Every Friday The 13th Movie Ending Explained

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Every Friday The 13th Movie Ending Explained
Paramount Pictures

Any long-running franchise is going to have a few narrative dead ends and bits of discarded continuity, especially if it frequently changes hands between production teams. But as fans, we love trying to make sense out of jumbled series continuity — and with “Friday the 13th,” that’s not just a labor of love: It’s also a lot of fun. So we wanted to look at each entry in the series and talk about how each of the movies ended … and how the promises implied by those final scenes did and didn’t get fulfilled as the franchise went on.

Plus, the “Friday the 13th” movies have a gift for unsettling and memorable endings, and it’s time to see those final acts — and even final images — get their due. So let’s revisit the spooky, gory, and sometimes goofy adventures of the slasher genre’s favorite summer camp killer. It may have been a while since the last entry in the series, but let’s be real: “Friday the 13th” will never die.

Friday the 13th (1980)

Every Friday The 13th Movie Ending Explained
Paramount Pictures

The first “Friday the 13th” film boasts the series’ most haunting ending. After a no-holds-barred showdown with Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer), Alice (Adrienne King) gets the upper hand — and the machete. She beheads Jason’s mother … but the movie doesn’t end there.

As the film moves slowly into daytime, Crystal Lake actually looks idyllic for once. Alice is draped over the side of the canoe, her fingers trailing in the water, finally resting after all the horror she’s been through. The cops have arrived. Everything is safe — until the moldering corpse of a young, drowned Jason rises up from the water and drags her down with him. The movie then reassures the viewer that it was a dream sequence — just one final way to cram in a jump scare — and Alice is actually safe in a hospital bed. But Alice herself isn’t very comforted when she hears that they found her alone on the lake. If there was no boy, she says, then “he’s still there.”

It’s a great, shiver-inducing final scene, and it’s one that plays into the franchise’s sometimes-muddled mythology, which vacillates on whether Jason actually drowned as a child or only seemed to drown. If he did die, then his decomposing body in the lake makes perfect sense, and it also hints at the supernatural elements that will come later in the series. No matter what, Alice is right. The series’ original slasher may have been killed, but Jason will be back.

Friday the 13th Part 2

Every Friday The 13th Movie Ending Explained
Paramount Pictures

The ending of “Friday the 13th Part 2” also opts for a final fakeout scare. Just when it seems like Ginny (Amy Steel) and Paul (John Furey) are safe — and even reunited with the movie’s adorable dog — Jason crashes into the cabin. But it’s really just a psychologically shattered Ginny’s imagination: She’s actually on her way to the hospital.

The more interesting part of the “Part 2” ending comes with the reveal that Jason has vanished. “The killer isn’t really dead” is a pretty standard slasher element, so we want to focus on the fact that Jason seems to have left his mother’s severed head behind. In the space of a single movie, he’s gone from keeping a shrine to his dead mother to being able to walk away from her completely — maybe because Ginny used his mother’s image against him and he almost died because of it. Jason’s not getting fooled again. After this, while he’ll continue to remember his mother, he won’t build any more creepy shrines … at least not until the 2009 remake.

Friday the 13th Part III

Every Friday The 13th Movie Ending Explained
Paramount Pictures

“Friday the 13th Part III” deliberately echoes the first movie’s ending and adds a twist of its own. Like Alice, Chris (Dana Kimmell) also falls asleep on a drifting canoe after putting an end to a Voorhees. But while the lake would seem like a buffer against your usual run of killers, it doesn’t do anything to stop Chris from dreaming that she’s being chased once again.

Just a nightmare? Maybe not — since the figure chasing her turns into an undead Pamela Voorhees. Like Alice’s encounter with Jason at the end of the first movie, it’s officially a dream, and we get confirmation that a waterlogged corpse didn’t just drown the Final Girl. But between the dream and the camera then moving to show us Jason’s still motionless body, “Friday the 13th Part III” seems to be setting up a different kind of sequel.

This ending hints that Jason might truly be dead, and that — just as he returned to avenge his mother — the spirit of Pamela Voorhees will now come back to (once again) get revenge for her son. Both the first and third movies end with one Voorhees killer dead and another possibly rising from a watery grave, but the franchise never follows through on the implicit promise of the “Part III” ending. Which is a shame, because we’d be first in line for another Mrs. Voorhees movie.

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

Every Friday The 13th Movie Ending Explained
Paramount Pictures

“Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter” has such a strong ending that “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” would effectively redo it just a few years later. Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman) disguises himself to look like the young, drowned Jason, taking Jason off guard long enough for Tommy and his sister, Trish (Kimberly Beck), to attack him. But killing Jason doesn’t do as much good as you would think. Tommy immediately loses himself to a kind of berserker frenzy, repeatedly chopping away at Jason in a way that clearly disturbs Trish. And when the two siblings are reunited in the hospital, the camera holds on Tommy’s expression as they hug. This is a kid who is very much not okay.

To be fair, no one would be, after everything he’s been through. But while previous “Friday” movies have alluded to the surviving characters’ trauma, “The Final Chapter” goes the extra mile with that last shot of Tommy: It implies that Jason has either possessed Tommy or put him through an experience so harrowing that Tommy himself could become a killer in the future. After all, plenty of classic slasher villains start out with some real suffering or grievance…

The movies would never quite commit to “Tommy as killer,” but Tommy would return for two more sequels — and he’d have to deal with the other characters suspecting exactly what the end of “The Final Chapter” suggests.

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning

Every Friday The 13th Movie Ending Explained
Paramount Pictures

In its last few minutes, “Friday the 13th: A New Beginning” is revealed to essentially be “Friday the 13th: Copycat.” The hockey-masked, machete-wielding brute terrorizing the film’s halfway house turns out to actually be a paramedic named Roy (Dick Wieand), who blames the residents for the death of the son he apparently refused to acknowledge. How do you deal with the guilt of failing as a parent? Cosplay as Jason Voorhees and slaughter some teenagers, of course.

In a way, this ending is picking up on the possibilities “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter” left behind. Someone has taken up Jason’s mantle — it just wasn’t the troubled-but-heroic Tommy Jarvis. But Tommy (now played by John Shepherd) was the one who had to bear the burden of everyone’s suspicions … and at the end of “A New Beginning,” the series again suggests that it may have been too much for him. After killing the fake Jason and facing down his nightmarish memories of the real one, Tommy doesn’t find catharsis. He just finds more horror — which leads to him putting on the hockey mask and (maybe) attacking the movie’s Final Girl, Melanie Kinnaman’s Pam.

So the franchise was still flirting with the idea of a revolving door of “Jasons.” But “A New Beginning” got rotten reviews and a poor audience reception – even in comparison with other “Friday” movies — so it was clearly time to reboot and get back to what works: Jason.

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives

Every Friday The 13th Movie Ending Explained
Paramount Pictures

The “Friday the 13th” franchise had teetered on the verge of turning supernatural before, and with “Jason Lives,” it finally takes the leap once and for all. Via a poorly timed stroke of lightning and a fence post to the chest, Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews) accidentally resurrects a decomposing Jason — and the end of the movie makes it clear that now that he’s back, Jason plans to stick around. He may have been hard to kill in the past, but from now on, it will be almost impossible. Most of the time, the best the other characters can hope for is to temporarily contain him — and “Jason Lives” shows us how it’s done. 

Tommy and Megan (Jennifer Cooke) weigh Jason down with chains and a boulder and sink him to the bottom of Crystal Lake. He’s still alive down there — we see his eyes move — but he’s stuck. He’s out of the way, and even though he can no longer really drown, the symmetry of imprisoning him in the lake has its own narrative power. From now on, getting Jason back underwater will serve as one of the new default ways to “kill” him.

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood

Every Friday The 13th Movie Ending Explained
Paramount Pictures

“Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood” does bring some fresh plasma to the franchise in the form of the telekinetic Tina (Lar Park Lincoln), a character type we certainly haven’t gotten before in the series. She even livens up an ending that would otherwise be a straightforward repeat of what we saw in “Jason Lives.” Once again, Jason gets dragged down to the bottom of the lake, and once again, there’s the suggestion that he still endures.

But this time, he’s held in place by Tina’s undead father, whom she brings back to life to save her. (It’s the least he owes her, after the upsetting opening where he’s revealed to hit her mother.) The “zombie vs. zombie” twist is a nice addition, and it sets up a new corollary to how to dispose of a now-immortal Jason. “Drowning” him works — but so does combating him with a magical or technological force that’s way beyond anything normal humans have to offer. Forget machetes: Bring some science fiction or fantasy powers to bear, and you’ll sometimes get results.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

Every Friday The 13th Movie Ending Explained
Paramount Pictures

In “Jason Takes Manhattan,” Rennie (Jensen Daggett) and Sean (Scott Reeves) get an unexpected ally in their fight against graduation-trip-ruiner Jason: the New York City sewer system. Apparently, in the “Friday the 13th” universe, the city floods the sewers with toxic waste every night. We’d suggest that this is generally a bad idea … unless you have Jason Voorhees in your sewers, in which case: Proceed.

The result is one of Jason’s best “deaths” in the franchise, as the sight of all the toxic waste rushing towards him makes him start to physically regress back to his own experience drowning in Crystal Lake. By the time it all washes over him, Rennie and Sean see that he’s actually turned back into a drowned child. It lends the scene an unusual amount of pathos for a slasher villain death, reminding us that Jason’s story started out as a tragedy. It also carries over the lesson of “The New Blood”: If you want to take out Jason, it’s helpful to have a mind-boggling amount of force on your side.

In the ongoing debate about whether or not Jason really died as a child, the ending of “Jason Takes Manhattan” is definitely evidence that we can put in the “really died” column. His fatal regression in the sewers makes the most sense if it’s taking him back to an early death rather than just a traumatic event.

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday

Every Friday The 13th Movie Ending Explained
New Line Cinema

No other movie in the “Friday the 13th” franchise breaks as many rules as “Jason Goes to Hell.” This installment introduces a lot of new series mythology: “Jason” is a kind of demonic possession that can jump from body to body (and appear as a sort of infant-worm hybrid), the Voorhees bloodline is the key to defeating Jason and fully reviving him (all the other stolen bodies decay too quickly), and Jason has actually been absorbing the souls of his victims all along. Got it? Don’t worry, you won’t have to remember it for long. It will never come up again.

But in a film full of ideas that would be completely ignored by the rest of the series, there’s one that a future film would seize on — and it’s the one fans probably wanted most. At the very end of “Jason Goes to Hell,” a hand in Freddy Krueger’s unmistakable glove reaches up from the ground and seizes Jason’s hockey mask. Cue “Freddy vs. Jason.”

To be fair, “Jason Goes to Hell” was setting up a movie that should have already happened. According to Horror Obsessive, New Line Cinema bought the rights to Jason specifically to make a horror icon showdown movie. But while that idea languished in the development stage, the studio made “Jason Goes to Hell” to keep the spark alive — and to provide a final shot that would give fans a little hope.

Jason X

Every Friday The 13th Movie Ending Explained
New Line Cinema

There are plenty of “Friday the 13th” sequel hooks that the franchise doesn’t follow up on, but the wildest one comes along in “Jason X.” If new movies had directly followed this up, we would have seen the new cyborg Jason — also known as Uber Jason — rampaging around Earth 2 in the 25th century. And while the idea of Jason getting a new lease on unlife via falling out of space into another planet’s lake is a fun one, we’re not surprised that the series soon went back to our world and time. “Jason X” is a goofily fun diversion from the rest of the franchise, but it was never likely to set a new pattern.

All of this makes “Jason X” the biggest outlier in the series. From its beginning — featuring Jason being cryogenically frozen — to its Earth 2 ending, the story here is essentially detached from the other movies. Like the eventual remake, it basically sets up an alternate continuity.

Freddy vs. Jason

Every Friday The 13th Movie Ending Explained
New Line Cinema

“Freddy vs. Jason” throws Jason a nice bone: Even though he spends most of the movie killing teenagers in a business-as-usual mode, helping to take down Freddy Krueger gives him an unexpected heroic sheen at the last minute. Good job, Jason! Freddy gets beheaded and dragged down into Crystal Lake — Jason’s own stomping ground — but Jason basically just bows out of the fight. He’s gotten what he wanted, so he’ll graciously allow the surviving characters to depart.

We hereby declare Jason the definite winner of this particular fight. When your opponent has been beheaded and you haven’t, you’ve won by default.

But — since director Ronny Yu was undoubtedly aware that this movie would draw in fans of both franchises — there has to be a little bit of a stinger to give Freddy his own kind of victory. When Jason strides out of the lake at the end of the movie, he’s carrying Freddy’s head as a kind of trophy — but Freddy makes sure to wink at the camera. He’s still alive, and he still has some tricks up his sleeve.

Friday the 13th (2009)

Every Friday The 13th Movie Ending Explained
Paramount Pictures/YouTube

The 2009 “Friday the 13th” remake keeps its ending simple. In an homage to the earlier movies, we get one last scare involving Jason grabbing the Final Girl — here, he explodes up through the dock — but we also get a hint as to where the series could have gone from here. By the end of the remake, we may already have an out-and-out supernatural Jason.

To be fair, slasher villains have a gift for coming back from seemingly fatal blows. But there are two reasons we think Jason is officially undead here. For starters, there’s an actual delay between him taking a machete to the chest and his body being dumped in the lake — plenty of time for him to die from his wounds. We can’t picture him lying there unconscious for hours and then suddenly having the strength to burst through the dock.

But more importantly, the “Friday the 13th” remake tries to keep Jason’s personal history pretty straightforward. It offers up a clear chronology — definitively answering, for example, what happened between Jason’s childhood and adulthood — and it mostly plays by the rules of the real world. So when it doesn’t – when its killer suddenly surges back to life — it seems fair to assume that’s because the rules themselves are being broken. If the franchise had gone on from here, we probably would have seen a slightly waterlogged, mildly decomposing Jason who’s an unstoppable undead killing machine … this time with a much clearer origin story.

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