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Friday the 13th

If you’re a Friday the 13th fan, today is a good day for you. Not only has the, in my opinion blundered, Blu-ray box set released, but also, the more anticipated Crystal Lake Memories: the Complete History of Friday the 13th (a more definitive making of Friday the 13th franchise collection), and a new book by author David Grove, Location in Blairstown: The Making of Friday the 13th. And at conjuncture, I’d rather get my grubby mittens on the documentary film than the Blu-ray box set. There isn’t much there that hasn’t already been offered on DVD. You can check out my full review on the quote-unquote, so-called “complete collection” here (for shame WB, for shame!).

But, today, not only can we be excited for these new Friday the 13th releases, but also because today is the moniker for our beloved franchise. Now, Friday the 13th wasn’t the first slasher, John Carpenter’s Halloween should be credited as the patron saint for fictitious murderers, but Friday the 13th has become the most influential, goring the hearts and minds of horror fanatics ever since its release back on May 9th, 1980. Springing from a simple, albeit notorious, tale of a bereaved parent struggling to find justice for the death of her son, Friday the 13th has since encapsulated how killer outcasts seek retribution and old testament justice (revenge) in a post-contemporary world. It’s always interesting going back to the original and comparing it to the many sequels and spin-offs that have followed over the years. Though the mood and pace of the original is similar to the others, it’s also very different. In the original, while the film is still dominated by the classic slasher motif, there is an actual story, worthwhile, taking place.

The synopsis follows: “In 1957, a young Jason Voorhees, drowns at Camp Crystal Lake, while the counselors were ‘too busy’ (wink-wink) to watch him. His body was never found. One year later, two counselors are found murdered [at the same camp], [but] the murderer [is] never caught. After the brutal murders the camp is dubbed, ‘Camp Blood’ by the locals [and] remains closed [for twenty years]. Many [attempt] to reopen, but failed due to foul play. [The story picks up as local native] Steve Christy [throws himself into] reopening Camp Crystal Lake [at all costs]. He hires [a group of rag-tag teens, including:] Annie, Alice, Marcie, Jack, Bill, Brenda, and Ned… [Yet] one of the counselors never shows up. [A storm rolls in] and one by one, each of the counselor’s go missing. Till only one remains, to face the killer alone” (adapted from Camp Blood synopsis).

The real shock, for me at least, when watching the original was discovering that Jason wasn’t the killer; he wasn’t even in the movie until the very end. Friday the 13th wasn’t my first Friday the 13th film, I started with part 7 (I think) and after a few years, decided to give the original a go. Sadly, at the time, Jason wasn’t my favorite horror movie monster. Growing up, Freddy was slightly more popular than our hockey masked friend. Thankfully, through the decades, I’ve wised up and have accepted Jason for the dominating 80’s horror icon that he was and still is. Today, Friday the 13th, despite lacking one certain “pissed off goalie,” and supposed questionable production value, has become my personal favorite in the entire franchise.

Why? Good question. Sure, the Nightmare on Elm Street series is rather good, at least the first couple films, but as I’ve found myself a little more…seasoned, the characture and character of Jason resonate stronger with who I am now; not who I was as a kid. I don’t think kids could (can) appreciate Jason. Freddy always had those cleaver one-liners and retrospective dream stories children tend to find interesting (right?); whereas, Jason simply goes for the throat without the Bond-esk narrative.  Jason delivers up-close and personal stalk and slash without being silly about it. The films are normally grainy but never lazy. There is a pace expected and always delivered. You cannot reason with Jason. He is who he is; the situation is what it is. You can fight and lose or fight and survive. The strong do not necessarily live to see another sequel; the weak do not necessarily expire in some grotesque manner. Chance and unpredictability play just as equally as the notion of “bad luck.” And then there’s the nagging question of morality. In a way, Jason is a supernatural judge, weighing the lives of his victims, and dispatching fanatical Old Testament justice.

The question of morality is why, as it seems to me, Friday the 13th has become such a popular movie and has built such a huge fan base. No one enjoys being judged. In Friday the 13th, Pam and Jason are giving the audience a way of relieving feelings of moral judgment by making lite of the entire enterprise. Jason and his doting mother are cathartic; extreme, chilling and gruesome, but yet satisfying in the face of bullhorn preachers. And the best part of Friday the 13th is that it’s really just a simple popcorn horror movie, enjoyable to the last kernel. A movie nostalgic campers resonate with well. Friday the 13th is a “ghost” story, a myth that fits perfectly in the old way of looking at evil, “out-there” in the deeper places out in the woods, beyond the campfire, where we dare not go alone.

Really, so much could be said regarding the Friday the 13th series. You can love them or hate them, but doubtfully anything ho-hum; it is truly the only absolute either-or I’d accept. I’d expect nothing less from such a unique franchise. While critics initially hated the release of the first film, fans have only grown to adore it that much more. There are currently twelve Friday the 13th movies, spanning over 33 years! And the franchise is still growing, or at least has plans to grow. Even the really cheesy ones hardcore nerds tend to criticize, such as part 10 (clears throat), in themselves have found their own fan base. I’m not a huge fan of Jason in Space, but then again, some folks really dig it and the simple fact that there are people who actually love the awful ones is what makes the series so amazing!!!

Have a Happy Friday the 13th everyone and don’t forget to pop in your favorite Friday the 13th film!

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