by Paul Deeter
Ah, you feel that? That fresh summer air. The pleasant heat of a warm campfire. The lingering sense of dread slowly creeping up on you… Oh wait, today’s Friday right? But not just any Friday, it’s Friday the 13th. Friday the 13th, aka a Holiday! AKA the most successful slasher film franchise of all time!! AKA Halloween in summer! Yes this time, in 2021, the dreaded holiday lands on the 13th of August, which I’ll have you know is actually an unusually lucky month for it to appear. “ In Brazil, Friday the 13th in August is considered unluckier than any other Friday the 13th, especially as agosto (August) rhymes with desgosto (sorrow).” Sounds like we got lucky this year horror hounds and hags! Other significance of this date involves the presence of black cats, the numerological fear of the number based on religious history and other ideas of bad fortune of luck. In fact, there’s a name for the phobia, get ready: friggatriskaidekaphobia. Thankfully this word never popped up on any of my school spelling bee quizzes.
But ask any horror fan for their word association with the phrasing of the date and they’d most likely smile and reply “that’s Jason’s day.” Jason Voorhees, born prematurely to Pamela Sue Voorhees on June 13th, 1946, a Friday. He drowned while visiting Camp Crystal Lake at the age of 11. His backstory is known in rumor and whispers as a tragic “accident.” But real fans know the truth: Jason‘s death was not truly an accident, but a death due to negligence on behalf of the camp counselors on duty. The immoral fornicaters! The drugged out hippies! The ungodly counter-culture of sinners with no respect or responsibility! It was about time that someone taught them a lesson. And the grieving mother Panama would be the first to seek vengeance for her son’s avoidable death, in the classic Sean S. Cunningham feature: Friday the 13th. But after a nearly unstoppable kill spree by Mrs. Voorhees, she is struck down and safety seems to be back… until the prodigal son returned. If you’re even a casual reader here at Purely Kino, I’m sure you know the history of the films, their relevance in pop culture and of course our personal ranking of each feature. Let’s take a stab (slash?) instead at what makes Friday the 13th the colossal success it is, what keeps us nostalgic and up at night over this nightmare holiday to remember. Here's 13 reasons why we're fans, in no particular order.
The Killer Theme Track
While not quite up to the caliber of villain chorded themes like Michael's in the Halloween series by the brilliant composer John Carpenter, Jason sure has a spooky intro theme. Henry Manfredini is credited for over a hundred different movie themes and original soundtracks but his work on Friday the 13th and the following sequels is undeniably his best work. The shrill chords of Psycho are homaged in a creepy progression here. No horror fan can deny that the most recognizable part of any musical backing of Jason, and that's the "ch ch ch, ah ah ah" whisper, as spooky as anything Carpenter has ever pulled off. That being said, Manfredini has actually confirmed the sound to be "ki ki ki, ma ma ma" which is a young Jason saying "kill and mama" in a boyish voice. Pretty cool.
2. The Hockey Mask
In my previous monster sized article ranking each Friday the 13th ever mad, I secured Friday the 13th: Part III at number four, for two specific reasons. One is the film's focus on scaring audiences in 3D, and two is that this is the movie where Jason secures his signature hockey mask. The first film is of course a feature that keeps the villain veiled as it turns out it's a Pamela Voorhees behind the murders. The sequel has (maybe my favorite Jason look) a bagged burlap sack over Jason's head for the majority of the film. But in the third entry, he picks up a hockey mask casually and dons what's probably the most recognizable mask in any horror movie outside of Halloween's Michael Myers mask and Ghostface's in Scream. The fact that the decision seemed to happen as a minor writing detail would forever change the sports attire forever is baffling.
3. Corey Feldman!
Some would argue that Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, which establishes a psychic connection between Jason and a kid to be the best of the franchise. It leans into the wackiness a bit more, and fleshes out the victims as stronger characters than any of the other films (including Crispin Glover who gets a corkscrew to the face.) But young Corey Feldman takes the stage here, partly because it helped put him in the public eye as a young actor to watch. Another part is simply that he sizes up against Jason, which nobody seemed able to do in any movie till then. With a cult-status career that waned over time, Feldman was a young, fresh performance in an otherwise characterless franchise.
4. What a Twist!
Horror film twists tend to age poorly as they become more and more discussed and spoiled over the years. The Sixth Sense is referenced more as "the movie where Bruce Willis plays a dead guy" than a truly effective thriller, with more depth to offer. Sleepaway Camp has that gender bender twist, although it's looked back upon more fondly for other elements that make it a horror cult (ahem) sleeper hit. But the twist in 1980's original Friday the 13th is such a solid shocker that to this day fans quiz casual viewers with the question: "who's the villain in the original Friday the 13th?" and then promptly chew them out when they say it's Jason. I mean it made it to Scream, so it's a pretty solid trick question.
5. Kane Hodder!!
Kane Hodder is a hulking, muscular giant, and he can't be denied as the best Jason Voorhees. He actually didn't come into the mask until the seventh entry and dipped in Jason X, putting him in four official films. But with that, and his massive history as a stuntman over the years, Hodder would be remembered not just for his ability to take hits and falls as Jason but also his eerie presence. Nobody seemed to feel more of a looming, lumbering evil quite like Hodder's Jason. It's unfortunate he was only in some of the series weakest entries, but with this film and his work on Hatchet and other horror flicks, he's still the fan favorite. And speaking of that presence...
6. Jason's a Silent Killer
While A Nightmare on Elm Street featured a wise-cracking burned up old man named Freddy Krueger kicking ass and taking names, in the other corner Jason was a mute murderer. Not to say Krueger wasn't a scary villain. He managed to scare while making audiences laugh too; it was a blend of perversity and dark humor that made our skin crawl as often as we giggled. But silence is golden, and Jason knew to keep his mouth shut as he stalked his prey. Like Myers, Jason murders wordlessly, and that's terrifying. Not speaking makes Jason seem even more merciless and that does more to keep us quaking then any evil lines ever could. And before we're done speaking of Freddy Krueger, let's not forget...
7. Jason Kicked Kruegers Crispy Ass.
Freddy V. Jason, not as good as you remembered but as a monster mash it had some solid action. Still not very scary, but with a focus on humor over horror it seemed Freddy had the upper hand and might take the W. That's before Jason lops his head off. Who's joking now?
8. Shout! Factory's Box-set.
Shout! Factory (or Scream Factory) put together a box of every one of the 12 feature films (including Freddy V. Jason) on beautiful Blu-Ray. The set is gorgeous and jam-packed with an incredible amount of extra content, including commentary tracks, deleted scenes, making-of features and then some. Each disc came with its own reversible cover, and the artwork on the box is a sweeping collage of Jason that's the best home media design the franchise has ever seen.
9. We Want Blood!
What's a good slasher film without a good amount of slashing? But the Friday the 13th doesn't take after Halloween's consistent use of a kitchen knife as a murder weapon. Instead Jason is very practical and uses murder weapons of all sorts, the closest ones near him. Sure he's not Jason without a signature machete to wield in most of the entries, but he does take some liberties with his murder style. Without remembering exactly which movie did what, I can recall the use of the following weapons: pitchforks, harpoons, corkscrews, knives, machetes and many other pointy objects nearby. He even punches a boxer's head off in a rooftop match in Manhattan! I've been in the collector habit of buying each of the NECA boxes for every Friday film and I can confirm that each of them comes with a variety of different accessory weapons to put in Jason's hands. Jason isn't going to slam a girl into a TV morphed version of himself while screaming "it's primetime, bitch!" anytime soon. But he keeps things creative.
10. We're Horny.
Let's be honest. The Friday the 13th franchise is perhaps the horniest series of movies outside of the weird amount of American Pie spin-offs. Seemingly in a response to Reagan-era values, the many youths in these films are constantly sexing it up with each other under various forms of intoxicants. They skinny-dip, screw in sleeping bags, screw in tents, strip and shower together. It's enough skin to make you think momentarily that you're watching an X-Rated feature. Sometimes it's just softcore smut. But call it whatever you want, it's a crowd-pleaser. We know what we're getting into when we watch this franchise, and there's no shame in the occasional 'skinema'.
11 . The Final Girls
What most of the campers lack in personality or uniquity, the 'final girls' stand out for their steel will and determination. There's always going to be a final girl or at least a final someone in a slasher film, but the concept of final girls specifically addresses the purest of characters in the group of victims. A final girl isn't going to do drugs or have sex (at least not on camera) and therefore their pureness protects them from their demise at the hands of the killer. Friday the 13th doesn't establish a single survivor character (like Laurie Strode in Halloween) who lives to see other sequels, but it's still satisfying to see at least one protagonist manage to face Jason and walk away from it.
12. We Were Afraid to Go Camping.
Just like Jaws before managed to make audience members afraid of getting in, honestly, any body of water, Jason made us all afraid to go camping. Other camping, hiking and various getaway films would continue on this fear of being cut off from the modern world, but Friday the 13th did it first.
13. Jason Lives Forever.
In fandom, in video games and through endless merchandise, Jason Voorhees has never left in relevance. There always will be Friday the 13th.