Friday the 13th Part Six: Jason Lives (1986)

Premise

The events of five previous Friday the 13th movies have culminated in the town of Crystal Lake renaming itself to Forest Green in an attempt to hide its blood soaked past. Our resident protagonist, and part-time mental patient, Tommy Jarvis, is back and he is looking to make sure Jason Voorhees is dead for good. How does one kill a dead man? I’m not sure and I don’t think Tommy really knows either. Regardless, he heads to the cemetery, for reasons unexplained, where Jason is buried. Good ol’ Thomas and his reluctant tag-a-along friend dig up Jason. Too bad for them this is a horror movie and mother nature is a real bitch. A thunderstorm erupts and lightning strikes a piece of metal fencing that Tommy stabbed into Jason’s desiccated corpse. This of course brings back to life Mr. Voorhees in dramatic, classic movie monster fashion. Showing absolutely no signs of rust Jason commits a violent murder mere seconds after his resurrection. A fist rammed right through the heart of Tommy’s dimwitted friend. Naturally, this causes Tommy to spaz out and he tries to toss gasoline on Jason to light his undead ass on fire. Unfortunately, in this haunted graveyard Jason can supernaturally control the weather, because just as Tommy goes to strike up a match it starts pouring rain. The only thing Tommy can do is run like hell and warn the citizens of Crystal La…I mean Forest Green.

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The Appeal

At the time of Jason Lives there had been a Friday the 13th movie for five consecutive years. Each one arguably more ridiculous and over the top than the last. Part V was HATED by fans because *spoilers for a 20+ year old film* it didn’t actually have Jason Vorhees *end spoilers*. The creators needed some fresh concepts for Part VI and you can actually pinpoint this film as the reason why fans of the franchise split off into dueling, bi-partisan, groups. While the first four films tell the story of Jason as some sort of deranged, backwoods psycho-path, it was made clear that he was still some sort of man. Starting with Jason Lives he goes from being slasher villain to honest to goodness movie monster. From Part VI onward Jason Voorhees is clearly a zombie/supernatural entity who is capable of grotesque feats of superhuman strength. He also get’s WAY more teleport-y.

Part VI is also the first film in the franchise that is savagely self-aware that these films are completely fucking absurd. The whole thing feels like a prototype for the modern day “meta horror” genre. Its subject matter is deathly serious, but, at times, it has an almost Evil Dead II level of slapstick happening.  I mean the opening fucking credit’s has a James Bond gag for Christ’s sake!

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The director of the film , Tom McLoughlin, made a conscious effort to transform Jason into a supernatural monster and it gives the villain a much different feel. Couple Jason’s newfound abilities with a few action movie set pieces and a relentless pace, and you’ve got a bloody good time that never lets up.

Jason Lives is a popular entry in the franchise and infused a fun fresh approach into a frankly stale franchise. A certain sect of horror fans offer up their vehement derision and hatred towards the “zombie Jason” movies, but I’m not one of them. I like both styles and appreciate the preposterous direction the franchise eventually ended up. It’s safe to conclude that the latter Friday the 13th plot-line insanity wouldn’t have happened without Part VI serving as the guiding light. I, for one, am grateful.

Final Thoughts

Jason Lives is a perfectly adequate little time waster and probably middle to upper tier in the pantheon of Friday the 13th films. It keeps the basic formula faithfully intact while switching up a few key ingredients. The nods to classic Universal Monster movies always gets a positive thumbs up from me and I think zombie Jason 100% works. The character is treated like an urban legend and myth that EVERYONE knows about. It’s like he’s Dracula or Bloody Mary in this make-believe universe. I thought that was a great way to inject some playfulness into the DNA of the franchise.

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The film has a rambunctious energy to it that is unlike anything previously seen in the franchise. Alice Cooper is rocking on the soundtrack, there are car chases, Jason never fucking stops stalking, and the the creators finally embraced the inherent silliness that had always been lurking below the surface. I would be remiss if I failed to mention the film’s robust cast of lovable, quirky characters (shout out to Cort…one of my favorites). The sheriff, played by David Kagen, is also particularly great. Actor C.J. Graham makes a menacing and no-nonsense Jason who’s militant stalking and imposing stances are wholly unique to this entertaining film.

While I don’t find the film scary, it certainly ratchets up the drama by putting dozens of children in harm’s way during the finale. That was a masterstroke from Tom McLoughlin. It adds a level a gravitas and emotion to what is otherwise basically a slasher spoof. I don’t know how McLoughlin pulled it off, but much like dipping salty fries in your sweet Wendy’s frosty…it just fucking works. So if you’re still trying to figure out which Friday the 13th movie to re-watch this Halloween I suggest giving Part VI a go. It may end the Tommy Jarvis trilogy, but it’s just the beginning of Friday the 13th literally descending into hell and beyond.

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