It'll be Friday the 13th tomorrow, so the question on your mind should be "which 'Friday the 13th' movie(s) should I watch?" Actually, that's kind of a trick question because this Friday the 13th you should be seeing "The Cabin in the Woods," so go do that. But if that doesn't satiate your appetite for seeing kids get slaughtered, maybe you should come home and let Jason Voorhees take over.
When I was younger, I had TNT Monstervision and Joe Bob Briggs program these things for me, but those days are long gone. Anyone who isn't familiar with the series now has 12 movies to pick from through the magic of DVD and Netflix. With that in mind, here are the three I would choose if I were to hit the series high points in the span of one evening.
"Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter" (1984)
For the uninitiated, this is part four, which makes it far from the final chapter. However, it's arguably the very best chapter the series has to offer.
This entry perfectly fuses splatter sensibilities with the other lowbrow genre of the age: the teen sex comedy. It's like "Porky's" meets "Friday the 13th," complete with peep shows, hilarious dancing, beer-shotgunning twins, and stag flicks. And almost everyone involved ends up on the business end of a hatchet, hacksaw, or a machete. Even Jason himself can't escape; his "death" scene here is a masterstroke of practical effects, ranking as one of the series' most memorable demises.
"Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI" (1986)
Paramount actually made good on its promise to keep Jason Voorhees six feet under -- for all of one year. He sat out part five and let someone play copycat, but the real deal returned because Tommy Jarvis (the kid who killed Jason in "The Final Chapter" when he was portrayed by Corey Feldman) was dumb enough to dig him up during a lightning storm. That's forgivable, though, since "Jason Lives" ends up being the most fun entry in the series.
While I don't think you can accuse any of the films of taking themselves too seriously, it finally took part six to really shine a light on how silly this stuff is. A lot of fans don't enjoy the overly comedic tone, but "Jason Lives" is slick and smart, and it was the last truly great "Friday the 13th" film for nearly two decades.
"Friday the 13th" (2009)
Don't look at me like that -- it only seems blasphemous to suggest that Platinum Dunes ended up doing exactly what this franchise needed by putting Jason back in the woods doing what he does best, and that's killing people whose IQ is lower than their blood/alcohol levels. Featuring a solid cast and even more solid kill sequences, this "Friday the 13th" plays like the ultimate Jason movie, only with a 21st century makeover.
At its heart, though, the remake is fueled by the same things that made the original films so fun: breasts, blood, and more breasts for good measure. I like to think that topless waterskiing is a thing because of this movie.
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