The new Friday the 13th reboot movie slashes its way into theaters this Friday (the 13th), and it's hard to believe, but this is the 12th feature film in the franchise.
What is it about these movies that we all love? We brush off our old copies and take a walk through Camp Crystal Lake one more time.
Friday the 13th (1980). An unseen killer butchers a group of randy camp counselors. Why It Works: It turned a mother's love into gloriously murderous impulses. Why It Sucks: It neglects to explain how a sweet old (crazy) lady can effortlessly throw adult bodies through picture windows without any help. Why It Matters: The Elvis Presley to Halloween's Chuck Berry, this first installment turned the burgeoning slasher subgenre into a bona fide cultural phenomenon.
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981). Jason climbs out of Crystal Lake to take revenge on the teens who decapitated his mommy. Why It Works: The characters are more realistic and sophisticated, and it builds genuine suspense. Why It Sucks: No one ever bothers to explain how Jason goes from a drowning, spindly 12-year old to a 35-year-old refrigerator. Why It Matters: It introduced Jason as the killer.
Friday the 13th Part III (1982). Jason hangs out in a barn waiting for victims to wander in and be killed. Why It Works: It's in spectacularly bad 3-D, making the theatrical experience riotous fun. Why It Sucks: The 3-D is done so poorly that it's unwatchable on home video. Also, Jason hangs out in a frakking barn the whole movie. Why It Matters: Jason gets his trademark hockey mask, and a horror icon is born.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984). Jason returns to life, dismembers teens and meets his maker thanks to a horror-obsessed kid with a shaved head. Why It Works: It's by far the most violent movie in the series thus far. It also features Crispin Glover trying to overcome his status as a "dead f--k" in a YouTube-worthy dance sequence. Why It Sucks: Abandons the pretense of its title when it mysteriously resurrects Jason without explanation in the first scene, and then expects us to believe a machete will take him out at the end. Why It Matters: It introduces Tommy Jarvis, Jason's main adversary for the next two films.
Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985). Tommy Jarvis finds himself haunted by a string of killings that Jason may have committed. Why It Works: Tommy gets thrown into a halfway house for troubled teens, approximating a semblance of realism after slaying a mass murderer. Why It Sucks: "Jason" is actually a grief-stricken (mortal) father taking revenge for the death of his son, but curiously, he's still an invulnerable killing machine. Why It Matters: Sadly, it doesn't.
Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986). In order to make sure that Jason is dead, Tommy Jarvis brings him back to life by stabbing his corpse with a metal pole that gets struck by lightning. Why It Works: Jason's kills get more creative as the series abandons any pretense of realism or believability. Why It Sucks: It sets a dubious standard by having the worst lead actress in the franchise's history, which says a lot in a series where the most believable performance comes from a silent, hockey-mask-wearing killer. Why It Matters: Jason actively becomes the protagonist going forward, acknowledging who is the true "star" of the films.
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988). A girl with telekinetic powers brings Jason back to life for another killing spree. Why It Works: It has some of the best kills in the series, including Jason's dispatching a camper by bashing her sleeping bag against a tree. Why It Sucks: Telekinesis, seriously? Why It Matters: It embraces Jason's murderous inventiveness, giving him almost literally a different tool or weapon for each kill, and advances the idea (continued through the next four installments) that Jason is essentially a zombie or supernatural figure.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989). Revived by an electric shock, Jason chases down a teenager he didn't kill as a little girl. Why It Works: Jason takes Manhattan, kills one victim by punching his head neatly into a dumpster. Why It Sucks: It takes more than an hour for Jason to take Manhattan. Why It Matters: It easily has the best trailer of any film in the series, but is otherwise best known as the installment to aggressively avoid.
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993). Jason gains the ability to switch bodies; meanwhile, the identity of his heretofore unmentioned sister is revealed. Why It Works: An inexhaustible series of non-sequiturs distracts from the fact that little in the film makes sense. Why It Sucks: Jason never actually goes to hell, unless getting dragged down into quicksand by some rubbery demon arms counts. Why It Matters: New Line takes over the reins of the series, abandons the series' title and mythology and turns Jason into a supernatural serial killer.
Jason X (2001). "Jason in Space" is set 400 years in the future. Jason gets resurrected on a spaceship filled with medical students, then is transformed into a Terminator. Why It Works: It manages to be modestly competent even as it cheerfully embraces its sub-Leprechaun concept. Why It Sucks: It's basically a shameless ripoff of Alien, with Jason substituted for the extraterrestrial. Also, not enough boobs. Why It Matters: Eight years after the previous film, it proves that people still love watching Jason.
Freddy vs. Jason (2003). Freddy Krueger brings Jason back from hell to wreak havoc on the teenagers of Elm Street. Why It Works: Director Ronny Yu turns the title bout into a MMA spectacular thanks to wirework and a terrifically agile sense of humor. Why It Sucks: Too much of both monsters together, but not enough of either one alone. Why It Matters: Jason lives on after 23 years, and New Line makes enough money to keep both franchises on life support for future installments.