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I watched all the Friday the 13th films and here are my thoughts



I love horror films - specifically, slasher films. As much as I have a place in my heart for creepy girls climbing out of a television or, uh, experimenting with a crucifix, it's the slashers that have my lifelong love.

Primarily, it's the slashers that were created between the mid-90s into the early 2000s that I love the most. With Scream being not only my favourite horror franchise - but just one of my favourite franchises, period. But I know that those films wouldn't exist without the golden oldies.

But I've not watched that many of the old slasher films, because I'm a bad horror fan. I've seen about half of the Halloween series (but let's be real: that franchise got wildly out of control), a few of the Nightmare on Elm Street films and only half of Psycho because I didn't actually like it. Until very recently, I had only seen two Friday the 13th films (the first one and Freddy VS Jason). That changed when I randomly stumbled upon the entire Friday the 13th series on NOW TV. So if you've not seen me recently and thought I had died, that is actually what I was up.

My perception of Friday the 13th before this was...meh. I had seen the original and Freddy VS Jason and had never quite taken to Jason. Personally, I prefer my villains to have more complexity, with a backstory, and the ability to talk. So I never gravitated towards the man-child that is Jason.

But, I am a big horror fan. And as a big horror fan I have still always appreciated that Friday the 13th was one of the earliest slasher films created and that, without it, many of my favourite films would not exist. Many of the horror tropes used today were developed from Halloween and Friday the 13th.

Here's the thing though: despite its commercial success, critics hated it. And fair enough. From a critical and artistic standpoint, it's a pile of shite. Even Betsy Palmer, who played Pamela Vorhees, didn't expect it to be a hit and only took the job because she needed money for a new car! It's not a good film, in the technical sense. But what people who graduate from film school don't always understand: what is good from an academic or professional standpoint isn't always what audiences want.

And that's where marketing comes in. Or, more accurately, understanding supply and demand. The creators of Friday the 13th admit that they wanted to create something similar to Halloween (largely regarded as the film that created the slasher genre). Audiences wanted more and the creators saw the gap in the market; there was the demand but not supply. A large part of Friday the 13th success was the right time and the right place.

When talking about slasher films, especially the older ones, the book Men, Women and Chainsaws will come up. I actually own this book and read it several a years ago. And in it is the answer to why audiences loved the low-budget slashers of the 80s: they were simple, accessible, and lacked pretentious art school vibes. So pretty much: the very reason film experts hated them was the same reason mainstream audiences loved them. The book also calls Silence of the Lambs a "slasher film for graduate students" and I've always lol'd at that. I love the Silence of the Lambs film (it's actually a favourite) but let's not pretend that Hannibal Lector isn't a pretentious snob.

Regardless, Jason became a horror icon. Which is strange to anyone who has seen the Friday the 13th series and/or the opening sequence of Scream:




Maybe I love Scream so much because I don't mind spoilers.

Jason didn't actually show up until the sequel, which I knew because of my aforementioned love of Scream. But what did surprise me while watching the series is that (spoiler alert) he doesn't get his iconic hockey mask until the third film. And even then it's not until a good chunk of the way through the film. All that iconic imagery that I had been familiar with since my teenage years showed up later in the franchise.




But I love this scene. Not just because he obtains his mask, but also because of the nonchalant way he waddles back to the house.

And then he uses the hockey mask to cover his disfigured face for the rest of the franchise.

Speaking of the entire franchise...do you want to know which of the films I actually liked?

The one that stood out for me, and a lot of horror fans, is the 6th film: Jason Lives. Yes, it's very random that six films in they created something that received some positive reviews from critics. It's slightly humorous in a passive way, the kills are gory, and there is more characterisation. While it was released in 1986, it's humour and meta dialogue make it look like a film that could have been made in the late 90s in a post-Scream world. And I love Scream. Scream in the best.

It's also the film where Jason is resurrected and would remain immortal and powerful for the rest of the franchise.

 

Who doesn't love watching a bunch of annoying company execs being killed in the woods?

The other film I really liked, and I might get some flack about, is Jason X. Some fans really hate this film. Like, really hate it. But I like it. It's Jason in space which is a ridiculous idea, but the film knows that it's ridiculous so, in my opinion, they get away with it. And Jason gets a make-over and becomes futuristic Uber Jason. Okay, I know that's probably why people don't like it. As mentioned, slasher flicks started out as simple films without anything too out there. So sending Jason ino space and having him become half-robot was going to anger the purists. But,I.do.not.care. I like this film. It's silly.

Sadly, Uber Jason was only seen in this film and Freddy VS Jason decided to old old-school Jason.



And while Jason Takes Manhattan is probably the worst film in the franchise because HE SPENDS MOST OF IT KILLING PEOPLE ON A BOAT that one scene where we see Jason standing in Times Square was incredible. And I just love that people don't bat an eyelid because...New York. That city sees dressed up weirdos all the time.


One of the main criticisms you hear about the Friday the 13th films is WHY SO MANY BOOBS! The whole franchise has a lot of naked chicks, and this has been up for academic and feminist critique. There's a horror trope about "sluts dying first" that really needs to get in the bin (and has done so, to an extent). But the Friday the 13th series is probably one of the boobiest horror franchises out there.

My opinion: the critique on the naked chics being mostly young, white, conventionally attractive, thin women is valid. When you're going to have sexualised characters, have a bit of variety. But also: stop being prudes. It's not just about the "male gaze". I'm a queer woman and I'm not going to pretend I didn't enjoy the boobs. Boobs are nice. And I like hot naked chics as much as any straight dude.

Though race: the third film has black characters...but they are gangstas. Okay then. I was hoping for a tiny bit of diversity. Thanks to Scream 2 we know that horror is a white-centric genre:



You tell them, Jada Pinkett Smith!

My main bug bearer about Friday the 13th is small, and pedantic. I was wondering how big Crystal Lake actually is? And how many houses can you fit around one fucking lake? And how did Jason hideout in the woods that long with no one finding him? And in the ninth film, there's a Vorhees Estate that fell into the hands of a random half-sister? Half-sister I can believe but this massive mansion? Why did Jason live in the woods when there was a mansion that was rightfully his? Blah blah blah artistic license blah blah blah.

Would I say that the Friday the 13th franchise is going to become a personal favourite? No. But I did enjoy my binge, even if it was only from an I'm a Horror Fan and Really Enjoy Watching All the Horror Movies Because I Just Love Horror That Much sort of way. For me, my binge was a massive geek sesh.

P.S. you can buy a Camp Crystal Lake candle.


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