Friday the 13th is one of the biggest horror franchises of all time. But—and I think most fans would agree with this—it’s not necessarily known for being scary. Most fans wouldn’t say they’re scared of Jason. He’s too much of an icon for any dyed-in-the-wool fan to actually be afraid of him. He’s the face of the franchise, even if he’s masked. It’s hard to really think of him as a scary presence when, to most people, he sort of fills the role of hero. I was never scared of any of the films in the franchise when I began watching them as a kid. Jason and Michael Myers never really unnerved me or made me think they could actually come for me—thoughts I did, admittedly, sometimes have about Freddy.
But when you watch these movies obsessively, you start to look at them in a new way. Your opinion on certain entries will probably change at some point. You’ll notice things you never noticed before or you’ll start to wonder how a certain effect was accomplished. And sometimes you’ll actually look at Jason lurking in the back of a particular shot or watch the way he acts during a kill scene and think “Hey, that’s actually kind of creepy.”
Those are the moments that don’t get their fair share of recognition in the Friday the 13th franchise, those rare moments when the atmosphere, action, and Mr. Voorhees himself all come together to actually get you, at least for a moment.
Jason stalking by the window in Jason Lives
This is actually one of my favorite individual shots in the franchise, just because of how effective and cinematic it is. Paula, inside one of the cabins, walks by the window and Jason—on the other side of the window—is walking in time with her. It’s so cool and so creepy. There are a lot of great moments like this in Jason Lives, where Jason himself is pretty scary, despite the film’s more comedic tone. There are a lot of effective shots of him stalking around the camp that are more unnerving than any of the death scenes.
It actually took me a long time—well, sometime after the VHS days, at least—to even notice this moment where we see Jason’s shadow glide over one of the cabins while all of the counselors eat dinner in Friday the 13th Part 2. It kind of comes out of nowhere and does a lot to build the tension and atmosphere, just taking that moment to remind us that he’s still there.
Jason running out in front of the police car in Part 2
This was one of the very few moments in the franchise that got to me when I watched them the first time as a child. This is such a startling moment. It scared me even more than Jason popping up out of the lake in the original. Weirdly enough, it seems like a scare setup that I would expect to see more today than when Part 2 originally came out. This cop is driving down the road and out of nowhere Jason darts out in front of them, beginning a chase sequence that leads to the discovery of Jason’s shack.
Jason watching through the window/barn in Part III
Part III gives us a lot of great moments of Jason lurking around Higgins Haven before he actually sets out to kill this new group of youngsters. A lot of them just show Jason passing by in the background—there’s an especially great moment toward the beginning—or give us a glimpse of his shoulder as he lurks in one of the cabins or the barn, as if studying the kids to determine what he’s going to do. These moments are clear callbacks to Halloween, but they work really well.
That single puff of breath in The Final Chapter
One of the things I love about The Final Chapter (which is my favorite of the bunch) is that it actually makes us wait a bit for Jason and gives us slight teases as to when he’s gonna get up and running again. There are a lot of neat subtleties before he winds up killing Axel and his poor nurse friend. First, we see his hand fall out from underneath the sheet. But the creepiest moment is when Jason’s body gets tucked away in the morgue and we see a single, icy puff of breath as the door closes on him.
Maddy’s death in The New Blood
For some reason, they decided to dial everything to 11 for Maddy’s death. Jason really had it out for this girl. New Blood isn’t even one of the best entries in the franchise, despite having such a great Jason, but this whole death scene is really well done. From Maddy watching Jason through the cracks in the boards, to Jason’s arm bursting through the wall and grabbing her. It’s extremely well done.
Susie’s really, really slow death scene in Jason Takes Manhattan
Jason Takes Manhattan might just be the worst of the series. For me, it always comes down to a rock/paper/scissors game between that and Jason X. But there are worthwhile moments in every single entry in the franchise. Even though we have no empathy for the kids we’re introduced to at the beginning of this one because they’re awful, Jason’s extremely slow, drawn out murder of Susie is pretty uncomfortable. She’s trapped and she can’t go anywhere, she has no hope of escape. That harpoon just hovers there for what seems like forever before he finally thrusts it down. Jason is toying with his victim in that scene, that’s a scary side of the guy that we don’t see that often.