Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday (the 13th) Freakout

Most people know what Friday the 13th is. Even if they aren't horror fans, people know who Jason Voorhees is: the hockey-masked slasher who hacks, cuts, and stabs his way through about a dozen oversexed teenagers at a time in a middle-of-nowhere summer camp, Camp Crystal Lake. The movies haven't been very good; at best, they're fun, escapist romps with a heaping of gore and conservative morality thrown in (i.e. Don't engage in premarital sex, or a masked lunatic will eviscerate you).

But that hasn't stopped Jason from being a cultural icon. He endures, almost unchanging. In fact, when you get down to the heart of it, not much has changed. That formula remains intact through out the series. Teenagers arrive at camp and wander off alone to engage in some illicit behavior, a storm blows in, and they get picked off one by by one until the virginal heroine is left to take the maniac on in mortal combat. She wins, but there's always a suggestion Jason will return.

When you go down the list, each movie has only one attribute to distinguish it from the rest. Everything else remains identical, but there's always one little hook to justify resurrecting Jason for one more go with the machete.

Friday the 13th (1980) Jason's mother is the killer.

Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) Jason doesn't have his hockey mask yet. Here, it's just a potato sack.

Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982) Jason gets his mask, and even better, it's in glorious 3-D. Those expecting Avatar-level quality will be disappointed.

Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter (1984) The one with Corey Feldman. You know you've exhausted your ability to scare when it only takes one of the two Coreys to kill you.

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985) The impostor Jason! Yes, Jason isn't really in this one. The killer is some side character with a few lines near the beginning so we can remember who he was when he's unmasked. For this reason, it's regarded as the worst in the series. This is also when they shifted to Roman numerals in the titles; I guess to look more sophisticated.

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986) The one with a song by Alice Cooper.

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988) Jason battles Carrie. Okay, it's not Carrie. Paying for the rights to use that Stephen King character was probably out of their budget, but this does feature a cool battle between Jason and a telekinetic girl.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) The biggest cheat in a title ever. This should be retitled to "Jason Takes a Cruise Ship to Vancouver, and We have a Brief Shot of him in Time Square."

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993) This should be retitled to "Jason rips off The Hidden."

Jason X (2001) 2001: A Jason Odyssey. Jason in Space. Enough bad puns about Jason going into space?

Freddy vs. Jason (2003). A battle between two slasher titans about fifteen years after everyone stopped caring.

Friday the 13th (2009). Produced by Michael Bay, this one probably had more money in its budget than the rest combined. So what's different here? We finally have an Asian in the cast. It would appear at first glance this is merely a Token Asian, but this inclusion shatters that perception. The stereotype of Asians is they are nerdy geniuses. By having one turn up as a hapless victim, we're seeing an Asian who does not fit that label. He was too stupid to stay out of this movie.

I kid the franchise. Certainly, the genre has produced worse, and Friday the 13th has had an impact that cannot be denied. It has its moments. It has its fun. You know what you're getting when Jason Voorhees is your villain. He's the reliable warhorse of the genre. Nothing flashy or graceful, but he gets the job done.

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