Ranking Jason’s most worthy adversaries
Brutish, amoral and utterly devastating, Jason Voorhees is not a character to be trifled with, but when you look at those who have thwarted (if only temporarily) his various rampages in and around Camp Crystal Lake, they mostly fit a very particular profile: teenage girls who are slight in frame with a distinctly moral aversion to all things taboo.
Quite the Achilles heel, but for those girls freedom does not come easy. It takes a combination of savvy, determination and courage to halt horror’s most transparent killing machine, a feat that only a select few can lay claim to.
In this article, VHS Revival ranks Jason’s most worthy adversaries.
10. Jessica Kimble: Jason Goes to Hell (1993)
Does Jessica Kimble really count as a final girl?
She does battle with Camp Crystal Lake’s indomitable scourge, but New Line’s attempted set-up for a Freddy vs Jason crossover barely qualifies as a Friday the 13th movie beyond the opening scene, Kimble possessing none of the prerequisites expected of a series heroine. You can’t blame first-time director Adam Marcus for attempting something new as Paramount finally relinquished their red-headed step child. For years they’d been rinsing their marquee attraction while doing their utmost to jeopardise what made him so great in the first place, namely graphic violence and innovative practical effects, but New Line had a chance to wipe the slate clean, which they did in just about every conceivable way.
Adam’s body-swapping oddity Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, a movie that barely features Voorhees at all, ups the gore considerably. It also switches up the old Paramount formula in the most audacious, and for many displeasing, of manners. It’s quite not as bad as many claim, some of its curios actually rather charming in a ‘WTF am I watching?’ kind of way. One of the film’s main drawbacks is its lack of an honest to goodness final girl. Amanda Righetti’s Miller is light on action, the job of taking on Jason reserved specifically for the male sex until she has no choice but to take matters into her own hands.
In one of many dubious decisions overseen by Marcus, the presumed-invincible Jason can only be killed by someone from his bloodline, meaning cousin Jessica is left to inflict the death knell, which she does in a suitably underwhelming fashion with a knife to the heart, and that’s only after leaving familial outsider and therefore useless pretty boy Steven Freeman at our killer’s mercy for one of the most savage beatdowns in the history of the franchise.
This was also the first Friday the 13th cast not to feature a single teenage character, which goes against the very ethos of the series. For many, simply unforgivable.
9. Rennie Wickham: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
If a combination of brains, courage and wholesome relatability make the perfect Friday the 13th final girl, then conservative bookworm Rennie Wickham (Jensen Daggett) must rank somewhere near the bottom. All Friday the 13th girls are beautiful in a superficial sense, Daggett proving no exception, but those we are able to truly invest in tend to have a girl next door quality, with the improbable ability of being able to kick some serious ass. Jason ass. Unfortunately, Wickham possesses none of the above, her boyish garb and haughty aura making her unusually cold and unrelatable, though a bland, watered-down-for-convenience screenplay certainly didn’t help her cause.
Daggett had the unfortunate task of trying to salvage one of the most underwhelming and heavily-cut instalments in the entire series in Jason Takes Manhattan, a movie decimated by budget issues, but a distinctly wooden performance didn’t help matters, nor did her unwillingness to break a fingernail as the bodies fell thick and fast. Granted, she did leave Jason with a nasty pen-in-the-eye (one belonging to literary inspiration Stephen King no less), pouring a barrel of toxic waste on our hulking antagonist without the necessary safety precautions ballsy if somewhat dumb, but ultimately it’s left to her whitebread beau to handle most of the dirty work, an affront to those tenacious females who ran the gauntlet all on their lonesome.
Rennie is also afraid of water, which puts her at a distinct disadvantage as the cast spend most of the movie’s running time confined to a boat in order to avoid the various expenses of shooting on location in New York City. Saved by the Bell‘s Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley) was originally considered to play the role of Rennie, but if her raunchy appearance in Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls is anything to go by, it’s unlikely she would have survived Jason’s annual chop. One thing you can say about the otherwise unremarkable Ms. Wickham is that she takes to heroin (not heroism) like a champ, courtesy of the the most generous junkies ever committed to celluloid.
Rowan LaFontaine: Jason X (2001)
New Line’s second venture into the realms of all things Voorhees would divide fan opinion like no other entry. The decision to make Jason über and send him to outer space was too much to stomach for Paramount purists, and make no mistake about it, this is about as far away from Camp Crystal Lake as you can get, both figuratively and literally, but beyond its Sci-fi channel aesthetics the movie is actually a lot of fun, understanding and exploiting the knowing irony of later entries in the original series.
Lexa Doig’s feisty heroine is an impossibly beautiful research facility scientist who battles Jason over a period of centuries, which in itself is a unique feat. After trying and failing to put Jason out of his misery on several occasions, thanks to his seemingly limitless powers of regeneration, Rowan would cryogenically freeze both Voorhees and herself after becoming fatally wounded in her efforts, only to awaken in the year 2455 to wage war with her nemesis all over again. No stranger to heavy artillery, Lexa would survive Jason’s most indestructible manifestation after seeing him blasted into outer space Ripley style.
For pure badassery, Rowan perhaps deserves a higher position in this ranking, but owing to the anomalous nature of Jason X she doesn’t qualify as a series final girl in the traditional sense, and for all the wit on offer in Jason’s celestial adventure, characterisation isn’t its biggest strength. Tough and determined, but in the annals of final girl immortality rather dull and ultimately forgettable, with a mainstream beauty that offers little in terms of personality.
7. Pamela Roberts: A New Beginning (1985)
It’s with a heavy heart that I place A New Beginning‘s Pamela Roberts at a lowly seventh, though the film’s audacious and commercially underhanded twist certainly played a part in my decision for reasons that are or will become clear.
Many felt cheated when they first witnessed Part 5’s sacrilegious reveal, one that saw Jason replaced by copycat killer Roy Burns after Paramount reneged on their censor-appeasing Final Chapter proclamation inside of a year. Initially, I was one of them, but the movie has grown on me in recent years, one of those reasons being actress Melanie Kinnaman as lone survivor Pamela Roberts, a more paternal final girl in the Laurie Strode vein who’s actually played by a fully-fledged an adult.
Pamela is everything you want in a final girl. She is brave, bold and beautiful, even reaching for a chainsaw as she looks to fend off the brutal and relentless Roy, a seemingly everyday fellow who undergoes quite the psychological meltdown after his oppressively irksome son Joey is hacked to death after the good folk at the Pinewood Home for delinquents allows one of their most transparently unstable patients to wander the grounds wielding an axe. Why the home wasn’t immediately shut down, particularly with local malcontents Ethel and Junior Hubbard sniffing around looking to stir up trouble, is anyone’s guess.
Kinnaman plays a councillor who puts her life on the line for peewee prankster Reggie with a quite incredible display of can-do spirit, famously revealing a little too much flesh thanks to an unseasonal downpour and a transparent white shirt for the ages (by this point, characterisation had taken something of a backseat). Pamela is dragged to hell and back as a mountain of corpses leave her emotionally torn and physically bedraggled. Even though it’s ultimately left to screwy patient and former Jason slayer Tommy Jarvis, here played by second of three portrayers Tom Shepherd, to put Burns out of his misery, when it’s all done and dusted her freedom is more than earned.
However, Pamela is one of two final girls who doesn’t actually get to fight Jason, and as brutish and bloodthirsty as the newly deranged Roy is, his decidedly human stature can’t hold a machete to the indestructible madman that is Voorhees. There’s also the movie’s second ridiculous twist to contend with, one that sees a naïve and weakened Pam presumably killed by Tommy, who takes on the now vacant role of Jason imitator in preparation for an unlikely sequel that never was. The novelisation of Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives! reveals that Pamela actually survived Tommy’s unexpected attack, but either way she took the sharp end of a butcher’s knife, bringing her heroics to a crashing end.
Feisty and certainly memorable, but ultimately put out of commission.
6. Alice: Friday the 13th (1980)
Yes, I know she’s the original, and in many ways the blueprint for what makes a great Friday the 13th final girl, but once again there are other forces at work that have reduced her to a bit-part player (at least in the mind of this viewer). Alice may have been the first to survive the annual Camp Crystal chop, but once again the nigh-on invincible Jason is notable by his absence, instead replaced by a vengeful mother with murder on the mind.
Friday the 13th‘s unlikely antagonist Pamela Voorhees may be savage, sly and utterly deranged, but her maternal-rage-in-a-knitted sweater is a far lesser obstacle than Jason’s indomitable wrath, a fact proven by a brutal decapitation that lays waste to her Earthly menace with one fatal blow.
Back in 1980, the legend of Camp Crystal Lake was still very much a mystery, Jason a distant memory who had drowned as a young boy thanks to some negligent and rather frisky camp councillors who would have a lot to answer for as the years of bloody vengeance raged on. Alice is the clear progenitor of all those girls who would survive the horrors of Camp Crystal Lake and beyond. She is virginal, distinctly feminine, but blessed with an inner steel that sees her escape with her life in tact — at least for a short while.
Two years later, director Steve Miner would bring Alice back into the fold as Jason’s first victim, having him easily dispose of her with a stealthy ice-pick through the temple, actress Adrienne King, who saw herself as the Jamie Lee Curtis of the series, unhappy after being written out of the series so abruptly. Resourceful enough to escape the much more diminutive Pamela Voorhees, but with Jason on her trail she didn’t stand a chance.
5. Megan Garris: Jason Lives! (1986)
Jason Lives! is a unique and memorable entry in the ‘Friday’ franchise that throws the rulebook down a bottomless well, taking an anarchic approach to the material, and punchy final girl Megan Garris fits the bill nicely, proving something of a tenacious hellcat with an overtly promiscuous side who falls just outside of traditional final girl territory.
Being the daughter of the ever dismissive Sheriff Garris (the cops in this series are just asking for it in the worst way imaginable), Jennifer Cooke’s Megan is smart and pugnacious, the kind of free spirit who would have been reduced her to Jason fodder in any other instalment. Like many daughters living in the shadow of an authority figure, Megan thrives on independence.
Ironically, unlike most other final girls in the series, Megan takes a backseat to franchise mainstay Jarvis, who once again puts his life on the line in an attempt to condemn his hulking agitator to the bowels of Camp Crystal Lake (though something tells you Jason’s predicament is only temporary). Though not directly responsible for taking down Jason, Megan stills puts up an admirable fight. A worthy final girl with innovative characteristics, but the best are still to come.
4. Tina Shepherd: The New Blood (1988)
When New Line Cinema refused to give the flailing Friday franchise a new lease of life by allowing Paramount to latch onto Fred Krueger’s commercial rocket ship with a Freddy vs Jason crossover, they gave us a Carrie clone instead, and those savvy folks in charge of marketing didn’t even have to cough up for the rights to do so.
By 1988, the series was entering its most bloodless and commercially barren phase, Paramount pulling out the gimmick of all gimmicks to keep the herd flocking to the theatres, and the Shepherd charged with attracting that herd was Tina. A telekinetic nut-job committed to a psych ward after accidentally drowning her father with an impromptu exhibition of her powers, Tina’s source of inner conflict is a fine prerequisite for any final girl, giving The New Blood the edge it is otherwise lacking.
Years later, Tina (Lar Park Lincoln) has become the guinea pig of unscrupulous psychiatrist Dr. Crews, who looks to exploit her questionable gift for his own professional gain. Much like Carrie before her, Tina is unable to control her powers, the kind that are unleashed when her anger gets the better of her, and on this occasion Mr. Voorhees bites off more than he can swallow. I mean, how effective a killer can Jason be if he can’t get near you?
Tina drags Jason to hell and back, subjecting him to more punishment than the majority of her peers put together. In one of the most memorable finales in the entire series, Jason is wrestled by trees, electrocuted, drowned in a puddle, struck with all manner of heavy furniture, headbutted by a decapitated victim, crushed by a porch, smashed through a staircase, hung from a ceiling, burnt alive, blown-up and shot several times with a pistol.
Tina may lack the personality and charm of some of her peers, but her level of bad-assery is beyond scrutiny.
3. Trish Jarvis: The Final Chapter (1984)
Billed as the ‘final’ final girl in the series, Kimberly Beck’s Trish Jarvis proved herself a different breed of heroine, and she certainly needed to be. The third actor to play Jason Voorhees in as many years, stunt veteran Ted White would research the role by analysing the work of his predecessors, quickly deciding that his portrayal would dump the docile beast of earlier instalments for a swift and mobile killer. Here, Jason is direct and unrelenting, pursuing Trish and younger brother Tommy with a death-defying directness.
Bold, beautiful and positively fearless, Trish is perhaps the toughest cookie in the entire series, and one of the sweetest too. She is also selfless, willing to put her life on the line for younger sibling Tommy as she fights for not only her life, but that of her nearest and dearest, suppressing her fear for a well-laid plan of action that makes The Final Chapter‘s finale one of the most engrossing of the series.
While love interest and supposed bear hunter Rob is quickly disposed of while searching for sibling who defies continuity, Trish struggles on against a super-charged Jason intent on one final killing spree before a brief and highly misleading hiatus, escaping his clutches by way of a machete and returning to her cabin, where she assumes Night of the Living Dead mode, instructing Tommy to nail the doors and windows shut. When that doesn’t work she smashes a monitor over Jason’s skull and even finds the bravery to leap through an upstairs window for a particularly nasty fall.
Though it is ultimately left to Tommy to end Jason’s rein for good (if you say so, Paramount), it took a rakish beauty with an iron will to wear the big man down, and wear him down she did.
2. Chris Higgins: Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
Poor Chris Higgins had quite the time of it on Jason’s watch, but, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, she was more than up to the task.
Not only was she able to escape the clutches of the irrepressible Mr Voorhees during a ludicrously melodramatic flashback sequence, she was able to do it all over again in a more aggressive fashion, even putting some rather nasty dreams involving the rising corpse of one Pamela Voorhees behind her. Chris managed to escape Jason twice in her lifetime! TWICE! How many final girls can say that?
Friday the 13th Part 3 is an important entry for the evolution of Jason Voorhees, not least by presenting him with the iconic hockey mask that would come to define the character, and all-American beauty Dana Kimmell is a textbook foil. As sweet as apple pie with a surprisingly tough crust, she is cautious, frigid and mired in personal conflict, but also tough and resourceful, with a take-it-to-Jason attitude shared by the very best final girls of the franchise.
In one of the most brutal instalments of the series, Chris witnesses her fair share of atrocities, and still somehow manages to evade Jason, this time by defeating him head-on rather than escaping his grasp by the skin of her teeth. Initially, Chris seems like the least likely candidate to take on Richard Brooker’s lumbering brute, but by the end of the movie she has smashed Jason with a shovel, hung him from a barn and bludgeoned him with an axe.
Chris may have required a minor distraction from presumed-dead biker Ali, but she more than takes advantage of the limbless fool’s woeful attempt at taking on the big man. A picture-perfect final girl in anyone’s book.
1. Ginny Field: Friday the 13th Part II (1981)
Arguably the purest example of a slasher in the entire series, Friday the 13th Part II is also the most derivative, outdoing its Halloween inspired predecessor by borrowing even more generously from the realms of Italian giallo, particularly Mario Bava’s much revered proto slasher Bay of Blood. This was the first Jason-led slaughter, and a damn fine one at that, giving us a much more human menace who hides behind a peephole sack like a murderous yet ultimately shy little boy.
The aptly named Amy Steel proved more than a match for Jason as the quietly capable and ultimately fearless Ginny Field, who attacks Jason head-on, leaving him flailing like a bony-armed minor swatting blindly at a bug. Aesthetically, Steel ticks all the boxes, with a freckled pallor and a less conventional beauty that only strengthens her stature as the protogenic final girl.
Never has Jason appeared so mortal or susceptible to the threat of a Camp Crystal resident, Ginny’s resolute determination enough to win her an army of fans. Steel heads arguably the strongest cast in the series at a time when characterisation stood for something in a genre that would descend ever further into the realms of the self-reflexive. It’s because of that we can get behind her plight like no other. Everything she does seems to mean so much more.
In 1981, the Jason-led brutality was still very much in its embryonic stage, so Jason was easily felled in comparative terms, but that should take nothing away from Ginny’s colossal struggle, which sees her dish out the kind of hand-to-hand beating Jason would never again experience from an initially terrified teenager who goes from strength to strength. Curtailing his threat with car doors, reducing him to a crumpled heap with a firm kick in the knackers, tearing him up with a chainsaw and obliterating him with a chair across the back, she even has the intelligence to portray Jason’s deceased mother and the stomach to adorn her bloodied sweater before taking him out with a machete.
Though she was ultimately carried off in the dreamy throes of a psychological meltdown, nobody has taken it to Jason quite like the venturesome Ginny. A determined creature who grew in stature and earned every last morsel of self-preservation, Ginny exhibited the kind of intestinal fortitude that more than qualifies her as the queen of the Friday the 13th series.