October 25, 2013

FRIDAY THE 13TH Is Not The Movie I Thought It Was

"But...then he's still out there."
Did you know that Jason Voorhees, the infamous hockey masked and machete wielding killer from the Friday The 13th franchise is not actually in the original Friday The 13th?

Because I sure as fuck didn't.

I've been waiting until the final days before Halloween to dive into some of the more storied horror franchises that, much like their deranged antagonists, simply refuse to die no matter how many subpar sequels get made.  I've always considered Jason, Freddy and Michael Myers to be the "big three" when it comes to psychotic eternal killers and, while I've seen a few of the Halloween movies over the years, I've somehow managed to almost completely avoid Freddy and Jason.  In fact, my only real experience with these two iconic characters is the fairly disappointing Freddy Vs Jason and the hilariously over-the-top Jason X, or as I call it, "Jason Goes To Space."  That one's worth watching for the holodeck/sleeping bag scene alone.

It's probably telling that the only Jason movie I've ever seen is the one on a space ship.  I never really got into horror as a genre when I was a kid, erring more on the side of sci-fi instead.  Of course the two are incredibly intertwined, and a lot of horror movies draw heavily from sci-fi roots.  But even something like John Carpenter's The Thing, which is a perfect blend of the two, didn't find its way in front of my eyeballs until very late in the game.  I know that my parents never really let me watch R rated movies and I didn't have any horror fanatic friends or older siblings to sneak this stuff to me when they weren't looking.  Then again, maybe I was just a total wuss as a kid.

Either way, I thought I had a pretty good read on the basics of Friday The 13th, but when I sat down to watch the 1980 original last night, I was thrown for a complete and total loop instead.  It's almost unfathomable that Jason X can trace its lineage all the way back to this quaint yet brutally effective slasher flick, in which the killer not only remains off camera for 90% of the movie, but is eventually revealed to be a character that hasn't even been seen or mentioned in any way.  There's a very oblique reference to a "boy drowning in '57" by Enos the truck driver at the very beginning, but that's it until Mrs. Voorhees shows up at the eleventh hour to explain away the entire movie, which up until that point was just a series of attractive teenagers getting killed off for no reason other than a very nonspecific curse.  Aside from a few disappointing off-camera deaths, most of the kills are really well executed (zing!) and the repeated use of the killer's POV is almost as creepy as the owner of Camp Crystal Lake himself, who I was pretty certain was gonna turn out to be a rapist.  My only real complaint is about the very end: the bit with the girl in the canoe is SO TOTALLY AWESOME that the cut away to the hospital feels like a huge letdown.  I appreciate that they didn't try to explain the previous moment away as a dream, but that makes the scene all the more unnecessary.  They should have quit while they were ahead.

Live-tweet bewilderment follows:

Friday The 13th was more than just a pleasant surprise.  It completely pulled the rug out from under me.  Now I want to go through the whole franchise, if only to figure out how they got from here to Uber-Jason.  The reality might be disappointing, but NOW I NEED TO KNOW.

PS: The original trailer is embedded below as always, but I'd urge you not to watch it if you've never seen the film.  (I realize that may not be a lot of you.)  The whole thing is essentially a list of kill scenes, and while it doesn't really include the money shots, it still feels like it gives away a lot.

Title: Friday The 13th
Director: Sean S. Cunningham
Starring: Adrienne King, Jeannine Taylor, Kevin Bacon, Robbi Morgan, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartram, Mark Nelson, Betsy Palmer
Year Of Release: 1980
Viewing Method: Netflix DVD

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