I Finally Watched: 'Friday the 13th' parts 4, 5, 6, and 7

While my miniseries about 1992 is floundering, the series about movies I have finally watched has barely gotten off the ground. Despite the fact that a list of recently viewed movies has been lingering on my desk for months—a constant reminder of everything I have not done—I have written just one post in that series.

That changes now!

In the spirit of Halloween, I recently watched four installments of the Friday the 13th franchise that I had never seen beginning to end: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, and Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood. I thoroughly enjoyed all four. They made laugh, cringe, jump, and shake my head in disappointment and disgust.

As I may have written in the past (probably in that first I Finally Watched post), I avoided horror movies for a long time—especially the iconic slasher movies of the seventies and eighties. I don’t like being scared, don’t like watching people being mutilated. While graphic death scenes made some of my friends giddy (which is frightening in its own way), they sickened me.

But about four or five years ago, also in the spirit of Halloween, I decided to cautiously watch the edited versions of the Friday the 13th franchise on AMC. It was time, I thought, to man up and see what I had been missing for so long. And a couple unexpected things happened when I watched the movies: (1) I realized they are not as scary or gory as I thought and (2) I enjoyed the hell out of them!

I have become a big fan of the franchise since then. The first movie is my favorite, by far, and I have seen it many times. But while I had seen unedited versions of the second and third movies all the way through, I had only seen parts or nothing of the subsequent sequels. Needless to say, I gladly recorded parts 4, 5, 6, and 7 when I saw them on TV recently, and was finally able to enjoy them over the last week.

(There are 12 movies in all, so I still have some viewing to do. I have watched almost all of part 8 and seen Jason X beginning to end [unfortunately], but I have seen nothing of Jason Goes to Hell, Freddy vs. Jason, or the 2009 remake of the original.)

Part of the appeal of the Friday the 13th movies is how outlandish and nonsensical they are. They often make no sense at all. Case in point: The Final Chapter and A New Beginning are just stupid movies—which is one reason why I enjoyed them. As a proud MSTie, I love cheesy science fiction and monster movies, and that is essentially what parts 4 and 5 are. Sure, they provide thrills and chills, but they are sorely lacking both logic and cohesive, compelling story.

Why does Jason decide to terrorize the Jarvis family and the house of partying teens next door in The Final Chapter? Apparently, Jason is hell-bent on killing everyone near Camp Crystal Lake to avenge his mother’s death, and his bloodthirst in part 4 makes for a lot of broken glass. Except for one or two characters, everyone jumps or is thrown through a window. Even the Jarvis’ dog jumps through a window, presumably to his death. I’m sure a lot of hair spray and mousse were used on set, too. Jesus, that’s some big hair.

There is not much of a story in part 4 other than Jason’s senseless killing; technically, it is a continuation of his killing spree in parts 2 and 3. An attempt is made to connect a character to one of Jason’s victims in part 2, but it is too little too late; it feels more like an afterthought than anything else. Essentially, the movie is a series of unfortunate events that befall innocent people—with underage drinking, drug use, and nudity thrown in for titillation. Who gets it when and how is the thrust of the drama. And Crispin Glover dances:

That right there makes the movie worth watching.

Part 5, A New Beginning, was never included in AMC’s Friday the 13th marathons, nor was it included in marathons on other movie channels. Having watched it, I can now assume why: It is horrible.

Part 5 is almost as bad as part 3. Frankly, it’s a toss-up for which I think is the worst movie in the franchise, at least among those I have seen thus far. But part 5 is also satisfying in its own way. Despite all its shortcomings, it is a very good psychological thriller. Since Jason died at the end of the fourth film, the identity of the murderer in the fifth movie remains unknown until the end. The film keeps one wondering if the killer is Tommy Jarvis, one of the survivors of part 4.

While watching A New Beginning, I kept thinking about the people who saw the movie in the theater in 1985, probably shaking their heads and thinking, “Jesus—I paid to watch this crap!” I paid to watch it, too, in a way—though not as much—and I was also shaking my head in disappointment. No wonder the movie features a lot more nudity than its predecessors: It somehow had to make up for otherwise being a total bomb. (According to the film’s Wikipedia page, the sex scene in the woods was originally three minutes long. To appease industry censors, though, it was shortened to 10 seconds.) The picture quality is also top notch, so the movie looks much better than many contemporary films. So it has that going for it.

Though part 5 is often unintentionally hilarious, it also features intentional humor—the first I remember seeing in the franchise. Ethel and Junior definitely provide some over-the-top, hillbilly jocularity, and even Demon and Anita provide humor before they meet their unfortunate fates.

Part 6, Jason Lives, is an exciting and enjoyable romp! I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. It’s hard not to, though, because it is such a good movie.

Though far-fetched—Jason is reanimated by lightning and is now a supernatural force with extraordinary strength (and speed, too, it seems; the dude must be able to walk a 4.2 40)—and still pretty cheesy and convenient, part 6 is propulsive and has a discernable story arc. It is also mockingly self-referential and humorous. (At one point, a character exclaims, “I've seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly.” Also, while contemplating Jason’s open grave, a character looks straight into the camera and says, “Some folks sure got a strange idea of entertainment.” I’ll say.) Tommy Jarvis returns and is much more likable and loquacious. Megan, the “final girl,” was also very likeable; she is strong, funny, and rebellious. The scenes in the RV had me laughing my ass off! The film is also as fresh and glossy as part 5, and at times I marveled at the fact it was released in 1986. The pacing and story seemed far ahead of its time; there are shades of Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer (the first movie on that list mentioned above), and Jeepers Creepers. (Part 6 is apparently one of the inspirations for Scream.) It is easy to forget that it is a money-grubbing sequel.

The same goes for part 7, The New Blood. Though the story is kind of dumb—Jason goes toe-to-toe with a telekinetic teenager—it’s not that bad. Frankly, having watched three of its predecessors earlier in the week, I was willing to roll with whatever. It goes to show that the prefect recipe for a Friday the 13th sequel includes a house of unsupervised and horny teenagers, and for Jason to somehow be unleashed. Everything else is window dressing to make it look original and unlike any of the earlier movies. Part 7 still has its absurd moments, and the surprise at the end doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I liked the movie overall. It’s a crime that it was followed by the abomination that is part 8, Jason Takes Manhattan.

Needless to say, I had a great time viewing these four Friday the 13th sequels. All were worth watching just for the sake of it. However, it’s a good thing I won’t be camping anytime soon.

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