“I don’t want to scare anyone, but I’m going to give it to you straight about Jason.”- Paul (Friday the 13th Part II)
The story of Jason Voorhees, or the story of Friday the 13th, is a ridiculous one. When most people read this sentence, they will focus on the word ‘ridiculous,’ remember that they had once seen one or two of these movies (but probably won’t remember which ones), and agree that, yes, they were ridiculous. They may even add the word ‘sucky,’ ‘pointless,’ and if they want to throw around a fancy-pants word, ‘hackneyed.’
The word that I want to focus on is ‘story.’ Yes, the story may be ridiculous, sucky, and hackneyed. But it did have a point. Sure, it may not be a story that appealed to everyone, but there were writers involved in these movies, and for the most part, they used their individual movie (or since we are discussing these films in terms of story, maybe we should call them chapters?) to further the story. My old creative writing teacher always said, “If you put in the effort, the least I can do is take your story seriously.”
So did the various writers and creators of the Friday the 13th series take it seriously? The sheer number of people who worked on them would indicate, sure, I suppose. So if they worked so hard on these movies, shouldn’t someone see if the whole thing holds up as one long story?
OK, I’ll do it. I mean, there is a new Friday the 13th movie being released on February 13th– the first that has actually been titled Friday the 13th since 1989. So I suppose its appropriate to take a look at from whence it came, but there are a few caveats on which I must insist. Jason has now appeared in 11 movies (yep, even Part I where his mommy was the killer), including one where he visits the realm of latter day Leprechauns and Roger Moore Bonds- outer space (Jason X). Obviously, the integrity of this thing called “story” was going to take some hits when a rural psycho finds himself battling cyborgs 500 years in the future. I also have no time for Jason’s spirit passing from body to body, or Jason battling Freddy Krueger. I guess this makes me a purist rather than a completist.
No, I am only going to focus on Friday the 13th Parts I-VIII, the only episodes that actually bore the Friday the 13th moniker, when the franchise was owned by Paramount. Additionally, I don’t want to mention the acting, which is pretty sucky AND ridiculous, despite having future stars of the big screen (Kevin Bacon, Crispin Glover, Kelly Hu) and television (Ron “Horshack” Palillo and Shavar Ross. You know, Dudley from Diff’rent Strokes) having made appearances. I don’t want to spend any time talking about the directing or behind-the-scenes trivia, even though with just tiny bit of searching, I could find that Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood had so many homosexual actors that it was dubbed “Fri-gay the 13th” among the cast. Or that Part VI: Jason Lives is the only Friday the 13th with no drugs or nudity.
Does the storytelling hold up? Looking at the series with an eye toward character, plot, setting, foreshadowing, continuity, and recurring motifs, I found that surprisingly, yes, for the most part it does. But as I was watching these eight movies (all in one week, two a day), the series divided itself naturally into two parts, or “Books,” in keeping with the theme. Parts I-IV make up what I will refer to as “Book 1”, with Parts V-VIII creating “Book 2.” In general, “Book 1” holds up story-wise much better than “Book 2,” where the series becomes first unbelievable, then outlandish, and then completely flies off the rails in Part VIII. But we’ll get to that later. So here is a really close inspection of the Friday the 13th series; probably closer than anyone involved with their creation ever intended. I’ll be posting an entry every day until Friday, February 13th– the day the remake is released (of which I will see and review as well).
So… (deep breath)… here we go.