Before any of you ask, no, I am not a Rebecca Black fan. I actually had to look up the lyrics of that song for the pun in today’s title. Today we’re talking about Friday the 13th, and one of the most confusing slasher movie villains.
I’ve come to the conclusion in the past couple of years that most horror movies, especially slasher films, should really be one-shot stories. When people ask me why I think that, I point to the Friday the 13th franchise. No, I’m not saying that these are bad films in and of themselves. What I’m saying is that they don’t really work as part of an overall series, and would be better films if they didn’t connect with each other.
In order to explain what I mean, I need to start talking about the films in the series. In 1980’s Friday the 13th, a group of camp counselors are being murdered at Camp Crystal Lake. This film does a really good job of building mystery and suspense, as we see most of the kills from the killer’s point of view. When there is only one counselor left, a young woman named Alice, we find out that the killer is…some woman that hadn’t been introduced before this point in the film. Oh well, this film was almost a good mystery.
The woman, Mrs. Voorhees (I want to say her first name is…Betsy?), reveals that the reason that she has been murdering camp counselors is because her son Jason drowned in the lake back in the late 1950’s. Alice manages to get the upper hand on Mrs. Voorhees and kill her with her own weapon.
If this had been the only film in the series, it would have made Mrs. Voorhees one of the iconic slasher movie villains. She is the only female slasher (that I know of), and her motivation for killing people is unique as well. The fact that she uses a machete is a huge bonus.
The film itself is a pretty good slasher movie. For those of you that haven’t seen it yet, I should warn you that the film has some pretty graphic scenes of sex and gore. If that doesn’t bother you, then I recommend you watch this one.
The next movie in the series is 1981’s Friday the 13th Part II. This movie starts with Alice being murdered by an unseen killer. Throughout the film, multiple people in and around Camp Crystal Lake are being murdered. Eventually, it’s revealed that the killer in this film is…a grown up version of the boy that drowned in the lake in the 1950’s.
I know what you’re all thinking, it makes no sense. I’ll explain the film’s logic as best as I can.
In the film, there’s a scene where the characters are talking about the various murders at a bar. They deduce that the killer must be Jason Voorhees. They talk about how Jason must have survived the drowning incident and been living in the woods ever since. They figure that Jason must have witnessed his mother’s death and lost all sense of morality. They have no proof for this theory, there is never any evidence to support this theory in this or any other film in the series, and the killer never identifies himself, but the rest of the series treats it like the counselors are right.
So in the first film, Mrs. Voorhees was murdering people because her son Jason had died, and in the subsequent films Jason is killing people because his mother Mrs. Voorhees had died? Yeah, I don’t buy it. I don’t think the first film tells us how old Jason was when he drowned (it’s been a while since I’ve watched these films), but he would have been pretty young, like 8 or 9. This movie suggests that an 8 or 9 year old managed to survive drowning, flee into the woods unseen, stay hidden from everyone, survive on his own for about twenty or twenty-five years, and never once tried to contact his mother, who was wandering those same woods killing people. I know you’re not supposed to think about these kinds of things in movies (especially horror movies), but that’s just too much to ignore.
To be fair, I have no idea who the killer could be either. The only thing that I can think of is that it’s some random unnamed person that lives in the woods and is obsessed with the woman that comes around murdering people. It makes more sense than the killer being Mrs. Voorhees’s not-so-dead son at any rate.
The film ends with the murderer (I refuse to call him “Jason”) killing all of the counselors except for a woman named Ginny and a man named Paul. Ginny is taken to a hospital at the end of the film, and Paul vanishes mysteriously, never to be seen again. Huh. If it wasn’t for the fact that we see Paul and the killer in the same place a few times, I would suggest that Paul could be the killer.
The next film was 1982’s Friday the 13th Part III 3D. For those of you that are too young to remember, 3D is a gimmick that the movie industry employs every decade or so to try to make movies more immersive to the audience. It almost never works, and you can always tell which scenes were filmed specifically with 3D in mind.
To be fair, this is the film where the killer gets his iconic hockey mask. I don’t know why the killer felt it necessary to wear a mask, as he has no reason to try to conceal his identity. The previous film revealed that the killer was disfigured, so I guess it could be a vanity thing.
The killer proceeds to kill a group of teenagers camping at the lake, because what else would he do? This film has the most deaths in the series, with fourteen deaths. I’m not sure if that number includes the killer or not, as the final girl does manage to bury an ax in the killer’s skull at the end.
The next film was 1984’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. For those keeping track, there are five more films after this one, not counting crossovers, reboots, and the one that may or may not be canon. The film starts with the killer waking up in a morgue and killing the coroner and nurse.
He makes his way back to Crystal Lake, where he kills a bunch of teenagers that are partying in the area. The movie also introduces a family that lives in the area, apparently undisturbed by all the deaths that have happened over the years. This family consists of a mother, a teenage daughter, and a young boy. Especially noteworthy is that the young boy, Tommy, seems to be obsessed with old horror movies and is either able to make masks of movie monsters or just has a lot of movie props lying around.
After the killer is finished killing the teenagers, he starts going after the family. The mother dies, but Trish and Tommy manage to stop the killer. Then Tommy has a little “freak out” moment and repeatedly hacks at the killer with the machete. I hate to say it, but the characters in the previous films should have tried the same thing.
The ending of this film implies that Tommy has been driven insane by this chain of events, and the next movie runs with that idea. 1985’s Friday the 13th: A New Beginning starts with a now teenage Tommy being sent to a house in the woods with a bunch of other recovering mental patients. Apparently no one thought this idea through, as the violently angry mental patient murders the annoying mental patient pretty early in the movie.
A string of murders follows, and the movie drops several hints that Tommy may be dressing like the killer from the previous films and murdering people. At the climax of the movie, Tommy helps the other survivors fight off the killer, and they manage to cause the killer to fall to his death. It’s at this point that the new killer is revealed to be…one of the ambulance drivers that took away the body of the annoying mental patient at the beginning of the film. Apparently he was the kid’s father or something. The film ends with Tommy donning the killer’s hockey mask and possibly murdering someone.
This film got a lot of hatred from fans of the series, but I personally like it. It has a slightly better murder mystery than the first film, since we at least see the new killer without the mask once before the reveal at the end. Still, fans wanted to see the killer from the previous films, so the filmmakers gave them what they wanted with 1986’s Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.
This movie starts with Tommy digging up the killer’s grave to cremate the killer’s body…despite the killer being dead for many years at this point. A bolt of lightning strikes the body, and the killer is resurrected as a zombie. Huh. I guess I could have talked about this film in my post about zombies. Oh well.
This is the first supernatural element to show up in any of the Friday the 13th movies. Every movie in the series prior to this one had the standard slasher movie formula of “crazy guy kills people for little reason”. I actually kind of wish that this had been a separate film on its own, so that we didn’t have the killer from two movies back suddenly come back from the grave.
The killer proceeds to chase Tommy throughout the movie, killing everyone he comes across along the way. Tommy manages to lure the killer back to Crystal Lake, and manages to trap the killer on the bottom of the lake. Of course, since the killer doesn’t need to breath anymore, this is just a temporary solution.
1988’s Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood adds even more supernatural elements by adding a teenage girl that has telekinetic powers. This is kind of a strange addition to the film, as the killer is no match for her at all, even with his inability to die. The film ends with the girl trapping the killer at the bottom of the lake again.
1989’s Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan is kind of a strange film. The majority of the film takes place on a boat, and it implies that people can sail to open waters from Crystal Lake. The movie spends very little time in New York, despite the name of the movie. The killer chases two of the teenagers into the New York sewage, and gets magically transformed into a child when the sewers are flooded with toxic waste. It’s a very strange movie.
1993’s Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday starts with the FBI setting up a trap to kill the killer once and for all. This movie has the most supernatural elements of all the Friday the 13th films, giving the killer the ability to switch bodies, and introducing a magic dagger that proves to be the only weapon that can kill the killer for good. At the end of the film, the killer is dragged to hell, and the clawed glove of Freddy Krueger drags the killer’s hockey mask down as well.
2001’s Jason X was the first (and so far only) film in the series to feature science fiction elements. The killer is cryogenically frozen and is revived over four hundred years later. The people that revive him are headed to Earth Two, because apparently Earth Classic isn’t good enough for them or something. To be fair, it is depicted as a lifeless wasteland, so that may be a good call on their part.
This film features robots, cybernetics, and nanotechnology. The revived killer is eventually turned into an unstoppable cyborg (despite already being an unstoppable zombie). The only way that the heroes can stop him is by dropping him from orbit onto Earth Two, causing him to disintegrate.
The next film was 2003’s Freddy vs. Jason, a crossover film with the A Nightmare on Elm Street series. I’ll talk about that film more when I talk about Freddy Krueger. The last (so far) film in the series is 2009’s Friday the 13th, which is a reboot of the franchise. Here, a young Jason sees his mother killed during her murder spree, and so he comes back thirty years later to get his revenge. While I do like this better than how it played out in the original movies, it leaves me wondering why Mrs. Voorhees was murdering people in this version.
When it comes to the hockey mask killer, I do like both versions, but not as the same character. The man in the woods that kills people has become a classic horror movie staple, and countless movies have homaged and parodied this version of the character. The unstoppable zombie killer is also a great character that inspires even more fear and terror due to the fact that you know that nothing can kill him. At the end of the day though, there just seems to be something wrong with the two being the same character. That’s just my opinion though.
With that, we say goodbye to Camp Crystal Lake and its unnamed killer. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about a killer that definitely has a name, and plenty of personality: Freddy Krueger!