Days of Summer #3: Tom McLoughlin’s “Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives” (1986)

Jason LivesIn my book, there’s a distinct difference between “Summer Movies” and “Movies to Watch During Summer”, although they’re not mutually exclusive terms. While the term “Summer Movie” denotes a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster released during the months of May, June, July, or August, it is typically the case that these films have very little to do with the actual season. In this new feature, I’ll be ranting and raving about my favorite “Movies to Watch During Summer”, to anybody who cares to listen.

Jason Lives
Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives (1986, Dir. Tom McLoughlin)


Full disclosure:
I’ve seen every Jason Voorhees movie ever made, which is saying a lot, considering it’s a series that, as of this writing, spans ten legitimate entries, one severely underrated Freddy Krueger team-up flick, and a lame 2009 remake.

Another secret about the Friday the 13th movies? They can get pretty boring after a while. While the two other big slasher franchises of the 1980s, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween, worked hard to make each installment unique and offer up some kind of new (and convoluted) expansion of the series mythology, ol’ Jason and Friends were pretty content to just rehash the same movie year after year. So if you’re jumping into Part VI cold, here’s the epic story so far:

  • Friday the 13th (1980). 20 years after her son Jason drowned at Camp Crystal Lake, Mrs. Voorhees kills horny teen camp counselors in a poorly-timed and ill-conceived act of revenge. She gets killed by the only virgin at the camp.
  • Friday the 13th Part II (1981). Jason didn’t die 20 years ago. He responds to his mother’s death by putting a pillow case over his head and killing horny teen camp counselors in a poorly-timed and ill-conceived act of revenge. He gets killed by the only virgin at the camp.
  • Friday the 13th Part III (1982). Jason didn’t die in the previous movie. He responds to his own death by donning a hockey mask and killing horny teens in a poorly-timed and ill-conceived act of revenge. He gets killed by the only virgin at the camp.
  • Friday the 13th Part IV: The “Final” Chapter (1984). Jason didn’t die in the previous movie. He responds to his own death by donning a hockey mask killing horny teens in a poorly-timed and ill-conceived act of revenge. He gets killed by a 12-year-old Corey Feldman, who may or may not have been a virgin at the time of filming, depending on who you talk to.
  • Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985). Surprise! Jason actually did “die” in the previous movie. What’s not surprising is that a copycat killer, all riled up over his son’s completely unrelated death, inexplicably dons a hockey mask and kills horny teens in a poorly-timed and ill-conceived act of revenge. He gets killed by falling on some spikes or something.

Jason Lives

But none of this matters, because Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives is hands-down the best entry in the series. And while we’re at it, for sheer entertainment value, it blows most other horror films out of the water too.

While Jaws is like the family picnic of summer horror movies where you say things like “Please pass the potato salad”, Jason Lives is like the rootin’-tootin’ summer barbeque that gets wayyy out of hand right around the time that your loudmouth former co-worker Lonny cracks open his ninth Pabst Blue Ribbon and starts making lewd comments about your girlfriend’s ample bosom in a way that you just won’t stand for, so you have to brawl it out with him in front of the whole party while Alice Cooper performs LIVE from the upstairs window of your parent’s bedroom, only to leap down and splash into the swimming pool with a final screeching guitar chord at the exact moment that you both knock Lonny out and realize your parents just came home early from their trip to Iowa.

That’s right, Jason Lives, you may have some explaining to do, but what a summer!

What sets this one apart from its five predecessors? For starters, it drops that nasty habit that the previous films had of taking itself way too seriously, opting instead to stack on loads of self-referential humor in a manner that paved the way for meta-horror like New Nightmare and Scream.

At one point somebody declares “I’ve seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly.” Considering Friday the 13th is a series that for five consecutive installments was populated solely by drooling jocks and buxom girls in denim short-shorts whose sole purpose was to get naked and then promptly die via sharp farming equipment, this is what we call progress.

While the previous films relied on us suspending our disbelief that Jason was just really difficult to kill, this movie literally opens with a lightning bolt hitting Jason’s grave (still “dead” after his run-in with Corey Feldman in Part IV, if you’re paying attention), bringing him back to life Frankenstein-style, and becoming an unstoppable zombie with a kind of blundering Herman Munster sensibility.

Jason bumbles into town, getting into one whacky summertime killing spree after another, culminating in the obligatory slaughter of camp counselors with the added twist that there’s LITTLE KIDS AT THE CAMP THIS TIME. But don’t worry parents, Jason prefers to just do psychological harm to children under 13.

Jason Lives

Our hero Tommy (previously played by Feldman, here played by Thom Mathews) runs to the local sheriff’s station for help, only to encounter the biggest slack-jawed hillbilly cops this side of Mayberry, who balk at Tommy’s not-so-hard-to-believe story that the same masked killer who has slaughtered his way through the tiny town of Crystal Lake on-and-off for the last couple decades is on the loose AGAIN.

Anyway, the movie is basically the same story you’ve seen five times before. But it’s executed so perfectly here by writer-director Tom McLoughlin, with such humor and style, that you almost wish it was the only one of these films they ever made, if only so it would be universally considered the all-time summer horror classic that it is.

But don’t take my word for it. Dark Lord of Metal Alice Cooper was so taken with Jason Lives that he laid down the rockin’ track “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)”, the film’s rock anthem that plays over the end credits. It could be that Alice did the song because he was paid a lot of money, but I prefer to believe he did it for free without anybody asking him to do it, because he just kind of “got it”.


Best Way to Watch: Track down an original 35mm print, project it onto a sheet in your backyard and invite over all your cool friends on a hot summer night. Also, invite me. I don’t care if you live in North Carolina. I’ll find a way to be there for your backyard screening of Jason Lives.

Best Paired with: Hot dogs and blood red margaritas. Again, don’t attempt any of this without my supervision.

Further Viewing: If you’re just dying to know how Jason gets out of his dire predicament at the end of the film, 1987’s Friday the 13th, Part VII: The New Blood will be more than happy to sate your curiosity.

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