“ I’ve seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly.”
In 1986 the Friday the 13th franchise was in a tough spot. Fans did not care for the direction Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning took, with a new serial killer in the place of Jason (Oh no! That’s a spoiler for a 34 year old movie! Please forgive me!), and it had pulled in the worst reviews and second worst box office in the franchise at the time. They needed some new life, new inspiration. They found it in up-and-coming writer/director Tom McLaughlin, who took them back to basics, with some fun new twists.
The film opens with Tommy Jarvis, the protagonist of the previous two films, and his friend Horschack from Welcome Back Kotter going to Jason Voorhees’s grave to make sure he’s dead. They dig him up and Tommy has flashbacks to killing him previously and drives a metal stake into the body. Lightning strikes, and for a first time in the franchise, the supernatural occurs: Jason is back! From there, it’s a race against time as Tommy tries to get the police to believe Jason has risen before he murders all the campers and counselors at Camp Forest Green (an attempt to trick the public into thinking Camp Crystal Lake is elsewhere so they will still patronize). Will he succeed, or will Jason massacre everyone at the camp?
This film is also the first in the franchise as far as incorporating meta-humor, something that would inspire Scream, and by proxy, pretty much every other horror movie from 1996 to 2006. Some of it works well, like the ridiculous James Bond parody that kicks off the opening credits and the characters knowing how horror movies work (see header quote). It’s also a first in that there are actual children at the camp this time, adding a layer of darkness that isn’t present in any of the others. There’s even a fun shout out to A Nightmare on Elm Street in the form of Nancy, an 8 year old girl who wakes from a bad dream. She is saved because when Jason comes upon her, she is praying.
As far as I’m concerned, this is the high point of the series. It’s a ton of fun, and it has multiple Alice Cooper songs in it, which is always something a movie should have. One of them was even written especially for the movie, and it rules. This one also has a weird misogynist saying a woman should be in the kitchen, but then he gets his face smashed into a tree and even the tree is happy about it. It’s a great time. It’s kind of the dividing line between the gritty cheapness of the first five and the slick cheesiness of the rest of the series. I can’t get enough of it. It’s pretty much everything an 80’s slasher movie should be.
Should I Show This To My Five Year Old?
Absolutely! This is a great way to prepare your child for the dangers of sleepaway camp. It’s also a fun way to teach your child about what the 80s were like, and a great introduction to the musical work of Alice Cooper. If you want a cool kid, you gotta get them into Alice Cooper. Trust me, a former cool kid. This is also an excellent opportunity to teach your kid to automatically distrust anyone wearing a mask all the time, especially if they’re holding a spear or machete. IT IS NEVER TOO YOUNG TO LEARN THAT LESSON. Bonus: You can also use this movie to teach your child that God is a lie during the scene where young Nancy is praying. Let your child know that in real life a monster won’t stop their rampage just because you’re praying, and if you really want to be saved, carry bear mace and a butterfly knife. Boy, this movie is chock full of life lessons! You’re welcome!
Did their gamble pay off? Ultimately, this movie is the second in the series after the original to pull more positive reviews than negative (It’s still at 56% on Rotten Tomatoes, further proving my “God is not real” theory from the previous paragraph). This movie is fun for every man, woman, and child, and I dig it a lot. You can even argue that it’s important, in how it directly influenced the new slasher wave of the late 90s and early 2000s. It’s great. Definitely check it out.
- There are a lot of fun shoutouts to other horror film directors throughout. See if you can catch them all!
- John Shepherd, who played Tommy Jarvis in the previous film, did not return to this one because he’d converted to Born Again Christianity. He would do one more movie and then join a seminary.
- In fact, this series is the only time in cinematic history where a protagonist is played by three separate actors over three consecutive movies: Corey Feldman, John Shepherd, and Thom Matthews, all as Tommy Jarvis.
Greg Orme is a comedian/writer based out of Salt Lake City, where he lives with his five plants. You should follow him on Twitter if you aren’t already.