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That Friday Feeling: A Study on the Friday the 13th Feature Films – Part 3

“Only through a Voorhees can he be reborn… and only a Voorhees can kill him”

JASON GOES TO HELL – THE FINAL FRIDAY

Considering the pace at which they bashed out Friday the 13th movies, there was a 4 year gap twixt taking Manhattan & going to hell. In that time Jason has found himself ensconced in the early nineties. Robbed of any recap or resurrection scene, we find him stalking a naked young woman in a house at – where else – Camp Crystal Lake.  Played once more by Kane Hodder, no doubt by this point THE Jason, he’s seemingly wearing the scars of his toxic recriminations back in the big apple. His head is a cauliflower with what’s left of the mask seared onto his face like a branding. This iteration of Jason looks fantastic, so naturally he’s only got about five minutes of screen time. You can’t blame the filmmakers for wanting to go off reservation; it’s 1993 after all. Music is suddenly good again, (if you like guitars) action heroes are defined by their ability to do the splits, and contemporary horror icons are dudes like the fricking Wishmaster. Jason = must do better!

So this new direction sees Jason baited by some sort of task force, blown to smithereens and taken to a morgue to have his bits studied by the Don King character from Rocky V. But as we all know, Jason is supernatural and his heart just keeps a-beatin’, independent of a chest or circulatory system. Spurred on by Christ knows what, the mortician feels compelled to drink the charcoal mucus contained in Jason’s heart, quite logically becoming possessed by the essence of the man himself. Cue new murder spree. But this time, and bear with me here because this is radical, there’s a point to it all!

In the interim a not inconsequential Piers Morgan/Freddy Lounds TV type introduces us to bounty hunter Creighton Duke, a man with few scruples but a ton of knowledge on the Voorhees legend, which up until now was a lot slimmer than we knew. This guy has seemingly tussled with Jason in the past, leading me to stop writing this and move on to a comic mini series about their scraps between 1989 & 1993… Friday 13th – the Duke Chronicles!

Back in the movie, we meet the ageless Erin (Col. Wilma Deering) Gray who, it turns out, is only Jason’s little flippin’ sister. Yes, this is about as shoe horned as it gets and acts solely as a means to take the story where it needs to go, but after eight bloody movies there’s only so much you can do with frisky teens and a machete. Turns out the wider world knows all about Jason and his eighty three (did they count?) confirmed victims so his death is widely celebrated. With that in mind some of those frisky teens facilitate the introduction of Erin Gray’s daughters ex-boyfriend Steven, who drops them at the now 100% safe Camp Crystal Lake for some sexy time, before heading off to see his ex, who also has a daughter of her own. Slightly (not slightly) convoluted but like I said, there’s a point here.

After one of the nineties less subtle safe sex ads, the campers get cleaved in twain by mortician Jason, who then possesses a cop and heads to Wilma’s pad. Human hosts have a limited shelf life so Jason must hop about in order to stay fresh. He kills Erin Gray in front of Steven, but not before he can escape, implicating him in her murder. Steven gets banged up next to Creighton f@#king Duke who, quite logically, imparts all kinds of Voorhees related wisdom in exchange for breaking most of Steven’s fingers. Steven then escapes, and heads off in search of ex-girl/Jason’s niece Jessica.

Meanwhile, tabloid TV toss pot has found his way to the Voorhees house (wait, when the hell was that ever a thing?) where he’s cunningly stashed Erin Gray’s corpse as a means to further sensationalize Jason’s rebirth and jazz up his ratings. This place is like Bates motel in need of good polish, and there’s even a copy of Evil Dead’s necronomicon on the table. There’s also a quite ornate but gnarled looking dagger which may ultimately prove significant.

Cop Voorhees transfers his spirit into TV scumbag, leaving Cop host to melt. Hands down, this is one of the best deaths in the franchise and delightfully grim. A chase ensues, which finds a way to get everyone back to the police station, primarily so Creighton Mutha F#@kin’ Duke can get involved. Our heroes peg it to the Voorhees house via a diner where Jessica’s baby is stashed. Yes, there is a baby, but she kind of serves much like the dogs in previous chapters so I won’t needlessly explain what the movie only threw in as a vague attempt at stakes. Sufficed to say, she’s a Voorhees too, and now that her mother has discerned their lineage, she knows what she must do.

“Only through a Voorhees can he be reborn… and only a Voorhees can kill him”

With that mantra ringing in their ears, they take on another Jason host who gets his throat sliced, but then the wound quite logically coughs up a demonic baby Jason slug. Well aware of the mantra, the neck burster crawls up Erin Gray’s dead ass and blammo, Jason is back as we know and love him. Creighton Inde-f@#king-structible Duke gets snapped in half by Jason… (What??? Hang on now. I didn’t agree to this!!! He comes back, right?) and the gang take the fight outside. Jason goes full survivor series and slams a climbing frame down on Steven, leaving Jessica to rush him from behind and plunge aforementioned mystical dagger of significance into his black bilious heart. Fireworks that would make Gozer the Gozerian jealous spark from the ground and a set of rock arms proceed to drag Pamela’s special boy to hell, where I assume they throw him a party because he’s surely doing the dark lords work is he not? Seriously, what reason does hell have to be pissed at Jason? Jessica and Steven walk off into the sunrise, leaving only the iconic hockey mask as a reminder of Jason’s infernal capture.

I rented this movie on VHS at the time of its release, but clearly all my nostalgia was for Creighton Surely Not Dead Duke. I was unprepared for Freddy Dream Stabbin’ Krueger to pop his glove out of the ground and drag off Jason’s mask, evil chortle and all! Oh to have been in the cinema in 1993. That’s incredible! they all thought. Freddy Vs Jason! they exclaimed. It’ll never happen…

 “Guys! It’s okay; he just wanted his machete back!”

JASON X

Last we saw, Jason Voorhees was being wrestled into perdition. The opening credits to Jason X suggest this is where he still resides, but instead he’s chained up deep within the bowels of the – wait for it – Crystal Lake Research Facility! While this movie was released in 2002, it begins in 2010, so chronologically it comes after Freddy Vs Jason, which came out in 2003. Confused?  It’ll make sense later. Overseen by the actual David Cronenberg, the government’s bright idea is to study our unkillable fiend on account of his invincibility and regenerative capabilities. Rowan, a sciencey staffer ‘counsels’ him (layers kids) against this idea favouring cryogenic freezing. Jason escapes mid-chat and hacks the crap out of everyone, Cronenberg included. But just before she orders the Voorhees kebab, Rowan manages to put Jason on ice. But a man and his machete will always find a way, and he’s able to dice up the cryo-pod and freeze himself, Rowan and the whole damn room in the process.

Four hundred and fifty years later a research team not entirely dissimilar to the crew who set off for Manhattan only two films ago, discovers the frozen duo on what is now known as ‘Old Earth’. Yup, we ruined it, and we can’t even blame it on Jason. What hasn’t evolved is human stupidity, and the team quickly thaw out Rowan and Jason, amid a bit of nifty exposition that shows us some equally nifty human reconstruction science via some rather clever nanites. They can (and will) rebuild us! One thing that hasn’t changed in almost five centuries, and that’s lustful youth who toss their libidos about without a care for who is defrosting next to them. Whether trigger, coincidence or divine providence, as soon as things get sexy, Camp is reopened. Thankfully Jason reacts to the interstellar lifestyle by doing what all enduring species must – adapt! This glorious new age yields one of the best kills in the whole series after a researcher takes a quick head dunk in liquid nitrogen, her terrified visage instantly freezing before Jason smashes it into the counter top. Clearly if she’d done her research she’d have realised this guy likes to resurrect via electrical current. A sex sparked thaw just isn’t the Voorhees way.

From here the movie essentially becomes a cross between Alien (crew elude monster) and Aliens (ammo packin’ grunts hunt monster) with similar outcomes, mostly revolving around death. True, this movie knows it ain’t either, but there is a ton of fun to be had. Kane Hodder’s Jason is at his defiant best, meeting some of the tricks of 25th century technology and either using them as murder tools or just eschewing them in favour of a cleave to the face. Eventually he meets his match in the form of an unnecessarily sexualized android, who blasts a big old hole in his chest, and deprives him of a leg, arm and face.  If only some pseudo sentient tech was on hand to… Holy Jesus, just what your toy collection was begging for… Uber Jason! No really, that’s how he’s officially known. The Voorhees upgrade looks amazing and I don’t care who knows it. He wasn’t playing before, but now he is all business and he’s working late tonight! Naturally the research dweebs get the best of him, and after a touch of self sacrifice, Jason is hurled through the atmosphere of New Earth/Earth 2/Uber Earth, poetically observed as a shooting star by a couple near a lake. His mask settles in the depths of the murky water, and the credits roll.

For such a derided film, this instalment is the most fun since, and closest in tone to Jason Lives. The kills are bloody, imaginative and for once, shown in all their glory. This is a version of Jason that accounts for his mythology and puts it to good use. There are some truly gleeful moments, not least of which is the holographic Camp Crystal Lake complete with sex starved VR counsellors that offers up the funniest scene in all ten movies. Yes, the characters are largely devoid of character and some of the self referential moments are a tad desperate, but the actors do seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves. ‘So bad it’s good’ is not a term I care for, but if there’s a right way to make a silly, reverential yet self aware tenth frigging movie in a long since nobody gave a rats ass franchise, Jason X may well be that motion picture. And regardless of your perspective on the space setting, it’s assuring to know that Jason is still out there, 450 years from now, likely haunting humanity’s surely utopian future. No matter how Star Trek things get, there’s no arguing with a machete.

“That goalie was pissed about something!”

FREDDY VS JASON

Freddy Krueger was always a devious bastard. He probably kept this movie in development hell just to serve the concept. And what pray, is this concept? Tragically, everyone’s favourite smack talking child killer has been forgotten about and, as a result, the poor guy has no power over the kiddies of Elm Street. Turns out Freddy isn’t the only bygone monster knocking about in Hades, and a plan is swiftly hatched to aim Jason at the Elm spawn and reclaim their nightmares. Sure, times change but they’re teenagers and bound to be sex crazed and high. Just maybe they’ll confuse Jason with Freddy and stoke the fires of fear and bring the dream bastard back! Convoluted?  I guess now is a good time to mention that this movie takes place before the opening of Jason X, so continuity is preserved even if logic is binned.

Enough time has passed to be able to contextualize this film in its day. Where once we had Harry Manfredini’s screeching Hitchock inspired strings of doom, we now have the chug of knuckle dragging nu-metal and a Ki-Ki-Ki-Ma-Ma-Ma that sounds like Limp Bizkit remixed it with an asthma pump. This crop of randy youths might reside in Elm street, but they’re behaviour is pure Crystal Lake.  The girls are basically the same as ever – Ginger Snaps actress Katherine Isabelle as Gibb, the drinker who has all the sex, Destiny’s Child crooner Kelly Rowland as Kia, the sassy exposition, and wholesome final girl Lori, played almost sweetly and sympathetically by Monica Keena. The men… well… f@#k these guys. Imposing misogyny in the guise of self assertion is how these mugs roll, so it’s comforting to know that the film wastes no time in murdering the bejesus out of them; post sex, naturally. Jason machetes cro-magnon douche bag Trey so fiercely that you almost get to clap in rhythm with the stabs. But hold your cheers because Jason ain’t done yet. Why just stab a guy when you can fold the bed in half and snap him in two.  The surviving teens run away into the safety of a beat cop played by a wholesome Gary Busey type, and within minutes the entire police department is on the scene, whispering sweet Krueger’s to one another, firmly planting the seed of a dream killer into the minds of our terrified teens.

Over on the other side of town, Lori’s childhood crush Will and his best chum Mark are in an asylum being doped up on name drop drug Hypnocil. Mark is there because of his nightmares (hrm…) while Will was locked up for discovering that Lori’s Dad killed her Mother – honestly, don’t worry yourself. A more pressing concern is Lori’s safety, and after a news report detailing this new Elm street slaughter, Will and Mark make a daring escape from their institutional shackles and high tail it to Springwood to frighten the piss out of everyone, only fuelling Freddy’s dormant dream skillz. The kids decide the best way to deal with these new terrors is with an impromptu corn field rave. Easy pickings for a Voorhees who, rather than doing Freddy’s bidding, has elected to find every hedonistic teen with drives toward fleshly indulgence and wipe them off the face of the earth.

Meanwhile Freddy is back on form and almost dream kills Gibb but Jason gets in there before him with a lovely piece of piping and proceeds to shut this party down. This is Jason’s retrospective, and whatever you think of this movie, if you aren’t drowning in glee at the sight of a flaming Voorhees hacking up drunken A-holes, then friend, I just can’t help ya. Mark soon gets nightmared to death and Busey cop does enough digging to establish Jason Voorhees by name, even if he incorrectly assumes this is a copycat killer. (Holler at yer boy Roy)

What follows are some astonishing leaps in logic involving our hastily convened Scooby gang and the toothy cop. Seriously, whether this is some attempt at meta-commentary I do not care. The discussion revolves around the idea that if Jason died by water and Freddy died by fire – they can use that! Some further jabber about offering Freddy a sacrifice leads to a sequence where they go looking for Hypnocil at the institution Will enjoyed and discover that half the teens in Springwood have been doped up on it for years in an attempt at dream suppression. The whole effing town has contrived one big fat conspiracy to erase Freddy from its collective consciousness. We also discover that it was Freddy who murdered Lori’s Mother, though quite why they made that narrative choice I have no idea. Like murdering her friends and wiping out potential generations of Springwoodians isn’t enough motivation to crucify this crispy swine. Did child pickings get so slim that Freddy resorted to the dreams of middle aged women home alone on weeknights?

Unburdened by such hypocrisy, Jason follows the youth club to the asylum where, after a brief flirtation with some electrical current, he gets tranquilized. Freddy is not a happy camper, and proceeds to beat the dream shit out of Jason for eating all of his cake. Dream Jason is separated from Freddy by fear of a small waterfall, and while stuck in this state gets shoved in the back of a van by the kids. You see, Lori has done a Nancy and realised she can pull Freddy from her dreams, so they peg it to Crystal Lake hoping to unleash Jason on Freddy for a nostalgic throw down. A ‘Vs’ you might say. Lori nods off and enters a kind of shared dreamscape with Jason and we see, for the first time, the tragic circumstances that led to his drowning in the mid-fifties. If you weren’t on board with his mission to this point, you soon will be.

The finale ensues with an epic battle that is balls out hack, slash, blood n’ guts. Limbs torn off, about a thousand wire work drop kicks through the air and a glorious moment where Jason smashes Freddy along a set of windows, not to mention the death of a nerdy kid and Kelly Rowland. With elegant symmetry, Freddy lances Jason on his beloved machete, while Jason plunges a hole through Freddy with his own sodding glove before returning to the watery tomb from whence he sprang. But the last moment is rightly saved for Lori, who beheads Krueger with the machete, turning Freddy’s love of the word ‘Bitch’ back at him, revealing his true Achilles heel. Finally we get a sweet stinger of Jason marching out of the lake clutching Freddy’s severed winking head, keeping the continuity of Jason X in water tight.

I like to think that while the credits rolled Jason just punted Freddy’s head into the Crystal Lak sewage tank, because he’s quite frankly a complete tool. There’s something to be said for having a killer who let’s his murdering speak for itself, as this most ‘modern’ of Freddy iterations (sorry 2010, you don’t count) is a gleefully sexist, racist and somewhat rape obsessed dick. Yeah, Freddy can be fun in a general sense, but in this movie specifically he leaves a somewhat bitter taste in the mouth. So, who wins the battle of the slashers? Who wields the belt in the bout of the bogey men? And why so much choppy slow motion? Or to put it another way, what’s cooler, a stabby glove…. or a mother f**kin’ hockey mask!?!? 

“Jason, say hi to Mommy…IN HELL!”

FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009)

It’s been ten years since Jason Voorhees lurched across our screens. Depending on your view point, it’s actually a lot longer. Genre fans can, on occasion, get a touch testy about reimagined properties, and a reboot is essentially kryptonite to our myopic notions of who, how and what a character should, nay, MUST be. Jason may be indestructible, but he’s not immune, so the dreaded reboot was inevitable.

Produced by Michael Bay, king of the slow motion explosion and defacto scourge of eighties nostalgia, Friday the 13th was released as a complete retelling of the Voorhees chronicles. Essentially conflating parts one and two into an opening sequence set in 1980, we meet and behead Pamela (played here by Star Trek DS9 actress Nana Visitor) while young Jason watches from a distance. Cut to the modern day where two pairs of lustful campers and a gooseberry are out near the abandoned Camp Crystal Lake looking for an El Dorado of weed. Just before bed the gooseberry riffs the Jason campfire tale from part two, then goes off herb hunting while the other couples indulge in sexposition. Richie and Amanda get it on in their tent while potential final girl Whitney talks to her fella about caring for her sick mother, just before walking headlong into Camp Crystal Lake and the homestead of a certain Mother and son murder combo.

Meanwhile the gooseberry discovers the vaunted crop of his dreams, in which lurks a brick shithouse with a sack on his head and a massive machete. Jason erupts into this movie, severing most of Richie’s ankle in a bear trap while Amanda is dangled over the camp fire and roasted alive in her sleeping bag. This ain’t the lumbering man child we knew before. If you can swallow such voyeuristic insanity, he actually watches these kids screw before killing them. The old Jason would have imploded with rage the second one of them entered a state of arousal, but not this bastard. 2009 Jason is all intensity, zero integrity, brutal and sadistic, less puritanical than the original and a guy who potentially grows his own stash as well. The kids die viciously and after twenty minutes we enter the film’s actual story. Sadly, this nerve rattling ferocity begins and ends with this sequence.

The plot is swiftly set up as we meet Jared Padelecki’s Clay, a slick but sweet young guy who rides a motorcycle. He’s got a kind face but doesn’t where a helmet, so I’m on the fence. He’s out looking for his sister Whitney (gasp!), who went missing a while back. His mission brings him into contact with a bunch of college kids on their way to a country lodge. Among these highly polished turds are final girl reboot Jenna and literally the worst human ever in the guise of her boyfriend Trent; which brings me to a brief digression and a moment to discuss names. In this and other Friday the 13th movies, I have endured the names Cort, Trey, Trent, Clay and Bree. Seriously America, these aren’t names. At best they are misspelled foods or locations, at worst they’re just sounds. Please try harder.

Around this time we meet Crazy Ralph who is now an old lady followed by an abysmally crafted scene that only exists to give Jason his hockey mask. Trent and his loathsome bong smoking, shoe chalice guzzling pic n’ mix of piss poor humans get their party on until Clay comes a-knocking. Trent upsets Clay one too many times and Jenna heads off with him in search of his sis. They find their way to Crystal Lake at which point Whitney is revealed to be alive, a prisoner in Jason’s freaky subterranean torture maze.

Now he has his hockey mask Jason goes full day stalker and the slaughter begins in earnest. One by one these kids fall to his blade/axe/bow, and while there are a few great shots, the re-tread is a fairly pedestrian one, drained of any investment on account of how utterly loathsome these kids are. They’re not even annoying in a ‘can’t wait to see you die’ way. It’s as if the movie knows you want them dead but spends what seems like an age playing on it.  Yes, Trent does a girlish shriek that’s almost funny and his death is kind of glorious, but the later kills lack the ingenuity of the earlier massacre, and once they rolled around my heart was so charcoal black with scorn that I just wanted them out of my living room.

We are whittled down to Clay and Jenna who naturally find Whitney and try to flee. Any set up of Jenna as the final girl goes out the window when Whitney was revealed to be alive, so she gets lanced mid-escape. A final barn based showdown gives us a rehash of the part 3 finale, with a few recreated shots before dawn breaks and the siblings roll Jason’s throttled corpse into the lake. They sit, they chill and wouldn’t you know it, he bursts through the jetty and pulls Whitney down. Presumably there was a further scrap where Clay tried to save her but we’ll never know the outcome as the film just ends. With two survivors. Decent odds then. I mean they just hanged him for Christ’s sake. Will he be back? He always comes back…

But there was no more Jason.

Ten long years in which time most horror fans – me included – have made peace with the concept of a reboot and acknowledged them as nuanced and original enough to not be lumped under the same blood soaked umbrella. I’m sure there’s a place for Jason in modern horror, but it doesn’t help when all his best work was done in the first twenty minutes. And maybe stalking teenagers just doesn’t cut it as a narrative anymore. So for now, camp really is closed.

So what did I learn? Well apart from spelling his last name wrong, I learned that  Jason Voorhees is the kind of killer you can put your faith in; relentless, pure but foul of heart, and awfully adaptable. And unlike most classic horror icons, there is something oddly sympathetic about him. He didn’t murder his sister on Halloween, didn’t make masks out of women’s faces or kill kids in a boiler room; he was a vulnerable little boy who just wanted to go to camp. Like Charlie Brown with PTSD. And that’s something we can all relate to.

My high point was Jason Lives; my low point was Roy and the reboot. What started as a horror endurance test became a cherished companion through these harsh winter months and made me long for the summer, when I might pack up my troubles, head off to some sunny camp site in search of voluntary opportunities, engage in poorly timed intercourse while one of my charges drowns, and reap the just and awful vengeance of a grief crazed old dear in a woollen sweater. It’s that or watch all the Leprechaun movies.

See you by the fire, kids!

That Friday Feeling: A Study on the Friday the 13th Feature Films – Part 1
That Friday Feeling: A Study on the Friday the 13th Feature Films – Part 2

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