The Luck of Friday the 13th

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**WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**

I can’t remember how old I was when I first saw a Friday the 13th film, but I remember how it made me feel. When I was a kid everyone knew who Jason Voorhees was, and I was no exception; I knew the iconic hockey mask, I knew a little about where he came from and I knew he stalked a summer camp. At the time I had no idea which film I was watching, and I had even less idea what was happening but I do remember, however, seeing Jason briskly walking through the woods during the day. Jason roaming through the trees in the afternoon was a frighting sight! When my brother and I would stay with my grandparents in Virginia we’d be in the middle of the woods, so Jason became the boogeyman he had used to scare me, but I always knew once the sun came up I was safe. This film unraveled the security blanket I had made for myself and made me fear that hockey mask even more.

I eventually grew up and became more in-the-know about horror and I can now tell you that I was watching Part VI: Jason Lives on Joe Bob Brigg’s TNT show MonsterVision during one of his Friday the 13th marathons. I wouldn’t say that was a moment that sparked my love for this franchise, but it was definitely a defining moment in developing my eventual love for all things horror, especially Mr. Voorhees. That image of Jason in the woods had burned in to my brain and became the classic image of Jason for me without me even knowing it. Back in the day it seemed to raw and horrifying. When I watch the scene now, it doesn’t have the same oomph, but I love what it did for me as a kid.

Since then I’ve gone on to become a horror film junkie and John Carpenter’s Halloween helped me make bold choice to go to film school and I’ve made some successful short films of my own. Horror has been engraved in me for so long that I can’t remember how or why. It’s tough to remember what defining moment made you in to the person you are, but there is one hallmark moment that stands out to me: the moment I became obsessed with Friday the 13th.

I remember being in high school watching a marathon of the films and I was at the final scene of Sean Cunningham’s original. Alice, our hero portrayed by Adrienne King, had just decapitated the menacing Mrs. Voorhees with a machete. In an attempt to protect herself, she jumps in to a canoe and drifts off to the middle of the Crystal Lake. All is calm and serene while Harry Manfredini’s gorgeous synth finale kicks in giving us all a moment of relief just as a young Jason Voorhees leaps from the water and pulls Alice down to the waters below! Jason was supposed to have drowned as a child, so how can this be? In the Hospital scene that follows Alice asks about the young boy the in the water and with great care the Police officer must inform Alice that there was no boy. We’re left with great final shot of the calm Crystal Lake and some light ripples being formed from below.

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I was interested, but wasn’t completely hooked until I put in Part 2 and was greeted with a new killer wearing a burlap sack over his head. We find out through the coarse of the film that it is Jason Voorhees back to avenge his mother! He slaughters Alice during the opening minutes and then turns his attention to Camp Crystal Lake. As a viewer we’re left with a lot of unanswered questions such as is Jason a zombie? Did he ever really die? Where’s he been all this time? How did he survive? My mind was racing a mile a minute and this is the moment I can accurately say I became a Friday the 13th nut. I love everything about the franchise from it’s disjointed timeline, it’s kooky characters and it’s exploitative gore. I loved the characters, from Jason to the telepathic Tina in Part 7.

I’ve found myself becoming more and more obsessed daily the more I talk about Jason’s motivations and his true character elements. I love trying to rationalize the ever changing geography of Crystal Lake/Forest Green and trying to make sense of it’s strange timeline and inconsistencies. I love it all. I’ve even dedicated my body to my Jason love by getting his iconic hockey mask tattooed on my forearm. The Friday the 13th franchise has never been considered high brow filmmaking, but I never felt it should be. However, for a filmmaker to take up the reins of directing a Friday sequel, creativity is a must. It’s a challenge to pick-up where the last writer and director team left off. How do you write yourself out of a corner? Can you make sense of it? Is Jason even dead?! These are all questions one must ask themselves before idly picking up the hockey mask.

Fans of the franchise are some of the most passionately dedicated groups I’ve ever met. They care about the details down to how many holes Jason had on his mask in each film. Go to any of the major horror conventions around the United States and you’re guaranteed to find a man dressed in a Jason costume that he’s more than likely made by hand just so he can slave over the details. We obsess because we care. This franchise started off as a single film that was made with the intention of riding the slasher film high of the late ’70s/early ’80s and to do something different. A lot of the horror tropes we all know today came because of Friday the 13th. The franchise, much like Jason, became a monster in the world of marketing. Costumes, t-shirts, posters, lunch boxes and other such obscurities have all been made for this franchise. It’s because of this marketing that kids even today know when they see a hockey mask it means Jason.

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33 years later, with 10 original films, a spin-off, a re-make and a successful television show under it’s belt, the Friday the 13th franchise is as relevant as ever with an upcoming 13th film set for release in 2015. Jason is showing no signs of stopping because Jason Voorhees, like all boogeymen, is perennial and will always return in one form or another. There will never be a day that a kid won’t be afraid to go to summer camp in fear that a certain hockey masked killer may lurking outside their cabin.

I, for one, like living in a world where kids still have an irrational fear of a character such as Jason. With all the real-life terrors in this world, it’s nice to have one that’s not as bad in hindsight. Jason Voorhees is the blood-soaked Santa Claus of horror; you might not always believe in him, but he’s never going away. He’s just waiting.

About the Author
Michael Viers is an award winning filmmaker from Milwaukee, WI. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee’s with a Bachelor’s Degree in film and has made two successful short films during his stay at the university: From the Darkness Theatre which screened at the Short Film Corner at the 66th Festival de Cannes and Love You Still which debuted at the 2013 Milwaukee Film Festival. He’s currently trying to get more work writing articles about film and allocating resources to make his first feature film.

Click on the poster below to like the FB page for Michael’s award winning short film, From the Darkness Theatre:
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