By Bradley Lane
Influenced by the likes of the Italian giallo film movement and auteur directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, the slasher genre has been a staple of horror cinema since its inception in the late 1970s. Notable works in the genre include 1974’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1979’s Halloween and 1980’s Friday the 13th, the latter of which has spawned no less than 10 direct sequels and a modern reboot of the franchise. The 1980s were awash with sequels and cheaply made slashers to bank on the success of films like the original Friday the 13th. Most of the sequels are poorly made and exist solely to cash in on brand recognition, regurgitating the same formula on end until public interest ran out entirely. However, Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives is the rare case of a late era sequel that not only understands why audiences enjoy the franchise to begin with, but also adds new elements that add life to a genre in dire need of new ideas.
After a lackluster fifth entry into the franchise that excluded the real Jason Voorhees as a villain entirely, writer and director Tom McLoughlin knew the series needed new ideas if it were to survive much longer. Smartly, McLoughlin added much higher levels of camp and comedy to keep Friday the 13th fresh and ensure that it catered to the fans of the series. The events of Jason Lives begins when a returning character, Tommy Jarvis, unintentionally brings the sinister mass murderer Jason back to life, reigniting his bloodlust and endangering the entirety of the nearby Camp Forest Green.
Jason Lives is a groundbreaking film in the slasher genre. This is not because of its focus on kills or quality special effects, but rather it is because it was one of the first slashers to include self-referential humor. The film prioritizes fun and entertainment value over scares in a decision that ultimately leads to the film poking fun at slasher genre tropes. This would have been incredibly refreshing to an audience in the mid-1980s who have been inundated with nearly a decade of formulaic films that dominated the box office up until that point. This jovial deconstruction of the genre predates films like Wes Craven’s 1996 slasher satire Scream by over 10 years, making it a visionary piece of genre filmmaking.
Key among Jason Lives strengths is its comedic tone which permeates every instance of horror in the film. For example, in a typical slasher movie, surely someone could die by getting their head smashed into a tree but only in Jason Lives could their point of impact in the tree leave a bloody smiley face in its wake. The film is made by horror fans, for horror fans and deserves to be held up as a flagship piece of work within the horror canon. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video. – 4/5 stars