I have a confession to make.
Friday the 13th made me scream like a little girl.
It’s 1980. Brooke Shields wears nothing beneath her Calvin Kleins. Ronald Reagan shucks Jimmy Carter’s goobers in the election that brought Hollywood to Washington. Richard Pryor has a freebase cocaine firesale. On the day Kubrick launches The Shining, I spotted a line-up at the Halifax Paramount Theatre on Barrington Street and I walked unaware into Friday the 13th.
A lot of you are going to giggle, but I love the Friday the 13th saga. Folks get to sneering down their snoot-holes at the idea of anyone my age getting all worked up over a slasher flick.
People, this is a poor man’s Bava, minus subtitles. There’s folks that study Italian horror in film school and universities.
I really want to send them to Camp Crystal Lake.
I still remember that final scene. I’d watched Carrie a year ago, and figured I had it all figured out. I figured wrong. The girl, floating in her canoe. The soundtrack making peace-and-serenity sounds. Now a hand will grab the girl. I saw it clearly. I’m brilliant.
And then Jason jumped out of the freaking lake.
I screamed, asphyxiating myself on a half-chewed popcorn chunk. The guy behind me screamed, twice as loud. We screamed together. I channeled Peewee Herman, got in touch with my inner Fay Wray, and that day I fell in love with a legend.
Jason Voorhees. When you come right down to it he was nothing more than afterthought of a $500,000 budget fright flick. Sean Cunningham hadn’t really planned on making Jason anything more than the “gotcha” shot of the century. The original movie grossed 37 million, and a legend was born.
1981 brought us Friday The 13th Part 2.
In a very real way this was where Jason Voorhees was actually born.
Let me tell how it all went down.
Jason came back out of the lake. I’m not sure how he got so big so fast.
He was wearing a hillbilly flour sack and tattered overalls – Oh Lord, deliver me from Bubba Joe Hatchet. There were more people hacked up. Momma Voorhees’ head, enshrined in that Texas Chainsaw trailer park shanty where Jason keeps his trophies.
Come that final scene – God, I really wanted to see her blink.
In a lot of ways this movie was scarier than the original,
It made 19 million, enough for a sequel.
1982. Jason goes 3D. We get poked with a shovel handle, a yo-yo, a human eye, boobs, and a spear.
This was movie where Jason found his hockey mask.
I wonder if Cunningham knew how long that Gump Worsely prop was going to stick around?
Beancounters take note, this episode took in 36 million.
1984. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. Tom Savini, make-up god is back, and the gore runs wild. Tommy Jarvis, a 12 year old with a Fangoria fetish, goes Charlie Manson on Jason’s hockey masked butt.
It’s over, isn’t it?
Not when we’re bringing in 19 million.
1985. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning assures that life at Crystal Lake goes on without Jason. Paramed Roy Burns, pissed off he didn’t bag a role on Emergency, puts on the mask and slices a baker’s dozen teenagers. A low in the series, but it still made 21 million.
1986. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. Jason is dug up and reanimated. A double dose of thunderbolt shot through a mystic looking iron spear/fence post. Jason’s worse for the wear, with bones and bits of gore and hot and running cold maggots. I don’t know how the producer missed his shot at dyno-gagging smellorama, piped in odors and a brand new soft drink sensation: Peptic Septic for the die-t degeneration. I like this installment. It reinforced the idea of Jason as an unstoppable Frankenstien-like uberzombie. Larger than life, funkier than death, I dug it with a three foot sexton’s spade. It cleared 22 million.
1988. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood. In my opinion, this is one of the best of the series. We’ve got a waterlogged putrescent Jason going toe-to-toe with a stand-in Carrie. Up until he meets Freddy this is pretty well the only time Jason really broke a sweat. This was something – again, in my opinion, that the series always needed.
A decent threat to Jason’s unstoppable rampage.
It bobbed along at nearly 20 million.
1989. Jason Takes Manhattan. This has got to be one of my least favorite of the series.
Hell – why pussyfoot around?
This one sucked harder than a thousand backed up toilets.
Why didn’t they just call this Jason On The Love Boat? He spends fifteen tail-end minutes stomping through a subway tunnel and an alley. I wish they’d taken the time and budget to bring Jason to the Big Apple for real. This was a Barbie Doll striptease with no punchline. This was the worst of the series and very nearly the death of the franchise.
It made 14 million – mostly on the strength of the trailer and unfulfilled concept.
1993. Jason Goes To Hell. It begins at the end, with a super Seal Swat team blowing the living dying bejesus out of Mama Voorhees favorite son. They blast him to cat snot, and the coroner decides to eat Jason’s heart.
I don’t know.
Maybe he was just bored.
It seems that Jason Voorhees is really an Alien-like-face-hugging wriggle of betentacled goo that can steal a body faster than a Las Vegas quick-change artist.
Let me put it to you this way.
I groaned as they brought in a Superfly-style bounty hunter to hunt Jason down. Jason hops from body to body, before performing a Barkerish rebirth in the dead womb of his sister. The finale is worth all the card tricks. Jason goes blood-ballistic, tearing off limbs and hacking out a finale worthy of a Garth Ennis gunfight. Really grand guignol, mega-manga, with body parts and blood flying everywhere. A whole lot of caro syrup went into the making of this showdown.
It made a meager 15 million.
Jason X: Jason in Space.
Now this I freaking LOVED.
Here was the old Jason Voorhees back in a new arena, the way Jason Takes Manhattan promised to be. There were touches of Terminator, a whole bucket load of Aliens, and a twist that really worked.
A lot of people stayed away.
The movie brought in a measly 12 million in box office and again nearly killed the franchise.
But I loved this flick.
I freaking loved it.
There. I said it.
My second confession.
2003. Freddy vs. Jason.
Now I am a big fan of monsteramas,
I’m talking Frankenstien Meets The Werewolf.
This movie took over-the-top and chucked it up another couple of notches. The final showdown between the two mega-monsters had the panache of a Wrestlemania, the rubber suit zipperback charm of a Godzilla flick, and the energy of a monster truckload Red Bull tractor pull-off. I’m still not sure where the notion of Jason being afraid of water came from. Some of his greatest “kills” over most of the movies, took place in the lake. The only other negative I see from this is the flick made so much money – (82 million) – that Paramount will forget the thrust of the franchise.
I know some of you are expecting me to talk about those reboots – but as far as I am concerned they just don’t fit my feet.
Still – I am glad that today’s kids have not forgot about Jason Voorhees.
I’m going to be taking part in the Summer Fear 4 Festival in Tatamagouche this Saturday where I will man a table and sell some books and hand out business cards with links to my e-books and maybe even get to say hello to Steve Dash – the fellow who helped bring Jason Voorhees to the screen in Friday the 13th 2.
Get back in the lake, Jason. Get back to your bloodsoaked roots. This old cowboy is squatting front row center, with a bag of greasy honest-to-cow-buttered popcorn, waiting with strangled breath.
Yours in storytelling,