Contributor: Rick McGimpsey
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives is my favourite of all of the Jason movies. It does everything required and expected of a Jason movie and it does it all so perfectly. Everything from the pacing, Jason’s amount of screen time, humour, story, and kills are done competently and effectively. Jason Lives epitomises and defines the perfect Friday the 13th movie. If someone you know has never seen the films and wants to know what they are about show them Friday the 13th Part VI. It is the perfect essence of what a Jason movie is.
Jason Lives is the third and final entry in the “Tommy Jarvis” trilogy, a story arc that began in the so-called Final Chapter of the series. Tommy has now fully recovered from his PTSD from the last film and no mention is made of his psychotic breakdown at the end of Part V. While this may raise some jarring continuity issues I think it is for the best that the events of Part V be acknowledged as passively as possible.
Tommy, in an attempt to find closure from Jason Voorhee’s traumatic role in his life, heads over with a friend to Jason’s grave in the middle of a rainstorm. They dig up Jason’s body and Tommy intends to burn it along with his machete and hockey mask. However, after seeing the corpse Tommy has a meltdown and begins pummeling the cadaver with a shovel and a metal pole. He sticks the pole in Jason’s chest which proves to be a terrible idea when lightning strikes the pole and resurrects Jason a la Frankenstein. They should have called this movie Friday the 13th Part VI: It’s Alive!
Jason kills Tommy’s friend by punching a hole in his chest and takes back his mask and machete. Thanks a lot Tommy! You just resurrected and armed Jason Voorhees!
Tommy flees the scene and tries to warn the local authorities that Jason is alive and well and back to his old slashing habits. Of course, none of them believe him and when he gets riled up they lock him in the drunk tank. Fortunately, Tommy manages to charm the sheriff’s daughter who helps him escape. Bring Your Daughter to Work Day probably shouldn’t be practised if you are a cop.
While on his rampage Jason manages to find Camp Crystal Lake again and begins stalking and killing the counselors. This time the camp is actually up and running and there are kids already staying in the cabins. This marks the first time in history that Jason is too late and fails to keep the camp from opening. His mom is gonna be pissed!
Jason doesn’t kill any of the kids strangely enough. I am guessing he is above that sort of thing. Adults, teenagers, and dogs maybe. But killing kids is going too far for Jason Voorhees! No wonder he hated Freddy so much.
Eventually we reach a climactic showdown between Tommy and Jason on the lake itself. Tommy, while inside a small boat, uses gasoline to light the lake on fire and during their fight he succeeds in using a rock and chain to hold Jason underwater and drown him. Tommy goes home with his new girlfriend and probably feels like a badass for killing Jason Voorhees twice and surviving all the movies he is in. Tommy Jarvis is awesome. Put him and Ash Williams together in a slasher movie and it would be over in two minutes.
One of the standout qualities of Jason Lives is that you like all of the characters. Slasher movies have a habit of making all their characters be unlikable douchebags that you can’t wait to see slaughtered by the killer. This trait only got worse in the 90’s. But here all of the main characters, camp counselors, and the kids in the cabins are all likable, funny, and you root for them. Like Laurie Strode from Halloween or Nancy Thompson from A Nightmate on Elm Street Tommy Jarvis is a recurring hero who has a personal vendetta against the antagonist that you want to see succeed and you cheer when he does.
While Part V is a pretty piss poor entry in the series the Tommy Jarvis trilogy as a whole makes for the best of the Jason series. They took the series in a new direction in which the characters were more than just gore fodder for Jason to kill in the movie’s 90 minute runtime. You like them and you want to see where their stories go.
The funny moments in the movie are well-balanced and do not render the movie into a comedy like Army of Darkness did. The humour is well placed and makes the movie light yet still appropriate. There is a funny moment when a woman tries to bribe Jason with a Mastercard to make him leave her alone. It doesn’t work of course, but in retrospect Jason should have taken her offer. He could have used the money since trips to Manhattan aren’t cheap.
One of my favourite scenes is when a couple of young boys in the camp are hiding under the beds and one asks the other, “So, what were you gonna be when you grew up?”
This movie is also surprisingly absent of nudity. There is only one sex scene and the actors have their shirts on for the entirety of it. That makes this the cleanest of the Jason movies and it shows a lot to the film’s credit since most of the Jason movies were low rent slasher flicks with strong exploitation vibes to them. The nudity was an essential part of drawing in paying audiences. They were “geek shows” showcasing sex and violence for an hour and a half. Jason Lives is confident enough in its own quality that it doesn’t rely on nudity at all and shows none. It’s almost as if the movie knows it is the best of the entire series.
Sadly this is also the last of the “good” movies in the Friday the 13th series. Jumping the shark became common for the series after this with a bevy of psychics, trips to New York, and space adventures bringing the series to an all time low. Many of those movies are fun and campy if you approach them in the right mood, but for me the best of the bunch is Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. It’s the definitive Jason flick.