Friday The 13th VHS Boxset

With two movies left to review as part of my Friday the 13th marathon, I thought I’d take a break to show something different (but related to Friday the 13th). The underlying reason for this little intermission is that I don’t own a copy of Jason Goes To Hell and haven’t found one for a decent price yet.

A few years ago, I made the acquisition of a Friday the 13th VHS boxset. I keep it as decoration and only dived into it recently. I found a couple of neat little things I thought might interest you. Note that this is a French boxset, another reason why I wanted to write about it as maybe some of you might be interested in seeing foreign editions.

The boxset itself displays artworks from both The Final Chapter (on the sides) and Jason takes Manhattan (on the top and front). Since Jason Goes To Hell and Jason X are not included, I assume this boxset was released between 1989 and 1993.

 

As you can see on the two pictures above, the boxset goes up to the eighth film in the franchise but there are only seven tapes. For an unknown and strange reason, the first film is not included. The boxset starts at Friday the 13th Part II. It’s not difficult to imagine why they chose to ignore the first film : no Jason = no Friday the 13th. I personally find it extremely weird to ignore a film that started a long-lasting franchise in a boxset that is designed to be a complete franchise set. French people are weird (trust me, I know, I’m French). And they didn’t stop there !

Before going into further details on two of the tapes, above is a gallery of all seven tapes, front and back. I like the consistency in the title displayed above each poster. And who can resist those beautiful classic movie posters. Not to sound cliché and old, but they don’t make them as good as this nowadays.

Now, let’s take a look at the first two tapes : Friday the 13th Part II and Friday the 13th Part III. Below the title Vendredi 13 (the french translation of Friday the 13th), there is a subtitle which reads “le tueur du vendredi” (which translates to “the friday killer”). They probably added subtitles to the first entries to match the later films which all have subtitles, starting with The Final Chapter. But this is not what surprised me. Take a closer look at the second picture above. Do you see it ? They used the exact same subtitle for both movies ! You can’t distinguish them unless you look at the back and look at the screenshots or read the synopsis. This is simply insane that nobody ever noticed that both movies have the exact same title.

This time, let’s take a look at the Jason Lives tape (pictures above). The original title of the sixth installment is Friday the 13th Part VI : Jason Lives. For some reason, they decided to translate the subtitle to Jason, le mort vivant which means Jason, the undead. They want to change the title ? Fine. But then, why put Jason Vit a.k.a Jason Lives on the lower part of the poster, on the tombstone ? It’s like the dude in charge couldn’t make up his mind and was like “I wanna change the title because fuck them, I’ll do what I want but I don’t want to ignore it so I’ll just put them all on the cover”.

I really love my Friday the 13th boxset not in spite of all the nonsense I pointed out but because of it all. For all of us who started watching films during the VHS era, these objects hold a special place in our hearts. I hope you enjoyed this article as I have a few more in mind.

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Review : Friday the 13th Part VIII : Jason takes Manhattan (1989)

Another year, another sequel ! In 1989, Jason takes Manhattan, directed by Rob Hedden, was released. This is regarded as one of the worst sequels in the franchise. While this movie should have been called Jason takes a boat to Manhattan (as he only spends a third of the film in NYC), I don’t share the common dislike for this film. I actually like it. Sue me…actually, don’t, let me explain !

The film opens with two high school graduates aboard a boat on Crystal Lake. Apparently, staying on a lake known for having been the location of multiple massacres is a brilliant idea ! The boat’s anchor damages some underwater cables which shock Jason’s corpse and bring him back to life. The next day, a group of students is getting aboard the Lazarus on a cruise to New York City. An unexpected guest joins the teenagers and gets rid of them one by one until the boat reaches New York City, allowing Jason to…take Manhattan…sort of !

Let’s first address the elephant in the room : the title is misleading and, on the first viewing, will surely be a big disappointment. The majority of the film takes place on the ship and not actually in Manhattan. Jason arrives in NYC in the final act of the film. While I am indeed disappointed that the film is set on a cruise and not in the city, the short time spent in NYC is entertaining enough to be satisfying. I found the shots of Jason in Times Square and in front of a giant hockey billboard quite epic.

Now, with each sequel, the characters seem to get worse. With more sequels comes less character development. However, the main protagonists are a big improvement over Tina from The New Blood. Rennie and Sean are likable enough and not too annoying that you’ll enjoy following them trying to escape Jason. The others are just expendables and, as we are used to now, are just body count for Jason to have fun with.

Jason takes Manhattan has many flaws, several scenes makes no sense and yet, I found it really entertaining. The boat sails from a lake to the ocean…how exactly does that work ? Then, in New York City, apparently it is a common thing to find barrels full of acid in alleyways. These are only two examples of the silliness that occurs in this film.

The ending, while not as bad as The New Blood, is once again impossible to explain rationally. Now that we are on the eighth Friday the 13th film, it is quite clear that none of the directors and writers had any clue on ending any of these films.

I don’t understand the hate towards Jason takes Manhattan. Is it indeed flawed but I thought it wasn’t worse than some previous entries in the franchise. Jason, as portrayed by Kane Hodder, is still a badass and plenty enjoyable to watch. 

Review : Friday the 13th Part VII : The New Blood (1988)

Directed by John Carl Buechler, the seventh installment in the Friday the 13th franchise was released in 1988 and marks Kane Hodder’s first time as Jason Voorhees. He is the only actor to have reprised the role several times.

Jason Voorhees is still chained at the bottom of Crystal Lake. We are introduced to a new family living in area, Tina and her parents. One night, after abusing her mother and chasing her to the lake, Tina, who has telekinetic powers, accidentally kills her father. Ten years later and after years at a mental institution, Tina returns to Crystal Lake with her mother and her psychiatrist to face her past and come to terms with it. However, Tina accidentally (again…) raises Jason from the dead. 

I have many issues with The New Blood and the predominant one is the main character, Tina. She is annoying and constantly whining. First of all, while I understand she would be traumatized by having killed her own father, the degree of grief she demonstrates is unbelievable. We only have one single information about her father : he was violent and abusive. Knowing that, it seems unlikely that she, as she states herself, misses him greatly. While on the topic of her father’s death, the scene made little sense. It seems that he died simply from falling into the water as nothing hit him or trapped him underwater. He simply died…because he fell into the water…really ?

The other two characters surrounding her are just as poorly written : the psychiatrist is an asshole and his sole purpose is to be disliked (and trust me, you’ll hate that guy) and her mother is oblivious to the fact that this man is so obviously mean spirited and after her daughter’s powers. The teenagers next door are textbook slasher characters and I barely remember any of them.

However, there is someone who redeems all these awful characters : our friend Jason ! It is the first time Kane Hodder portrays him and it is clear why he is fans’ favorite. Jason has never been more badass than in The New Blood. It’s a shame Hodder is in the worst entries in the Friday the 13th franchise because he is possibly the best Jason Voorhees. He brings charisma and a menacing physicality to the character like we’ve never seen before. While he sometimes acts over-the-top, it never bothered me. He is definitely the highlight of the film…though that wouldn’t have been difficult to begin with. He still deserves all the recognition for making this movie watchable. His make-up is fantastic as we get to see him unmasked and there are a few epic scenes thanks to our hockey-mask wearing freak !

The New Blood is once again heavily edited and makes me wonder what is the point of watching a Friday the 13th film if we are denied the blood and gore. There is one aspect I didn’t like and it is again linked to the main character, Tina. I simply don’t like the fact that she has telekinetic powers. It feels like cheating ! The other final girls had to find ressources and inner strength to fight Jason, it would have been too easy to have superpowers (what is this, the X-Men ?). To make things worse, Tina doesn’t even use her powers for anything but move an object from point A to point B, which anyone could do without powers. She never does anything amazing or badass. Many have stated that this is Carrie VS Jason…but that’s disrespectful to Carrie.

I can’t say I didn’t enjoy The New Blood because Jason is plenty entertaining but other than him, the movie doesn’t have much to offer. I won’t spoil the ending, but it is the worst in the franchise so far and is impossible to explain because no matter how you look at it, it makes no sense. Watch it if you have 80 minutes to lose.

 

Review : Friday the 13th Part VI : Jason Lives (1986)

Friday the 13th Part VI : Jason Lives, directed by Tom McLoughlin, was released in 1986. After the poor reception of Part V, the producers decided to bring back Jason Voorhees. On two occasions (Part IV and Part V), Tommy Jarvis was set up to be the new villain, they definitely dropped the idea and made him the hero in this new installment.

After the events of the previous film, Tommy Jarvis and a friend return to Crystal Lake to cremate Jason’s body. In an attempt in doing so, they unintentionally bring Jason back to life. Tommy tries to warn the authorities but nobody believes him and everyone thinks he is insane. Soon enough, Jason returns to his old habit of murdering anyone who crosses his path while Tommy is being accused of the murders. It is up to Tommy and the sheriff’s daughter who befriends him to pit and end to Jason’s reign of terror over Crystal Lake.

Jason Lives is definitely amongst the best Friday the 13th sequels, especially upon viewing it right after the mess that was A New Beginning. The opening scene is an hommage to gothic horror, specifically Frankenstein, with the lightning resurrecting Jason. It is the first time, and not the last, Jason is presented as a supernatural being with abnormal strenght and the inability to die. This might even be my favourite portrayal of Jason and I especially enjoyed his undead look. They also made the very smart choice of recasting Tommy Jarvis. Thom Matthews (from Return of the Living Dead) does a much better job than his predecessor ever did. Tommy has to fight on several front in this film : he has to face his childhood trauma but also the authorities who simply won’t believe him. This very frustrating situation makes Tommy a very strong character and a hero worthy of rooting for.

This sixth installment brings back the blood and it feels in the tradition of every other Friday the 13th films, unlike the previous one. I didn’t find any kill to be particularly memorable but they are all entertaining and well-made. They also added a new element which increases the tension : this is the first time there are children at the camp. Though I knew they wouldn’t dare kill a kid on screen, I couldn’t help but fear for the little ones when Jason was lurking around their dorm.

The highlight of the film is its fantastic final sequence. Jason is terrifying and determined to get rid of Tommy once and for all. There is only one thing that doesn’t quite make sense to me : Jason doesn’t mind the water at all ; I expected him to be reluctant and maybe even scared to walk into the lake where he drowned as a child (or didn’t drown, who knows). Apart from this detail, the scene is great. I’ve never been really scared of Jason, that was until I saw him underwater. What a great conclusion ! This is my favourite ending to a Friday the 13th film so far.

I highly recommend Jason Lives as it is one of the best entries in the franchise. I still enjoy The Final Chapter a little bit more but this one is a close second.

Review : Friday the 13th Part V : A New Beginning (1985)

The fifth installment in the Friday the 13th franchise, directed by Danny Steinmann, was released in 1985. The Final Chapter was not final at all and A New Beginning is neither a novelty nor the beginning of anything. Warning : this review contains major spoiler so if you haven’t seen the film yet, please stop reading.

A New Beginning has a strong and promising opening sequence : Tommy Jarvis goes to the cemetery where Jason Voorhees is buried. However, two men arrive at the same time and dig the grave. Jason awakens and kills them both before slowly moving towards Tommy. As he is about to strike him with his machete…Tommy wakes up from his nightmare ! Tommy is now a teenager and after spending time in a mental institution following the events of The Final Chapter, he is sent to a halfway house (some sort of treatment center for troubled teenagers, I suppose). Soon after his arrival, one angry teenager kills another for the dumbest reason in history : Joey, who has a mild mental disability, is annoying and tells Vic that he is out of line….which is apparently enough to receive multiple hatchet blows. Vic is arrested but the murders don’t stop there….Jason Voorhees is back…or is he ?

I have absolutely no problem with a killer impersonating Jason, and actually think it’s a neat idea. Unfortunately, the execution of this good idea is terrible. First of all, though it has been the case in previous entries (just not to this extent), the characters are only present to increase the body count. We have no clue why they are all in this halfway house, except Tommy, who is clearly disturbed. The other teenagers, besides a couple of them being on the edge of nymphomania, seem too normal (not to say boring) to be there in the first place. To make matters worse, the acting is overall pretty bad and we get the worst final girl to date.

It is common knowledge that Jason Voorhees isn’t actually in this film. However, as a whodunit, it is once again (see my review of Friday the 13th) a complete failure. While I complained that the first film never introduced its killer before the reveal thus making it impossible for the viewer to guess who said killer was, A New Beginning goes the opposite direction by making it too obvious…and it fails miserably also. The mask itself gives away that we are not dealing with the real Jason…and the close-up on Roy’s face after seeing Joey’s corpse is your definite answer that he is indeed the killer. There are several issues with the following storyline : Roy, the paramedic who comes to collect Joey’s body is in fact his father who happens to be obsessed with Jason Voorhees. To avenge his son’s death, he goes on a murdering spree. First of all, if Roy is Joey’s father, why is the kid in this facility when his father clearly lives and works close by ? And if he is indeed his father, the people running the halfway house must know about it, they surely have files on every teenager under their care. Another major issue is that Roy kills a lot of people….except the person who actually killed his son !

Story and characters are terrible, what about the kills ? Well, get ready for a big disappointment. So far, I found every single Friday the 13th film to have extremely creative kills. A New Beginning not only lacks creativity, it also lacks one essential aspect : gore. I don’t know if it was for budgetary reasons or if the make-up effects team was simply devoid of talent, but they barely show any kills. The majority of them happen with the camera conveniently moving away at the crucial moment so we don’t see the actual kill, only the result. This is an absolute shame for any slasher, even more so for a Friday the 13th film, the franchise being known for its great kills.

Friday the 13th : A New Beginning fails as a slasher, as a whodunit, as a Friday the 13th sequel and as a movie. They wasted the character of Tommy Jarvis and even have the audacity of replicating the ending of The Final Chapter, hoping we will believe Tommy might be the next Jason. They didn’t go through with it the first time, but they think we are stupid enough to fall for it a second time. Avoid this crap, you can go from Part 4 to Part 6 and not miss a thing.

Review : Friday the 13th Part IV : The Final Chapter (1984)

The fourth installment in the Friday the 13th franchise, directed by Joseph Zito, was released in 1984. Any savvy horror fan knows never to trust a film with the word “final” in its title. But while The Final Chapter doesn’t give us a conclusion, it offers way more : everything a slasher should be !

The film opens directly where the previous chapter ended. Jason’s corpse is taken to the morgue where, after waking up, he disposes of two medical employees who are too keen on expressing their sexuality in the workplace. Near Crystal Lake, the Jarvis family (Trish, Tommy and their mom) are enjoying life in their country home while a group of teenagers arrive next door for a week-end of partying. The Jarvis children meet Rob, a camper set on avenging his sister, who was killed by Jason. The latter arrives soon after and starts doing what he does best : killing teenagers.

If you want the short version of this review, here you go : this is one of my favourite slashers, it is fantastic, stop reading and watch it now ! Okay, let’s expand on that a little bit. The Final Chapter has all the ingredients required for the perfect slasher recipe : good characters, a good story, good effects and good kills.

The Final Chapter gives us 2 groups of characters : the teenagers, following the classic Friday the 13th formula, and a family, bringing something fresh to the mix. It is also the first time a child is directly threatened by Jason. Corey Feldman does a good job as Tommy Jarvis, though the only aspect of the character that makes me raise an eyebrow is his unbelievable (and unrealistic) talent as a mask maker. Trish, Tommy’s older sister, is one of the best final girls so far (after Giny). What’s interesting in this installment is that the final girl is not just fighting for her own survival but is also protecting a loved one, which brings more emotion to the final sequence. She is also a strong character who doesn’t crawl to a corner and scream as Jason approaches, she actually fights him back. The group of teenagers may be as cliché as in previous entries but at least they are entertaining to watch. I dare anyone to watch Crispin Glover’s famous dancing and not cry of laughter ! He is the most memorable character of the bunch and every single one of his appearances on screen is hilarious.

The kills are not as memorable as in the previous films but Jason is now a little prankster who places bodies to scare his next victim. Though not as memorable, they are very brutal. Tom Savini returned to the franchise to do the effects on this final chapter. Being the one who created Jason’s look in the first Friday the 13th, master Savini wanted to return to see the end of his creation.

Friday the 13th : The Final Chapter is a really good slasher and one everybody interested in the genre should see. While I thought the kills were not as creative as in the previous films, their brutality makes up for it. There is only one thing that bothers me everytime I watch the film : what happened to Gordon ?! 🐶

Review : Friday the 13th Part III (1982)

Only one year has passed since the first Friday the 13th sequel and Steve Miner is back in the director’s chair for a new Friday sequel…in 3D ! While the previous sequel introduced the character of Jason Voorhees, this new entry marks the debut of the iconic hockey mask. Friday the 13th Part III was also intended to end the series as a trilogy.

The film directly follows the events of the previous installment. A wounded Jason goes to a convenience store for a change of clothes…of course, while he’s there, might as well murder the store owners ! Meanwhile, a new group of teenagers arrive in the Crystal Lake area, unknowingly about to become Jason’s play “mates”.

Friday the 13th Part III is often criticized and some have stated it is one of the worst entries in the franchise (what???). I happen to really enjoy the film and it is the one I enjoyed the most out of the first three. The plot is thin and the characters are annoying walking clichés. But oh boy, is it entertaining ! This being the second sequel, patterns start to clearly emerge : sex equals death, there is always that prankster character that you hope will die first, there is always the crazy old man warning the teens about upcoming danger etc… We have now been given the Friday the 13th formula !

The group of teenagers is not very well characterized and their only purpose is either to be killed off or, in Chris’s case, to be the survivor. It seems that nothing more defines them. The acting is mostly decent but the final scene is extremely cringe-worthy and some of the worst acting possible.

I can’t write much about the 3-D because I actually have never seen the film in 3-D. However, even in 2-D, the scenes specifically designed for 3-D effects look very gimmicky and mostly pointless. They also tend to drag those scenes out so they are quite annoying. Who wants to see a guy play with a yo-yo for several minutes ? Not me ! Some kills must look fun in 3-D but I can’t comment on that.

Now, let’s address the most important character ! Jason is now in his final form when he acquires his famous hockey mask. This has become an iconic moment for any fan but I was surprised how the scene is almost underwhelming. However, Jason looks like an absolute badass when he walks on the dock wearing the mask for the first time. I also really love the way Jason moves. He is nonchalant, calm and seems to really enjoy his work. He is not the sharpest tool in the shed as demonstrated in multiple scenes but it’s appropriate because it enhances the feeling that he is a true and brutal force of nature. He is a killing machine, nothing more. And the kills are awesome ! The most memorable one is the harpon going straight to the camera and ending its course in someone’s eye. Jason’s reaction afterwards is priceless, dropping his weapon and walking away slowly. And this is one among several enjoyable kills. The effects are still really well-made and creativity is still strong in this second sequel.

Though a lot of people seem to dislike Part III, I really enjoyed it. The writing and the characters are weak but the entertainment value is high especially thanks to Jason and the creative kills.