Jason Goes to Hell was the second Friday the 13th movie I ever saw and, at the time, I hated it. Mind you, I was about eight years old, but it’s no secret that a great number of fans discover horror when they’re younger. I had previously seen the original Friday the 13th and had been so disappointed that Jason was nowhere to be found in it until he jumped out of the lake at the end. So, being bitter, I jumped right to the then relatively recent Jason Goes to Hell simply because it had his name in the title. It seemed foolproof.
And, of course, it wasn’t. Two minutes into the movie, Jason is blown to pieces, not to return to his own body until the very end. I was very angered by it as a child and it affected my view of the feature for years and years to come. This opinion of the film seems to represent the majority, by and large. It’s very different from all of the Friday the 13th entries that preceded it. It’s much more of a drastic change of formula than the maligned Part V, which is pretty much a standard Friday until you find out Jason isn’t in it.
But something happened as I watched Jason Goes to Hell a few more times over the years: I began to like it more and more. The few things I appreciated the first time were all things I simply grew to love. Jason’s unique design by KNB is underrated and has always been one of my favorites. I love the melted look and especially love the fact that the hockey mask is embedded into his face. The death scenes are the most brutal in the entire franchise. Many fans who hate the film still love the death scenes, especially in their unrated form.A few years ago, watching the feature in a marathon of the entire series, something magical happened: I noticed, as I was watching, that everything I had initially hated about Jason Goes to Hell had become everything I loved about it. Looking at a franchise comprised of twelve entries to date, I think the drastic change of formula is a very welcome change of pace. It’s basically The Hidden with Jason in it, which is a pretty excellent concept when you really look at it. The possession angle is new and fresh. It keeps the relative style of a Friday, you still get those death scenes at regular intervals, but at the same time has a style all its own, which it balances very well.
It’s also both darker and funnier than your average Friday the 13th. The plot can get pretty grim at times and the deaths are downright nasty. At times it can feel like the most mean-spirited of the series, especially with that tent scene and the defiling of Diana’s corpse. But then you have characters like Joey and her crew at the diner that are wisely there to provide some comic relief. Even Creighton Duke helps in that area to some respect.
I think if Jason Goes to Hell were released now, it’s something I would have an excellent time with in the theater. I’d be absolutely shocked if I went to see a Jason movie that blew up Jason in the opening scene. That’s a brilliant move and I can’t believe they got away with it. I’d also be the loudest one in the theater, cheering when Jason made his return at the end. Jason Goes to Hell is intimately aware of its audience and their expectations, which is really something that it does not get enough credit for. In these respects, it actually feels quite a bit ahead of its time. It’s not the Friday the 13th that anyone was expecting, but that’s really what I love most about it. It stands completely on its own but is a welcome change of pace when marathoning your way through the entire series.
It also should get some credit for having one of the first ending teases I can think of, something that’s definitely the norm in major franchise films these days. Right now, movies tend to almost be made to set up other movies. At least half of Avengers 2 was a setup for Avengers 3. While Jason Goes to Hell is absolutely its own, unique feature, it ends with an absolute bang. There’s a stillness after Jason’s delivered on the promise of the title, we move in on the mask lying in the dirt, and then Freddy’s hand springs up and drags it down. It cemented a rumor that fans believed was too good to be true: that a Freddy vs. Jason could actually be on the horizon. It’s partially because of Jason Goes to Hell that the crossover was as hugely anticipated as it was.
Overall, Jason Goes to Hell is a pure entertainment. It’s not at all a traditional sort of Friday the 13th, but there are plenty of others to go to for that. This is its own thing. It tells an interesting story while also boasting some kills that could shock even the most seasoned slasher fans, with some of the best FX work this franchise has ever seen. Whether as a Friday the 13th entry or a horror film in general, Jason Goes to Hell does not deserve the extremely negative reputation it’s gained over the two decades and change since its release. We’ve all had plenty of time to warm up to it, and I think it’s time to start loving Jason Goes to Hell for what it is, not what it isn’t.