Through 12 movies (sort of), Jason Voorhees slashed, stabbed, and disemboweled his way to my heart. He may have been a rip-off of Michael Myers and didn’t have the personality of Freddy Kruger, but there’s still nothing scarier than seeing a guy in a hockey mask in the middle of the woods. Today, on his birthday, Friday the 13th, I’m going to put all the pieces together like never before. This is the story of Jason Voorhees and Friday the 13th. And don’t ever call it a ‘Jason movie.’
There were actually two Jasons: a mentally challenged maniac out to avenge his mother’s death and an unstoppable zombie that stalked the woods it used to call home. As a child, Jason was presumed dead in a swimming accident while attending Camp Crystal Lake. His mother worked at the camp and made the genius move of letting her handicapped child swim under the supervision of counselors who only wanted to get laid. She took her frustrations out by murdering those she blamed for her son’s death and later sabotaged any efforts to reopen the camp. With Camp Crystal Lake slated again to reopen, Mrs. V took it upon herself to take out every new counselor one-by-one on her son’s birthday, Friday the 13th. Unfortunately, she couldn’t finish off Alice and ended up decapitated on the shores of Crystal Lake.
However, Jason did not die in the lake but instead was living in the woods. The poor kid didn’t know any better. The kid grew into a man, a big man, and continued to survive like an animal wearing a burlap sack over his deformed head. When he saw his beloved mother beheaded, he did the only thing he could think of: killing spree.
A few years later, on Friday the 13th, a counselor training center (you can’t be a camp counselor without a rigorous training seminar, right?) was opening right next door to Camp Crystal Lake. Despite assurances that all the rumors about a homicidal killer roaming the area were false, Jason made an appearance and the blood flowed. Jason was slashed with a machete but managed to escape into the night.
The next day, Saturday the 14th, a group of kids staying in a cabin on Crystal Lake, along with a motorcycle gang antagonizing them, encountered Jason with much of the same results. One of the kids, a merry prankster, brought along a hockey mask to scare his friends. Needing something to wear after losing his treasured burlap sack while training to be a counselor, Jason iconically started wearing the mask, which protected him from a blow to the face with an axe. Despite not being dead, he was taken to the morgue by some awful EMT’s.
Jason escaped from the morgue and headed back to Crystal Lake on Sunday the 15th. Some more pesky kids throwing a party got in his way and ended up butchered. Next door, a kid with a knack for special effects named Tommy Jarvis (and played by Corey Feldman in his greatest role ever) was staying with his family when Jason paid a visit. Tommy, knowing a bit of Jason’s backstory from a hitchhiker whose sister he murdered, disguised himself as a young version of Jason. With the simpleton Jason confused, he was hacked to death with a machete by Corey Feldman.
The fourth chapter of the story was called Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter to capitalize on moviegoers who wanted to see Jason Voorhees finally die. When the movie made about $30 million, studio execs immediately greenlit another sequel but they needed to put a different spin on it after promising the death of Jason. It was not a good spin.
In Friday the 13th Part 5, once again Jason is not the killer. Tommy Jarvis, now living in a house for the mentally disturbed, becomes involved with a copycat killer on Friday the 13th (Jason’s birthday!) after a local resident’s illegitimate son is killed by one of Tommy’s housemates. It’s complicated, don’t ask. Obviously, nobody was happy with this so Jason was on his way back.
Tommy, now even more disturbed, had to see if Jason was really dead. After digging up his grave and stabbing him with a fence post on Friday the 13th (Jason’s birthday!), Jason was struck by lightning and resurrected as an unstoppable killing machine. Luckily, Camp Crystal Lake was reopening at exactly the same time only with a new name, Camp Forest Green. Jason was not fooled by this name change and returned to wreak havoc. Tommy managed to lure Jason to the middle of Crystal Lake and sink him to the bottom with the help of a chain and a large rock. Jason was back home.
Despite being a pretty cool movie, Friday the 13th Part 6 didn’t make as much money as has been hoped, although the dud of Part 5 most likely contributed. The tried and true formula of killing teenagers in the woods was growing stale, so Jason was given a more worthy foil. She came in the form of a girl with telekinetic powers named Tina.
Tina was psychically responsible for her father’s death at Crystal Lake as a child and unwittingly brought Jason back to life while trying to resuscitate her father. After Jason decimated the group of partying teenagers next door on Friday the 13th (Jason’s birthday!), Tina learned to harness her powers, went head-to-head with Jason, and summoned her father to drag him back to the depths of the lake.
With another decrease in box office, the decision was made to take Jason out of the cozy confines of Crystal Lake. He was heading to the Big Apple. Road trip!
A boat’s anchor that struck an underwater power line brought Jason back to life yet again. He then boarded a ship filled with high schoolers celebrating their graduation en route to New York on Friday the 13th (Jason’s birthday!). Jason managed to render the ship inoperable and followed the last remaining survivors to Manhattan. Once there, he met his demise via the river of toxic waste that engulfed the New York City sewer system every midnight courtesy of Mayor Ed Koch.
The concept was great but the execution was poor. Due to budgetary reasons, filming took place mainly in Vancouver and nothing can stand in for New York. On top of that, only a half-hour of action took place in the city while audiences were expecting a lot more. With the franchise struggling, Jason would be killed off again.
The toxic waste river presumably washed out in Crystal Lake and Jason was back on the loose, but this time the FBI was on his trail. They launched a sting operation and blew him to pieces. Unfortunately, the coroner decided to eat his heart and became possessed. The spirit of Jason continued to pass through several hosts and made several kills while returning to Crystal Lake on Friday the 13th (Jason’s birthday!). Again, don’t ask. A bounty hunter specializing in the occult revealed that Jason can be truly killed only by a relative, but he may also be born again through a member of the Voorhees family. Luckily, Jason had a long-lost half-sister and returned to his bodily form. Not-so-luckily, Jason also had a half-niece and she stabbed him with a special dagger, sending him to Hell.
Jason Goes To Hell continued the downward spiral of the series, both critically and financially. Although a teaser at the end of the film set up a battle against Freddy Kruger, Jason had another adventure beforehand. A change of scenery was in cards, but this time the question wasn’t where was Jason going, it was when was Jason going.
He was supposed to be in Hell, but Jason reappeared in the custody of federal agents. Convinced that nothing could destroy him, the agents decided to freeze him and his murderous ways. 500 years later, yes 500 years later, on Friday the 13th (Jason’s birthday!), Jason was discovered by the crew of a space ship and brought on board where he was thawed out. After murdering many of the teenage students studying on the ship, Jason was actually destroyed by a team of space commandos and their high-tech weapons. However, his corpse landed on a machine that specialized in rebuilding human tissue. With Jason reanimated and rebuilt with the help of robot parts, the half-zombie/half-machine went on an even more efficient killing spree until being jettisoned from the ship and burned up in the atmosphere of the crew’s home planet.
Back in modern times, Freddy Kruger summoned Jason from Hell to kill the kids of Elm St. because they no longer remembered and dreamed about Freddy. The murders re-conjured nightmares of Freddy but he could not stop Jason from killing. After the kids managed to drug Jason and bring him to Crystal Lake on Friday the 13th (Jason’s birthday!), Freddy was dragged into the real world by one of the girls whose dream he was haunting. The two baddies then duked it out resulting in a machete in Jason’s chest and Freddy decapitated.
Freddy vs. Jason was a runaway success and with a rash of remakes of 80’s horror movies, it was a foregone conclusion that Friday the 13th would get the same treatment. The remake went back to the roots of the series when Jason was still a deformed freak who was scarred over the beheading of his mother. However in this more humanizing version, Jason took a camper hostage and her brother set out to rescue her. Jason encountered his usual cabin of partying teenagers but in the end met his fate in a woodchipper.
With rumors of a sequel to the remake squashed, it may be a few years before Jason is seen again. But he always comes back. The series is based on a timeless fear that somebody out there in the shadows is waiting to pounce and kill you. As long as people exist, so will that fear. As opposed to the modern “torture porn” movies out there today like Saw and Hostel, Friday the 13th revolves around suspense: the “ki-ki-ki, ma-ma-ma” music, seeing Jason stalk out his prey in the first-person perspective, the hockey mask obscuring any facial expressions. Although the series deviated a bit from that formula in later sequels and resorted to gimmicks like taking Jason to space, the last few movies have been strong and hopefully any further remakes will remain true to form. In Crystal Lake, as in life, the simpler the story, the better. We watch these movies for the suspense, the fun, and for Jason.