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By James Whittington, Thursday 5th February 2009
We’ve decided to take a quick look at the Friday the 13th movie franchise and how Jason carved up the cinema in the 1980’s.
By 1979 the “slasher movie” phenomena had taken hold thanks to such movies as Black Christmas (1974) and John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). Sean S. Cunningham, producer of the notorious Grindhouse movie Last House on the Left, decided on a new date for terror, Friday the 13th. He populated the movie with a fine looking cast (including Kevin Bacon in his first screen role), set it at a remote location and made sure that the effects would be realistic and bloody. The story is simple, back in 1957 a young boy drowned at a lake near Camp Crystal due to the ineptitude of those who were supposed to be watching him. The following year two counsellors were brutally slaughtered. The camp by the lake closed soon afterwards. Forward two decades and the camp has re-opened but staff and students soon become victims to a machete-wielding maniac.
Friday the 13th was a huge success when released in 1980, its wise mix of horny teens and blood drenched SFX was box office gold but as we all know, Jason Voorhees wasn’t the killer in the first instalment, it was Jason’s vengeful mother, played perfectly by Betsy Palmer. Fans had to wait until Part 2 for the big man to grab his weapon.
But they didn’t have to wait too long for Friday the 13th Part II followed in 1981 and this time Jason was on the hunt for revenge. Still set at Camp Crystal Lake, students and adults are hacked by a maniac, this time a hulking brute wearing a sack for a mask. Part 2 followed the same hack ‘n slash formula of the first but turned the gore score up considerably. Critically mauled for following a similar plot to the original the movie still grossed millions, which made studios sit up and notice.
When Friday the 13th Part III - 3D came in 1982 Jason had his hockey mask but was back to his old tricks. No one was safe from his wrath and this time it was in (literally) eye popping 3D. Best remembered for the first time Jason wears his trademark hockey mask this one accidentally set the tone for the series, which from now on would rarely stray from its winning formula. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (as it was officially called) in 1984 was designed to put Jason to rest thanks to the brave efforts of a boy named Tommy Jarvis, played by Corey Feldman. Here Jason is hacked to bits by Tommy but does the spirit of Jason live in Tommy? Well we found out in Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning in 1985. Here someone has taken Jason’s place and the audience has to guess whom the Jason impersonator is. Flawed as it played more like a whodunit rather than a horror movie it marked a drop in takings at the box-office and a re-think for the series.
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986) was exactly what the title suggested. Mr Voorhees rises from the grave and is now more relentless than ever. With an added line of black humour the movie put the franchise back on track. Now Jason was unstoppable, a monster capable of ghastly murders that just kept on killing. A paranormal element was added in 1988 when Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood came to cinemas. Here a character named Tina (Lar Park-Lincoln) posses telekinetic powers and uses them to send Jason to a watery grave. Mainly noted for the first time Kane Hodder played Jason, this new twist didn’t connect with the audience and Jason’s next movie Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) played it safe, sort of.
This eighth entry sort of sells itself as "Jason goes on a rampage in a big city" but in fact he doesn’t get there until the last twenty minutes or so. But when he does it is classic Friday the 13th fodder. But it also signalled the end of the line for a time and Jason was laid to rest. Fans had to wait until 1992 for Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, a classic and under-rated movie that had Jason doing what he did best, mindless killing! But it wasn’t enough for studio executives and Jason would be left to rot for another nine years.
Jason X (2001) brought Jason right up to date, in fact past it as its set far into the future where Jason’s body is rebuilt using nano-technology. This new Uber-Jason is even harder to kill than the first and really was good value. There were inventive killings, Jason’s new metallic mask was a winner and the effects state-of-the-art. This was enough to green light the much anticipated Freddy Vs Jason movie which eventually hit screens in 2003 and saw Mr Voorhees battle Mr Krueger in a team-up that had fans sweating with excitement.
And here we are in 2009 on the eve of the re-imagining of the very first Friday the 13th. Will it be as good as the original? Well only time will tell but with rumours that a sequel is already on the cards things are looking up for the franchise that just won’t die!
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