Friday, June 7, 2013

Good, Old-Fashioned Ghost Story

Okay, let's break away from Wonder Woman topics.
Although there's still plenty to discuss about the character, I thought I'd shift gears a bit

And since the majority of my posts pertaining to Wonder Woman have been pretty negative and pessimistic, I thought I'd switch it up with something a little more upbeat. Something a bit more positive and lighthearted, and discuss a character that actually cheers me up....

Why Jason Voorhees, of course! He'll make everything better!

I am a fan of horror movies, and Jason has always been my slasher of choice. Back when I was a kid, I totally bought into the whole idea behind him—this faceless behemoth that just keeps coming and wants you dead. And even if he was defeated by the end of the movie, there were almost a dozen sequels in which he just came back.

Of course, once I grew past the age of ten, these movies stopped being scary for me. But I always retained an appreciation for ol' Jason and the Friday the 13th films. The older ones have a nice, eerie charm about them, and from Friday the 13th Part 6 and on, they kind of just embraced the sheer, unapologetic goofiness of themselves.

One of the things I've grown to appreciate about the Friday the 13th series and Jason Voorhees is they’ve actually managed to develop a surprising consistency to their own internal logic. Barring a few exceptions here and there, there actually are "rules" to Jason Voorhees. And in fact, if one looks at the Friday the 13th movies with these rules in mind, the franchise actually makes a hell of a lot more sense.
(And no, I'm not referring to the "rules" touted in the Scream movies.)

Those who don’t follow Friday the 13th…probably aren’t even reading this…but the story begins with Camp Crystal Lake, where young Jason Voorhees drowned when he was a child. The camp counselors that were supposed to be watching him were off banging each other while he attempted to swim.

Jason’s mother, Pamela Voorhees, was a cook working for the camp and, with Jason’s death, she went coo-coo for Coco Puffs. After murdering the counselors, she engaged on a secret campaign of sabotaging the camp to close it down and killed anyone who tried reopening it. This came to a head (no pun intended) when Mrs. Voorhees was finally decapitated by a counselor in self-defense.

Shortly after Pamela’s death, Jason came back and has, ever since, haunted Crystal Lake and brutally slaughtered anyone he catches around there.

At a glance, it would appear Jason Voorhees simply does this routine cycle of dying at the end of every movie and being resurrected at the beginning of the next one for one contrived reason or another—rinse, repeat.
But there is actually a consistency to these movies and the nature of Jason Voorhees.

Before I get into that, I want to first address an issue. In Friday the 13th Part 2, it was suggested maybe Jason never drowned when he was a kid—instead living like a hermit in the woods, and Pamela only thought he drowned. Therefore, following this logic, Jason never really died until Friday the 13th Part 4 and was truly resurrected for the first time in Part 6.

I don’t buy into Part 2’s hermit explanation. For a couple of reasons, but the main one being Jason was already pretty superhuman even before his “resurrection” in Part 6. He exhibits superhuman strength, and doesn’t die even after getting a machete rammed halfway into his body (Part 2), hanged, and having an axe buried in his head (Part 3). He also has a clearly discolored, corpse-like skin tone in Part 4.
Jason was already undead, even back in Part 2.

This brings me to a conclusion I’ve discovered about Jason Voorhees. He never dies, but he can be put into…for lack of a better term…dormancy for a period of time. Then of course, he wakes up, and when he does, he comes back stronger, more powerful, and maybe even smarter than he was before. And the greater the damage, the stronger he becomes.

Kind of like a Saiyan.

Look at the pattern:
In Friday the 13th Part 2, Jason is rather clumsy. He’s not very coordinated, he’s easily deceived, and it only takes a machete to the shoulder to put him down. In Part 3, we see a more coordinated and agile Jason that survives more damage, is much stronger (he crushed a man's skull with his bare hands), and seems to be more conscious of what's going on around him. This is taken even further in Part 4, where Jason is actually rather swift, highly efficient, even stronger, and we even see him taunting a character at one point.

Now I would never suggest Jason is some kind of genius or even much of a thinker. But contrary to the common assumption he's just this mindless drone, his actions in these movies show he has some comprehension of what he's doing. He is aware of himself and his surroundings, and he goes about his mission to kill with the efficiency of someone who has a clear, conscious goal.
(This was something that was lacking in Freddy vs. Jason, which went a little overboard with portraying Jason as the "slow, dumb one.")

Anyway, Jason takes his most significant damage at the end of Part 4, wherein he gets his head mashed up with a machete. This, of course, puts him down the longest until Part 6. And it's in Part 6, we find his most significant power boost. And from then on, Jason's practically a Terminator.
(By the way, if you don't really follow the series and are wondering why I haven't mentioned Part 5 at all—that wasn't really Jason. It turned out to be an imposter posing as Jason, like out of Scooby Doo.)

I argue that Jason never really "dies," rather, he goes into dormancy. And sometimes, he needs to be "woken up" in order to get moving again. In Part 6, Jason is revived by a lightning bolt—intended as a homage to Frankenstein. But I contend the lightning didn't resurrect Jason so much as it woke him up. At the end of Part 6, Jason is clearly alive—but he's dormant and can't move. In Part 7, he's accidentally freed and, when he's dragged back into the lake at the end, I believe he doesn't die, so much as go back into dormancy.

Occasionally, they try to come up with a reason for Jason's immortality. Part 9 tried tying him to demons and the Necronomicon from Evil Dead. One comic series suggested Crystal Lake is a cursed Native American burial ground of some sort, and Jason is a manifestation of that curse.
People also like to link Jason with some kind of puritanical theme, saying he punishes the "bad" kids that have sex and drink. But if you actually follow the movies, Jason kills anyone. It doesn't matter who you are, how old you are, or what you're doing. He sees you, he kills you. That's it.

I think the nature of Jason is much simpler. He keeps coming back because he hates. He hates the way he was treated as a kid. He hates the way he died. He hates that his mother was killed avenging him. He hates that people keep coming back to Crystal Lake. And it's that hate that keeps him going. It's what drives him and what powers him.
In essence, he's a undead being who cannot rest.

The point I'm getting at is Jason Voorhees and Friday the 13th is really just a variation of the classic Haunted House-Ghost story. You have a malevolent, undead spirit that can't rest—usually because of some unfinished business or outright rage—that haunts a particular area and only rises to cause trouble when people trespass that area.
Now just replace ‘haunted house’ with ‘Crystal Lake & the surrounding area,’ and ‘ghost’ with ‘jacked-up zombie in a hockey mask.’ That's Friday the 13th.

Jason only rises to cause trouble when people venture near Crystal Lake, and when they're all dead or escape, he goes back into dormancy. With the exception of that time he wound up in Manhattan, Jason never bothers chasing the people that escape him.
The girl that survived Friday the 13th part 2; we never saw her again. The girl from Part 3; never seen again. There was Tommy Jarvis, who was introduced in Part 4 and reappeared in Part 5 & Part 6. But Jason never went after Tommy—Tommy came back. And after Part 6, we never saw Tommy again. The girl from Part 7…it goes on.

Jason doesn’t start trouble until someone wakes him up—usually by disturbing Crystal Lake—and when they get away, he doesn’t care anymore. Like a haunted house…just don’t go there, and nothing bad will happen.

Jason Voorhees was the original The Grudge.

...and that Manhattan thing was a fluke anyway.
How could Jason have known Crystal Lake spontaneously connected to the Atlantic Ocean?

"...the fuck..?"

No comments:

Post a Comment