Long Night At Camp Blood: We slash our way through all twelve of the films in the Friday the 13th franchise and rank them from best to worst
Jason Voorhees. The name alone invokes images of blood, gore, a certain date on the calendar, and of course hockey masks. The film franchise is nearing the 40 year mark. And, while it seems a court case about the rights seems to be the big guy’s only true kryptonite, the recent release of the much anticipated video game has sparked new interest in all things Voorhees.
It came to my attention recently, while playing in many a public match online, that today’s generation is completely lacking the fundamentals of the horror franchise for the very game they are playing. I thought this would be a good time to step in and guide everyone to all the highs and lows of the films. Again, this is completely my opinion, and I welcome any and all rebuttals about how these films are ranked. Just sound off in the comments below.
It goes without saying, but beware of spoilers. And you should absolutely watch these movies in order to fully understand Jason’s tale. These will go from worst to best — and everything in between.
#12 – FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD (1988)
Yes this is Kane Hodder’s first of four runs as Jason, and he does look completely badass as a rotting corpse. But that alone doesn’t save this movie from falling flat on its ass. Too many plot holes, severely bad acting, and the MPAA stepping in to cut the film to bits did not do the film any favors. However, the fact that this was supposed to be the big throwdown with Freddy, and instead we were given Jason vs. Carrie (Tina), still isn’t as bad as the film being ultimately boring. That was perhaps the biggest sin committed by the producers.
SAVING GRACES: Kane Hodder first appearance. Terry Kiser as Bad News Crews. Jason looks awesome in this one. Tina’s psychic powers.
#11 – FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989)
This almost ranked worse than THE NEW BLOOD. However, this one does have a few things going for it. None of which excuse the fact that Jason takes a 60 minute boat ride only to hangout in The Big Apple for a mere 20 minutes. Don’t even get me started on the toxic sludge ending that miraculously changes Jason back into a human, living little boy. Jason’s slimy look is a bit over the top in this film, and he somehow regenerated some skin while at the bottom of the lake. This would be the last of the Paramount Friday the 13th films, as the rights went to New Line Cinema soon after the film’s release.
SAVING GRACES: Kane Hodder steps up his game as Jason and really owns the role in this outing. The kills are truly unique in this movie. Jason actually being in Manhattan. “Take your best shot, Motherfucker!” The humor in the movie helps to keep it afloat in spite of its many flaws.
#10 – JASON X (2002)
Jason in Space. What other description do you need about this film? This was the film meant to keep audiences interested in Jason, as he was prepping for his longer than a decade battle with Freddy. While the film is flawed, it holds a certain charm that a lot of you missed (and really shame on you) — and really deserves to be seen again with a group of friends. Unbeknownst to any of us until the film’s release, this would be the final time Hodder would portray Voorhees on film, as New Line would replace him for FREDDY VS. JASON.
SAVING GRACES: Kane Hodder’s final on-screen appearance as Jason. Uber Jason looks badass. The Cryo Kill is a huge fan favorite. KM-14 is a formidable foe for Jason. Meta Humor keeps things light and funny. David Cronenberg cameo. Shoutout to Scranton. Virtual Crystal Lake is the highlight of the entire movie.
#9 – JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY (1993)
After 8 films that started and closed the decade of the 1980s, Paramount had finally had enough of the franchise that made them gobs of money. Sean S. Cunningham and New Line Cinema took over the rights of Jason Voorhees, while Paramount retained ownership of the title FRIDAY THE 13TH. Now that Jason was resting his hockey mask in “The House That Freddy Built”, it was surely time for the terror titans to lock horns right? Not exactly. You see, like any good fight, you need the proper build up for the main event. Enter JASON GOES TO HELL, a film that is now finally getting the love it deserves. At first, fans outright hated this film upon its initial release. But in the years since then, it’s finally getting that Friday love. Sure the possession angle was a little out of left field, and the idea of Jason having a sister is something Straight Outta Haddonfield. But this film has a lot going for it and should be viewed again for what it is, not what it isn’t.
SAVING GRACES: Kane Hodder’s cameo out of the makeup. Steven, a competent hero that should be ranked up there with Tommy Jarvis. The Diner Scene alone is worth the price of admission. Horror prop cameos in the Voorhees house. The fight scene between Jason and Steven. Creigton Motherfuckin’ Duke…nuff said. Jason burgers 2 for 1 special. The opening FBI sting operation scene. The ending that has us all salivating for 10 years, when Freddy’s glove reaches from the bowels of Hell to grab Jason’s mask, setting up a decade’s worth of anticipation for that showdown between the 2 legends.
#8 – FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING (1985)
A year before this movie came out, THE FINAL CHAPTER had promised the end of Jason Voorhees and his reign of terror! Then the box office receipts came back, and Paramount realized they were not milking this cash cow enough just yet — immediately greenlighting a 5th film into the franchise. If you thought JASON GOES TO HELL pissed off fans of the series, then you don’t remember the backlash this film faced when it was released. In a controversial move, a disturbed ambulance EMT takes on the mantle of Jason, when it is discovered that his son was hacked to pieces by another young man at the youth outreach camp. Fans were furious when the ending revealed Roy to be the infamous Imposter Jason. Over the 30 years since its release, fans have begun warming up to what is often referred to as the Sleaziest entry in the franchise. It’s actually the only movie in the series that depicts cocaine use on-screen.
SAVING GRACES: Imposter Jason has became a cult icon as both NECA and Funko have paid homage to the character. Reggie The Reckless continues the brave little kid against Jason trend. Violet’s New Wave dance. Tommy Jarvis Kung Fu Asskicker. Ethel and Junior. The sex scene in the woods. Tree and strap kill scene. Demon, the only dude that could take a crap and serenade his lady at the same time, while still looking cool.
#7 – FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)
The one that started it all! While it was never meant to become the juggernaut horror franchise, if this film failed, we would not be here discussing this today. What was suppose to be a low budget ripoff of HALLOWEEN has now become the king of the Slasher Films. It all goes back to this film that promised an innovative death scene every 7 minutes. Made on a modest budget of $700,000, the film would go on to be the sleeper hit of the year, becoming the first in a now 12-picture franchise.
SAVING GRACES: Tom Savini’s makeup effects are front and center in this movie and rightfully so. The cast, a bunch of likeable characters that will become lambs to the slaughter, that included a really young Kevin Bacon in his first role. Adrienne King furthering what Jamie Lee Curtis started in Laurie Strode to make the “Final Girl” a staple of horror from here on out. The kill scenes that were ahead of their time. The jump scare ending of little Jason coming out of the lake. Walt Gorney’s harbinger of doom Crazy Ralph…DOOMED! YOU’RE ALL DOOMED! Betsy Palmer’s performance as the deranged Mrs. Voorhees…KILL HER MOMMY, KILL HER!
#6 – FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981)
While a sequel was never planned, it happened and it gave us Mrs. Voorhees’ Special Boy as the main attraction. A star was born, as Jason proved to be just as resourceful as Mommy. In what was basically a rehash of the first film (and that’s not a bad thing), Jason dispatches horny teens in spectacular fashion that didn’t heed the warning to stay away from “Camp Blood”. One of the more solid sequels in the franchise, this one still holds up to this day. Ignore the Jason controversy about who should’ve gotten credit (Steve Dash is The Real Jason…nuff said), and enjoy the movie for what it is…and don’t bother looking for Paul, he’s probably still wandering Camp Crystal Lake.
SAVING GRACES: Amy Steel’s Ginny is one of the biggest badasses in horror history. Stu Charno’s Ted is one of the smartest characters in the entire franchise. Machete to the face on the poor wheelchair kid. Sex equals double impalement by Jason. Jason’s shack and shrine to his mother. Sackhead Jason and his eventual unmasking.
#5 – FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009)
Yeah, that’s right, I have the remake high on the list. Why? It takes all of the best parts from the first 3 films and adds another dimension to the mythology of Jason Voorhees. This was, without a doubt, one of the best horror remakes during that initial craze. The secret to viewing it is simple…look at this film as a sequel and not a reboot or remake. This is definitely a lighter option in comparison to Platinum Dunes darker (and just as good) TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake. Fans have been much kinder to this film in recent years, as they are now seeing it for what it should be — a fun time with Jason killing a bunch of horny, partying teens that enter his woods to harvest marijuana.
SAVING GRACES: Derek Mears turns in a terrifying performance as Jason. The cast is actually pretty likeable, even though we know that they will be dead by the end credits. Humor and Friday the 13th equals a winning formula. Realistic kills are scarier than far fetched ones. Jason’s underground lair and tunnels that help him get throughout the camp quickly. Jared Padalecki as another competent hero in Clay. Killing off who you believed to be the final girl. Chewie is one of the best examples of comic relief in the series.
#4 – JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI (1986)
10 years before Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven set the horror world on fire with their crossover hit SCREAM, Jason Voorhees tried his hand at meta humor in a film that is hugely popular with FRIDAY fans. Director Tom McLaughlin wisely uses the Universal Monsters formula as a basis for the film, while injecting some laughs into the script. If the film had included Elias Voorhees, Jason’s father as originally scripted, it would’ve been interesting to see where that storyline could have gone. This is also the only film in the series that doesn’t feature nudity of any kind.
SAVING GRACES: Thom Mathews takes over the role of Tommy Jarvis with authority (so much so, this is the version used in the game). Before he was President of the United States on SCANDAL and setting up Patrick Swayze in GHOST, a young Tony Goldwyn has a small but memorable scene. CJ Graham turns in a solid performance as the first zombifed version of Jason. Megan is one of the bravest women to grace a Friday the 13th movie. The epic paintball scene. The heart punch scene that features the late great Ron Palillo aka Horshack from WELCOME BACK, KOTTER. “Some people sure have a strange idea of entertainment.” The RV bathroom kill. Breaking the 4th wall. Alice Cooper’s amazing song and music video for the film HE’S BACK (MAN BEHIND THE MASK).
#3 – FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3D (1982)
This one is actually my personal favorite of the series. If there is ever a screening of the film in it’s original 3D format, you should absolutely go and see it with a bunch of people. This was first time we saw a truly ruthless and aggressive Jason — a trend that would continue throughout the series. The main setbacks this film suffers from are a weak final girl, the confusing flashback involving Jason and Chris, and a really bad attempt at a jump scare ending. There is one major impact this film has on the entire franchise…one that would change pop culture and horror forever.
SAVING GRACES: The late, great Richard Brooker’s performance is the best Jason to ever grace the silver screen. Shelly is awesome, period! Fangoria makes a cameo just before just before Tracie Savage’s pregnant character Debbie is killed, Kevin Bacon style. The biker gang infiltrating Jason’s Barn. The 3D effects are pretty cool and blatantly obvious in 2D format. The kills are awesome, including Vera’s death scene. While everything listed above are great reasons why this is a fan favorite of the series, all of that pales in comparison to the fact that this is the first film where Jason gains his infamous hockey mask. Thanks to Shelly, Jason’s signature look was solidified by bringing a box to Higgins Haven that contained his “whole world”.
#2 – FREDDY VS. JASON (2003)
Since the early to mid 80s, horror fans were always curious what would happen if Jason Voorhees ever met Freddy Krueger in a film. There were some obvious roadblocks in the way, the biggest being Jason called Paramount home and New Line Cinema was The House That Freddy Built. 1987 was to be the year that the 2 horror heavyweights would finally duke it out, until negotiations fell through between both studios. Another roadblock was how would they interact with each other when one exists in the real world and the other in the dream world? After Paramount sold the rights to Jason over to New Line after the 8th film, it was almost a given we would finally get the Monster Mash to end all monster mashes. The ending of JASON GOES TO HELL didn’t help matters by having an ending to set-up the eventual battle of the icons. Unfortunately, we had to wait a decade after that film to finally see what we only dreamed about. Granted, the teens aren’t the greatest characters in the film, save for a few, and it takes a while to get there. But the reason this movie is so high on the list is that it delivers on the promise of the title…FREDDY VS. JASON! Plotholes (and there are lots) and some questions aside, it’s a fun, entertaining movie. The big controversial move that was made by the studio was not bringing Kane Hodder back as Jason for this film. No clear answer has ever been given as people were finger pointing and playing the blame game, but I’ve always felt that we were a little cheated out of seeing our actual Jason in this movie. Ken Kirzinger does a decent job, but he’s no Kane Hodder.
SAVING GRACES: Robert Englund, does anymore need to really be said? Chris Marquette, Kyle Labine and Brendan Fletcher are the best of the teen characters in this film, hands down. Lochlyn Munroe playing the only adult authority figure since Nancy to actually believe the kids are telling the truth about the dangers of both Freddy and Jason. Jason on Elm Street and Freddy at Camp Crystal Lake. Jason in the dream world and Freddy in the real world. FREDDYPILLAR! Not one, but 2 epic fights between Freddy and Jason. The opening scene with Freddy’s backstory and Jason’s resurrection. The final scene with Jason holding Freddy’s head and the wink that to me was a big thank you to the fans for their patience and loyalty.
#1 – FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER (1984)
Without a doubt this is arguably the BEST film of the entire franchise! This movie has so much going for it that no other FRIDAY film before or after has lived up to the bar that this one set. While this was hardly Jason’s swan song, he definitely went out with a bang in his supposed last adventure. The cast was firing on all cylinders, the writing was on point, the direction was excellent, everything about it is nearly perfect…except that it’s way past Friday the 13th and actually into Monday the 15th. But who cares when this film is that damn good! You actually care about the teens in this movie. And the little boy named Tommy Jarvis that stands up to the monster only further cements the film’s legacy as the epitome of a fan favorite. Tom Savini returned to help create the demise of one of his most famous makeup creations. This movie is in my Top 10 horror films of all time — it’s that good!
SAVING GRACES: Ted White’s chilling performance as Jason is still haunting, and the last time the character was truly scary during the Paramount era. Young Corey Feldman as the first Tommy Jarvis aka The Boy Who Killed Jason, was a hero to all little kids and showed us not to be afraid of anything, but instead face your fears. The ill fated banana-eating hitchhiker at Crystal Lake. Crispin Motherfuckin’ Glover…nuff said. The Jimmy Dead Fuck Dance. The kills are brutal in this film.