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.

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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.

Review : Friday the 13th Part II (1981)

Friday the 13th Part II, directed by Steve Miner and released in 1981, is a direct sequel to the original Friday the 13th. This sequel marks the real introduction of Jason Voorhees as the killer.

Two months after the events of the first film, Alice is wandering in her apartment for one of the longest and most boring scenes in history. After a couple of fake jump scares, she discovers Mrs Voorhees’ severed head in her fridge. This is when Jason appears behind her and shoves a screwdriver in her temple. Goodbye, Alice. The film then jumps 5 years ahead and brings us back to Camp Crystal Lake, or rather to another camp very close to Crystal Lake, where a new counselor training session is taking place before the grand opening of the camp. Of course, Jason isn’t too pleased seeing his camp being invaded by counselors and goes on a killing rampage to get rid of them. But this time, he faces a girl who could defeat him.

Knowing what the franchise came to be, this one feels like the real first entry as it introduces the franchise’s iconic villain : Jason Voorhees. You can feel that they still didn’t really know what exactly to make of Jason : his look is extremely similar to the killer of The Town That Dreaded Sundown and his backstory isn’t well-rounded. It does raise a lot of questions : if the ending of the previous film isn’t a dream sequence and Jason didn’t really drown as a child, why did he stay alone in the woods all those years ? If he witnessed the events of the previous film, why stay passive and watch his mother die instead of helping her ? These are only a few questions we won’t get answers to. However, the backstory goes further into revealing that Mrs Voorhees and Jason must have had a Norman / Norma Bates relationship. This is all theorized by Ginny, our main girl, who is a psychology major.

Ginny is not only a smart young woman, she is also quite nice and is not the type of character to go down without a fight. She is physically capable and is a great final girl. The other characters are sympathetic enough that you feel bad when Jason kills them. The kills are as entertaining as in the first installment, maybe even a bit more. The practical effects are great and the amount of blood should satisfy any horror fan.

Friday the 13th Part II is more intense than its predecessor. It still uses the killer POV shots but while it is genius in Halloween, it doesn’t work well here. Halloween relies on atmosphere while Friday is a simpler, gorier slasher (which is not a bad thing) so the POV seems inappropriate in some scenes and comes across as a gimmick.

The final sequence is the best part of the film and it is full of suspense. Overall, Friday the 13th Part II is a good sequel, it introduces one of the greatest horror icons in horror history and is a good follow-up to its predecessor.

Review : Friday the 13th (1980)

After reviewing the entire Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, it seemed natural to move on to the other big guy, Jason Voorhees. Friday the 13th, produced and directed by Sean S. Cunningham, was released in 1980 and was the starting point of a decade of slasher goodness. Apparently, the film was written as a Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978) rip-off. However, the film is vastly different, from tone to story, and thus never feels like a rip-off.

The opening scene shows Camp Crystal Lake at the end of the 1950’s. Two counselors sneak away from a campfire to have sex, when they are brutally murdered by an unknown assailant. Twenty years later, the camp is re-opened and counselors are there to prepare everything before campers arrive. On Friday the 13th, counselors are being killed one by one.

Friday the 13th, though not the first slasher, was an undeniable influence on all slashers which would be produced in the 1980’s. I hadn’t watched the film in a while and going back to it, knowing the franchise it spawned, was a weird and surprising experience. It is common knowledge [but, just in case, spoilers ahead] that Jason doesn’t appear in the film, except briefly, as a child. Jason was the child who drowned because counselors neglected their job in order to fool around. This is the reason Mrs Voorhees, Jason’s mother, is set to kill all camp counselors who set foot at Camp Crystal Lake. There is a interesting hint at a Psycho mother-son relationship with those two characters ; or maybe Mrs Voorhees simply had a mental breakdown following her son’s death. Overall, there isn’t much character development and it is a flaw when it comes to Mrs Voorhees. The other characters are designed to be killed off, which is fine for a slasher.

As a slasher, Friday the 13th is great. Tom Savini did a marvelous job with the make-up effects. The only negative I noticed is the color of the flesh never matches between the actors’s skin and the prosthetics. The film is surprisingly not very bloody but every kill is entertaining and some are very memorable such as the axe in the face or the arrow in the throat. Though I found scenes in between kills to be quite dull, it is worth getting through them to finally get some slasher goodness.

My only main issue with Friday the 13th is that it is a whodunit and in that regard, it is a complete failure. The killer is never shown on screen when the murders occur so we are supposed to be wondering who it could be : a counselor ? someone from the nearby town ? The game doesn’t work because we are never introduced to the character before the reveal. This is not how a whodunit is supposed to work.

Friday the 13th is really not a favourite of mine because I love the character of Jason Voorhees. How can I love a Friday film without Jason ? I do enjoy the film quite a lot though I found it quite dull this time around. The kills are definitely the main appeal and as a slasher, the film doesn’t disappoint. However, I’m just waiting for Jason to show up so watching the first entry in the franchise almost feels like something required before having access to the good stuff.

Review : Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

It has been 3 years since New Line Cinema released what was supposed to be the very last Nightmare on Elm Street film. In 1994, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare came along to give us a new concept and end the franchise on a better note. Wes Craven wrote and directed this last entry and took the nightmare in an entire new direction to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the original Nightmare on Elm Street.

It has been ten years since the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Heather Langenkamp (who portrayed Nancy) is now happily married to Chase, a special effects artist, and has a young son, Dylan. Heather is receiving creepy phone calls from a deranged fan imitating Freddy and is having bad dreams. When her husband dies under suspicious circumstances and her son starts acting out and having strange episodes, she realizes something evil is going on. She is soon contacted by New Line Cinema and finds out Wes Craven is working on the script of a new Freddy feature. But this time, Freddy seems to have entered the real world and to stop him, Heather is going to have to reprise her role as Nancy.

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is difficult to review as part of the franchise because it is self-aware. The film acknowledges that A Nightmare on Elm Street is a franchise and the actors play themselves : Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund and even Wes Craven are themselves in this film. This is an original concept and New Nightmare definitely paved the way for Scream which Wes Craven directed only two years later.

I thought Wes Craven did a great job at explaining why would Freddy exist in a world where he is clearly shown as a fictional character and a horror icon. Freddy is the incarnation of an ancient evil entity. Making movies about him acted as a catarthis for this evil force but once they stopped making new films in the franchise, the evil wasn’t contained anymore. The only illogical aspect of this concept is that we see the script of the film within the film so it feels weird that, for instance, Craven would kill off Heather’s husband knowing that what he writes is actually happening. While the idea is original, it raises a lot of questions and some plotholes emerge.

Freddy gets a new design here and it’s not all good in my opinion. I really didn’t like his face make-up. It looks extremely fake, like a Halloween mask you would buy at the store. I had never seen such symmetrical and well-rounded burn scars. His new glove also doesn’t match the greatness of the original one. They chose a more flesh and bone design and it doesn’t look right. However, Freddy looks awesome wearing the trench coat, I absolutely loved this wardrobe choice. Despite not liking his new look, I found Freddy really menacing and it feels great having a scary Freddy once again. They finally brought him back to his roots and dropped the stupid comical version of Freddy and we absolutely needed that.

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare being a meta film, it offers interesting views on the franchise and horror movies in general. It raises the question of the influence of horror movies on audiences and, something the fans will appreciate, it is a reflexion on what the franchise has become and how Freddy became a pop culture icon. The final act of the film brings us classic Nightmare on Elm Street with a final confrontation in the dream world.

New Nightmare is an interesting film. It does have its flaws and is an outsider in the franchise but it brings back scary Freddy and has a refreshing concept. Some of the effects are not so great and Miko Hughes (playing the young son) is really annoying but other than that, it is definitely an enjoyable watch and is much more satisfying as a last entry than Freddy’s Dead.