One of the strongest memories from my youth is lying in bed late at night, watching the Friday the 13th movies on the lowest volume on my old analog, big, fat television with wooden panels on the sides and colors hardly working. To be honest, it scared the living daylights out of me, just like when I watched Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” for the first time on a piece of junk that had difficulties displaying the color red. We all know how important red is in these kinds of horror movies.
If I remember correctly, the first Jason Voorhees adventure I ever saw wasn’t Sean S. Cunningham’s 1980 slasher classic. Instead, Steve Miner introduced me to the world of stupid teenagers, moronic adults, and our favorite machete-wielding madman in his brilliant sequel, “Friday the 13th Part 2,” from 1981. I still find the opening deeply disturbing, where Jason (like the shark in “Jaws: The Revenge”) has tracked down Alice (Adrienne King) from the first movie and silently kills her with a screwdriver to the temple. Even if I didn’t have a relationship with the character of Alice, it felt so gruesome and tragic. I fell in love with the cynicism right away and the idea that no one is safe.
In all fairness, it took me some time to appreciate the first movie (which is a brilliant piece of cinema), not just because it lacked Jason as the killer but also because it had a more serious style than the sequels, most of which aimed for gore, mayhem, and shocks, which I happen to like a lot. However, it is a great whodunit, and the cast is very solid. Since those early days, I’ve revisited the Crystal Lake universe over and over again, and I’m a very forgiving audience when it comes to the slasher genre. It has a purpose, and that purpose might not be high art, at least when comparing it to more accepted cinema, but it is to scare the audience with worn-out tropes, and that, by itself, is an impressive task, a form of art that demands skill, talent, and love for the genre.
Years ago, I wrote somewhere that Freddy Krueger is the hipster, Michael Myers is the bourgeois, and Jason Voorhees is the working class, and that’s where I belong. I have nothing against Freddy and Michael; they’re cool guys in some pretty rad movies, but Jason… he’s the real underdog in the bunch, even bullied by Freddy in “Freddy vs. Jason”! No wonder, as a bullied kid myself, I preferred Jason’s almost hermit-like existence, living close to nature (no wonder he literally melts away in “Jason Takes Manhattan”) and his superb creativity with tools.
Looking through the franchise (12 movies in total so far), I notice my view on them flows back and forth like waves hitting a rocky beach. Sometimes I only love parts 2, 3, and 4, and suddenly “Jason X” is my favorite, or “Jason Goes to Hell,” or even parts 5 or 6, the two films in the series I watched the least. I have no issues with the 2009 reboot; it’s a good one but could have had more gore. However, I’ve always found Aaron Yoo pretty cute, so that makes it worth watching from time to time. But let’s ignore that last shallow part and go back to Jason himself, the prime hero of the saga.
The thing is that Jason is unique, and the reason for that is that you care for him. He had a rough childhood, like me, and didn’t have the looks, like me, but somehow managed to overcome that in his own special way. He’s like the ultimate avenger, always on the hunt for obnoxious bullies, taking it out on all of them in the name of us bullied kids out there. It’s a fantasy, and it’s a good fantasy. It’s something of an empowerment for all the weird kids, the quiet ones playing by themselves at the outskirts of the schoolyard. He’s a friend. Well, that doesn’t say he kills totally innocent and great gals and guys, like the character of Mark Jarvis in part 2, a wheelchair-bound hunk who gets whacked in the head in one of the most effective scenes in that movie. Shelly in part 3 kind of deserves it (he is annoying as hell), but his desperation and sadness, always joking to get the attention of his friends and the girls, makes his death difficult to deal with in my eyes.
Well, even the sun has spots, as the old saying goes. Even Jason has bad days. No matter what, he’s still a reliable friend, someone who’s there for you and me, sometimes with a machete, sometimes with a hammer, and if you’re lucky, just a fast neck-snapping, and it’s all over.
Fred Andersson is a Swedish story producer, researcher and writer with over twenty years of experience in commercial television and the author of Northern Lights: High Strangeness in Sweden, out now from Beyond the Fray Publishing. He lives in Märsta, outside Stockholm, with his photographer husband Grzegorz and two overly active cats. Join him on Twitter and Instagram.
Fred Andersson is a Swedish story producer, researcher and writer with over twenty years of experience in commercial television and the author of three books. He lives in Märsta, outside Stockholm, with his photographer husband Grzegorz and two overly active cats.