Good day to you, fellow Midnighters, and welcome to my first ever Retrospective piece here for Midnight Showing. I want to handle this a little differently than most “retrospective” pieces I see on the Internet. Instead of simply trying to impress you with my harmfully encyclopedic knowledge of this series and it’s many quirks and idiosyncrasies, I want to take a look at it from a relatively spoiler free perspective of a fan who is analyzing the overall impact of such a lucrative and beloved, yet heavily criticized series that’s bread and butter was the apparent exploitation of sinful teenagers who just so happened to be fucking around with the wrong psychopathic serial killer.
And what a wonderful place to start. The Friday the 13th series (which I will refer to as F13 for the rest of this piece since it’s much shorter and easier to type!) has become a source of ridicule and comparison. Whenever a movie series begins to take a turn for the worst while cranking out sequels, everyone seems to jump to equate that failure, with the failure that was the endless stream of entries into multiple horror franchises in the 80’s. Also, people in general (people in general meaning not fan-boys and horror geeks) seem to feel the movies have absolutely no value or merit, and serve only to fulfill a misogynistic, predatory sexual desire only experienced by guys usually aged 14 to 35.
For those who feel this way, do me a favor. Got to your local movie theater on Thursday the 12 of February of 2009. Get there about 11 o’ clock. Stand in the parking lot, and see how many people go up to the ticket window and buy tickets to see F13. Note how many of them are women. You will then be prompted to SHUT THE FUCK UP by me. The notion that F13 is some kind of soft-core porn for men who have trouble with women, is an asinine, paranoid delusion created largely in part by ultra-sensitive people with too much free time. They claim its to protect their innocent children (who undoubtedly have porn underneath there bed mom doesn’t know about) from on-screen violence and the temptation of sex and drugs. The irony of course, is that even back then in the 80’s and especially in today’s media, we glorify and report on death, rape, famine, disease, torture, executions and everything else that’s horrible and desensitizing. Apparently, by many folks sense of logic, real death and other horrible acts of humanity are perfectly acceptable to be reported 24/7 on the news, but if we perhaps want to get scared a little, in a safe and communal environment such as a movie theater and watch some dumbfounded teenagers fuck, do drugs, and get ripped to shreds by a masked iconic serial killer, to whom we relate to more than those dying on the news, we are bad people. Apparently a lot of people who criticize the already marginalized horror genre don’t own any mirrors in their houses.
But before I dig any deeper into the messy pit that is morals and standards, let’s explore the soul of the series a bit. F13 (the original) is actually more of a cautionary tale than anything else, it’s just told in such a where were relatively innocent teenagers (Hey, they smoked pot and had sex, so of course they are a little guilty) are brutally slain. For those who haven’t seen the original F13, what I’m about to say will be a major spoiler, so now would be a good time to scroll down to the next paragraph or watch the goddamn movie, since it is still quite good. The mother of Jason Voorhees is in fact the killer throughout the entire first film. Although since you never see her, you just assume it’s Jason taking revenge for the negligence of the camp counselors who let him drown. This twist should intrigue anyone looking to see the remake, as Jason is clearly visible in the trailers and commercials, yet it’s widely known he didn’t start his body count until Part 2.
So if F13 isn’t just useless trash spit out into the cinematic world by perverts, than what is it really? Surely, it’s still a horror film, with the fact of whether or not it is actually scary still being hotly debated. What I never hear in conjunction with F13 conversation and retrospectives is the fact that F13 was a movie made in a completely different time and social climate than the one we are currently in. In the 80’s Reagan was president and he and his wife were trying desperately to clean up the world many saw as full of filth and sin. The world’s major threats were Russians, not low-tech religious fanatics hiding in a cave in a desert of a 3rd world country. Aids popped up, and subsequently scared the shit out of almost everyone. All these factors, and about a million more, made the perfect breeding ground for escapism theater, a brand of movies that weren’t all based on history or current events, or even reality for that matter. Even though F13 takes place at a very earthly and mundane looking summer camp, the idea that a undead, superhuman monster of a man, who seems fully grown by the time he makes his triumphant entrance in Part 2, can rise from the dead again and again to exact his bloody revenge against really anyone who gets in his way is quite out of the realm of possibility.
But it’s just that “unreal events in a familiar setting” that gets people all worked up. Proper horror is all about taking something you may use or see or interact with in your life, and turning into a source of fear, tension, and discomfort. The fact that because there is a certain amount of familiarity with something in the movie, in this case a normal summer camp in the woods, we can then use our imaginations and our disbelief to begin to believe how a place where so many have created cherished childhood memories, can turn into a labyrinth of pain, death, and mutilation. The 80’s were chock full of repression, and from repression comes niche markets. The aforementioned social climate saw a tidal wave of movies misdirecting our fear from the ones the nightly news we talking about, to indestructible bogeymen who can get us when we least expect it. The only thing was, the niche was exploding at the seems, too much of a popular thing, and when niches become mainstream, they rarely remain the edgy, alternative , cathartic, and even experimental forms of entertainment they once were, they instead become just a vehicle for making a lot money. F13 did have some surprisingly good sequels such as the ultra-violent and fast paced 4th entry (Friday the 13th The Final Chapter), which was originally slated to be the series finale, and the underrated 7th entry (Friday the 13th The New Blood) where Jason is confronted by some form of a meta-human with psychic powers who accidentally awakes him from his slumber (I call it slumber because it’s surely never death). When it was all said and done though, most people didn’t see any of the newer entries as anything more than cannon-fodder for critics, porn for the perverse gore-hounds, and a cash cow for the big wigs pulling the strings.
Yet, there F13 sits, primed to make millions during one of the hottest movie going weekends of the year, Valentines Day Weekend. Marcus Nispel and Michael Bay are directing and producing respectively. This is the same tandem who delivered the Texas Chainsaw Massacre Remake back in 03, for what that knowledge is worth. In the decade where Hollywood has completely abandoned any ability to create original content, especially within the horror genre, Jason Voorhees has been dug out of his 6 year nap, as Hollywood scrambles to put together a Reunion tour of sorts. Michael Bay is surely kicking the tires on what once was a proud, thriving series to see if maybe now is the right to re-unleash the Camp Crystal Lake Slasher.
It will no doubt be financially successful, and will probably pay for itself within the first weekend, but I still feel uneasy. Were less than 48 hours away from go time with the remake, and the Internet is buzzing, both good and bad. Will my beliefs hold up? Can a series that was at one point laughable, find a new home in the hearts of a new generation of film goers?
There’s only one thing I know for sure though. It can’t be any worse than Rob Zombie’s Halloween. Oh wait, fuck, what if it is? Holy shit. I need to lay down my head is starting to hurt.
Happy viewing this weekend fellow Midnighters, and do something nice for your girlfriend…oh wait who am I kidding, none of us have girlfriends. But seriously, if you do, take them to see Friday the 13th. They get all touchy feeling. Trust Me.
Or just watch the recently released UNCUT version of the 1981 slasher sleeper hit My Bloody Valentine.