The Friday the Thirteenth series is a franchise of films dedicated to answering the eternal question: What would it look like if this guy got stabbed with a thing?
The first film opens with two camp counselors sneaking away from a larger group in order to fool around. They are cornered by a knife-wielding maniac and sliced to pieces. You can tell the filmmakers were proud of this sequence, since they were content to do the same thing over and over again for three decades.
As you probably already know, the killer in this film is not Jason Voorhees. In fact, the identity of the killer is left as a mystery for much of the running time, with the audience encouraged to try and figure out who is committing the murders. In a clever twist, the killer turns out to be a character who hasn't been seen or mentioned once in the whole movie.
Specifically, the murderer, who previously jammed an arrowhead clear through Kevin Bacon's throat and threw a girl through a window for no discernible reason other than to freak out another girl, is actually a middle-aged woman in a sweater. Uh, spoiler warning.
Pictured: Death incarnate
Mrs. Voorhees, as she introduces herself, had a son who drowned in the lake years before while the counselors were busy getting busy. She decided to spend the rest of her life ensuring that the site of her son's death remain a slowly decaying ghost camp. You know, as a tribute. Her quest to bump off everyone who committed the great sin of being sort of near the place her kid died is brought to an end via machete.
At the very end the filmmakers chose to throw the audience a curveball by ceasing to rip off Halloween and plagiarizing Carrie instead. After the sole survivor of the massacre inexplicably decides to float off into the middle of the lake on a boat, Jason Voorhees inexplicably decides to pop out of the lake at her, inexplicably becoming an icon.
Remember how Jason Voorhees drowned in a lake as a child? Remember how that kicked off the entire plot (so to speak) of the first movie?
Well forget that! Turns out Jason didn't drown, he survived somehow and started living in the woods, never bothering to contact his mother who was also lurking in those (apparantly very crowded) woods. Oh, and remember the lone survivor from the last movie? Hope you didn't get too attached to her, because Jason puts an ice pick through her head to avenge the mother he hadn't seen or spoken to in like twenty years. Little inconsistencies like this were the first signs that Friday the Thirteenth would become one of The Ten Horror Movie Franchises... THAT WOULDN'T DIE!
Excuse me, could you spare a moment for Jesus Christ?
Five years pass after that murder, meaning the main action takes place in 1985 or '86. By "main action" we mean "part where Jason kills a bunch of people for coming near the camp where he didn't drown but his mother thought he did." It includes a scene in which Jason kills a kid in a wheelchair, who slowly rolls back towards a flight of stairs. In short, Friday the Thirteenth Part 2 is a fine film.
This is literally the third worst day of my life!
Roman numerals add a touch of class to the third installment, also know as Part 3-D because, you know, it was in 3-D.
This is the one in which Jason finally acquires his trademark hockey mask, thereby becoming the borderline-genoicidal killing machine we make other people feel uncomfortable by loving. And how did he acquire this iconic item, so closely identified with him, 80's cinema and horror movies in general? He took it off of some fat kid he killed. Offscreen.
Also, there's a scene where Jason squeezes a guy's head so hard that his eye pops out and flies toward the camera. In 3-D. It is wonderful.
Part III takes place immediately after Part 2, and starts a trend of Jason looking completely different from the way he looked 24 hours earlier.
What a difference a day makes...
...was hardly the final chapter.
...24 little hours
This promise to end the series was the result of Paramount executives growing increasingly uncomfortable with one of their most bankable franchises being best described as "stabbity." Of course, it is something of a challenge to permanently kill off a character who has been killed at the end of each previous entry. Who could possibly hope to put Jason Voorhees down for good? Who could stand toe-to-toe with the unstoppable boogeyman of Crystal Lake? Why, Corey Feldman, of course.
That's right. Jason (who has previously crushed a man's skull with his bare hands and who started this movie by getting off of a slab in the morgue because, dammit, there were still people alive somewhere) manages to get sliced up with his own machete by someone who doesn't even shave.
Oh, and Crispin Glover dances.
Years pass. Corey Feldman* is now in his teens, being played by a man in his thirties. It seems that utterly wrecking Jason's shit was a taxing experience, because Fel-dog has spent the intervening time bouncing from institution to institution like an emotionally traumatized ping-pong ball. He frequently suffers nightmares and hallucinations of Jason Voorhees, like a... hallucinating... ping-pong ball.
This is even worse than the spiders
The Feldster is sent to a new, remote home for troubled youths, the other residents of which seem to be undergoing treatment for an uncontrollable desire to fornicate in the woods. The place operates on the honor system, with the kids earning special privileges by doing chores, such as laundry or... chopping fire wood.
Putting an axe into the hands of an emotionally unstable teen works out about as well as one could expect, and so soon the police are on hand to cart off one teen while paramedics scrape up another.
Soon after, the retreat and surrounding town are plauged by mysterious murders. It is suggested that Jason Voorhees might be the culprit, since the killings match his old modus operandi: stabbing people while wearing a mask. This theory is dismissed because, you know, he's dead. Not only that, he's been cremated. Pulse-pounding chase sequences ensue:
In the end, it turns out that the killer is one of the paramedics. You remember the paramedics, right? The ones who were called in to clean up after that kid got killed at the beginning? One of them was the kid's father, who abandoned him as a child, but who lived in the same town because it was only a half-assed abandonment. Anyway, he decided to take revenge for the murder of his son by killing everyone but the guy who murdered his son. Also, he decided to do it while dressed as Jason, presumably to evoke the Voorhees family tradition of poorly thought-out vengeance. Corey kills him too, although by this point it's looking less and less like self-defense and more and more like hockey masks just piss him off.
As an added note, Corey's jump in age would suggest that this film takes place somewhere around 1994.
* We are aware that Corey Feldman is not the character's name, we simply do not care.
The title lets us know right away that Jason himself will be donning the mask for this fifth sequel. Here, the producers were bending to the will of fans who were outraged that the mute, emotionless killing machine in the previous entry wasn't the right mute emotionless killing machine. Yes, that kind of idiocy did exist before the internet, though we aren't certain where it was expressed. (Semaphores?)
The film opens with Corey Feldman, played by yet another actor, driving to Crystal Lake. He plans to dig up Jason's body in order to ensure that he does not rise again. This might seem like an irrational fear, but remember, Jason has already gone from being cremated to being buried in a grave, so it would seem he's working his way up to resurrection. Still, you would think that disintering someone is not the best way to stop them from rising from the grave. And you would be right.
With The Feldmeister's help, Jason rises again and immediately begins killing camp counselors because what else is he gonna do? Get his G.E.D.? Oh, and remember how Jason didn't actually die in the lake? Remember how that was the justification for the last four movies in this series? Well, forget that! Turns out he did die in the lake, resurrected for no reason, just sort of floated around until he could jump out and scare that girl at the end of the first movie, then grew into an adult so he could kill her. You see, The Feldmaster exposits that the only way to put Jason down for good is to return him to his original resting place: the lake.
Anyway, Coorsey Light sinks Jason to the bottom of the lake, and that's the last we ever see of him. The hero, we mean. Jason comes back, obviously. Oh, you thought putting him in the lake was supposed to stop him once and for all? That's cute.
Imagine the last six films in this series, only this time the heroine has psychic powers. That's Friday the Thirteenth Part VII: The New Blood.
This one begins an indeterminant amount of time after part 6 and almost immediately jumps forward by ten years, placing it around 2004 if not later. By this point, the series may technically qualify as science fiction.
Or, Jason Sort of Wanders Through Times Square At One Point
Imaginge the last seven films in this series, only now you spend almost the entire running time wondering when they'll get to New York.
Subtitled, No Seriously, This is Really The Last One! We Mean it This Time! For Real!
In this one, Jason's backstory is fleshed out, somehow becoming even more nonsensical. This new backstory made him into a demonic worm that could only be defeated by another Voorhees with a magic dagger or... something. The entire thing was so stupid that the following films (which of course, there were) ignore the whole mess.
The second grand finale actually managed to take for a few years. Unfortunately, a series which began by ripping off the very best finally stooped to imitating the Leprechaun series. Thus, Jason winds up in space, where he continues to put sharp things into dull people.
Jason Voorhees squares off against Freddy Krueger in a fight to the death!
Of course, both contenders are already dead, not to mention seriously resurrection-prone, but it's a lot of fun to watch regardless. This one features a scene in which Jason shows up at a rave in a cornfield and completely flips out. The sight of so many young people enjoying sex and drugs proves too much for him, as he forgoes the usual sneak-and-slash routine in favor of simply wading straight into the middle of the party and killing nearly everyone. While on fire.
All that and not a single Oscar. For shame.
This entry in the series is a reboot, which is a new and much more stupid way of saying remake. It was formerly one of the 5 Upcoming Remakes of 80's Movies (That Must Be Stopped), and is now A Remake of an 80's Movie (That Wasn't Stopped). It seeks to copy the plot and style of the earlier films with as little deviation as possible, going so far as to lift some of the more iconic moments wholesale. It is unclear how this is different from the previous sequels.
To be fair, the film is, for the most part, very consistent with the tone and spirit of its predecessors. It is clear that the people who made it felt a certain degree of affection and even respect for the property. In an unrelated story, Michael Bay described his upcoming remake of Rosemary's Baby as "Good, but not explosiony enough yet."