“I’ve seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly.”
The Friday the 13th series gets a reboot in Friday the 13th Part 6.
In 1984, director Joseph Zito made a curious decision to kill Jason Vorhees in Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter. Actually, he didn’t just kill Jason; he had Tommy Jarvis (Cory Feldman) chop Jason into a million pieces. That pretty much ended the legend of Jason.
In 1985, Friday the 13th Part 5: A New Beginning, under director Danny Steinmann, attempted to reboot the franchise with a faux-Jason killer to mixed results.
It was clear the horror viewing public still had an insatiable craving for Jason Vorhees, so Hollywood simply decided to bring the masked murderer back to life. Enter Friday the 13th, Part 6: Jason Lives (1986).
People do weird things in horror movies. Although Jason Vorhees is dead, Tommy Jarvis is still haunted by the psychopathic killer. So Tommy gets the bright idea to go to the cemetery, dig Jason up, and…uh…kill him some more. Keep in mind that Tommy just escaped from a mental institution, which might explain his poor life choices. Wouldn’t you know it – no sooner does Tommy dig up Jason than a freak bolt of lightning strikes. And as we all know from science class, or at least from Frankenstein, lightning brings the dead back to life.
Bad play, Tommy. Bad play.
It just so happens that Camp Crystal Lake has been re-opened and re-named just up the road from the cemetery. Jason heads off to camp to massacre some more innocents, while Tommy races to the authorities (his first good move since Part IV) to warn them. The problem is the authorities don’t believe Tommy’s story of Jason coming back from the dead, and seeing that Tommy is an escaped mental patient, they lock him in a cell. And since every hero needs a love interest, the movie introduces Megan (Jennifer Cooke), the sheriff’s cute daughter, and her camp counselor friends. Megan and Tommy take a liking to each other, and eventually it is up to them to save the camp from the resurrected mass murderer.
As with all of the Friday films after Part 4: The Final Chapter, every scene is simply a setup for the next character to get killed in some new and interesting way. Although jaded critics will argue none of the Friday films cared much about things like character development, the first two did an admirable job at developing characters, and Parts 3 and 4 did a decent enough job. At least Tommy and Megan spend enough time on the screen that we can cheer for them.
Jason Lives, despite its campy (no pun intended) plot, is actually a very good slasher. After Parts 1 and 2, I rank Friday the 13th Part 6 right up there with Parts 3 and 4 for “best of the rest” in the Friday the 13th movie series. The graveyard scene is suitably creepy, as is one of the cabin scenes when Jason sneaks in to where the young kids are sleeping. The typical Friday music and kill-kill-kill-ma-ma-ma effect gets jazzed up, as well, with some of the music clearly inspired by Dies Irae. All-in-all, not a bad effort. Like many horror fans, I was happy to see Jason back on the screen.
Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives is a testament to how a slasher film can veer into the realm of the absurd, and yet, in doing so, manage to captivate its audience with an engaging mixture of horror, suspense, and even humor. The very premise of the movie, where Tommy Jarvis goes to Jason’s grave to make sure he’s dead and ends up accidentally resurrecting him, is both hilarious and absurd. It’s almost self-aware, a nod to the series’ resilience and its ability to resurrect itself time and time again, no matter how many times Jason meets his supposed “end.”
While some might find it hard to take the film seriously given its outlandish plot, it’s the self-referential and tongue-in-cheek approach that makes this installment stand out. This is where the “Friday the 13th” series began to embrace its own legacy, poking fun at its past while still delivering the gory goods fans had come to expect. It’s this balance between humor and horror that gives the movie its charm. Jason might be unstoppable and terrifying, but there’s a wink and nod to the audience, an acknowledgment of “yes, we know how this looks, but isn’t it fun?”
The action-packed sequences, combined with a rocking soundtrack, further elevate the movie. There’s a freshness in “Jason Lives” that was much needed after the controversial and Jason-less “Friday the 13th Part 5”. With its memorable kills, well-timed comedic moments, and commitment to not taking itself too seriously, “Jason Lives” offers a refreshing take on the formulaic slasher genre. In a world where horror sequels often degrade in quality, this entry in the Friday the 13th series reminds us that sometimes, a pinch of absurdity and a good dose of self-awareness can breathe new life into a tried and true formula.
I find myself returning to Part 6: Jason Lives often for both giggles and scares. Director Tom McLoughlin’s vision for “Jason Lives” diverged from the previous entries’ straightforward slasher roots, introducing a more meta element to the series. By blending horror tropes with dashes of comedy, McLoughlin managed to provide a refreshing commentary on the franchise’s longevity. It’s as if the film acknowledges its own indestructibility, much like its antagonist, Jason Voorhees.
The characters in this installment also stand out. While most slasher films from this era featured teens as mere fodder for the killer’s rampage, “Jason Lives” made a commendable effort to flesh out its ensemble cast. From the quirky grave digger who breaks the fourth wall to comment on the film’s violence, to the small-town sheriff determined to rid his jurisdiction of the Jason curse, each character felt like they were part of the narrative rather than just being set pieces waiting for their inevitable demise.
Moreover, the inclusion of children as potential victims in the Camp Crystal Lake setting ramped up the stakes in a series that often seemed devoid of any real threat. For perhaps the first time, the audience feels a genuine concern for the potential victims of Jason’s wrath, knowing full well that the film might dare to cross boundaries that were previously untouched.
Another unique addition was the film’s soundtrack, which veered from the typical atmospheric horror motifs to include contemporary rock tracks. Alice Cooper’s “He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask)” not only became synonymous with the movie but also a notable anthem in the 80s rock scene. It’s this blend of the contemporary with the timeless horror tropes that allows “Jason Lives” to age gracefully, even when viewed decades after its initial release.
In sum, “Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives” represents an evolutionary step for the series, infusing fresh blood into the franchise while respecting its core essence. By daring to be self-aware and playfully toying with conventions, it manages to reanimate the legacy of Camp Crystal Lake and its most infamous resident. While it might be built on a silly premise, it’s a thrilling ride that serves as a testament to the malleable nature of horror, proving that even in the face of absurdity, true terror can be achieved.
What’s your opinion of Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives? Grab the DVD on Amazon and give it a spin.