Jason Goes to Hell (1993)
This is how Jason Goes to Hell makes me feel. It is pure profiteering garbage, a desperate bid from New Line to wring a few more dollars from Friday the 13th's corpse after acquiring it from Paramount. Not a drop of passion or talent went into crafting this cheap, muddy, incomprehensible mess, a movie that is often so poorly lit that you can't even see who's getting killed or how Jason's doing it. Aside from one technically impressive but overlong scene of a face randomly melting, this is 100% skippable. The theme song is hilarious, though, a sure sign of Harry Manfredini's complete disinterest in the franchise:
Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
Jason Goes to Hell has the dubious distinction of being "non-canon," which means the fans hated it so much that they pretended it never actually happened. A New Beginning was in perhaps an even more awkward spot: it came hot on the heels of the immensely popular The Final Chapter, which had promised the ultimate and irreversible death of Jason Voorhees. Not wanting to defy continuity, director Danny Steinman and his three screenwriters (?!) concocted a workaround that involved not-really-Jason running around and killing the most annoying people on the planet. If the Mean Aggravation Quotient of a typical horror movie cast is 5, it's about 700 in A New Beginning. Lots of screaming, shrieking, hooting, hollering, and kill setups that are so protracted that you have to spend more time than you'd ever want with these banshees. Far from wanting these people to die, which was surely the movie's goal, you only want A New Beginning to be over as quickly as possible.
Friday the 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982)
disco rendition of the Friday the 13th theme song, coupling handsomely with the visual gimmickry to create an entertaining portrait of horror in the early 80s. How's the movie, though? Boring as hell. The least distinguished final girl in the franchise, a limp plot, and only a handful of memorable kills leave this installment feeling surprisingly forgettable.
Friday the 13th: Jason Lives (1986)
Friday the 13th: The New Blood (1988)
Jason X (2001)
New Line took eight years to lick their wounds after Jason Goes to Hell was publicly and critically savaged. Then they released this. Gluttons for punishment, I suppose...BUT. Jason X is pretty funny and totally watchable, an absolute load of lovingly made dog crap. The films in the tail end of this franchise are best served by unabashed gory camp carnage, and though the kills here vary in quality, no movie that stars a kung-fu android with a raging case of nipple jealousy can truly be bad in my book. This was a substantial box office disappointment, unfortunately, which led to the series excreting one more ludicrous offering (Freddy vs. Jason, a waste of anyone's time) before receding into remake hell. This will not be to everyone's taste, but if you're in the market for absurd sci-fi horror, Jason X is worth a try.
Friday the 13th (1980)
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Meant to send Jason out with a bang (it didn't, of course, since this made so much goddamn bank), Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter would have ended the franchise on its highest note. For my money, this is the closest the series ever came to having a cohesive artistic vision, sporting the best camerawork of the bunch, courtesy of unknown director Joseph Zito and unknown director of photography Joao Fernandes. The way this movie plays with light and shadow is exceptional. It features the above insanity from Crispin Glover, bespeaking the movie's unashamed embrace of absurd comedy in absurd circumstances. The kills are great, buoyed by the clear and thoughtful geography of the two main locations, and the acting is the most consistent you'll see in the series. There are even two defenestrations, one of which involves a cool dog. The Final Chapter is way better than it had any right to be, and in my eyes remains Friday the 13th's high point...if you can get past Corey Feldman's ridiculous role in the ending, which comes thiiiiiisclose to ruining the film's impressive tension. Why Paramount decided to follow this underrated gem with A New Beginning is incomprehensible.