“You just have to see that Jason’s dead, right? Seeing his corpse ain’t gonna stop your hallucinations!”- Hawes (Friday the 13th Part VI)
To be fair, the group of main protagonists who squared off against Jason in Book 2 had a slightly rougher road to hoe than those in Book 1. After all, a crack to Jason’s head with an ax or a television to the noggin wasn’t going to do the trick anymore. No, these main characters had themselves a zombie psycho to deal with. Were they up to it?
The answer? Not even remotely. Well, I like Tommy from Chapter VI. But overall, these protagonists are weak, but not because they lack the requisite skills to deal with Mr. Voorhees. For me, the lead characters in Book 2 lacked just that- character. The characters in these chapters ranged from off-putting (Chapter V) to goofy (Chapter VI) to whiny (Chapter VII) to finally helpless and sort of dumb (Chapter VIII). Which is unfortunate, because the Jason of Book 2 was a “no quarter asked, none given” sort of guy.
I liked that the character of Tommy Jarvis was a connector between Book 1 and Book 2. The problem is that in the three chapters in which he appears (Chapters IV-VI), there is no commonality in his character, aside from the fact that he still makes pretty awesome masks. In fact, the only time we see the lighthearted funster of Chapter IV (the one who enjoyed a good game of Zaxxon in the afternoon whilst wearing one of his incredibly elaborate masks) is when he scares young Reggie, the black boy who spends his summers at the mental institute. The Tommy of Chapter IV was young, innocent and resourceful. Cut to eight years later where we meet Tommy v2, who is obviously haunted by the events of Chapter IV. Still, would a smile kill the guy? Here is one of the most unlikeable main characters of any story you are going to find. He is sullen, withdrawn, and prone to anger bursts. True, it is mentioned that he has been on the receiving end of quite a bout with drug therapy, but that isn’t any call for some of his behavior. For example, he attacked Eddie for simply touching his masks. Just launched right into him at breakfast. I relate to Eddie here, because I feel like I am the type of guy who might touch a mask if I saw one, especially a cool one.
I would probably say, “Hey Tommy, this mask is pretty amazing. Where do you get the resources to make this stuff? As far as I can tell, the materials alone would be difficult, almost impossible, to find at the Unger Mental Institute supply shop, and man, these are just great. Seriously, you must have created some sort of lifecast armature to shape the latex. Where did you do that? In your dorm room?”
“And speaking of the armature, it must have been hard to find industrial gypsum to create your two-piece mold. Did you bring some with you in your little suitcase? I haven’t even gotten to how impressive your skill at vulcanizing rubber seems to be… Anyway, I just wanted to, you know, touch the mask.”
I certainly wouldn’t want Mr. Quick-wick to attack me for it. Especially in front of my girlfriend, which is what happened to Eddie.
Another thing that has changed for Tommy in the last eight years is that he is now able to withstand superhuman amounts of pain. The killer nails him with a machete blow toward the end of Chapter V, and I’ll be honest, I think it would be enough to put me down. Maybe his ability to take this kind of heat is what made him think he should just go ahead and grab the baton from Jason’s ghost and become a mass killer.
By the time we reconnect with Tommy in Chapter VI, he is eight years older, but not particularly wiser. Using the same logic that Chris used in Chapter III, Tommy decides that to finally be rid of the spectre that is Jason Voorhees, he has to “face his past.” Again, I don’t know anyone in the psychiatric field who would recommend digging up the corpse of the serial killer who disposed of your family and stabbing it with a giant metal pole (for this is indeed Tommy’s plan). I think even Jason would tell Tommy to get over at this point- wasn’t it enough that he drove a machete into his skull and chopped him into little pieces?
I will say that he seems a bit more well adjusted than he did in Chapter V. He sports a nice denim jacket and he means well. Of the three versions of Tommy we have been introduced to, this is the one most likely to be seen at a Steve Miller Band concert. He’s a bit silly, a bit cheesy, and his ideas are really bad. But he’s not a bad guy.
Unless you ask Sheriff Garris of the town of Forest Green (previously Crystal Lake)- he just hates Tommy. You see, he thinks Tommy is kidding about Jason because… well, I’m not sure why he is so reluctant to believe Tommy. Especially since he is obviously aware of the events that had been going on around in this area for the last couple of years. Put it this way- would you at least consider the possibility that there may be trouble if you knew about the events of Chapters I-V?
In any case, Tommy spends most of Chapter VI trying to explain to anyone who will listen that Jason has risen from the dead and that everyone in town is lined up to be slaughtered. Basically, exactly what Dr. Sam Loomis had to do in Halloween, except Loomis didn’t have to sell the concept of dead tissue regeneration to the local authorities.
And this is why the Tommy from Chapter VI is my favorite of the Book 2 protagonists: he sizes up the situation and rolls with it. He doesn’t try to deny the ridiculousness of the fact that because he dug up a 15 year-old corpse, stabbed it with a metal pole which was then struck by lightning causing the before-mentioned corpse to regain life and thusly continue the killing spree which, by the way, had been ended earlier by Tommy, the very person who inadvertently brought him back to life this time. No, that doesn’t phase Tommy; instead, he recognizes that he is now in supernatural country, picks up a book on the occult and gets down to “Jason-killing” business. You gotta respect that.
Whatever he did to purge Jason from his life must have worked, because Tommy is never seen or heard from again in Book 2. Instead, the concept of the supernatural is extended in Chapter VII in the form of Tina Shepherd, our first protagonist with superpowers!
Let’s take a moment to remember the good old days of Alice from Chapter I, our artist-in-training who only had to battle an old woman in a cable-knit sweater…
Anyway. Tina. Again we have a protagonist who is “returning to the scene of a past trauma to get past it”- this time, the summer house where Tina used her telekinetic powers to drown her physically abusive father. Since this summer house is on Crystal Lake (no longer called Forest Green), there are both literal and figurative ghosts in those waters…
Accompanying Tina on her emotional journey is her mother and Dr. Crews, the doctor who is treating her. You see, Dr. Crews has discovered that Tina’s powers rear their heads only when she is emotional. Or as Dr. Crews says, “When your emotions are at their peak!”
It doesn’t bode well, then, that Tina is a whiny sad-sack who seems about as emotionally stable as Timothy Hutton in Ordinary People. To overcome her extreme sadness, she makes the decision to try to use her powers to wish her father back to life from the briny deep. Think about that for a moment. She wants to bring her abusive father back to life by focusing her telekinetic power into the water. There are a few things wrong with this plan as I see it. One, I am not sure about the connection between moving things with your mind and bringing the dead back to life. And two, does Tina have any idea how decayed her dad would be after ten years underwater? And would she really want him back in that condition? Has she not read The Monkey’s Paw?
In any case, her telekinetic aim sucks, because she hits Jason instead of her dad, which just ups her stress level. Jason rises from his watery grave and basically wreaks havoc on Tina’s crew, along with the house full of nubiles next door. Which is unfortunate because before Jason enters the scene, Tina had made a little love connection with one of the teens next door- Nick. You see, Nick is also troubled- you know this because he rocks a denim ensemble (like Jay Leno in casual mode) and his dad kicked him out of the house. But now he goes to night school… just trying to put his life back together. Tina and Nick- two souls seeking redemption.
But enter Jason does indeed, and any chance for a normal life between Telekinetic Tina and Denim Nick is dashed. Is that the theme for the protagonists of a Friday the 13th? Normal life, a given for most teens, is impossible with Jason Voorhees around. Is Jason a metaphor for drug abuse? The economy? Unsatisfying family life? I think it would be interesting to see how these protagonists fare after their tenure in a Friday the 13th chapter. Judging from how they have dealt with their problems in the past, they would probably feel the need to “go back to the scene of their trauma to try to deal with it.”
Rennie, the protagonist from Chapter VIII, also has a trauma in her past that is Voorhees-related. As it turns out, her evil legal guardian Uncle Charles threw her over the side of a boat in a “tough love” attempt to teach her to swim. In fact, we learn through some incredible exposition from Uncle Chuck that he is in fact aware of the Jason legend. He tells her that a young boy (our very own Jason!) drowned in Crystal Lake and will pull non-swimmers under.
OK, I get that. But here is the problem, and it is a time inconsistency issue. I will be writing a whole Friday the 13th timeline entry later, but this needs to be addressed now, as it affects a protagonist character trait. Rennie is haunted by an experience that couldn’t have happened according to the mythology established earlier in the series. If Rennie is a senior in high school, how could she have been pulled under by a ten year old underwater Jason? When Rennie was ten years old, the year would have been 1998 or so. According to the Friday timeline, Jason was coming back to life via an electrified metal pole in Chapter VI around that time. He certainly wasn’t a little deformed underwater boy.
Like I said, I’ll deal with this timeline nonsense later. This is the event that is the catalyst for Rennie’s damaged psyche, and you just have to roll with it. The only problem is, other than her crippling fear of water, there isn’t much to her character. She’s an aspiring writer (she receives a pen used by Stephen King as a graduation gift!), and is not all that well liked amongst her abnormally small graduating class.
And, like Tommy, Tina, and Chris before her, she has a nasty habit of hallucinating Jason around every corner. I wonder if these characters always hallucinated Jason, or just during times that he actually could be around the next corner. Rennie also has visions of bathroom faucets running with blood. Add to this the fact that she is immediately kidnapped by street thugs who shoot her up with heroin upon arriving in New York City, you have one of the most put-upon protagonists in the Friday the 13th universe. On a side note, this is the second movie I have seen in a short period of time where villains shoot up an innocent with heroin (the other being French Connection II). Are heroin addicts this willing to inject their precious drugs into unsuspecting victims all willy-nilly?
Outside of Tommy in Chapter VI, these are some pretty weak lead characters. Maybe turning Jason into a generic indestructible zombie was more of a response to facing off against generic main characters. In any case, tomorrow we’ll examine the delightful supporting cast of Book 2.