Our main show may have covered the first, but today we're covering the best. Not only the best movie in the Friday the 13th franchise but maybe one of the best slasher movies, period. I know that's a pretty bold claim, right? Well I can back it up. Strap yourselves in, kids. We're taking a trip to 1986. A year after the worst Nightmare movie and a year before the best Nightmare movie, when Jason was king. If you haven't seen this movie yet, I highly recommend that you do before continuing. There will be spoilers a-plenty.
Now, if you listened to our main show's review of the original Friday the 13th (if you didn't, go do it), you'll know that outside of me swooping in at the end to save the day none of the guys spoke too favorably of the movie. Taking that into account, it is the highest rated by critics out of all the Friday the 13th movies at 61%. By contrast, today's entry sits at 52% approval from critics. So why am I saying today's pick is better if it isn't the highest rated? Well let me explain.
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (which we'll call Jason Lives from here on out for simplicity's sake) is a return to form for the franchise after Part V: A New Beginning pulled a Halloween III and removed Jason from the roll of antagonist. For anyone unfamiliar with the franchise, Jason was killed off in Part IV: The Final Chapter by a young Tommy Jarvis. Jason Lives picks up after Tommy has grown up, but he's still haunted by the trauma of what he experienced two movies ago. Convinced that the only way he can put his demons to rest is by destroying Jason's corpse once and for all, he goes to dig up Jason's grave and burn the body. He screws up and Jason ends up coming back to life as the immortal zombie we know and love and it's up to Jarvis to try and kill Jason again. Simple premise, right? It's that simplicity that gives the movie enough room to breathe and spread out from there, which is the biggest strength of Jason Lives because it's at this point in the series where it goes full camp and embraces it with enough force to crush a spine. Don't believe me? Check this out:
If you didn't take my advice and are reading this without having seen the movie but watched that clip and are confused about what that scene or those characters have to do with the plot I described above, the short answer is absolutely nothing. I bet it made you laugh though, and if it didn't then I guess you're more dead inside than Jason. But that's what I mean about going full camp. I would say close to a third of this movie is just a Jason kill montage that either barely connects to the main plot or doesn't at all, and that's what I love about it. The plot isn't important, none of the characters outside of Tommy Jarvis and final girl Megan matter, so we can totally let Jason steal the spotlight and wreak havoc for most of the film the way God intended. The way I see it, you can go one of two ways with Slasher movies. You can either play it serious and scary like the first Halloween or Nightmare on Elm St. or you can get silly and over the top like Jason Lives. Personally, I like both styles if they're done well, and Jason Lives is one of, if not the perfect examples of how to do it right.
But that's not to say that this movie is just nonsense from start to finish. There are some genuinely awesome moments in this movie as well. The final showdown between Jason and Tommy is pretty badass, but even more badass is the RV scene. I should say it starts off funny and ends in a badass way. If you've seen the movie you know what I'm talking about but I'll show you again anyway because it's just that good.
If you watched that and are wondering which part was badass because you missed it there are actually a couple moments. The first is when Jason slams that girl's head into the wall so hard her face makes an imprint and the second moment is after the RV flips and Jason is standing on top of it looking all cool.
Look at me, I've spent so much time showering this movie with praise based on its tone alone that I haven't even talked about the stuff I would normally talk about so let me back up a bit. Jason Lives is written and directed by Tom McLaughlin. If his name doesn't sound familiar it's because he hasn't really done anything of note outside of this movie. As I said before the only important characters are Tommy Jarvis played by Thom Mathews, Megan played by Jennifer C Cooke, and good ol' Jason played by C.J. Graham. This being a slasher movie you know not to expect the greatest of acting, but all of the acting in Jason Lives is serviceable. There isn't a single performance that stands out as being particularly bad, so I'd call it a win.
At the end of the day, Jason Lives is easily the best of the Friday the 13th franchise, and stands toe to toe with Dream Warriors as being the best campy slasher of all time, period. I honestly don't know which I prefer more. It would probably be a coin flip on a day to day basis, but what do you think? Do you share my love of Jason Lives? Which Friday the 13th movie is your favorite? Let me know down in the comments!