Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
Dir. Tom McLoughlin (1986)
Tommy Jarvis seeks to destroy Jason's body once and for all but accidentally resurrects him from the dead, which is a major problem.
Straight off the back of the worst entry in the franchise (so far) is arguably the best, 1986's Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. A campy return to form for the franchise, JL has everything A New Beginning lacked, understanding at its core what drew people to the beloved franchise in the first place. It's filled to the brim with excellent (and bloody) kills, a redesigned and gnarly-as-hell Jason Voorhees, and even an opening title card that is ripped straight from James Bond (while maintaining the ridiculously boring white credits on a black background).
Jason Lives is action almost all the way through, as Tommy Jarvis, the "hero" from the previous two films, accidentally resurrects Mr. Voorhees just like Frankenstein's monster 55 years earlier. The method of Jason's rebirth gives him a toasted appearance, quite possibly the best character design of the famous killer of any film in the series, and the newly undead Voorhees rips and tears through the film's cast with reckless abandonment. From rogue paintball players to the stereotypical camp counselors, there is never a short supply of victims for the hulking Jason to choose from.
The sixth film in the franchise is meta-as-all-hell, its tone and perspective inspiring Kevin Williamson to write Scream a decade later. It's self-aware and massively well-done, a parody of other slashers of the era while also being a damn fine one in its own right. It's also the first modern film of the series, feeling like it could've been made anywhere in the 90's and fit in perfectly. As with the other films in the series, Jason uses a number of different weapons to off his victims, but this is the first one of the series where it's rare to see him without his "trademark" machete. Director Tom McLoughlin crafts some truly stellar shots, increasing the legend of Jason Voorhees while also showing that he is capable of telling a standalone story that is loads of fun to watch.
In direct contrast to the preceding film, Jason Lives is the only film in the entire franchise to contain zero nudity, while delivering brutal and unflinching kills that were sorely lacking from A New Beginning. It's viciously funny, leaning all the way in to the ridiculous tongue-in-cheek mindset of the film like a cross between a Halloween film and Student Bodies. While it's certainly a different film from its predecessors, the reappearance of Jason and the film's clever use of his character as unstoppable badass rather than shadowy stalker has made Jason Lives a cult classic irrespective of the other Friday films.
From the opening scene, bathed in fog and drenched in pouring rain in an homage to the Hammer horror films of yesteryear, to the pulse-pounding Crystal Lake finale, Jason morphs into a smart, capable killer that is no longer just some mentally challenged monster. He chops phone lines and pops tires to prevent his victims' escapes, becoming the quintessential slasher villain and eliminating the shortcomings of the character that have existed since the original 1980 film. It's exceptionally rare that the sixth film in a series is the best one, but six films into the Friday series, Jason Lives is exactly that.
Who this movie is for: Slasher fans, Friday the 13th series lovers, Grave robbers
Bottom line: Great kills and a new-and-improved Jason Voorhees highlight the best film in the Friday the 13th series so far. A wickedly funny script and some excellent performances shine brightly throughout, and new series director Tom McLoughlin does a phenomenal job in not only adding to but also elevating the series as a whole. Jason Lives outshines even the original, a tall task but one that it accomplishes with gusto. There's a reason why this one has had such a huge resurgence in popularity amongst fans, and it's well deserving of its more recent reputation.