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Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫

[1] Danzig Mother

[2] LL Cool J Mama Said Knock You Out

[13] Alice Cooper He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask)

[4] Deep Purple Space Truckin’

[5] Sade Smooth Operator

[6] Cold Creek County Till the Wheels Come Off

[7] Animal Alpha Bend Over

[8] Jerry Whitman Too Bad You’re Crazy

[9] Cameo Candy

[10] Bill Conti Gonna Fly Now

[11] Kenny Loggins Footloose

[12] Creedence Clearwater Revival Don’t Look Now

[13] Olivia Newton John Physical

 

I’ve met some momma’s boys in my time but few quite so strangulated by apron strings as Jason Voorhees. With the exception perhaps of Norman Bates, who celebrates his mother by prancing around the motel in one of her summer frocks because he likes the way it hugs his figure, none are as committed to keeping things in the family and he certainly put his back into honoring tradition. Clad in a tatty old hockey mask, some filthy overalls, and whatever sharp or blunt object he could get his grubby hands on, Jason dedicated the entire eighties to slaughtering disposable teens and found himself no shortage of spotters over that flush period.

Indeed, just the films alone have gone on to gross almost half a billion dollars at the box-office and that’s not to mention spin-offs, graphic novels, merchandise and the like. By all accounts, this merciless maskhead has slayed the competition, at least from a financial standpoint. Thus it only feels fair and just to dedicate an entire letter of my long-running True ABCs of Death series to his towering majesty.

First up, let’s take a quick look at the old family scrapbook shall we? Nothing much doing here I’m afraid as Pamela Voorhees was never really one for snapping pictures and let’s just say that poor Jason was hardly the most photogenic of ten-year-olds. Sporting a misshapen head that resembled life-sized popcorn and a wonky smile that could turn Medusa to stone, he was nothing if not an eyesore and destined for a lifetime of no sex whatsoever.

Rocky Dennis may have bagged himself a blind chick back at Summer camp but, from what I heard, she was only after his baseball trading cards and referred to him as “Lumpy” to her girlfriends. Jason couldn’t boast any of Rocky’s winning charm and a long, dry run was all he had to look forward to. Naturally, Pamela thought her beloved boy to be the most handsome ever child conceived, but that was both dreadfully biased and unlikely to secure him a prom date.

Going back to Summer camp momentarily, it was here that this plucky little trooper met with a decidedly watery end. If you were looking to point the finger of blame for the tragic accident that played out that day, then I’d say Pamela earned herself a waggle, given that she was Jason’s parental guardian and therefore primarily responsible for his safekeeping. However, Pam didn’t see things that way as, in her opinion, it was the fault of vacant-headed counselors that led to him drowning in the swim.

While they were engaging in the kinds of promiscuous sex that adolescents do when out in the elements, this top-heavy pre-teen was sinking to the bed of Camp Crystal Lake, with not a solitary soul on hand to fish him out and perform the necessary CPR. As you’d imagine, Pamela was livid and something changed inside her that day. But her revenge would not be swift and instead she planned her bloody retribution meticulously for the next twenty years until a fresh batch of sex-starved co-eds arrived on the scene.

Unless you’ve been hiding beneath rocks since 1980, I’m guessing you know precisely how this panned out. Bill, Jack, Marcie, Ned, Brenda, Annie, and camp owner Steve all perished that night and it was only the quick thinking and gutsy rearguard of final girl standing, Alice, that prevented a clean sweep. Pamela quite literally lost her head, calm was restored to Camp Crystal Lake, and it appeared that this whole unfortunate episode was over. That said, 21+ years of being snacked upon by sea urchins tends to leave one feeling rather embittered and, as news travelled sub-aqua of mommy’s demise, something finally snapped inside of him.

Mommy dearest had taught Jason of the importance of prioritizing and, with Alice getting on with her life like she hadn’t just witnessed her entire social group being obliterated, he knew exactly where his first house call should be. Karma has a way of paying us a visit further on down the line and, failing that, is only too happy to sub-contract a hulking juggernaut with murder on his mind to do its foul bidding.

When Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday The 13th was unleashed on unsuspecting audiences on May 9th, 1980, I think it would be fair to say that it exceeded expectations. Pocketing the studio over a hundred times its budget in box-office revenue, it went on to start something of a trend and the slasher movie now had its very own poster boy in Jason Voorhees. Let’s be frank shall we? Originality wasn’t its USP as the foundations had been laid a full decade prior by Italian master Mario Bava for A Bay of Blood and you could actually follow the breadcrumb trail further back if you so wished.

However, there’s a lot to be said for being in the right place at the right time, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect to kickstart a brand new craze. Naturally, Paramount Pictures sniffed the opportunity to make even more of a mint and, less than twelve months later, Steve Miner’s business as usual sequel attempted to capture lightning in a bottle a second time. To a slightly lesser degree, it did just that.

By the close of the decade, we were already up to eight on the Friday count and, while quality had played a poor second fiddle to quantity for some time now, Jason Voorhees was nothing if not willing to put a shift in. Before we get to taking an affectionate glance over some of the franchise’s most memorable dispatches, here’s where I stand on the whole Friday The 13th debate. Both Miner’s sequel and his 3D pimping third were more than workmanlike and kept up the early momentum decidedly well.

But it was Joseph Zito’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter that had me singing to Jason’s tune as it reintroduced us to the practical prowess of the Sultan of Splatter himself, Tom Savini. In addition to cranking up the body count, it boasted the likes of Crispin Glover and Corey Feldman in noteworthy roles, and never once forgot who its core audience were.

Danny Steinmann’s experimental Friday the 13th: A New Beginning then fumbled the baton some, by forgetting to send an invite out to its leading man and throwing in an unnecessary whodunnit angle. To be fair, strip away the pointless mystery, and it’s still very much a Friday film at heart but the knives were now drawn and Tom McLoughlin had his work cut out stopping the rot with his sixth entry.

I adore Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives as it struck just the right balance between humor and horror and, in leads Thom Mathews and Jennifer Cooke, possessed a pair more than charismatic enough to secure our investment. The role of Tommy Jarvis had changed hands three times by this point and Mathews took to the challenge with no end of fervor. Meanwhile, in blonde-bombshell Megan Garris, Cooke presented us a final girl far more feisty than the customary mousey-haired cookie cutters and broke the mould in the very best way.

Alas, things took a turn for the worse soon afterwards and John Carl Buechler’s Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood failed to generate anything like the same level of excitement, while its decision to grant final girl Tina Shepard telekinetic powers felt little more than a face-saving gimmick. It could have been so different as FX guru Buechler shot a whole host of grue-soaked footage that never made it to the final cut and its inclusion would have markedly changed the complexity of what was essentially Jason by numbers.

But the series never really recovered from this dip in form and Rob Hedden’s Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan was about to rob Voorhees of what precious little dignity he was still clinging onto. There are two things you can’t do to a masked marauder of Jason’s stature – you can’t take the Camp Crystal Lake out of him and you sure as shit can’t take him out of Camp Crystal Lake. I guess you can’t fault Hedden’s ambition, but only because there’s so much else to pick holes in.

Credit where it’s due, while our momma’s boy evidently wasn’t cut out for the hustle and bustle of life in the Big Apple and spent two-thirds of the movie in transit, there’s plentiful fun to be had at its expense and nothing that a crate of cold ones and some tanked-up buddies wouldn’t fix. That said, the film went on to gross less than any other entry in the series and it appeared that it was time for Jason to hang up the hockey mask once-and-for-all. New Line Cinema had other ideas and commissioned Adam Marcus to give the Friday franchise a much-needed overhaul.

That’s a positive right? Not quite I’m afraid. You see, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday took Voorhees out of the game in the very first scene and he spent the remainder of the film possessing those easily led into madness. Though not without its faint merits, this misguided genre mish-mash began to steer a little too close to parody for comfort and positively reeked of quick buck greed.

By the time James Isaac took on the unenviable task of defibrillating his sleeping giant in 2001 for Jason X, his task couldn’t have been any more thankless. You’d have thought sending him off into outer space would have provided the final nail in the coffin and, in some ways it did, but Isaac’s interstellar effort was never less than utterly charming and made me forget for 92 glee-packed minutes that one of my idols was being crucified before my very eyes.

The once formidable Jason Voorhees may well have received plentiful snazzy upgrades, but he had effectively become a caricature of himself and this left New Line Cinema with little space for manoeuvre outside of pairing him up with another fallen eighties hero and the inevitable modern-day reboot of course.

Ronny Yu’s Freddy vs. Jason was like sex with a terminally ill badger, fun while it lasted but ultimately not one to shout about from the rooftops. Meanwhile, Marcus Nispel’s 2009 remake made the critical error of being wholly unremarkable and squandering any slim hopes for reinvention. Granted, it took almost $100m theatrically, making it the most profitable Jason only Friday in the entire cycle, but it also played strictly by the numbers and overlooked the fact that thirty years had passed since he’d last prowled Camp Crystal Lake and the old stereotypes were no longer quite as hip and happening.

I’m all for playing the homage card but a front-runner like Jason Voorhees needs to move with the times and pave the way forth to a fresh generation, not sit around etching trees just to fill up his scrapbook. Anyhoots, my intention today is not to cry over spilt milk, but to celebrate an icon. So without further ado, here are a smattering of choice dispatches from the original ten-strong Friday canon. Any ideas where the first stop off might be? Somewhat ironically, it just has to be the vast ocean of emptiness.

Talk about blow your load straight out of the gate. Any sane individual would have left the face freeze/bench smash combo of Jason X fame until last knockings but it’s just too tantalizing a proposition to pass up I’m afraid. It’s not the fact that the hapless Adrienne has her pretty picture face plunged in liquid nitrogen for the ultimate in sub-zero selfie, before having it dashed into miniature marbles on the nearby work surface, that prised forth an excitable squeal and seal clap from this particular fly on the wall; but the gloriously no-nonsense manner of execution from which timeless delight derives.

Outer space or no outer space, kudos all round for this succulent slither of shattering savagery. Right then, enough of the space camp bollocks, let’s pack our rucksacks and head on back to Camp Crystal Lake, what say you? I know, let’s pitch our tents at Friday the 13th Part III and gorge ourselves on the more traditional method of dispatch that is “machete”.

No Trejo, not you but you know you’re always welcome to pop that wonderfully pitted face of yours in anytime as it has magical properties no less. But your weapon of choice was already swinging long before you brandished it and Jason Voorhees happened to know a thing or two about product placement. Head or gut is ordinarily the request before smackdowns are supplied but, for poor Andy, his handstand expertise and attempts to impress the girl opened up new opportunities for X marks the spot.

While bereft of grue until a little later, when Andy’s hacked up cross-section is revealed fleetingly to Jason’ next victim, this scene earns its stripes by placing all emphasis on impact. Andy has managed to secure himself a six-pack and is rightfully feeling pleased with himself as he waddles off back to the hammock for his celebratory hand-job, courtesy of the delectable Debbie. Miner then repositions his audience at the randy teen’s upside down summit and commences big dipper duties. One shuddering blow later and Andy’s performed his very last cart-wheel. Top drawer.

It’s merely a short ramble to Zito’s flavorsome fourth from here and, while one kill in particular stands out like Ernie McCracken in a wind tunnel, I shall save the very best for last and pick another from this gift that just keeps giving. I gleaned rather a lot of sick pleasure from watching the chubby hitchhiker squash her banana while having her jugular perforated from behind but, after watching Andy having his bag-balls pulverized death from above style, I’m kind of feeling a nice refreshing shower. While this is a splendid turn of events for me, it’s not quite the happy ending that our next sorry disposable teen has planned.

Unlike Andy, Doug has already relinquished any backed-up sperm and is right about ready for a rousing encore of Singing In The Rain when Jason asks his opinion of the blistered palm resulting from all that machete grasping. As you’d imagine, Doug’s eyes are filled with conditioner and his vision isn’t quite 20-20. Thus he is promptly provided something of a closer look-see and here comes that excitable squeal once more.

How Savini hasn’t been made President-Elect of the United States of America by now is anyone’s guess. This snapshot could front up his poster campaign. “Make America great again or I’ll put your motherfucking nose through your brain”. I’d vote for him.

I feel positively wretched for nearly guy Mark from Friday The 13th Part 2, as he’s tantalizingly close to landing himself a round of wheelchair buckaroo with cutie pie Vickie. He may be dead from the waist down, but Mark likes to think of himself as sex on wheels and can annihilate any of his able-bodied associates in an arm-wrestle. Right now he is perched rather precariously at the top of a flight of stairs with the rain beating down on him and the most limited in fields of vision.

Let’s do the math fellow wrong ‘uns – one wheelchair-bound man with everything but a sign on his back that says “push me”, one machete-wielding maniac hovering behind his back with intent no less than malicious, one salivating audience for whom comedy is at its funniest when blackest – could it possibly end any other way than 100m dash?

Do I feel bad for the hapless Mark as he picks up pace with a filthy great blade sticking out of his cranium? I’m no monster, of course I do. He seems like a nice guy and I love the way that he doesn’t let his physical disability define him. That said, horror is all about equal opportunities and he knew the risks when signing up for chariot duties in a camp with no access slopes as far as I’m concerned. Therefore, what’s good for Andy and Doug is also good for Mark and fantastic for those charting his trajectory. Miner could have milked our guilt-free pleasure glands further and hit the nitrous towards the nearby lake for additional snort bonus. But that’s just nit-picking as this scene is pure comedy plutonium.

Were you aware that Voorhees is also a budding chiropractor? That’s right, no disc is too slippery for his healing hands and we already know of his unrivaled skills in acupuncture so it feels like a natural progression. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives is fairly ripe for the picking and who could possibly forget the iconic sight of our madman straddling a blazing RV after knocking up his tally to the power of two and causing it to capsize?

However, it feels only right that we pay a visit to Sheriff Mike Garris after gifting us the fruit of his loins in daughter Megan. Some would say Mike lacks the spine to run a police force and I’d strongly disagree. He’s simply a worried parent at the end of the day and clearly has a lot on his mind, what with the spiralling death count under his sole jurisdiction and the fact that daddy’s girl quite clearly knows how to fit both testicles in her cheeks. But it’s nothing a good back and shoulder rub wouldn’t fix and Jason will bend over backwards to ensure that his patient does precisely the same.

If the sheriff is searching for upsides, then at least he can tie his boot laces easier. Too scant a consolation? Well then I reckon he just may be able to blow himself now and that’s every boy’s wet dream, correctamundo? Granted, he’s now the human equivalent of flat-packed furniture and has had every last one of his ribs shattered to oblivion. But he’s still got a hot daughter.

Meanwhile, it would be unthinkable not to hit reverse gear and tackle the elephant in the room that is the sequel’s controversial double-spearing. My heart aches for the utterly oblivious Jeff and Sandra as they may be about to make slasher history but it had already been made way back when these crazy kids were in kindergarten. Offering cautionary commentary over the dangers of unprotected sex, Jason’s shameless dual dispatch is nigh-on identical to the one seen in Bava’s A Bay of Blood and less effective in its implementation. But there’s much to be said for the old “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” school of thought and I could never bring myself to penalize its inclusion too harshly as, let’s face it, slasher is hardly high art.

While we’re at the cabin, who’s that mincing around in the shadows outside, unfastening his bicycle clips for the very last time? Why it’s only our good pal Crazy Ralph and I’d love to find out what he has to say about all the promiscuous sex going on just outside sniffing distance. What’s that Ralphie? We’re dooomed? Got a death curse has it? Gee, thanks for the heads up old-timer. Folk may call you unhinged, but every town needs its crier and, provided you take your own advice and stay the hell out of Camp Crystal Lake, you’ll be running for mayor in no time, by my estimations. Which begs the question – why the bloody hell are you here again?

I mean, the kids already know that they’re dooomed, and it’s their own stupid faults if they choose not to heed your stern warning. But I can hear the sound of a chain jangling behind the very tree you’re backed up against, and it ain’t the one on your bicycle either. Stupid Ralph would be more like it and Dead Ralph has a rather nice ring to it too. Bye-bye Ralph.

I feel obliged to revisit Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning to search for scraps and shall resist the powerful urge to pop my head in the portaloo to see if Demon has finished his dump yet, as I did so only recently. Instead, let’s see how sweet, unassuming Joey is getting on offering his buddy Vic a bite of his candy bar.

Not so well it appears and perhaps he should review his friend list as short-fused Vic doesn’t appear to figure in his besties after burying the hatchet, so to speak. They say sharing is caring and I buy into that one without reservation. However, when it’s this whiny numbskull doing the dispensing, sharing is highly irritating and punishable by death most instantaneous. Say what you will about the fifth Friday, but it cannot be accused of not having its moments. At any rate, it has suddenly come to my attention that we’re frightfully light on the all-important T&A quota and what better time to head off for an ill-fated midnight skinny dip?

I’m incorrigible I know as I have no intention whatsoever of elaborating further and, instead, will reach back into the ever-giving font that is Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter and double up on the nubile flesh front for another series first.

Twins Tina and Terri have little other than double trouble on their minds and appear to be integrating rather well into their new social group but we all know where it’s headed and the former is about to pay the ultimate price for peeking out of the upstairs window. While there are numerous more gruesome deaths to call upon, Tina’s slo-mo swan dive is so exquisitely choreographed that its inclusion is more than warranted.

Reluctantly, I feel obliged to book us a quick trip to NYC, and it may seem a given that I clamber onto the rooftop for the rumble in the jungle that is Jason Voorhees vs. Julius Gaw. For as much as I could watch the cocky fighter’s head on its pinball-like descent into the dumpster for the ultimate in three-pointer until the cows come home to graze, it’s his fellow sparring partner whose post-brawl sauna wind down deserves seconds out on this occasion.

Jason shows considerable enterprise here, not to mention mad juggling skills by giving fresh meaning to the term “hot potato” with a conveniently placed hunk of sauna coal. Where this kill is concerned, it’s not so much about what is shown, as what your mind can conjure up as the molten rock is placed lovingly between its victim’s pumped pectorals and allowed to sink in for the epitome in heartburn.

You need not pump iron to earn yourself special attention from Jason and, if you needed further convincing, then step up footloose and fancy free Kevin Bacon to remind us how good he looks in a pair of cut-down jean shorts traditionally donned by porno pool boys. In this kind of denim, Bacon has no choice but to cut loose and kick off his Sunday shoes but is in no danger of losing those blues as he’s taken the line “Jack, get back” a little too literally and is about to rue taking that lie down.

Bottom bunk is a bad move bro although Ned’s already called dibs on top bunk so I guess you take what you can get, right Kevin? Instead of burning the midnight oils perfecting his quick-step, perhaps Bacon should have been learning Life Lesson #1 – always check beneath your mattress before assuming horizontal position. His prize for such negligence? A damn good throat skewering, with none other than Savini on bedbug duties. Never mind Kev, you’ll always have Footloose.

While Jack’s kicking back, it would be impolite not to catch up with his fuck buddy Marcie, and our timing really couldn’t be any better as she’s currently down to her skimpies and preparing to wash away all that stubborn Bacon fat. Tell you what, how do you feel about a brisk round of peek-a-boo (emphasis on boo)? What’s behind curtain number one Marcie?

Nothing? Then how about you take another gander? Not a bean you say? Third charm’s a charm I hear. Go on, I double dare you. At very grimmest, you may uncover an oversized cockroach or a cluster of Ned’s discarded pubes. I’m certain that’s the worst case scenario covered sweet cheeks. Whip her open will you and feel free to give us one more little tushy wiggle as you do. On the count of three, you ready? 1…2…3!

My bad dear. Looks like Ned opted against shaving his balls after all. I guess he figured out he was never likely to use them. Well this is awkward, I feel like I should be doing something to relieve you of that splitting headache. Therefore, I shall head over to the nearest pharmacy any pick you up some paracetamol. Double-strength you say? Done and done sugar tits. Actually, with Saturday drawing ever nearer, this would make an ideal spot to wind down this affectionate stroll through the woods and it seems ironic that we do so in the coroner’s office don’t cha think? As luck would have it, Axel is pulling an all-nighter as we speak and, if we’re quick, we may just catch the end of the exercise video he’s preparing to ejaculate over as opposed to boning Nurse Morgan.

Is it just me or does Axel look mighty familiar? Apparently Bruce Mahler’s stint at police academy didn’t work out and, by all accounts, this seems like a fairly cushy second-fiddle vocation. Chicks in leotards, ham and pickle sandwich, woman in uniform mere yards away from your coordinates and clearly gagging for it – what’s not to feel smug about? Perhaps the fact that you failed to secure the morgue locker directly behind you and forgot to put away that teasingly positioned hacksaw. Just saying. May I be so bold as to suggest a little glance over your shoulder Axel? No need to move a solitary muscle buddy, Jason’s got that side of things soundly covered.

I trust I’ve adequately catered for your Friday needs and could have stretched things out way further but feel that we’ve touched on our fair share of bases. In the spirit of all things Jason, I shall close with a thirteen-strong slideshow of some of tonight’s also-rans, kicking off with one of the most masterful throat slices ever committed to celluloid in my opinion so don’t forget to keep on scrolling. First however, here are my parting thoughts on this long-running saga. To be honest in brutal measure, there are a number of eighties slashers I’d revisit before any one of the Friday films and all three of Tony Maylam’s The Burning, George Mihalka’s My Bloody Valentine, and Joe Giannone’s criminally overlooked Madman enjoy more dominant pride of place in my player.

That said, if you were to ask me which masked marauder springs to mind first when you throw disposable teens into the mix, then my reply would be delivered without a solitary stammer. His name is Jason. He may be something of a momma’s boy, but he’s our momma’s boy. Provided we can lay our hands on Pamela’s lamb wool sweater that is. Can I get a “ch, ch, ch, ah, ah, ah” for old time’s sake?

Click here to read K is for Killswitch

 

Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,

Richard Charles Stevens

aka

Keeper of the Crimson Quill

#CreatorsUnite
Copyright: Grueheads Films 2017

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One thought on “The True ABCs of Death: J is for Jason

  1. I’m currently doing a series rewatch and after The Final Chapter it really goes off the deep end in terms of quality. I do love Jason X though, and the reboot is a nice return to the formula of the series, even if it is 30 years past its prime.

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