Ranking Jason’s most worthy adversaries
Brutish, amoral and utterly devastating, Jason Voorhees is not the kind of character to be trifled with, but when you look at the many who have thwarted (if only temporarily) our killer’s 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. On the surface of things, Jason may be deemed something of a soft touch having been laid to waste by so many mortal members of the opposite sex, but for those girls freedom does not come easy. It takes a combination of savvy, grit and courage to halt horror’s most transparent killing machine, and those who do make it out are perhaps never the same. Nonetheless, overcoming Paramount (and New Line’s) perennial killer is no mean feat, and only a select few can boast surviving the series. 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?
I mean, she does take on Jason Voorhees, 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, and Kimble possesses 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 had been pushing 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.
Adam’s body-swapping oddity Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday — a movie that barely features Voorhees at all — does manage to up the grue considerably, but as the first New Line Cinema instalment away from Paramount convention, it was up against it. 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 beat-downs 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, brawn and beauty make the perfect Friday the 13th final girl, then conservative bookworm Rennie Wickham (Jensen Daggett) must rank somewhere near the bottom. All Friday girls are beautiful in a superficial sense, but those we are able to truly invest in tend to have a girl next door quality, and they can usually kick their fair share of ass. Unfortunately, Wickham possesses none of the above, her boyish garb and haughty aura making her unusually cold and unrelatable.
Okay, so she 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, 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), and pouring a barrel of toxic waste on our hulking antagonist without the necessary safety precautions is ballsy if somewhat dumb, but in the end it is left to her whitebread beau to do most of the dirty work — an affront to those tenacious females who ran the final 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 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: she does take to heroin 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 this is about as far away from Camp Crystal Lake that you can get, both figuratively and literally. But beyond its Sci-fi channel aesthetics the movie is actually a lot of fun, and certainly understands the knowing irony of later entries in the franchise.
Lexa Doig’s heroine is a rather dubious research facility scientist who became the scourge of Jason for many years, and later centuries. 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 just doesn’t feel like a series final girl, 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 bland beauty that offers nothing 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, but there is a very particular reason for doing so.
Many felt cheated when they first witnessed Part 5’s sacrilegious reveal, one that saw Jason replaced by copycat killer Roy Burns, and initially I was one of them. But the movie has grown on me upon repeat visits, and one of those reasons is actress Melanie Kinnaman as lone survivor, Pamela Roberts. Pamela is everything you want in a final girl. She is brave, bold, beautiful, and even reaches for a chainsaw as she looks to fend off the brutal and relentless Roy, who undergoes quite the psychological meltdown after his oppressively irksome son, Joey, is hacked to death when the good folk at the Pinewood Home for delinquents allow one of their most transparently unstable patients to wander the grounds wielding an axe.
Kinnaman plays a councillor who puts her life on the line for peewee prankster Reggie with a quite incredible display of can-do spirit and unyielding sense of paternity. Pamela is dragged to hell and back as a mountain of corpses leave here emotionally torn and physically bedraggled. Even though it is ultimately left to screwy patient and former Jason slayer Tommy Jarvis to put Burns out of his misery, when it is all done and dusted, her freedom is more than earned.
Of course, 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 cannot hold a candle to the indestructible madman that is Voorhees. There is also the movie’s second ridiculous twist to contend with, one that sees a naive and weakened Pam presumably killed by Tommy, who has taken on the now vacant role of Jason imitator 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 that brought 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 final girl in the series, 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. 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 laid waste to her Earthly menace in one fatal blow.
Back in 1980, the legend of Camp Crystal Lake was still very much a mystery, and Jason was a distant memory who had drowned as a young boy thanks to some negligent and rather frisky camp councillors, who would certainly have a lot to answer for as the years rolled by. Alice is the clear progenitor for all those girls who would survive the horrors of Camp Crystal Lake and beyond as a very familiar pattern began to emerge. 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. 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 rule book down a bottomless well, and punchy final girl Megan Garris is similarly unique. For one thing she is distinctly amorous, helping a returning Tommy Jarvis to escape from prison and keeping his face firmly in her crotch as the two joyride their way to freedom.
Being the daughter of the ever dismissive Sheriff Garris, Jennifer Cooke’s Megan is smart and pugnacious with the kind of free spirit that would have reduced her to Jason fodder in any other instalment. Like many daughters living in the shadow of an authority figure, Megan thrives on independence.
But unlike most other final girls, Megan takes a backseat to series mainstay Jarvis, who once again puts his life on the line to condemn his hulking agitator to the bowels of Camp Crystal Lake — although something tells you Jason’s predicament is only temporary. I mean, the same character returned from the dead after being buried alive at the beginning of the movie, and that’s after Tommy decimated him with a machete as a boy, (which was two years prior by my estimation. Quite the growth spurt!). After witnessing all of this and knowing all that he knows about the madman in the hockey mask, is a simple drowning really enough to put his mind at rest?
It certainly seems so.
Not directly responsible for taking down Jason, Megan stills puts up an admirable fight, and without her interference the whole cast would have most likely bit the dust. A worthy final girl, but a middling one.
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, and Paramount pulled out the gimmick of all gimmicks to keep the herd flocking to the theatres, and the Shepherd charged with attracting that heard 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?
With a simple turn of mind, 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 predecessors, 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, even walking clean through a door at one point, 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 one of the most engrossing finales in the entire series.
While love interest and supposed bear hunter Rob is quickly disposed of, 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 his 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 reign 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 would.
2. Chris Higgins: Friday the 13th Part III 3-D (1982)
Poor Chris Higgins had quite the time of it on Jason’s watch.
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, and was even able to put some rather nasty dreams involving the rising corpse of one Pamela Voorhees behind her. Yes, Chris managed to escape Jason twice in her lifetime. How many other 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 in the franchise.
In one of the most brutal, pre-censorship 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. 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, following its predecessor as a Halloween clone, while taking 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 hidden 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, and her resolute determination is enough to win over any fan of the series. Steel heads arguably the strongest cast in the series at a time when characterisation and acting ability still stood for something in a genre that would descend ever further into the realms of the self-reflexive, and 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’s was an act of intestinal fortitude that more than qualifies her as the queen of the Friday the 13th series.