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The Friday the 13th Series

Friday the 13th (March 13/09)

As disposable and uneven as one might've expected, Friday the 13th nevertheless boasts an opening half hour that admittedly holds some promise - as screenwriter Victor Miller offers up an effective bit of misdirection in the form of a bubbly protagonist (Robbi Morgan's Annie) that unexpectedly becomes the film's first victim. There quickly reaches a point, however, wherein the almost relentlessly routine storyline - which follows several camp counselors (including Kevin Bacon's Jack and Adrienne King's Alice) as they're individually knocked off by a mysterious figure - becomes oppressive in its uneventfulness, as the emphasis is consistently placed on the fun-loving shenanigans of the central characters (ie a group participates in a game of strip monopoly). And while it's hard to deny the strength of the increasingly sporadic kill sequences, the payoff for the almost interminable build-up ultimately comes off as anti-climactic and dull - with the last survivor's efforts at evading the murderer transpiring within the claustrophobic confines of the camp's poorly-lit environs. The ongoing inclusion of needlessly light-hearted elements - ie there's a town nutjob (Walt Gorney's Crazy Ralph) and a goofy cop (Ron Millkie's Officer Dorf) - only cements Friday the 13th's place as a curiously uninvolving horror effort, although it's admittedly worth noting that the movie does fare marginally better than its overblown 2009 remake.

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Friday the 13th: Part 2 (March 19/15)

Picking up five years after the original film, Friday the 13th: Part 2 follows a whole new group of camp counselors as they arrive at Crystal Lake and are subsequently murdered by Warrington Gillette's Jason. Though it opens with a series of fairly needless flashbacks, Friday the 13th: Part 2 quickly segues into a surprisingly suspenseful pre-credits sequence detailing the doomed exploits of Friday the 13th survivor Alice (Adrienne King). Once that's out of the way, however, the movie establishes itself as an all-too-typical slasher whose problems are compounded by an incongruously deliberate pace - with the less-than-engrossing atmosphere highlighting the narrative's absence of compelling characters. Filmmaker Steve Miner admittedly does a nice job of infusing the proceedings with bursts of agreeable style, and there are a handful of appreciatively brutal kill sequences sprinkled throughout the 87 minute running time. But the final stretch, which predictably involves a tedious pursuit through overly dark environs, ensures that Friday the 13th: Part 2 ends on a decidedly underwhelming note, with the film ultimately right in line with its passable yet far-from-memorable predecessor.

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Friday the 13th: Part III (March 23/15)

The Friday the 13th saga continues with this typically underwhelming entry, with the storyline following Richard Brooker's Jason as he once again stalks and kills a group of young adults. (It's worth noting that none of Jason's victims in the film are actually camp counselors, which is a little jarring, to put it mildly.) It's ultimately clear that Friday the 13th: Part III suffers from some seriously prominent instances of padding, far more so than either of its predecessors, with the best and most obvious example of this a continuing emphasis on the exploits of three laughably out-of-place thugs. (At the very least, the trio meet a grisly end at Jason's murderous hands.) The less-than-terrifying atmosphere is compounded by the film's far-from-subtle use of 3D effects, with filmmaker Steve Miner thrusting an object to at the camera with woeful frequency. (There are a few entertaining examples of this, admittedly, including a detached eyeball that's propelled to the forefront of the screen.) Friday the 13th: Part III's deliberate pace ensures that its opening hour is essentially a total wash, and it goes without saying that the movie doesn't improve until Jason embarks on his inevitable killing spree in the movie's latter half. It's worth noting, too, that the film's final girl climax is actually somewhat better and more entertaining than one might've anticipated, which ultimately does ensure that the movie, while ineffective as a whole, fares slightly better than either part one or part two.

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Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (March 24/15)

There's little doubt that Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter marks the nadir of the series up to this point, as the movie suffers from a palpable lack of plot that results in an overflow of almost astonishingly pointless (and gore-free) sequences. The thin storyline, which once again follows Jason as he stalks and terrorizes a variety of disparate figures, is compounded by a deliberateness that's aggressive even by the standards of this far-from-brisk franchise, with the movie's ongoing emphasis on the fun-loving antics of its characters (eg they party, they go skinny dipping, etc) ensuring that one's interest has vanished long before Jason makes his first proper entrance. It doesn't help, either, that said entrance doesn't come until just after the one-hour mark (!) has passed, with filmmaker Joseph Zito's efforts to establish an atmosphere of suspense and foreboding falling hopelessly flat (ie it's an approach that simply doesn't work in this slightest with a picture of this ilk; this isn't Jaws). Even the kill sequences, generally the highlight in these movies, manage to disappoint, as Zito dials back the gore to an extent that's almost comical - which, obviously, confirms Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter's place as a seriously perfunctory installment within a terminally underwhelming series.

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Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (April 4/15)

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning ultimately falls right in line with its hopelessly inferior (and surprisingly dull) immediate predecessor, with the movie suffering from a repetitive atmosphere that's compounded by a dearth of interesting characters and compelling kill sequences. The narrative picks up several years after the events of the fourth installment and follows a now-adult Tommy Jarvis (John Shepherd) as he arrives at a rural halfway house for mentally disturbed teenagers - with the film naturally detailing the chaos that unfolds as a hockey-mask-wearing maniac begins offing the various residents. There's virtually nothing within the entirety of Friday the 13th: A New Beginning designed to appeal to even the staunchest of Jason fans, with the film progressing at an aggressively deliberate pace and suffering from a lazy, been-there-done-that vibe that proves disastrous (ie the movie feels as though it's come from a template for this franchise). Danny Steinmann's lackluster and unusually styleless visuals certainly aren't helping matters, nor is the almost total lack of over-the-top instances of gore. (And what's the point of a slasher flick without ludicrous examples of bloodletting?) It's ultimately remarkable that the Friday the 13th series has managed to get this far with subpar installments like this under its belt, with the oddball twist that closes the proceedings ensuring that the film ends on as anticlimactic note as one could envision.

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Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (April 4/15)

A definite improvement over the fourth and fifth installments, Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI follows Jason (C.J. Graham) as he embarks on yet another murderous rampage after he's inadvertently resurrected by his old nemesis, Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews). Filmmaker Tom McLoughlin does a superb job of immediately luring the viewer into the proceedings, as Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI opens with what's probably the most effective pre-credits sequence in the entire franchise - with Tommy and a hapless friend (Ron Palillo's Allen) unleashing a now-virtually unstoppable Jason by accidentally bringing him back from the dead. It's just the sort of appreciatively ludicrous interlude that's generally been sorely missing from this pervasively dull series, although, perhaps predictably, the engaging vibe begins to dissipate almost immediately once the narrative proper kicks off - as McLoughlin offers up a tedious (and painfully repetitive) storyline that doesn't even boast any compelling instances of gore. (The sole highlight is a gleefully absurd moment in which Jason breaks the back of one of his victims in the nastiest manner imaginable.) Writer/director McLoughlin admittedly takes a slightly more stylish approach to the material than the series' other filmmakers, and yet Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI is, in the end, just as underwhelming and uninvolving as its six predecessors.

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Friday the 13th: Part VII - The New Blood (April 5/15)

Friday the 13th: Part VII - The New Blood follows Lar Park-Lincoln's Tina Shepard, a teen with telekinetic powers, as she inadvertently brings Jason (Kane Hodder) back from the dead, with the film detailing the reign of terror that ensues as Jason heads back to Crystal Lake. It's clear that the addition of a Carrie-like heroine has been designed to inject the seriously stale series with a newfound energy, and yet the film, not surprisingly, establishes itself as just another run-of-the-mill installment revolving almost entirely around Jason's far-from-creative (and disconcertingly) bloodless rampage through the woods. Filmmaker John Carl Buechler's excessively lazy approach ensures that there's little here worth getting excited about, as the film, aside from the aforementioned Carrie-like twist, boasts few attributes designed to set it apart from its exceedingly mediocre brethren. By the time the anticlimactic Tina/Jason showdown rolls around, the viewer has lost all interest in the outcome and it's clear that Friday the 13th: Part VII - The New Blood ultimately stands as one of the more overtly pointless entries within this franchise. (And what's with the oddly abrupt ending that doesn't even bother leaving the door open for yet another installment?)

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Friday the 13th: Part VIII - Jason Takes Manhattan (April 6/15)

Though the title is far from accurate - Jason doesn't spend more than a third of the movie in New York City - Friday the 13th: Part VIII - Jason Takes Manhattan, which at least shakes things up by moving things away from Camp Crystal Lake and its surrounding woods, ultimately stands as a very slight improvement over its various predecessors. The narrative follows Kane Hodder's Jason as he terrorizes a group of characters first aboard a luxury cruise and then in Manhattan, with an affable teen named Rennie Wickham (Jensen Daggett) ultimately forced to battle the supernatural, seemingly unstoppable monster deep in the bowels of New York City. There is, as expected, very little to get wholeheartedly excited about within Friday the 13th: Part VIII - Jason Takes Manhattan, as the movie boasts (or suffers) from all the problems that have plagued this series right from its initial installment - including wafer-thin characters and a frustratingly episodic storyline. The sheer novelty of a changed setting does go a long way towards keeping things relatively interesting, however, although, perhaps predictably, there's just never a point at which the viewer is able to forge a genuine connection with either the characters or the plot. (Daggett is, admittedly, one of the more likable heroines contained within this bloated franchise.) Friday the 13th: Part VIII - Jason Takes Manhattan would appear to be incontrovertible proof that this series is simply unable to rise above the level of total mediocrity, which is a shame, certainly, given the amount of palpable potential contained within. (Wouldn't it be amazing, for example, to see Jason wreaking havoc in an amusement park or an office building?)

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Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (April 12/15)

A return to the near unwatchableness of certain earlier installments, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday kicks off with Jason's death at the hands of a gun-toting, bomb-throwing SWAT team - with the remainder of the movie following Jason, now an entity that can hop from one host to the next, as he attempts to track down and possess a heretofore unmentioned sister (thus allowing him to permanently live again). Though the filmmakers perhaps deserve some credit for attempting something different this time around, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday primarily comes off as a hopelessly dull slasher that barely features the franchise's central character - as the majority of the narrative details the murderous exploits of several nondescript, barely-developed figures. It becomes clear almost immediately there's simply nothing here to get interested in or excited about, with the movie's lack of a single compelling protagonist compounded by director Adam Marcus' refusal to offer up any larger-than-life instances of gore. The progressively silly storyline - eg Jason can evidently only be killed by a special dagger - paves the way for a seriously anticlimactic final stretch, and it's finally clear that Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday stands as one of the worst episodes in the entirety of this lackluster series.

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Jason X (April 12/15)

The Friday the 13th franchise comes to a merciful close with this expectedly mediocre entry, with the narrative following Kane Hodder's Jason as he's cryogenically frozen and subsequently awoken on a spaceship in the year 2455 - where, naturally, he immediately begins murdering every single person aboard. It's a rather out-there premise that's executed competently by filmmaker James Isaac, as Jason X, written by Todd Farmer, essentially comes off as a slasher-movie take on both Alien and Aliens - although it's clear throughout that the film is lacking in both the scares and thrills that defined those contemporary classics. And while the narrative is, in typical fashion, hopelessly lacking in interesting figures, Jason X does, at the very least, boast a handful of appreciatively over-the-top, ridiculously gory kill sequences. (After his resurrection, for example, Jason shoves a hapless character's face into a bath of liquid nitrogen and smashes it.) The decidedly underwhelming special effects - the movie, for the most part, resembles a low-rent, made-in-Canada sci-fi television show - contribute heavily to Jason X's forgettable atmosphere, with the end result a somewhat anticlimactic capper to a seriously subpar series of films.

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© David Nusair