That familiar musical sting as a silent predator stalks the woods can only mean one thing: It’s time to head on back to Camp Crystal Lake with everyone’s favorite murdering behemoth, Jason Voorhees. On this day in 1986, the sixth installment of the Friday The 13th franchise burst forth from its coffin and murdered the competition (though didn’t take the number one spot). Jason Lives: Friday The 13th, Part VI is a highlight of the slasher series, with many connoisseurs of the blood-drenched films ranking it very close to the top. After the Jason-less exploits of Part V: A New Beginning proved lackluster to fans, the studio mandated that Jason return and he does so in a big way with a body count of 18 victims.
The film was written and directed by Tom McLoughlin (who went on to mostly do TV movies) and features some of the best known and loved moments from the horror staple. There’s people getting faces smashed into RV walls, a guy getting snapped in half, and Ron “Horshack” Palillo meeting an untimely and grisly end as well. Jason Lives is one of the first meta-slasher films, predating Scream by a good ten years, as it delivers kills and chills but also tons of winks to the camera and jokes that help propel it along. For those interested in the making of the film, there’s a good DVD extra that’s on YouTube that discussing behind the scenes events:
That jokey style and those metatextual references make it difficult to poke fun at the film, as it realizes its own absurdity and cliches throughout, but that doesn’t stop The Cinema Snob from trying to in this video where he recaps the fun and has a good time mocking the various conventions the filmmakers used throughout and wrongheaded decisions the characters make in dealing with the now undead Jason.
And while the excellent Harry Manfredini returns to score the film, complete with the infamous “ki ki ki” heard whenever the masked hockey enthusiast is around, Jason Lives also features multiple hard-rock pop hits by Felony and Alice Cooper, who contributed the main theme for the film, “He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask).” It’s a raucous ’80s power rock anthem that fits in perfectly with the era (although technically the movie takes place in an alternate version of the 1992, but that’s a whole different discussion).
Lastly, this video isn’t actually connected to Jason Lives, but deserves to be watched and must always be brought up whenever one discusses Jason Voorhees. To promote the sequel (and far inferior film) Jason Takes Manhattan: Friday The 13th Part VIII, Kane Hodder put on the Jason get up and spent five excruciating silent minutes with Arsenio Hall. It’s an insane moment of television as Arsenio just tries to riff off a completely stoic Jason Voorhees who mainly just breathes heavily and stares deep into the comedian’s soul. For those that haven’t seen it, it’s spectacular viewing and truly cringeworthy stuff:
Despite being 30 years old, Jason Lives: Friday The 13th Part VI has aged tremendously well and is still one of the most entertaining entries in the series. It has (almost) everything one would want from a Friday The 13th movie: inventive kills, terrific ’80s fashions and acting, some good jokes, and a quick pace that cements it as one of the best (lack of Tom Savini F/X and Crispin Glover dancing knock it down a peg or two, though). For those that haven’t checked it out yet, it’s definitely worth a viewing and what better day than on its 30th anniversary.
…Or, you know, on the next Friday the 13th.