You know when you go on IMDb or whatever and there’s always a thread titled “Rank the [insert series here] best to worst”, well let’s do summa that.
Of course the infamous Top 100 ranks my favourites across the board up to Spring of 2014 (Lost After Dark and The Final Girls might now force a few of the bottom dwellers out), but franchise-to-franchise, what is the most logical place to start?
Duh, Crystal Lake obvs.
12th Best: Jason X (2001)
Bringing Jason back after eight years in limbo (nine, if we’re going to count the delayed release) is a bold step. On top of that, putting him in space proved just a step too far. This film is hokey and enjoyable at times, annoying and lazy at others.
Best Bit: Holodeck Crystal Lake, circa 1980.
11th: Jason Goes to Hell (1993)
I maintain that certain scenes in JGTH out-awesome the previous few films – the trio of campers at the lake, and the opening gag with the sexy chick alone in the creaky old house: Pure Friday. It’s just a shame the rest of it veers off course with all that Hidden crap.
Best Bit: Tentpole. Schwing.
10th: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
The late-80s-ness of Manhattan is undeniably bodacious, but it’s too long, too tame, and too timid to max out its potential: At the time this must’ve had the highest bodycount of the lot, and is there but a speck of blood?
Best Bit: JJ’s awesome-or-what axe.
9th: Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Like Jason X, this one is worth a look every decade or so. The WWE-ness of it all is juvenile and irritating, but high-end production values, a love for the series, and a game cast almost make up for that.
Best Bit: Cornfield rave hi-jinks.
8th: The Final Chapter (1984)
I’ll stand by for the townsfolk to come with their torches and pitchforks. The Final Chapter was the last of the Paramount films I saw and by that time the formula was so ingrained it just never resonated much with me. The plot is too derivative of Part III and the characters indistinguishably expendable. Yes, the grue is top of its game, but this alone does not a great film make.
Best Bit: The story so far… “you can’t be alive!”
7th: A New Beginning (1985)
Tatty, sleazy, trashy Part V, a guilty pleasure if ever there was. The leap in production gloss from The Final Chapter was, at least on the old VHS’s I owned, significant, but maybe that’s just because 1985 was a year I actually remember, so the fashions and hair didn’t all look horrific. No Jason? Meh, who cares!? The appeal of this film is how fucking stupid it all is.
6th: The New Blood (1988)
Dry and a ‘lil bit wintry in feel, The New Blood has grown on me over the years like a fungus that won’t quit. While many of the bloodthirsty demises were ultimately cut, leaving us a film drier than a shot of sand, the through-the-motions slashings are almost hypnotically entertaining and several of the background characters unpredictably likeable.
Best Bit: “There’s a legend ’round here…”
5th: Part III (1982)
A major step down from the dizzy heights of the first two, Part III nonetheless provides Jason with his mask and the audience with cheesy 3D FX. The production shift from the north east greenery to a sandy Californian mud-hole (removing all the Crystal from Crystal Lake) lets it down, but the amateur-night performances and Dana Kimmell’s gloriously rubbish final girl schtick atone.
Best Bit: Dana vs. Jason
4th: The Reboot (2009)
Most hated it, but it captured the spirit of Fridays past for me – especially those first 20 minutes – making enough changes to give a contemporary feel without entirely abandoning the unmovable elements that make Friday what it is. Of the glut of remakes, reboots, recalibrations, reimaginings etc, it was easily the best.
Best Bit: Campfire tales and nostalgia.
3rd: Jason Lives (1986)
Who would ever have thought a fifth sequel could land a sucker punch of awesomeness? Tom McLaughlin, that’s who! Wisely taking a step into the humorous side of the genre, after the po-faced exploits of The Final Chapter and A New Beginning, Jason needed a shot of slapstick just to overcome the embarrassment of the previous film. It works perfectly as a pivot for the mayhem and contrived story, resulting in the best Friday outing since the early days.
Best Bit: Paula’s paranoia. Didn’t she leave the bloody machete right there on the floor?
2nd: The Original (1980)
Rough n’ ready, Friday the 13th has got to be the most copied slasher film ever; from genuine attempts to replicate the formula to sketch show parodies, this is the film they turn to. It’s perfection lies in its innate imperfection – clunky acting, ludicrous plot twists, semi-competent production, and yet it works far beyond the reach of many of its contemporaries and today’s low-end slasher pics.
Best Bit: Rinse n’ repeat stalk n’ slash during the storm.
THE BEST FRIDAY!: Part 2 (1981)
Yeah, like, big shock, right? I just love this film to death. Taking all that was good about the first one, polishing the production assets, casting the perfect final girl, introducing Jason as an actually quite scary super villain prototype form: That burlap sack gives me the creeps far more than the hockey mask. Whether those infuriating cut scenes will ever see the light of day, who knows, but it detracts not from the slasherific perfection that is Friday the 13th Part 2.
Best Bit: Amy Steel on the run.
Next time: Halloweeeeeeen