just angry that they had as much screen time as they did in some cases, and in others I just don’t care. Also, this one doesn’t even take place on Friday The 13th, you phonies.
2. Friday the 13th
The One that started it all...without Jason. This movie undoubtedly has huge issues. The third act is problematic to say the least. But by and large, this film has two relatively strong acts in the slasher genre. Granted, I watched the Uncut version, and am uncertain the exact differences between this and the original. Lighting is occasionally bogged down by an overuse of shadow. Cinematography ranges from well crafted wide shots, to lame overuse of POV. The kills are relatively fun and anxiety riddling. And the acting is fine. I guess what I’m getting at is that this entire film is fine. And while I think the high points of Part Two are much higher, the low points are also considerably lower. So essentially Part One and Two are interchangeable for me. I’d simply rather watch Part Two. The best thing here is the influence of Ridley Scott’s Alien at work, with the ensemble never quite giving away who the main character is that you should be rooting for. This surprisingly works wonders for the slasher genre in particular because it makes everyone feel expendable. As this series goes on, it becomes more obvious who these films want you to root for, and I preferred the approach of the original. The most disappointing thing in this film, which I alluded to earlier, is how slow and pointless things seem to become once a relatively fun twist is revealed. The killer entirely betrays her kill streak by changing tactics and confronting the last counselor for no other reason than to give her a fighting chance. What results is a lame display of Alice striking her, running away, getting found, rinse and repeat until she finally prevails. Afterwards, a confusing dream sequence makes for a good jump scare immediately afterwards, but not much else. But hey, Kevin Bacon’s in it!
Friday The 13th: Part Two
The one that started Jason. People forget about sack head Jason before the hockey mask. And that’s because he’s far less intimidating. Jason is more of an inbred hillbilly murderer here rather than the unkillable, dominating presence we remember him as today. That being said, sack head Jason is perhaps that last time this series feels drenched in ‘reality’. The circumstances surrounding this revenge crazed family almost give the impression that Jason could be the same boy that drowned in the lake. Brought back by magical means, or otherwise, the mystery behind the killer is compelling. His shack is eerie, and feels man-made. The kills are more brutal and impressive (The wheelchair kill is my favorite in the series thus far). It’s just a more fun slasher than the first film in nearly every way. The issue is how it begins and ends. This entry starts my least favorite trend in the series: lets play the end of the previous film at the beginning. Did you miss Part One? Don’t worry, this film shows you everything you need to know in the laziest dream sequence possible. Even worse is how it immediately proceeds to kill Alice off and make Part One entirely irrelevant. The ending makes such little sense, that Part Three doesn’t even try to pick up the pieces from this catastrophe of an ending. Our new lead girl saves her own life with one of the most bizarre, out-of-left-field choices I’ve ever seen in a horror movie (for fans, I’m talking about that sweater moment). One thing I never understand with this series is why Jason and his mother move bodies, and why blood rarely travels when they do. Also why does that one girl get naked when her bathing suit is definitely right inside? Mostly though, the meat of this movie all works