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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Slashers We Love: “Sleepaway Camp 2” and “Friday the 13th”

Wow, you guys really are amazing. You know that? Two more mini reviews from fellow fans of the slasher genre as they each talk about their slasher favorites. Thank you Jeffrey and Ryan for your awesome selections! Once again just go to the Slasher Studios Facebook Page and select a picture from your favorite slasher movie and do a small write up and we will feature you and your review on our site. One special review will win a free autographed copy of Teddy!

Ryan Howe-“Sleepaway Camp 2”

My favorite slasher of all time is “Sleepaway Camp 2” because of the Happy Camper Song, the Shit Sisters and our favorite post-op camp counselor Angela Johnson. The outhouse killing if by far my favorite scene from any slasher movie!

Jeffrey Lee-“Friday the 13th”

I was debating if i should post “one of my favorites”, like Happy Birthday to Me and The House on Sorority Row, since a lot of people’s favorite slasher happens to be one of the Friday the 13th movies. But at the risk of sounding redundant, I’m going to go ahead and say that Friday the 13th (1980) is my #1 favorite slasher of all-time. Black Christmas and Halloween did it first, but Friday the 13th defined what a slasher movie is all about and fine-tuned the rules and style for all the slashers to come. I think the first Friday the 13th has the best gore effects of the entire series (you can’t argue that anyone did it better than Tom Savini), and it has an excellent atmosphere of dread and impending doom. Sean S. Cunningham really doesn’t give himself enough credit with this one. He’s said over and over in interviews that his main intent was to rip off Halloween, but I think he created a unique and terrifying slasher movie that will go down in history as the first of its kind and will never be forgotten.

In Defense of “Friday the 13th”

Looking at Friday the 13th, it’s easy to see why the film was so controversial. Many feminist groups were so angered by these types of movies in the 1980’s. After all, aren’t these films merely an excuse to show a topless girl running through the woods waiting to get impaled on a killer’s “long blade”? The references to death and sex aren’t exactly subtle. As Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film states, many feminists were downright disgusted by Friday the 13th finding it repulsive and borderline offensive that every female in the film, with the exception of the “final girl” (which I will go into detail on later), is killed because of her sexual experience and independence. What kind of message does this send to the female youth of America? Stay subservient to your male partner and everything will end up being okay for you?

Does Friday the 13th add to the “media’s representation of women as passive, dependent on men, or objects of desire” as many feminist film critics have stated? Well, that is left up to debate. For example, a select group of feminists actually applauded this film and other slasher films like it. In fact, while most feminists theorists label the horror film as a “male-driven/male-centered genre”, feminist critics like Carol Clover pointed out that in most horror films, especially in horror films like the Friday the 13th series, the audience, male and female, is structurally ‘forced’ to identify with the “innovative and resourceful young female” (“the final girl” as described earlier) who survives the killer’s attack and usually ends the threat. She argues that “while the killer’s subjective point of view may be male within the narrative, even the male viewer is still rooting for the “final girl” to overcome the killer.”

Nonetheless, many key film critics disagreed with the argument that horror films like Friday the 13th are “pro-feminist.” In 1981, Roger Ebert, film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, launched a “famous diatribe against the subjective point-of-view killing mechanism” of the slasher film which, as he argued, “placed viewers in the position of ‘seeing as’ and, therefore, ‘identifying with’ the maniacal killers.” Nevertheless, many filmmakers and other critics disagreed with the “simplistic association of subjective point of view shooting with audience identification by believing in point-of-view cutting as a stronger way of achieving audience identification with a character.” If anything, it could be argued that this point-of-view shooting makes horror films forces the audience to identify with the female protagonist that much more. Or, as feminist critic Clover calls it, “masochistic rather than sadistic.”

Looking at Friday the 13th, it is not hard not to see why the criticisms were made. The film is poorly acted, poorly directed on a minimal budget with a core story that, at best, rips off the Halloween franchise frame by frame. However, this would be avoiding the very essence of why these horror films are so popular. People don’t go to Friday the 13th expecting a great, cinematic movie going experience; they are going to Friday the 13th to have fun. It can be argued that films like Friday the 13th are escapist entertainment at their very best. There is nothing fundamentally great about these films but that’s really the point. They are fun, they are scary (if, by today’s standards, cheesy and tame), and they are very entertaining.

The feminist critics that attack these films don’t seem to see the power these films contain. Here, in Friday the 13th, is a young woman who must put all the pieces of the mystery everything together and save her friends in order to survive the night. And survive she does, something that not a single other male does in the course of the film. In fact, looking at the series as a whole, it takes the franchise until Part 4 before it even allows a male to survive in the end. It should come as no surprise that this male is survived with a female who, once again, was forced to save the day on her own. Whereas in other film genres, such as romantic comedies and dramas, where females are pushed aside to “girlfriend support” roles, Friday the 13th tries to do something different with gender roles by making the males the “supportive partner” and forcing the young female teenager to go take charge and same the day. In essence, the female in this film, as in many other horror films, is the hero.