Friday, October 13, 2006

You'll Wish It Were Only A Nightmare

It's Friday the 13th, so of course I have to talk about that series a little bit. The problem is, I've never been that big a fan of the Jason movies. Oh sure, I've watched them all at least once(most of them more than that), and I'll admit I enjoy them every time I see them. But it's always a workmanlike enjoyment. Like eating a box of saltines when your excruciatingly hungry. It'll satisfy you, but it's nothing to get too excited about.

In the slasher movie wars, A Nightmare on Elm Street had a sick, surreal fantasy edge to it, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre(original, of course) was as bleakly funny as it was stomache churning in it's insanity, and even the Halloween series started off with a touch of style rarely seen inside the genre. Friday the 13th, however, never had much more than a big scary guy with a machete chasing down frequently naked, buxom co-eds. Not that I mind the frequently naked buxom co-eds, or even the big guy with the machete, but the series rarely goes beyond this formula, and it really isn't enough to sustain my interest for a whopping 10 films.

The first film gets a lot of credit from fans regarding it's supposed twist ending, where you learn the killer isn't really Jason but his mother. This isn't really a twist, since Jason is mentioned as having died in 1958, a year before the killings that closed the camp. We're given no reason at all to suspect Jason until we meet his mother at the end of the film and she spells it out for us. I don't hold it against the filmmakers that this isn't really a twist, but it seems to have fooled a lot of people. Of course the shock ending, which mimics Carrie, shows us a seemingly rotted Jason, mostly unchanged from the time of his death(20 years earlier). This leads to one of the more confusing aspects of the series.

In part one we see Jason is still a child, yet in part 2, which takes place only 3 years later, he's a fully grown man capable of stalking and slashing co-eds on his own. The filmmakers probably intended the scene from the first movie to be a hallucination, since this movie implies Jason never died at all, but was raised in the woods by his distraught mother. But thats another problem, because without a dead Jason his mother has no real reason to seek revenge on camp counsellors. I guess it's stupid to think that a movie of this type should have logic, but some things just bother me.

By the third movie it's obvious the filmmakers aren't really taking the job too seriously, as the teens and supporting characters are played for laughs more and more. Not really good laughs, but it's obvious they were going for humor. Plus it's in 3D, which was most likely it's only real reason for being made. Unfortunately the 3D print never survived to DVD.

For me the series doesn't REALLY pick up until, blasphemy I know, number 9. When New Line took over they added a hint of self awareness that really reinvigorated the franchise. The humor was actually funny, while the gore and killings were also still satisfyingly splatter filled. Number 10 took the film to the place all franchises go when they run out of ideas... space(see also Hellraiser 4, Critters 4, and... Leprechaun 4). I may upset some true fans out there, but robo-Jason was fun, and the movie made me fall out of my seat laughing(in a good way). Plus... who the hell thought, back in 1980, that we'd see a horror movie where the villain burned up on reentry into the atmosphere. And who would have thought that villain would be Jason!

There appears to be a new Jason movie in the works, most likely set before the events in part 10, and I'll probably go see that in the theatres. I'll also probably watch the entire series over again once or twice, but for anyone who HASN'T seen it yet, get lots of beer, and as many friends as you can fit into your living room. This is a series that needs to be seen with a group.


Anonymous said...

Now I know who the real killer is!!! Thanks for ruining it for me! ;)

The Working Dead said...

Oh come on, like you never saw Scream, you weird anonymous person you!

Rik Tod said...

Series doesn't really pick up until Part 9?

Let me throw a chucklin' nod in the direction of Part 6, where Jason gets a genuine sense of humor.

Killing Horshack from Welcome Back Kotter?

"Some folks got a queer idea of entertainment!"

Again, you are correct. You should only watch these movies in a party atmosphere. It brings so much more out in them when they are ganged up on by crazed revelers. Watching them alone: unbelievably boring.


The Working Dead said...

Actually, I just watched part 6 again the other night and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.