If one were to ask me what my favourite chapter in the 'Friday the 13th' series is, I would have to go hands down with 'Jason Lives'. Everyone has their favourite chapter for their own reasons, and my reasons lean primarily on the idea that this is the only title in the series that is also an utterly self-aware comedy. Since horror/comedy is my favourite genre, I may be biased toward this movie as the big stand-out. But when it comes down to what 'Friday the 13th' is to us today, it's a good one to go back on!
Rewind slightly to 'A New Beginning', where audiences really started to get split. While people like me could see the good they were trying to do, the bottom line was that Jason was not a part of it, even though 'Part IV' was supposed to be his last appearance. Sometimes an audience just can't be pleased. However, new writer/director Tom McLaughlin understood exactly what these movies were about to their audience and resurrected the franchise by reviving Jason (C.J. Graham) to please his loyal fans. The way he does it lets you know exactly what kind of movie you're in for, too.
It all opens with an homage to 'Frankenstein', where a slightly older than last time Tommy Jarvis (Thom Matthews), is headed to Jason's grave with his friend Allen (Ron Palillo) to dig Jason up so Tommy can ensure he's dead even though he's been buried there for years - presumably since Tommy was still a kid. But the man needs closure on his horrible nightmares. In further homage to 'Frankenstein' (complete with Allen holding an old-style lantern to guide their way), Tommy rams an iron rod into Jason's chest, Jason's struck by lightning, and... "He's back! The man behind the mask! And he's out of control!" (thank you, Alice Cooper).
This pre-credit sequence is capped off with an homage to James Bond, farcing the famous searching gun barrel Bond shoots at the beginning of every 'Bond' film. And while I probably consider Freddy more of a horror "Bond", the message is clear - Jason is THAT famous and recognizable now. Back to the plot, Tommy heads to the Forest Green Sheriff's Dept. to report to Sheriff Garris (David Kagen) that Jason has come back to life and needs to be stopped, but mostly, people must be warned. Garris ignores him, as adults tend to do in these movies, even eventually locking him up for trying to pull a shitty prank.
Meanwhile, a new group of counsellors arrives at Camp Forest Green, namely consisting of the Sheriff's daughter, Megan (Jennifer Cooke) and her friends Paula (Kerry Noonan), Sissy (Renée Jones), Cort (Tom Fridley) and Nikki (Darcy DeMoss). But this chapter also comes with a surprising first - actual campers! For once, we finally see how actual children might have to cope with a masked machete-manipulating madman. Going back to McLaughlin, knowing his audience, the guy gave the plot some kids that the kid viewers could relate to. Because trust me, kids were absolutely watching these movies.
Much to the Sheriff's dismay, Megan eventually meets the likes of Tommy. She may even give him some slack on the idea that Jason, a homicidal maniac who stalked Forest Green when it was still Crystal Lake, has returned and is all pissed off and ready to kill whatever gets in his way. This often results in some pretty great kills that are often brutal and frequently hilarious. To show even further evidence that this is something to just have fun with, one particular kill involves Jason slamming someone's face into a tree just for it to leave a "Have a Nice Day" happy face imprint.
Topping it off with a pretty metal soundtrack and Alice Cooper's tribute song for the film, 'He's Back! (The Man Behind the Mask) along with 'Teenage Frankenstein', this is a near-perfect mixture for everything a 'Friday the 13th' movie should be (at least in my humble opinion). The only thing really missing here is Kane Hodder, who will play Jason from parts 7-10 and is the quintessential player for the character. Otherwise, it's a fun horror ride with cheesiness, jokes, great music and all the brutal violence a 'Friday the 13th' fan could ask for. It is the only 'Friday the 13th' title that has since become a necessary go-to for me around the Halloween season... and that's saying an awful lot!