Friday the 13th and Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
Dir. Sean Cunningham (1980), Tom McLoughlin (1986)
The original Friday the 13th is about a mother's revenge for her child, while Part VI is about that child coming into his own and seeking his own goddamn revenge, thank you very much.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Friday the 13th is a classic horror movie, one of the OGs in slasher culture. I recently gave both of these movies a rewatch to prepare for this review, and let me tell you, the original did NOT hold up to scrutiny. In fact, most of this review is going to focus on Jason Lives, an actually good slasher movie that makes the F13 name proud. The original Friday the 13th is Halloween if we don't give a shit about any of the characters and the killer is a frail old woman that couldn't sneak up on anybody. It's slow paced and slightly bloodier than Halloween, but it's generally boring. There are many great kills in the F13 franchise, and I respect the hell out of the original for getting Tom Savini away from his zombie movies to do the effects. The arrow through Kevin Bacon's neck is one of the all-time great effects accomplishments, and completely unexpected. But other than those few bright spots, the movie... kind of sucks?
I'm so sorry, Betsy Palmer, you look like such a nice lady... even when you're murdering teenagers.
The first 30 minutes of Jason Lives are better than the entirety of the original. It's a blend of humor and blood, and Jason is the brutal unstoppable killing machine that we know and love. Tommy Jarvis and his friend accidentally revive Jason, who was killed in the previous movie, when lightning strikes the metal rod they've used to impale his dead body. Like Frankenstein, this re-animates his corpse and he immediately begins to kill everyone he comes across, including Tommy's unfortunate friend. He kills more in the first ten minutes than Betsy Palmer has killed in her entire life. Well, all that she's killed on film anyway. We all know she has more than a few bodies in her basement.
President Fitzgerald Grant from Scandal, in his first film appearance, gets his political dreams ended early in the film when Jason tosses him over his head with the aforementioned metal rod, casting him aside as Olivia Pope would repeatedly do throughout their television series. It's a nice first film appearance from a future television star, which these early slasher movies tended to do for up-and-coming actors, including Kevin Bacon in the first film.
The one down side of Part VI is that it's the only F13 film to not contain any nudity. And, to be honest, the current reverence for this film has been retconned a little: it's the lowest grossing of any F13 movie in the entire franchise, including Jason in Space or whatever that one was called. It's now a fan favorite, which goes to prove you can't ever give up on your dreams. It's self-aware, and this self-awareness and the campy humor and gore that went along with it inspired Kevin Williamson to write Scream, which is another strike against F13 and in favor of this film. When its self-aware, though, it's self-aware in the best of ways. It knows its campy horror and it leans into it. We get tons of shots of Jason, he's not hiding in the shadows. They use him every chance they get, because, to be frank, they know that's what we're paying to see.
Fuck yeah, Jason!
The first F13 went for scares, and it was clearly a ripoff of Halloween. Sean Cunningham, the director of the original, literally funded the entire movie by releasing a poster with Friday the 13th breaking through glass, while he had absolutely none of the film written at that point. He funded the movie on a poster. Who the fuck can get that done nowadays? However, the movie was also horror as most people would consider horror: jump scares, "gore", and more concerned with scaring its audience than anything. Jason Lives, however, is what we, as horror fans, consider horror. It's fun, campy, super self aware, and filled with tongue in cheek actual gore that we know the F13 franchise for. This makes Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives the quintessential Friday the 13th film.
Who these movies are for: Slasher enthusiasts, Horror fans who watch 'em all, Families of the many, many victims of Betsy Palmer who are looking for closure
Bottom Line: Look, you gotta watch Friday the 13th. You can't just not watch it, it's fucking Friday the 13th for gods sake! But, that being said, Jason Lives is the best F13 movie hands down. There are great kills, there's fun little "cameos" of actors you know, and Jason is the ultimate badass in this flick. Plus, one of the best sequences in horror is in this film, where Jason is chained to the bottom of the lake and still manages to be a fucking badass and almost kill two people at the same time.