UTG’s 31 Days Of Halloween: ‘Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives’

Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is loved by the UTG staff more than Halloween. With October’s arrival, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a slew of features and special announcements we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day.

Now in its fourth year, 31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring feature that will run throughout the month of October. The goal of this column is to supply every UTG reader with a daily horror (or Halloween-themed) movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your All Hallows’ Eve festivities. We’ll be watching every film the day it’s featured, and we hope you’ll follow along at home.

This year, the entire 31 Days series is dedicated to the memory of our friend, Justin Proper. We wouldn’t have a film department without him, and he specifically helped pioneer our involvement in the horror genre. Rest in peace, JP.

Jason Lives poster

Day 12: Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)

Close your eyes. Cue up a fuzzy VHS tape. A horror movie. From the ‘80s. A slasher film. Teens, violence. If you adjust the tracking, you might even catch some nudity through the static. Your parents are asleep, right? You didn’t CHECK?! Dude, c’mon. Go!

I’ll wait.

In the meantime, here’s a little magic trick: the movie you’re seeing in your head is Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. How do I know? Because even if you haven’t seen this movie, you’ve seen this movie – and therein lies its genius.

In 1979, Halloween simultaneously invented and perfected the modern slasher film. John Carpenter’s vision of death in the suburbs married incredible cinematography and a gripping score to characters and a plot so beautifully simple that it’s hard to imagine something so primal ever being matched. It isn’t just one of the best horror movies of all time, it is one of the greatest American films ever made. As the sixth in a series designed to cash in on Halloween’s success, the same cannot be said for Jason Lives. It’s no Halloween, no Jaws, no Silence Of The Lambs – and it doesn’t need to be. Instead, it stands on its own as the second best slasher film ever made.

I know, I know. What about Scream? A Nightmare On Elm Street? The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? I hear you, but take a look at the list of ingredients Jason Lives is working with: crypts and storms and wind and worms and leaves and corpses and lightning and beer and sports cars and fog and summer camp and sex and cops and rock and roll and teens who are right and parents who are wrong. With a couple substitutions, this movie is basically The Blob.

And that’s why it’s perfect.

For the first time, a slasher film made the argument that sequels could rise above their station and offer more than wanton, repetitive violence. In 1986, no one had figured that out yet. Michael Myers had yet to make his Return, Freddy hadn’t met the Dream Warriors, and no one quite knew what a slasher franchise looked like. Jason Lives showed them the light: treat these characters like the icons they stand in the footsteps of. Make them massive in frame, light them like living nightmares, let them lurk through shadows and fog. Make them modern day monster movies. With one shot – the undead Jason rising like Frankenstein’s Monster, reclaiming his hockey mask and turning to face the camera as he slides it on – writer/director Tom McLoughlin fired a shot across the bow of the genre.

Jason Lives mask

It’s an aesthetic and tonal triumph in a franchise that too often wears its repetition and sameness as a badge of honor. The film is the first in the series to rise above the backyard movie vibe of previous entries. Instead, it’s rich and saturated; clever and quick. The victims fleeing Jason’s blade are just sketches, but likable and fun — more like carnival cartoons than the downer doodles of entries past. As so many ’80s horror heroines do, Jennifer Cooke’s Megan Dunne steals the movie with more personality and life than any of the men including Tommy Jarvis, Jason’s nemesis in Parts IV, V, and VI (portrayed here by Thom Mathews). The only actor that comes close to matching her performance is Tom Friedly as Cort, one of the best ’80s bros in the genre. He’s a tough guy doofus who never crosses the line into sleazy. Instead, he gets a hilarious monologue about Native American culture that he has to deliver to a bunch of bored ten-year-olds.

Yes! In a series first, there are actually children at this summer camp. Children who find themselves in peril! Providing stakes for our heroes who must protect them from Jason! The most gut-wrenching moments in the film come when Jason breaks into their cabins, machete in hand, hunting more bodies to add to his tally.

There’s even more to love: the honest-to-God jokes that (even in the wake of Scream) are genuinely funny, the care taken to stretch every penny and make one of the prettiest entries in any slasher franchise, and the fact that Alice Cooper has not one, but three songs on the soundtrack.

I could go on, but the point is this: that Friday flick you see in your head — Jason confidently striding through a foggy woods, the bright light of the moon at his back, Camp Crystal Lake quietly splayed out before him — Jason Lives is where it all came together for the first time.

We good? They’re asleep?

Hit it.

Today’s feature was contributed by writer/director Chris Cullari who has created such excellent shorts as The Sleepover and Satanic Panic.

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