Picking up a couple of years after the events at Pinehurst Halfway House, Tommy Jarvis, who killed mass murderer Jason Voorhees, returns to Crystal Lake, now renamed Forest Green, after being released from the mental institution. Tommy, still suffering from hallucinations ever since his past encounter with Jason, arrives with his friend Allen Hawes, hoping to cremate Jason's body and finally end his hallucinations once and for all. At the cemetery, they exhume Jason's corpse but seeing it causes Tommy to have an audio flashback to killing Jason, and he stabs Jason's body with a metal fence post. As he turns his back on Jason, two lightning bolts strike the post and revive Jason as an immortal revenant. Jason then kills Hawes with a punch through the heart and retrieves the hockey mask Tommy brought with him.
Tommy flees to the sheriff's office to warn the police of Jason's return, but he is caught and arrested. His warning that Jason has returned goes unheeded by Sheriff Mike Garris. The sheriff, who is aware of Tommy's institutionalization and thinks he is imagining Jason, locks Tommy in a cell. On the road, camp counselors Darren Robinson and Lizabeth Mott get lost looking for the camp. They are killed by Jason, who impales them both with the metal rod that resurrected him.
The following morning, Garris' daughter Megan and her friends Sissy Baker, Cort Andrews, and Paula Mott arrive to report Darren and Lizabeth missing. Tommy warns them about Jason, but as he is now considered an urban legend, they ignore the warnings, though Megan becomes attracted to him. In the woods, Jason happens upon a corporate paintball game; he kills the players for their equipment. During these kills, Jason discovers that he is far stronger than before when he rips off a man's arm.
At Camp Forest Green, the children arrive, and the teens do their best to run the camp without Darren and Lizabeth. Meanwhile, Garris decides to escort Tommy out of his jurisdiction due to his influence on Megan. Tommy tries to make a run for Jason's grave but finds that the caretaker had covered it up to deny responsibility for it being dug up, and Hawes' body is buried in its place. Tommy is then handcuffed and escorted out of town by Garris, who warns him to never return. That night, Jason murders the caretaker and a nearby couple who witness the murder. Meanwhile, Cort goes out to have sex with a girl named Nikki Parsley, but Jason kills them both. The sheriff's men find the victims' bodies and Garris immediately implicates Tommy in the murders, believing he has gone insane imagining Jason.
Tommy contacts Megan and convinces her to help him lure Jason back into Crystal Lake. Meanwhile, Jason makes his way to the camp and kills both Sissy and Paula, but refrains from harming the children. Meanwhile, Tommy and Megan are pulled over by Garris. Despite Megan's alibi that she was with Tommy, he does not believe him to be innocent and arrests him, and then goes to the camp to investigate. As Tommy and Megan develop a ruse to trick the watching deputy and escape, Jason kills Garris and two other deputies when they arrive at the camp.
Jason is about to kill Megan when Tommy calls to him from the lake; apparently remembering his killer, Jason goes after Tommy instead. Tommy is attacked in a boat in the middle of the lake and ties a boulder around Jason's neck to trap him. Jason fights back, holding Tommy underwater long enough to seemingly drown him. Megan rushes out to save him but is nearly killed when Jason grabs her leg; she turns the boat's activated motor around onto Jason's neck, and he releases her. She takes Tommy back to shore and uses CPR to revive him. Tommy says that it is finally over and Jason is home. Under the water, anchored to the bottom of the lake, Jason is still alive. The final shot of the film is his eye staring off into the water, waiting patiently for an opportunity to return.
- C. J. Graham/Dan Bradley as Jason Voorhees
- Thom Mathews as Tommy Jarvis
- Jennifer Cooke as Megan Garris
- David Kagen as Sheriff Mike Garris
- Kerry Noonan as Paula
- Renée Jones as Sissy Baker
- Tom Fridley as Cort
- Darcy DeMoss as Nikki
- Tony Goldwin as Darren
- Nancy McLoughlin as Lizbeth
- Alan Blumenfeld as Larry
- Matthew Faison as Stan
- Anne Ryerson as Katie
- Ron Palillo as Allen Hawes
- Vincent Guastaferro as Deputy Rick Cologne
- Michael Swan as Officer Pappas
- Courtney Vickery as Nancy
- Whitney Rydbeck as Roy
- Bob Larkin as Steven
- Cynthia Kania as Annette
- Michael Normad as Officer Thornton
- Justin Nowell as Billy
- Tommy Nowell as Tyen
- Temi Epstein as Little Girl
- Taras O'Har as Little Boy
- Sheri Levinsky as Bus Monitor
Pre-production and writingEdit
Although the previous film in the series, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, had been a financial success, it had disappointed the series' fans and received some of the worst reviews of any film in the series. In order to prevent further alienating the fans (and thus potentially endangering the series), the producers decided to take the series in a new direction, moving it away from what producer Frank Mancuso Jr. called the "coarse" nature of A New Beginning.
To this end, Mancuso hired Tom McLoughlin, who had directed the successful horror film One Dark Night but was also known around Hollywood for shopping around various comedy scripts he had written, a dichotomy that appealed to Mancuso. McLoughlin was given free rein on how he would present the story, with the only condition being that he bring back Jason and make him the film's villain.
McLoughlin decided to take the film in the direction of an old Universal Monsters movie, specifically the 1931 version of Frankenstein, which portrayed the monster as a lumbering killer brought to life by electricity. McLoughlin also drew from vampire lore in order to give Jason a weakness, namely being returned to his "home soil"; to achieve this, McLoughlin disregarded the idea presented in Part 2 that Jason had survived his drowning, instead presenting the idea that Jason has always been some sort of supernatural force. He also decided to retcon the ending of the fifth film, where Tommy Jarvis was a serial killer. In fact, Pam's truck from the fifth film can be seen indicating she is alive. In the "Tommy Tapes" for Friday the 13th: The Game (2017) written by Adam Green, it's explained that the ending of the fifth film was Tommy's dream.
McLoughlin further decided to expand the series' thematic scope, incorporating action film elements and postmodern metahumor; when Jason is first encountered in the woods near Crystal Lake, the character Lizbeth comments that she and Darren should flee because she knows about proper conduct to survive a horror film. McLoughlin would further satirize the series itself, as Martin the gravedigger comments on Jason's exhumation, "Why'd they have to go and dig up Jason?" before breaking the fourth wall and addressing the camera with the observation, "Some folks sure got a strange idea of entertainment." In addition to Frankenstein, McLoughlin also cited as inspiration his love of Gothic horror, particularly the works of Edgar Allan Poe, and his Catholic upbringing; Jason Lives features the series' only explicit references to God, and during the climax a praying girl is spared by Jason (a similar scene, in which the same girl prays for Tommy while Megan performs CPR, then mouths "Thank you" while looking skyward was deleted from the final cut of the movie, apparently against McLoughlin's wishes; he recalled in the 2009 DVD's director's commentary, "Somehow it didn't stay in... probably too much sentiment")