This is not a knock at either the popular television producer or the studio, by the by. While we imagine some old school ‘80s gorehounds have their own strong opinions about the 2010s’ horror renaissance and the rise of “elevated horror,” A24 has been nothing if not a welcome trendsetter in the genre. While we generally loathe the term “elevated horror” (there has always been artful and challenging chillers), there is no denying A24 helped mainstream the idea again by reminding a new generation about the intellectual and emotional potential in horror. Robert Eggers’ The Witch (2015) and The Lighthouse (2019), and Ari Aster’s Hereditary (2018) are some of the best horror movies ever made in this writer’s humble opinion, and along with David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows (2014), which is not an A24 picture, they helped create a new era of classics in the form.
They’re also each in their own way descended from clear influences and lineages in the genre. Both Eggers’ horrors and Aster’s Midsommar (2019) pull from the long legacy of hypnotic folk horror, most notably The Wicker Man (1973) in Midsommar’s case. Meanwhile Hereditary is heavily influenced by William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973), as well as more acutely Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968), which along with The Stepford Wives (1975) is likewise in the DNA of Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017).
And while there is perhaps less respect for the conventions of the “slasher movie” subgenre, efforts in that wheelhouse have still reached similar, influential heights. Green’s entire Halloween trilogy is nothing if not an ambitious (if uneven) attempt to reexamine and expand on the dark primal ideas in John Carpenter’s quintessential slasher from 1978. And the nightmarish scars left by Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) linger over It Follows.
… But if we’re being completely honest, Friday the 13th was never one of those franchises, and to date there has yet to be a Jason Voorhees picture that has striven to be anything better than late night schlock. This is not to say you can’t enjoy stories from the Crystal Lake cycle. Personally, Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986) is a guilty pleasure. Is the movie good? Not particularly, but in my youth it sure was a lot of fun to watch, with Jason returning from the dead as a zombie after being struck by lightning, and finally having a showdown with the local authorities who never believe that he’s come back (Jason of course bends the sheriff in half like a pretzel).
Still, there’s a reason some of us can make a decent argument that Jason X (2001)—the one where Jason GOES TO SPACE!—is the best one… and that’s because there’s never been a good Friday the 13th movie. At best they’re amusing, and at worst they are very open to the criticism of fetishizing for male teens the image of a man punishing nubile, naked young women with his phallic machete.
The original Friday the 13th (1980) was a shameless copycat of Carpenter’s Halloween and Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) in which teenage bodies are destroyed by a killer during a spooky quasi-holiday. And the first FT13’s one innovation (the killer is actually a vengeful mother) was abandoned by sequels that fully cloned Michael Myers into another mute killer, only now audiences weren’t asked to empathize with compelling characters like Laurie Strode or Dr. Loomis; instead they were encouraged to revel in the teens’ glorified murders. To this day, even the best slashers are reduced by the online chatter of “how were the kills?”