Movie Review: “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives”

Here we are with Friday the 13th: Jason Lives, the sixth installment in the Friday the 13th franchise (as of this writing, we are at the official halfway point for the film franchise – although I wouldn’t be against talking about some of the very interesting fan films that have helped keep the lights on at Camp Crystal Lake). It hasn’t always been pretty, but I feel like I have gotten more from this revisiting of the slasher icons’ filmography than I had in prior years. I didn’t particularly enjoy either Friday the 13th: Part 1 or Part 2, but I came away with a more nuanced appreciation for them. I had a loathsome experience with Part 3, but I did enjoy The Final Chapter, finding it to be the best film of the series to that point and the most polished depiction of the series’ camp slasher formula. Where we left off, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning felt like a transitional film for a series uncertain of where to head next. Not to oversimplify, but, ultimately, I would honestly say I enjoyed the fourth film, was middling with 1, 2, and 5, and outright disliked 3 – it isn’t a very good batting average, but, along the way through the admittedly lackluster films, we create an impressive highlight reel of classic slasher death scenes and fun, gruesome moments, and that will go a long way in the slasher sub-genre. 

Although I am more than a little familiar with the lore of Friday the 13th and all the very odd, peculiar places it went, I will say that the sixth film marks when things start to become blurrier for me. Although I have an affection for Friday the 13th in spite of what my ratings may surmise for each individual film, I can’t deny that I always had a lot more enthusiasm for A Nightmare on Elm Street and Child’s Play than I did for Friday the 13th, or, even Halloween, for that matter. This is also where, for all intents and purposes, Jason Voorhees arrives as arguably his most definitive, permanent state of being, as less of a Michael Myers style boogeyman with a sprinkling of Norma Bates’ style mommy issues added in for good measure, and more of an indestructible zombie. 

The film begins with Tommy Jarvis visiting the supposed grave site of one Sir Jason Voorhees, convinced that Jason isn’t dead and unwilling to accept otherwise until he sees it with his own eyes. In a scene that is akin to Frankenstein’s monster being reanimated, a bolt of lightning reinvigorates Jason and sees him resurrected.

Personally, I am all about this decision and it is personally my favorite version of Jason through and through. Even if I don’t necessarily love any film thus far in the Friday the 13th franchise, I am able to appreciate the way the series evolves and changes its character. Slasher films (rightfully) receive a lot of flack for being repetitive and oftentimes laying on their laurels, and Friday the 13th might be considered one of the go-to examples of this, but, really, the character by this film is far different than where we began.

The James Bond homage at the beginning is fantastic and I enjoyed it a lot. This film brings a newfound meta self-awareness to it – character’s referencing that they have seen enough scary movies to know masked men are usually up to no good. It shows the changing of the times and how we perceive the characters, a change in mentality that brought us movies like Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and, later, Scream. 

I felt more optimistic about this film early on than I think I can say I had felt about most of the Friday the 13th films I’d reviewed so far. I think, on some level, that is because the film has the clearest, most definitive understanding of what a Friday the 13th film should be – or, at least, it’s understanding better aligns with what I think a Friday the 13th film should be. 

This isn’t to say it is a great film at all. It has attractive characters lined up like pigs to the slaughter, with a more modernized tongue-in-cheek approach to everything it does, recognizing its own iconography and celebrating it. There is an argument to be made that the film sees the series’ first foray into self-parody, a commonplace characteristic that applies to many other slasher franchises the further they go in their legacies. Freddy and Chucky, for instance, both leaned heavily into comedy the further their franchises went and Friday the 13th is no different than that. 

The only variable separating Friday the 13th from the aforementioned is that Friday the 13th doesn’t have a loud mouth antagonist to pull from, and instead, they are left to find humor in the tropes of the sub-genre, many of which it can be credited for having made famous in the first place.

Truth is, by this point, and in this state of disrepair, I am not in the mood to take the Friday the 13th series seriously. I want goofy Friday the 13th and that is what Jason Lives seeks to deliver in droves. Jason is fun in this movie, and is, perhaps, on some level, my favorite iteration I have seen of him thus far in my revisiting of the series. As things change, however, they can’t help but stay the same. The characterizations remained ‘lax in this film, which, by now is par for the course, but I find watching Tommy Jarvis and his melodramatic, over-the-top bantering to be a detraction.

I won’t lie, this is actually, unabashedly, probably my favorite film in the Friday the 13th series so far. In order to appreciate why, I think a person would need to take a step back and appreciate what the Friday the 13th series has presented thus far. This film moves at a brisk, playful pace and doesn’t at all feel at odds with itself. Friday the 13th isn’t Halloween, nor does it need to be. It doesn’t abide by the principle of less is more, but, instead, it abides by the sentiment that more is, in fact, more. This film goes head over heels in that mindset.

It is stupid, it is in your face, and it keeps things flowing with a light heart, goofy approach. It chuckles at itself with a wink and a nod, and brings the violence unabashedly. Granted, the bloodshed is more subdued in this film than in prior installments. The film has a level of restraint that is noticeable in that department – the director chose this.

Certain scenes are so corny it is like I am watching an episode of Family Matters. Jarvis’ explanation of how to stop Jason is … stupid and based on nothing at all. The film is … ultimately, a little bit of a mess, but, when it works, it works. I enjoyed the new direction for the series, and, although it wasn’t perfect, it was fun, and that’s what I want from the series at this point.

Rating: – 2.3 out of 5.0