I've seen every Friday the 13th movie more than once. I'm a horror completist, what can I say, and Friday the 13th happens to be one of the more campy and fun horror franchises out there. The first three were fine - all had great ideas, great kills, and great atmosphere. Unfortunately, there was at least one thing off in each of those movies. The original's climactic ending hasn't aged well and some shots linger for way too long, and some parts of Part III felt clunky and poorly paced. Part IV isn't perfect either, but it's a step above its predecessors for a number of reasons.
1. The acting - No one watches horror for the acting, I understand that, but when a horror movie has a likable cast and characters you can relate to and root for, it makes the experience all the more enjoyable. Crispin Glover is great as a nerdy, horny white boy and his dancing skills are unmatched. The lead girl and the rest of the supporting cast are all convincing as well, and the boy Tommy Jarvis actually isn't annoying for a child actor. In fact, he's pretty darn good.
2. The nudity - No one watches horror for the- okay, some people watch horror for the nudity, and boy is there nudity in this one. For the "final" chapter the crew went all out, throwing two gorgeous sisters and numerous blondes into the mix and having all of them show their tits and ass. Yeah, both, and although its gratuitous and adds nothing to the plot, it's a nice break from the bloodbaths and I'd take a little eye candy over forced dialogue in a horror movie any day of the week.
3. The pacing - The movie begins with Jason's "dead" body being sent to the morgue, and it isn't long before the body count ensues. The hospital scene is excellent for a few reasons. One, it has two characters that have less than five minutes of screen time but more personality than anyone from the first two F13s, and two, their deaths are awesome. It's a briskly paced movie and surprisingly keeps a large amount of its cast alive for a majority of the film, yet there are enough disposable characters to keep the body count going. It's a great balance.
Everything else comes down to good writing and good directing. I like the addition of a family, I like the group of teenage Jason fodder this time around, and there really aren't many dull moments. The inclusion of a seasoned backpacker was a nice touch, and Jason finally getting the sh*t kicked out of him was no doubt satisfying. Although the whole Tommy arc didn't work out in the next installment, he was a nice addition in this one and actually contributed a lot to the story.
Not only is this the best Friday the 13th film, but it's a damn good slasher in its own right. The characters are likable, the third act is plenty suspenseful, it's an entertaining ride from beginning to end. If you like '80s slashers and want to see some good looking people get terrorized by Jason Voorhees then there's no reason not to check this one out. And check out the others too because, why not?