Hey look at the date, it’s Friday the 13th!!! What a great day to make Jason Voorhees, Camp Crystal Lake’s resident bad boy an Official Traumatizer! There is not much I can say about Jason that hasn’t been said elsewhere, but what I can do is tell you about my own first experience with the film FRIDAY THE 13TH and my original introduction to the little mongoloid boy named Jason Voorhees.
Little Unkle Lancifer was too young to go see the first FRIDAY THE 13th in the movie theater, but thanks to FAMOUS MONSTERS magazine I was well aware of its existence. (Although to be accurate, I was at least partially confusing it with another film, 1979’s THE ORPHAN). My eldest brother, who I imagined at the time had the most fulfilling existence imaginable, WAS old enough to check out this intriguing and mysterious movie which he did as far as I recall, as soon humanly possible.
Now, unlike myself, my older brother is not a light touch when it comes to horror. In fact, it was a badge of honor for him to return from a film and declare himself unfazed and unimpressed by what he had seen on the screen. His attraction to the genre appeared to me to be more as if he were accepting some unsaid dare. He was out to prove that he could withstand anything presented to him and I was sure at the end of the day he would much rather be watching BRUCE LEE.
My usually too cool for school older brother returned from FRIDAY THE 13th in a state in which I had never seen him. He was flushed, he was amped and he was absolutely beside himself. It was if he had just witnessed a train crash and was still working through the adrenaline that was coursing through his body. He was literally stunned and therefore I was too, stunned that there was something so scary that it could leave my roughneck, ninja-star throwing sibling in such a state.
Eventually I grew up to be the kind of film spaz that will go ballistic if a movie is ruined for me even slightly. I’m the jerk that won’t enter a theater if I think I’ve missed 30 seconds of the opening and I am known to drive normal people insane with my excessive use of “pause” and “rewind” at home. At this young age though, for all I knew, my only chance to experience FRIDAY THE 13th would be vicariously through my brother so I demanded he tell me everything he could remember of what he had witnessed.
Uncharacteristically, my brother fulfilled my request and regaled every detail from the opening jeep murder to the closing credits. I was mesmerized from start to finish as images both titillating and horrifying passed through my young head. Some might describe FRIDAY‘s plot as slight or even non-existent but, due to my own verbal introduction to the happenings of Crystal Lake, to me it will always skew closer to one of the greatest campfire stories/legends ever told. At this point in my life (and maybe it’s due to the fact that I was ruefully born with only one foot in reality) I took the events told to me as gospel. When he eventually described little Jason’s final exodus from the murky bottom of the lake my jaw hit the shag carpet.
Not very much later a VCR appeared in our living room. Our family was one of the first in our neighborhood to be graced with one (don’t feel too bad for those other kids on the block, they all had that amazing invention called “cable” which we could only dream of). Wow. The idea of watching a WHOLE movie in your home whenever you wanted… what a luxury! Not surprisingly, one of the first tapes I had to get my grubby hands on was FRIDAY THE 13TH; now I could finally see what all of the hubbub was about and watch the vaporous story in my head transform into something permanent and concrete on the television screen.
I am happy to say that I was not even remotely disappointed. I could not believe I was getting a chance to eavesdrop and spy on this incredible universe full of denim cut-offs, strip Monopoly and bloody decapitations. If this was what being older was going to be like, sign me up I thought. I’m sure actually being systematically butchered by an unseen presence probably bites the big one in real life, but to me, at the time, it seemed like a great way to spend a Friday night. As LYNN REDGRAVE used to say, “This is Living!”
Having already heard the entire story from my brother you would think that I would be completely prepared for the film’s shocker ending, but poor dense me was still taken off guard. I knew Jason was at some point going to rise from the lake, but I had foolishly thought that there would be some kind of build up to such a thing. As Alice (ADRIENNE KING) put her hand into the reflecting water of Crystal Lake, I was pretty sure young Jason was a few scenes away and I instinctively assumed that a JAWS like score would warn me of that danger approaching. No such luck, as Jason jumped out of the lake I jumped out off the couch. I simply had no defense in regards to FRIDAY THE 13TH and I loved the freefall feeling it injected me with, like being on a sled and knowing the ride wasn’t over until the sled said it was over.
No matter how securely the original FRIDAY embeds itself within our culture (Let’s face it folks, it’s here to stay), for some reason, it has always been able to squirm its way out of receiving all the respect that it rightfully deserves. The critical among us can fault the direction, but the reality is that FRIDAY accomplishes everything it sets out to do and then some. One could fault it for being derivative or slap-shot, but dozens of films have tried to duplicate its sense of place and atmosphere and failed miserably. You can even gripe that there is little in the way of characterization, but personally I don’t need to know that much about a person to assume that they don’t deserve (or appreciate) an axe splitting their skull in two. You can pile up all the knee jerk dismissals you like, but there is a reason why so many return to this movie again and again throughout their lives.
Jason works and Jason has always worked. Those of us who were introduced to him in our youth eventually do master some control over our fear of him, but we’re still his bitches all the same. Like many slasher films, FRIDAY is, at its heart, a campfire story and campfire stories not only do not require the fundamental elements that create great literature to work, but actually are hobbled by such useless chaff. It is meant to scare you, to leave you feeling unsafe, to make you think twice about that twig that just snapped. It’s meant to cast a spell over you that alters your perception to the point that the world around you suddenly seems unfamiliar and fraught with potential danger. It’s meant to be fun, a giddy first dance with death; a way to take the anxieties associated with the approaching seductive freedoms of adulthood and milk them for all they are worth. I’m glad that my first FRIDAY THE 13TH movie actually took place in my own head thanks to my older brother’s surprisingly good storytelling skills, but let’s face it, my brother had some excellent material to work with; Jason Voorhees is a potent legend and a born Traumatizer.
WANT MORE JASON?
- Traumafessions :: Reader Stutz on FRIDAY THE 13TH
- Traumafessions :: Reader Erczilla on FRIDAY THE 13TH
- Traumafessions :: Reader Robert on FRIDAY THE 13TH
- Traumafessions :: Reader Ricky on FRIDAY THE 13TH
- Kinder-News :: The Truth Behind Chris Higgins’ Blackout!
- The Awesome FRIDAY THE 13TH art of JIM HORWAT
- Trauma-Mommas :: The 10 Most Horrifying Movie Moms
- The Horror Movie Bar Crawl Featuring FRIDAY THE 13TH PART II
- The Kids of Crystal Lake