Why ‘Jason Lives’ Should Have Been The Template for Every ‘Friday the 13th’ Movie

By the time the sixth movie came out, the Friday the 13th series was having trouble figuring out who it was. The first four episodes gradually showed what the series was about. The first movie showed how Jason Voorhees died at Camp Crystal Lake. Friday the 13th, Part 2 made Jason the leading killer. Friday the 13th, Part III showed Jason’s famous hockey mask for the first time. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter had the best characters in the series, including a young Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman). Unfortunately, the fifth film, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, didn’t keep the momentum going. It had a silly twist, a lack of creative kills, and characters who were too annoying to care about before they died horribly. But most importantly, A New Beginning got rid of the most essential part of the series: Jason.

So, What Exactly Is It About “Jason Lives” That Makes It So Fantastic?

The killer in a mask came back in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, where he was played by C.J. Graham and fought his old enemy Tommy Jarvis, who Thom Matthews played. But Jason Lives did more than make the recurring plot work; it also improved the franchise’s overall tone. Jason Lives is self-referential. It breaks the fourth wall to make fun of the series’ recurring elements, which perfectly explains the confusing continuity and makes Friday the 13th fans happy. Jason Lives has yet to be topped in the 35 years since it came out, and it’s too bad that the sequels didn’t keep their bold style.

This shows that the movie is aware that it is silly. In the pre-credits scene, Tommy digs up Jason’s grave, but lightning strikes a fence post, bringing Jason back to life. (A direct homage to Frankenstein.) Even though the series has always played around with its canon, this pure science fiction gave Jason superhuman strength. In A New Beginning, putting in a new killer didn’t work, so Jason Lives back the main slasher in a fun way that acknowledges the change. Jason even gets his own version of the James Bond gun barrel intro.

Tommy And Jason Share A Profoundly Significant Past

The past between Tommy and Jason sets up an exciting change in Tommy’s character. In the Friday the 13th movies, it’s fun to kill horny teenagers violently, but the characters have to stand out. Having a likeable main character who has been traumatised by Jason in the past sets up a confrontation with real stakes (both literally and figuratively) and helps avoid exposition. Tommy tries hard to explain Jason’s abilities to other characters, but they don’t believe him, which makes the movie funny. It was the first time that the story of a character who wasn’t Jason was told over more than one movie. This gave the movies more depth than they had before.

Even though Tommy is the only character who knows about Jason’s past, the other characters still get the joke because they talk about themselves. A couple of young victims think that they’re going to be “real dead meat,” and the movie even makes fun of its own musical cues when Nicki (Darcy DeMoss) asks her boyfriend Cort (Tom Fridley) to time his climax with the end of a ten-minute song. When the cemetery keeper Martin (Bob Larkin) says, “People have a strange idea of entertainment,” the movie pokes fun at the audience’s interest in the gory deaths. Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel were among the critics who said the show was bad, so this was a jab at them.

The Summer Camp Was Considered to Be Its Character

Camp Crystal Lake itself is more important than any one person. Friday the 13th wasn’t the first slasher movie, but the setting of a summer camp and the worries of teenagers made it stand out. Tommy’s first attempt to dig up Jason’s body was a failed attempt to deal with his own trauma. Jason does the same thing by going back to the place where he had an accident as a child, which is now called Camp Forest Green. Jason Lives stays true to the premise of the series, since Jason is actually threatening a real camp where kids are staying for the first time.

Danger doesn’t take away from the fun, and when most people think of Jason as an icon, they probably think of how he looks here. He’s become a real boogeyman, a scary monster that comes back to life at night to scare kids who are sleeping. The kids add some really strange jokes, like why is a little girl sleeping next to a copy of Jean-Paul Sartre’s existential play No Exit?

The killings are more playful, like when a group of employees on a bad business trip get their heads cut off, when guys play paintball and leave a bloody smiley face on a nearby tree, or when a sexist creep gets his arms ripped right out of his sockets. Even though Jason Lives is one of the less bloody episodes, it moves so quickly that there are more deaths. It also makes room for longer, more intense set pieces. The scene where Nicki and Corts die on the side of the road is one of the best. It ends with the iconic shot of Jason standing on top of their RV.

Jason Is Immortal

The campy tone also showed that Jason is immortal, which was clear from the more severe episodes. Jason Lives shows how silly it is when Sheriff Gorris (David Kagen), who shoots him three times with cheesy music notes after each shot, fails to kill him. Because Jason couldn’t be killed, the series had to be more creative so it didn’t feel like a rehash. After a long fight by the water in Camp Crystal Lake, Tommy beats Jason by tying his neck to a running boat motor. The hint that Jason’s body was still where he used to sleep was the perfect way to lead into the next part.

Jason Lives also has a more exciting score that makes the mood stronger. The film kept Harry Manfredini, who had scored the first two films, as its composer. It was also a little longer and kept the existential dread of the first two films. The synth-heavy music in the first two movies drew too much attention to the jump scares. On the other hand, the slower plucked strings helped make each kill more dramatic and shocking. A great soundtrack with Alice Cooper and Felony is also part of the movie.

The Franchise, Sadly, Did Not Continue to Apply the Lessons Learned

Unfortunately, the creative team didn’t learn the lessons Jason Lives should have taught them for the subsequent sequels. Part VII: The New Blood’s foray into the supernatural was a disappointment to series veterans since it lacked the self-awareness that had made Jason Lives so refreshing. As a more conventional horror picture, Jason Takes Manhattan featured lead characters as likeable as the Jason Lives gang. While Jason Goes to Hell and Jason X made an effort to poke fun at their silliness, the films’ muddled plots and revisions to Jason’s history lacked the freshness that Jason Lives had introduced to the series.

Other horror series began to feel Friday the 13th’s effect even though the franchise didn’t recognise the self-awareness that had made Jason Lives so successful. In Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, he reinvented the plot of the original film’s actors and crew to vent his dissatisfaction with the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Although New Nightmare was not successful upon its initial release, Craven went on to create the Scream franchise. Many of the same fourth-wall-breaking and in-universe references from Jason Lives can be found in Scream and its sequels, and the film itself is referenced multiple times.

An Even More In-Depth Novelization of “Jason Lives”

For those who were hoping that Jason Lives would usher in a new golden age for the slasher series, the novelization authored by Simon Hawke, a veteran genre writer who has contributed to the Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, and Dungeons & Dragons franchises, may be just the ticket. The novel by Hawke includes scenes and information about Tommy’s past that didn’t make it into the movie, such as the introduction of his father in a flashback. While Hawke had previously adapted the prior three movies, the novelization of Jason Lives made the most substantial changes to the source material.

These nuggets of information are fascinating, but they also highlight how masterfully Jason Lives dealt with the mythology of the narrative. Including these flashbacks with a continous narrative may have thrown off the tone and rhythm, even if a more interesting dramatic backstory for Jason and Tommy was planned. Tom McLoughlin knew that the audience didn’t care about these beats as long as they saw something new and exciting in the Friday the 13th franchise.

Also, on the director’s commentary, McLoughlin disclosed that he was working under stricter limitations than some viewers might have thought. The DVD commentary reveals that the writers had planned out a different ending that included “Mr. Voorhees'” history from Hawke’s novel. Due to financial limits, McLoughlin was forced to cut the sequence, but not before dropping a hint about Part VII, saying that Jason made it through the combat unscathed. Not only did McLoughlin not get to film any more Friday the 13th movies, but he also only got to direct a few of episodes during the series’s little run on television.

The Friday the 13th films had long since moved on from the original film’s serious pain of a grieving mother. Jason Lives exemplified this development by increasing the camp level and introducing interesting new characters. For future instalments, Jason Lives should have served as the model, and we can only hope that Bryan Fuller’s upcoming Friday the 13th TV series on Peacock would take inspiration from the series’ zenith 35 years ago.

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My name is Gourav Singh, and some of my favorite hobbies include watching movies and television series, playing sports, and listening to music. For my blog posts, I prefer to write about themes that are lighthearted and fun to read and write about. To keep things light and entertaining, I'll include funny observations on life or a summary of the most recent entertainment news. Check out my blog if you're in the mood for some light entertainment.
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