Posted on February 11, 2009 by Jason Thorson
Hurts so Good: A Friday the 13th Retrospective Part 1 wrapped up with Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. Be sure to check out Retrospective Part 1 before continuing here.
There are so many Friday the 13th movies, even this retrospective gets a sequel. So let’s continue with our bloody stalk down memory lane as we try to answer the question: Despite these movies being so bad, why do I and millions of others love them?
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
As a youngster, Tina Shepard accidentally kills her father by drowning him in Crystal Lake using telekinesis. When she returns to the Crystal lake with her mother and her therapist in tow, she senses a life force in the lake and using telekinesis she calls it up. Whoops! It’s not dad. It’s Jason. As he’s wont to do, Jason kills nearly everyone until a climactic confrontation between Jason and Tina puts Jason back in the lake. This episode was directed by effects guru, John Carl Buechler and it boasts some very violent and creative kills which is why the raping and pillaging of the movie’s gore by the MPAA is most disappointing and inexplicable. The final cut of this episode could have been rated PG-13. Despite much clamoring for a unrated DVD release the prognosis is grim.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Honestly, the name of this one by itself should warn viewers that this is indeed the second in a long list of shark jumping expeditions taken by this series. Jim’s houseboat snags an underwater power line in Crystal Lake and wouldn’t you know it? It electrocutes Jason, reanimating him yet again. Meanwhile, Rennie Wickham boards a ship with her senior class headed for New York City. Unfortunately, Jim’s houseboat drifts past and Jason jumps aboard to stow away with Rennie and the rest of the gang. Eventually, the ship ports in Manhattan with several dead passengers and Jason, who proceeds to reek havoc on New York wise guys, street thugs, etc. A showdown between Rennie and Jason ensues and Jason is inexplicably turned into a little kid by a large quantity of toxic waste. Yep. Don’t ask.
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
The sharks get bigger and the jumps get higher. Ignoring his demise at the end of the last movie, the FBI basically does a sting on Jason and blows him up with explosives back at camp. At the federal morgue, Jason’s heart, in the form of an autonomous slug-like creature, possesses the coroner. The folks at the morgue end up dead and Jason’s body goes missing. Enter Duke Creighton, a bounty hunter, and Diana Kimble, Jason’s sister. They hatch a plan to kill Jason involving a special dagger and the need for one of Jason’s blood relatives to wield it. Meanwhile, Jason’s heart creature jumps from person to person and they assume Jason’s power and penchant for murder. Diana is killed which means the onus of killing Jason falls on her daughter, Jessica. Jason’s heart monster finds Diana’s corpse which officially resurrects the real Jason, but Jessica eventually uses the knife and puts Jason down with the assistance of demons from hell.
This episode was a huge disappointment to many fans, myself included. Perhaps the only redeeming factor is its final shot: We zoom in on Jason’s mask as it lays on the ground, demons having pulled Jason down to hell, when suddenly the familiar red and green sweater-clad arm and knife-gloved hand of Freddy Krueger bursts through the dirt and pulls Jason’s mask down to hell as well. This was not a completely unexpected moment considering this was the first episode released after Jason had moved from Paramount to Newline, AKA the house that Freddy built, but it was exciting nonetheless.
Jason X (2001)
Ok, picture Evel Knievel setting a new world record for jumping 19 sharks lined up nose-to-tail. So, the infamous Camp Blood has been turned into the Crystal Lake Research Facility because it seems Jason is indestructible. Thus, scientists decide to freeze him and thereby contain him. This of course goes horribly wrong. Jason and Rowan, a researcher, both end up cryogenically frozen.
Fast forward to the year 2455 when Earth is no longer habitable, but archeology students from Earth 2 come down and make a fascinating find – Jason and Rowan!. They bring the two frozen specimens back with them in their space ship. Rowan gets revived by the crew and unfortunately so does Jason. He resumes his murderous ways until the ship’s droid, Kay-Em 14, lays the smack down on Jason, futuristic droid-style. Ironically, the ship’s nano-technology repair system attends to Jason’s mangled remains, upgrading him to Uber Jason status. He promptly kills again until Sgt. Brodski, the lone marine survivor on the ship, sacrifices himself to take Jason into Earth 2’s atmosphere.
Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
This episode spent a long time in development hell possibly hanging out with its two title characters. When it was finally released it wasn’t half bad. In fact, it’s easily the best made movie of the bunch, which isn’t saying much, but it’s an accomplishment nonetheless. It’s been so long since Freddy sliced up the kids on Elm St. that he’s been rendered impotent. In order for Freddy Krueger to get his mojo back he needs Springwood to be populated with scared teenagers. He resurrects Jason to do his dirty work, but Jason predictably kills a few too many of teens Freddy needs to regain his power. This sets up an entertaining battle between arguably the two most iconic horror characters in film history. And not even Freddy, it seems, can keep a good killer down.
So, again this list begs the question: Why do these movies continue to be successful?
It’s all about Jason.
These films don’t utilize the classic protagonist/antagonist dynamic to tell a story. Our window into the world of the Friday the 13th movies is not through our empathy for any particular hero or heroine. Instead, we’re voyeurs of the goings on at Camp Blood, much like Jason is. The most utilized shot of the entire series is the POV shot from his perspective and thus he anchors our perspective. We watch horny teens go at it, then we watch them die. It’s a pattern: We watch characters doing all kinds of things that are considered private or solitary including drug use, bowel movements, showers, hitchhiking, jogging, swimming, you name it, all followed by death.
When Jason appears in an episode we don’t hiss and boo, but instead we feel an urge to applaud. When Jason kills it’s cathartic and, dare I say it, fun. We root for Jason. He’s the star and he’s who we want to be. And the truth is that these films say more about us than about their own deficiencies.
The Friday the 13th series establishes early on that these movies work best as horror for horror’s sake without such burdensome artifices such as plot, character development, or even likable characters. They’re a collection of adrenaline-fueled, creative, and graphic kill sequences preformed by an iconic murderer who’s the embodiment of unstoppable violence. They’re essentially the popcorn flicks of popcorn flicks – pure and easy entertainment made for horror fans by horror fans and on February 13th, 2009 I’ll be among them watching the next chapter of Jason’s killing spree.
Jason Thorson – 2009
Watch for Jason’s review of Friday the 13th (2009) at Flames Rising coming soon!