Friday the 13th: A Roundtable Discussion on the Highs and Lows of This Iconic Horror Franchise

Recently I had the pleasure to sit down with Josh Lami, Holiday Godfrey, Anthony Divers, and Steve Wandling to discuss all things Friday the 13th. This was a really fun, in-depth conversation where we talked about the best and worst films from the series, kills, the future of the franchise, and more. Let us know in the comments how you would answer these questions!

Andrew:  Let’s start with an easy one. What’s your favorite film from the franchise and why?

Anthony: For me, it’s Part 6: Jason Lives. I love Tommy Jarvis, I love that opening scene with the lightning rod bringing Jason back from the dead and I love that final shot of Jason’s body floating under the surface of the lake. This film also has some gnarly death scenes. The paintballers’ triple decapitation, the bike couple’s double penetration, and the bus scene that ends with Jason standing on top of the flame-covered wreckage like a boss. Also, I love Part 6 because it has that Bond-inspired opening shot. Sold.

Steve: My favorite is going to probably have some eyes rolled my way but it’s always been Part 5: A New Beginning. I love the new wave dance scene in it. I loved the sheer sleaziness of the film. It looks and feels almost pornographic. (Only non-porn the director ever made.) I loved the idea of taking the action out of the camp. The troubled youth, the way Tommy actually appears traumatized, the blue hockey mask is the best, and of course the reveal. ROY?!!!!!

Josh: I’m also a fan of Part V, as recently opined in my article. There’s so much unintentional comedy, I’ve seen it more times than any of the others. That being said, since I recently wrote an entire article on it, I’ll mention my 2nd favorite, which is Part III. There’s just no substitute for Shelly. After Jason, he’s the face of the franchise in my mind. What a guy. Not to mention Fox and the rest of the biker gang. The most generic villains I’ve ever seen in a movie. They might as well be blank silhouettes with the phrase “bad guys” stamped across their chests.

Holiday: The Final Chapter, was my first favorite Jason movie and I’m pretty sure will always be my favorite Jason movie. It’s always seemed like this hilarious mixture of a rom-com/slasher gone horribly fucking wrong, and I can’t even put my finger on why I can watch this installment over and over again unless I write a full-on article about it *wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more*

Andrew: What’s the one film in the series you could’ve done without?

Steve: Jason takes Manhattan

Anthony: A New Beginning. If you’re not Jason, you’re not coming in.

Josh: Jason Takes Manhattan is the only Jason movie I could actually be happy to never see again. He barely even takes Manhattan. It should be called “Jason Takes A Cruise and Docks In Manhattan, Eventually”.

Steve: I’m sorry you feel that way Anthony but to each their own. I agree with you, Josh. The budget just wasn’t there. The marketing campaign was cooler than the movie in regards to Manhattan. Just a missed opportunity.

Jason rides the subway in Jason Takes Manhattan
Many fans consider Jason Takes Manhattan to be the series biggest missed opportunity.

Holiday: I think Jason Takes Manhattan might be the winner for this round because while Jason does indeed go to Manhattan, he in fact does not take Manhattan.

Andrew: I have to admit, I thought Jason X would be most people’s answer. Should Jason just never travel?

Holiday: My immediate thought was he’d fit in well down in New Orleans maybe, but then that’s Victor Crowley’s territory, and them meeting might rip a hole in the fabric of reality. So no, Jason should probably just stay the hell put.

Anthony: Oh yeah I’m feeling Jason in the swamps! Killing crocodiles and facing voodoo queens! Other than that I think the summer camp is the best place for him. Maybe he could stray into a nearby high school for a few kills but overall, *Pamela voice* come home Jason.

Josh: Oh Jason X is pretty atrocious. I don’t know if he should NEVER travel. Look at the frontiers he tried to conquer: Manhattan, the most populated city in the US, and Space, which is larger than the human mind is capable of even comprehending. Maybe he should start smaller. How about “Jason Takes Blacksburg, South Carolina”. I think he could handle that. Then we could get him to a mid-sized city, like say maybe “Jason Takes Syracuse, New York”. Then eventually he could take someplace like Milwaukee. He’s biting off more than he can chew.

Holiday: “Jason Takes Gary Indiana”, then the sequel, “Jason Takes Rehab”.

Josh: I was gonna say… Jason can’t take Gary, Indiana. Cthulhu avoids Gary.

Steve: I actually think Jason X is a lot of fun. For a while, it made sense to keep the franchise alive doing slightly different things in the later sequels, with varying results but to answer the question I think he can travel but if there’s a new Friday the 13th film to come out in the future, I want it to take place at Camp Crystal Lake.

Andrew: Wanted to bring up Tommy Jarvis for a minute. To some, he’s this franchise’s version of Laurie Strode. Do you think the franchise should have brought Tommy back in Part 7 or one of the following sequels? Would bringing Tommy back for a new film be of interest to you or should that story be left where it is?

Holiday: In my head, if Tommy was coming back, it would only be to 100% put Jason down for good. An absolute finale. I don’t know if anyone would go for Jason actually being dead forever though.

Anthony: Or he could come back and Jason could kill him once and for all. I thought he might die in that fan film, Never Hike Alone, which I know isn’t canon but I still love it. But alas, Tommy survived that too. I do dig Tommy, but as a Jason fangirl, it does bug me that he got away. No loose ends Jason. I enjoy killing Tommy in the game more than any other counselors for this same reason. I would have liked to see him die officially in the films though.

Josh: I don’t see any need to bring Tommy Back. At this point he’s been portrayed by three different actors in movies, he entered midway through the franchise, canonically speaking he never did anything to Jason other people didn’t do, which is try and fail to permanently kill him. What does he bring to the franchise? I hate to say it, but Tommy was an afterthought. He was conceived as the end to Jason’s reign and then changed to become an extended final-girl who… happened to be a guy.

Steve: I don’t think Tommy Jarvis should come back. I just don’t care. Sure fan service is always fun but I also don’t see him as integral as Strode is to Halloween franchise. So I would just concentrate on making an effective film with new characters and not be bogged down by past mythologies. I’d read that in a comic or graphic novel in a heartbeat but I think it’s wholly unnecessary to have Tommy Jarvis in a new Friday the 13th film.

Andrew: Jason Goes to Hell is a film that fans seem to be divided on. What are your thoughts on the film? Does it fall in the upper half or lower half of your rankings of the films in the franchise?

Anthony: For me, it would be in the lower end. It has some good parts, grizzly death scenes, a chest-burster style Jason baby demon, and I for one love the Freddy moment in the end. But overall, I don’t see this as a Jason film. It’s like he crashed some other cheesy 80’s horror flick about demonic possession. I don’t understand why they chose to do it like that. I don’t want to see a possessed cop who looks nothing like Jason kill people. Gimme Jason! Its a shame too as I like the way Jason looks in this film, the few times we DO see him. That bloated head behind the tight mask. Awesome.

Josh: Jason Goes to Hell is awesome, but commits the sin of under-using one of the best characters in the franchise, Creighton Duke. People want to talk Tommy Jarvis but bring back Creighton Duke. That’s a hero worth exploring. But yeah I generally like Jason Goes to Hell, if for no other reason than the Jason Burgers.

Creighton Duke from Jason Goes To Hell
Creighton Duke, a character many Friday the 13th fans wanted to see more of.

Holiday:  Jason Goes to Hell is super goofy, even for a Jason movie, but the scene where Jason kills Kane Hodder as a security guard is gold. It’s a fun watch, not the best Jason movie by far, but still something I’ll watch for fun.

Steve: Jason Goes to Hell. Wow. Where do I begin? I love the opening sequence. I think it is masterfully done and a nice spin that felt really in line with where action cinema currently was at the time, so that dates it but in a fun way that reminds me of the action films I grew up with as a kid, but that’s about it. I admire that they attempted to do something original with the film but it’s a total misfire to me. I do agree that it is fun to watch because A) I can watch anything in the genre B) it’s just off-the-wall insanity. It’s a fun train wreck and there are some really great effects in it, but story-wise it feels like really bad high school fan faction to me. A for effort but just a D for execution.

Andrew: There’s a lot of humor in this franchise. What are some of your favorite humorous moments from this series?

Steve: Right off the bat Crispin Glover’s dialogue with the other guy in Part IV concerning whether or not he’s a “dead fuck” along with Glover’s dance moves in the same film spring to mind. And who can forget that great opening sequence in Part VI that went full hammer horror tongue in cheek and then straight into a James Bond parody? It was a great, fun way (that still holds up) that acknowledged to the audience that at this point this is almost slasher parody. One of the few enjoyable moments for me in Jason Takes Manhattan is that great scene where he just knocks that guy’s head clean off. Laugh out loud moment.

Josh: The entirety of Part VI: Jason Lives is just great in the humor department. Self-aware/self-referential horror before that kind of thing was in style. It seems like now a large chunk of horror is tongue-in-cheek, but back then I think a lot of the humor was unintentional. I remember when the guy looked at the camera in Part IV and said “some people have a strange idea of entertainment” being somewhat taken aback as a young man that the franchise was poking fun of itself.

That aside the funniest moments of the franchise to me are the outburst of Crazy Ralph in Part I. He’s almost sing-song in his proclamation of “you’re all going to die” and “IT’S GOT A DEATH CUUUURSE.” Fun times.

Anthony: The stuff I find funny is probably not meant to be perceived that way. The actual “comedy” moments just give me eye-roll strain. Let me think… The porta-loo love duet in Part V is kinda funny because it’s cringy. Josh nailed it in his article, like who in their right mind wants to sing a duet with their partner whilst one of you is dropping off some timber?! It’s absurd! I also always found it funny that Pamela’s head comes off wrong. Like her neck splits on the opposite side to where the machete hits. Decapitation fail.

One of Friday the 13th Part 5
Portable toilets aren’t safe places in Friday the 13th films.

Holiday: I definitely agree with Steve about The Final Chapter, the whole movie is hilarious, and every time I see Jimmy’s death scene with the “Hey Ted, where the hell is the corkscrew?!” I fall into a fit of laughter. A moment I always remember laughing about with Josh though, that might not be funny on purpose is the sleeping bag kill scene in Part VII: The New Blood. We’ve historically had a strange sense of humor though, so it’s still one of the funniest parts to me.

Andrew: Let’s talk kills. Everyone loves the sleeping bag death scene from Part VII but what are some of your other favorites?

Steve: Kevin Bacon’s post sex, up through the bed hot poker impalement from the original, coupled with the actress getting the axe following a post-sex shower. Who can forget that blood splatter on the light in that scene? Pure Hitchcock. I love the entirety of the RV scene in Jason Lives. From Jason Voorhees popping out of the bathroom and slamming the girl’s head through the wall to causing the crash and jumping up defiantly on top of the turned-over vehicle. The machete to the face of the guy in the wheelchair just before the poor guy is going to receive some female attention was cruel and reeked of a grindhouse influence. And don’t forget the brutality of the fold-up bed kill in Freddy vs Jason. Guy deserved it. Who would treat Katharine Isabelle that way? Most chilling, genuinely scary kill is when Roy’s son is axed to death and his eyes bulge out of his head in A New Beginning, to me personally. It’s subversive, it’s unpleasant to watch and it feels like it’s too hardcore for the franchise (that’s a symptom of that film actually). Interestingly, most of my favorite kills aren’t in my favorite movies in the franchise. Don’t know if that’s important to note but the thought’s in my head.

Jason stands tall in Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives
Jason stands tall in Part 6

Anthony: My main love for the Friday films are the deaths. They’re obscene, gory, and ridiculous. So it’s difficult to pick favorites. The ones I always remember include the harpoon to the dick in Part IV. That’s what you get for denim shorty shorts. Handstand chopped in half in Part III. The effects aren’t great but the idea is gross. The head rolling out of the car in Part VI (which looks like Angela in THAT scene from Sleepaway Camp) Jason’s ‘death’ in Part IV when his head slides down the machete. That’s some awesome practical effects. Jessica getting sucked through the grate in Jason X, her grated remains floating around space. Groovy. It reminds me of the final Alien/Ripley hybrid death scene in Alien Resurrection, which for me is one of the only redeeming parts of that movie. I just like how quickly Jessica disappears. *sucking noise*

Josh: Jason X liquid nitrogen face-smash never got the love it deserved. Terrible movie. Awesome kill. Since we’re on the subject of bad movies/good kills, can’t forget the rooftop boxing match in Jason Takes Manhattan.

I think the hardest one for me to admit is the sleeping bag burn in the remake of Friday the 13th. I hated the movie with a fiery passion, but man that is a brutal kill. That said, I think the absolute best kill is the handstand crotch chop from Part III. Flipping the script: Andrew, what is YOUR favorite kill?

Andrew: Thanks for asking Josh and oddly enough, you just mentioned it. I am an admitted defender of Jason Takes Manhattan and the boxing match on the rooftop gets me every time. I’m also a really big fan of the paintball massacre from Part VI.

Holiday: My favorite kill scenes are often from Jason Takes Wall Street (laughs), not my all-time favorite from the franchise, but the boxing scene is legendary. When he finally drowns McCulloch in the barrel, it’s such sweet gross justice. That guy was a total ass flap and I was happy to see him go. Also, Jason Takes Manhattan is just packed with hilarious kill scenes, all of them made me laugh a bit. I also always go back to Crispin Glover’s corkscrew death scene in (clearly not) The Final Chapter, it’s odd that I love his death scene so much since he’s one of my favorite actors but what can you do?

Andrew:  What would you like to see in the future from the Friday the 13th series? A new film? Another showdown with a horror icon, whether it be Freddy or someone else? A sequel to the reboot or nothing at all?

Steve: For starters, I just want another film. That seems to be a huge challenge concerning all the different lawsuits that I have followed from both Victor Miller and Sean Cunningham. I am not interested in a reboot with Pamela Voorhees as the killer. I am interested in what they were planning on before the lawsuits tied everything up. Not a found footage film, but a great film in the vein Halloween (2018) that evokes the original but plays with people’s expectations much in the same way that Wes Craven did with the Scream franchise. I want a film that sets place in the 1980s at Camp Crystal Lake and is unmercifully R-rated with its kills. I want Jason in his hockey mask killing counselors.

Anthony: I’d like to see another Freddy vs Jason. or Jason Vs Michael, that kinda nonsense. I loved the VS film. Also, I think there’s room for more games to be made. They hinted we were getting to play as Jason X in the current game but then ran into legal issues which meant it got scrapped, which is a shame. As for films, I think there’s enough already of the Friday movies. I don’t like them changing it up to much in reboots so i say let him rest in hell.

Holiday: As for the future of the franchise, I’ve thought a bit about how I personally would love to see a real prequel, Jason as an actual kid growing up with IDD and a mother that’s got clear potential to snap. Maybe he was a great kid growing up and his becoming an unstoppable zombie murdering machine is the result of a tragic accident or maybe something more sinister was going on before his death? It could easily end up being a controversial film, that if done properly could be interesting.

I’m also in firm favor of a Jason vs Michael, as I was saying before, the fact that neither of them speak, and they both have a lengthy career of murder could be immensely intriguing, someone call Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for the scoring process please, and we’ll be in business.

When the franchise does make another inevitable step forward, I really hope it’s in a direction that leads to something completely new. While I love goofy kill scenes and don’t always expect Paul Thomas Anderson level directing in the films, I’d rather see an honest attempt at making a really impactful film (and still have at least one goofy kill scene for comic relief) than just another cash grab from the horror community.

Josh: I’ve been waiting to say this publicly for years. Here’s what I want: Friday the 13th Part 3.5.

Go make a movie that takes place between Friday the 13th Part III and Part IV. Why not? Set it in the ’80s, use cheesy music and bad camera work, and who’s to say what Jason was doing between those two movies? Even if I’m wrong and have forgotten some detail that would make it impossible… who cares? Just make it anyway. Disregarding the rules in the Friday the 13th franchise is a tradition. I mean…. there’s an entry called The Final Chapter, which was anything BUT final.

Andrew:  Final Question. How does Friday the 13th compare to other major horror franchises? The conversation for the greatest franchise of all time typically involves Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween. Which one gets your vote for best ever?

Holiday: Hell, this is always a tough question. My favorite is Halloween, solely for the first 3 films in the franchise, but overall Halloween has the least amount of really great films altogether.

Freddy might have some of the hands-down best films out of the franchises like the original NOES and New Nightmare, but then the ones that are bad, are so bad, past humorously bad and into, what-the-fuck-is-going-on-bad territory.

Then we have Friday The 13th and while some of the films are silly, you usually got what you paid for with them (I’m mainly talking about the original series), and a few were fantastic.

So probably the series with the least amount of letdowns is Friday The 13th

My personal favorite is Halloween.

And some of the best films came from NOES.

Steve: Well it’s the worst of the three in terms of the original film. It’s a pale imitation of Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street has always been unfairly thrown in with traditional slashers and it’s a tad different when Kruger has a personality. I think Halloween is the best film but the worst franchise by a long shot. The nightmare franchise is quite fun but not as strong as the Friday the 13th franchise. It is an American institution and I think the tropes in it set the tone for the modern slasher genre.

Anthony: Personally Friday is better than Halloween and Nightmare. Although I do only find people dressed as Michael Myers terrifying on a Halloween night out, in film, Jason is just more intimidating to me. Plus the films are more fun in my opinion. I only really liked the original nightmare, and maybe New Nightmare. And though I like a few of the Halloween films, I still prefer Friday. It’s a shame really cos even though I prefer Friday if you asked who THE horror icon is, I think I would say, Michael. Actually, fuck that, I’d say Leatherface.

Josh: It’s definitely between Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street for me. It breaks down like this: There has never been a Friday the 13th movie as good as the original Nightmare on Elm Street. That said, as a franchise, Friday the 13th is the most consistently fun to revisit. Everything from 1-7 is gold. The same can’t be said for the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.

With that in mind, I’ll call it a draw.

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Written by Andrew Grevas

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