No, we’re not kidding.
Throughout the course of Junkfood Cinema’s One Junky Summer series, we have been touching upon films from the summer of 1986 that changed pop culture, altered the genre cinema landscape, or otherwise just broke the rules. It would therefore seem antithetical that the sixth installment of a horror franchise, in which a seemingly nameless crop of teenage murder fodder arrives to be butchered by a masked maniac just as they had multiple times in previous sequels, would possibly be a landmark. It is especially puzzling to think of any film in the woefully prolific Friday the 13th franchise as remarkable considering the creator of the very first installment has since owned up to the near plagiaristic influence of John Carpenter’s Halloween.
All that being said, Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI is one of the most important horror films of the 80s, largely because of the seeds it sowed for the next decade and beyond.
With the fan backlash against Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning, in which an imposter Jason perpetrated cinema’s ultimate “who cares whodunnit,” the edict sent down from the Paramount mountain top was simple: bring back Mr. Voorhees. What was clear in the construction of the sixth installment however was that it would not be enough to simply resurrect their iconic baddie, audiences needed to see something very new.
Enter comedically-trained filmmaker Tom McLoughlin.
What McLoughlin created in Jason Lives is a self-aware, self-effacing horror comedy that still feels very much at home on the shores of Crystal Lake. There was a more playful approach to Jason, with oddball characters disconnected from the plot appearing to show up for express purpose of being slaughtered, but more importantly, characters in this horror film were suddenly well-aware of the existence of horror films.
“I’ve seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly,” remarks one soon-to-be-skewered motorist.
“So, what were you going to be when you grew up,” glibly queries one young camper of another as they hide from Jason.
“Some folks sure got a strange idea of entertainment,” notes a drunken cemetery caretaker directly into the camera; slashing at the fourth wall like Jason with a machete.
While there had been many horror comedies before 1986, none had functioned so completely as a legitimate entry into the genre they were lampooning. In other words, Friday the 13th Part VI may have been making fun of slasher films, but it was still unquestionably a slasher film. In fact, as much as McLoughlin wanted to send up Jason, he was also clearly concerned with fleshing out the killer’s mythos; adding ghost story rules and even attempting to add a scene featuring Jason’ father.
However, it was the self-aware approach, with characters pulling from foreknowledge of horror cinema, that made Friday the 13th Part VI such a monumental step forward for the genre. Ten years later, Wes Craven (creator of the rival Nightmare on Elm Street franchise) would launch an entirely new wave of horror with the inwardly-gazing slasher Scream. While none can argue the watershed moment that was Scream’s arrival, screenwriter Kevin Williamson has admitted that it was Jason Lives that inspired him to craft his meta masterpiece.
Want to hear more about why we love this silly little slasher? Listen to this episode of Junkfood Cinema!
As a special treat, anyone who backs JFC on Patreon will have access to a weekly bonus episode covering an additional movie from the summer of 1986! Have a couple bucks to throw in the hat, we’ll reward you!
On This Week’s Show:
- He’s Back[0:00–2:44]
- The Man Behind the Mask[2:45–59:16]
- The Final Girl [59:17–1:02:36]
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