“I’ve seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly.”- Lizabeth (Friday the 13th Part VI)
While Pamela Voorhees lay the groundwork, it was Jason who is the big dick a’ swinging throughout the story. But the Jason from Book I is a far cry from the Jason we see in Book II, and therein lies the fundamental difference between the first four chapters and the last four. While Jason was never what one would call “human,” he at least had human qualities in the first four chapters and therefore gave the audience a rooted interest in the survival of the protagonist. Taking only the Jason from Chapter II, one sees he looks like one of the Allman Brothers, lives in a cobbled together shanty, and wears OshKosh B’Gosh overalls. He is even civilized enough at this point in the story to take a whistling tea kettle off the stove for a victim. Granted, he had just sunk an ice pick into her temple, but still…
The question as to how Jason survived his supposed drowning that set off the events of the entire story remain suspect. The legend is well-documented; 10 year-old Jason drowns at Camp Crystal Lake while negligent counselors have sex, do drugs, whatever. The camp cook, one Pamela Voorhees, freaks out and goes on a 21-year killing spree as a result.
OK, so he drowned. Or did he? In Chapter I, a boy (assumed to be Jason) bursts from the lake and pulls his mother’s murderer (Alice) into Crystal Lake. Was it a hallucination? That is the best interpretation; although it is true that Jason is not “dead.” At least not in the way we mere mortals recognize death. As a full-grown man (as seen in Chapter II), he attacks and kills Alice, who is clearly only a year removed from the events of Chapter I. If it truly was Jason who burst from the water at the close of Chapter I, that would indicate that 15 years or so must have passed between Chapter I and II. That is obviously not the case, so Jason must have not actually drowned on that fateful day. You’d think he could have told his mom; it would have saved quite a few lives. And if the legend is true, Jason actually watched his mother’s beheading! Would it have killed him to lend her a hand at that point? Well, no one ever said Jason wasn’t a bit of a dick, so I guess you have to just go with it.
So he was a dick, but at least he was a somewhat human dick. He shows pain from injury; you hear him grunt and howl in pain from his various fracases with his victims. Jason has a bruise on his thumbnail in Chapter II; maybe he hit it with a hammer when he was constructing his shanty. When he gets stabbed in the knee in Chapter III, he even limps for a bit. He is briefly knocked unconscious by getting hit over the head with a television set, and in Chapter IV, he gets worked so hard that it finally kills him. When he takes a machete to the hand and later to the head, it looks as though it is really causing the guy some grief.
Personally, I prefer the Jason from Book I. Zombie Jason, who is the focus of Book II, comes across more as a monster rather than a “deranged psycho,” as Ginny put it. As much as The Terminator is a great story, it isn’t a particular scary one. The audience knows that gunshots, stabbings, and drownings aren’t going to stop the guy, so every time it happens, it feels like a waste of time. The same is true of Jason. It is so much more involving for the viewer if the scenarios that play out seem as though they are somewhat grounded in reality. And aside from the discrepancy about Jason’s drowning as a boy, Book I does that. Sure, after taking an axe to the head, Jason is declared dead by a medical professional at the opening of Chapter IV. But couldn’t a mistake have been made? I just prefer to believe that Jason has a “genetic leg up,” like DeNiro in Cape Fear.
There is no way to realistically account for the Jason from Chapters V-VIII. Actually, that needs a bit of an amendment, as Jason never actually made an appearance in Chapter V. Chapter V needs it’s own special analysis, so lets concentrate on that later, yes? For now, lets begin with Chapter VI, which opens with Jason being brought back to life with a bolt of lightning. He was obviously dead and buried; covered with maggots. He is barely a mummy at this point, but the point is that he was dead. Tommy truly had killed him at the end of Chapter IV. In other words, Jason of Book I was killable, therefore, mortal. But here we have him brought back to life in an obvious homage to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
But is that what we want out of our homicidal maniacs? I guess it’s splitting hairs to decide that it is less fun to watch Jason be able to take a bullet (or several) versus not being able to take a bullet. All I know is, the movies became… well, less fair to the protagonists after Jason was shocked back into existence. What is worse is that the individual chapters forget the mythology of the larger story during the Zombie Jason era. The entire raison d’etre for the killings (revenge for his mother’s murder) is forgotten in favor of a big guy wandering around the woods waiting to chop people up.
In any case, Zombie Jason is the Jason the audience has had to live with for the last 25 years, so a look we must take.