AMC has been doing its Friday the 13th marathon yesterday and today. I am always interested in which films get shown and which ones get missed, usually because a network only owns rights to show or copies of certain films. I don't think you ever get a smooth start to finish on any network.
My favorite is part 6.
Well, since you asked, Part 6, subtitled Jason Lives was the beginning of the second cycle of the F13 franchise and really codified so much of what the fanbase thinks of when they think of F13 films, indeed what those who deride the films sight unseen think of them as well. The film is a monster movie, plain and simple. The original slasher formula was discarded in favor of a classic monster movie. Echoes of Revenge of the Creature, the first of the sequels to Creature from the Black Lagoon can be seen in Jason Lives. If you've never seen Revenge of the Creature you should. It is a real treat. So often we have implied power in the monster films. We believe Frankenstein to be very strong but when we get to see it that is another matter. In Revenge the Gillman goes on a land rampage that results in his flipping over cars, among other things. The suggested great power of this perfectly adapted aquatic monster is shown in no uncertain terms in the sequel. The same can be said of Jason Lives. The director looked at the script and told the producers he wanted to do it as a comedy. The producers told him he could on the one condition that he was not allowed to make fun of Jason. So he plays Jason straight, and then has fun with the picture and it works. Once upon a time I would have told you that Jason Goes to Hell: the Final Friday was my favorite, and it still rates highly with me, but Jason Lives currently holds the top spot.
When I say it is the beginning of the second cycle of the F13 franchise, I might need to qualify that.
Friday the 13th was not supposed to have any sequels. The first film was made in 1979 and released in 1980 by Sean Cunningham as a potboiler. It was a suspenseful film with a fair amount of gore (there had been gorier films in the past, however) and fit the "slasher" paradigm. (Some say it codified the paradigm) The film made scads of money and Paramount wanted a sequel. The original backstory was retooled in the classic fashion to tell us that young Jason Voorhees did not die in Crystal Lake, but instead grew up in the woods, a wild man, and witnessed the beheading of his mother. This legend is delivered around the campfire in the fashion of a classic campfire tale because that is the origin of the whole story. Jason would become the killer for the 3 sequels that followed the original until his demise at the hands of Corey Feldman in F13 pt 4 The Final Chapter.
This marks the end of the first cycle. F13 pt 5 was a bit problematic. I can't say, properly, where to put it. Paramount sort of pulled a Halloween III Season of the Witch moving the plot and characters away from Crystal Lake, but keeping a character from the previous film, providing a new copycat killer masquerading as Jason V. and suggesting that Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman from Pt 4, now in his late teens) would inherit the role of Jason due to being driven bonkers by his experiences with Jason. It was called A New Beginning and it might have been but the box office returns suggested that the fans weren't happy.* F13 pt 5 was trying to start the second cycle, its subtitle makes that clear, but it proved a false start. Thus it was Jason Lives that started the second cycle. The second cycle of F13 featured a reanimated/undead Jason Voorhees, brought back to a semblance of life by a bolt of lightning. No more the backwoods stalker-killer, Jason had become a true monster. Much of his rage, formerly directed at people that invaded his territory, the woods of Crystal Lake, was now directed at anything that moved anywhere near him. No longer was he hiding his deformed face out of shame and systematic abuse, now he seemed to be completely comfortable with his role as a destroyer of life for its own sake. As I said, monster Jason. Where in previous films Jason's face reveal would show a basic look that varied with make-up artists, now he was a rotting beast of exposed bones and part of the makeup was to make him more rotted and more monstrous. The supernatural had officially arrived to the series, and none too soon given the popular horror films of the second half of the 80s (e.g. Nightmare on Elm Street films, The Lost Boys). In previous films Jason is often in hiding and then people come into his orbit, but as of 6 Jason keeps getting "put to sleep" so to speak. Going undead dormant like Dracula with a stake, only to be revived when the stake is removed to kill again. The second cycle also has the hallmark of cartoon violence. This goes with Jason as a monster, his increased strength and durability and so on. While a creative kill was always important to the series, the Jason of the second cycle performed stunts that never would have been attempted in the more "realistic" first cycle, such as picking up a person in a sleeping bag and beating them to death by swinging them into a tree. Jason Lives is thus the high point of the whole franchise, being the first time monster Jason appears, and being a monster movie, and it would never be that good again. Per the Wiki it was the lowest grossing of the films, but a fan favorite, and pre-figured Craven's much celebrated Scream for its use of meta-humor, fourth wall breaking, and combination of horror with action.
Sometimes they show F13pt6 and sometimes they don't. I think it is always better when they do. After all if you are going to give them the worst (Jason Takes Manhattan) you should give them the best as well.
*To be fair the slasher genre had already peaked and was in decline when F13 pt V was released in 1985. The spectacular box office of 1984's A Nightmare On Elm Street had brought the supernatural back into the horror genre, where it had been largely absent for years. Halloween's unpopular H3:SotW in 1982 meant that the Halloween series would remain silent for 6 years before Michael Myers and Sam Loomis would be resurrected along with the franchise. Thus since the slasher genre was already in decline, it might be a bit unfair to say that the change in direction of F13 pt V was solely the reason for its failure.