As today is Friday the 13th, David Martin responds to the excellent article written by our illustrious editor Ryan, Jason Voorhees is on the prowl and rightly so…
Ryan bravely has outed himself as a Friday The 13th hater in his article, which you can read here. Ryan gives a number of reasons as to why he regards all of the Friday the 13th films as bad films. Whilst I can see what he is trying to say I have to take issue with some of the points raised. What is interesting with Ryan’s article is he spends very little time discussing the character of Voorhees himself and, whilst fully acknowledging the cult status he enjoys. In my opinion, I feel he has sort of missed the point.
You see, the Friday the 13th films are exactly as Ryan describes them to be, eighties “Pepsi cola” horror. The teenagers that are Voorhees fodder throughout the movies are, for the most part, stupid, ignorant and did I mention stupid? Despite the slaughter at Camp Crystal Lake they just keep flocking back like moths to a very dangerous flame. Whilst there, they engage in skinny dipping, drug taking and lots and lots of sex. Have these people never seen a horror film? Scant attempt is given to endear them to the audience and I would actually argue the various directors throughout the series have actually made it their mission to make them unlikeable. From the stereotypical bullies to the stereotypical geeks and, while you have a moment, the stereotypical girls of “questionable morals”. Its all stereotype a go go with Friday The 13th movies. Why is this bad? horror films have cut there genre definitions with a list of rules that must always be adhered to. This is brilliantly pastiched in the Scream franchise, whilst actually being brilliant horror films in their own right. How many horror films that we all know and love have an element of this ruling in them? I would suggest all of them. The Friday the 13th films are not bad at all, they are just pushing the boundaries that Ryan rightly credits to the films that have gone before.
Friday the 13th films have at their heart dramatic death scenes. Voorhees slices and dices his victims with any sharp implements he has to hand. Its not all about the machete, friends, Voorhees is inventive and displays not a small amount of black humour in his dispatching of victims. Loving his work with puncturing poor Kevin Bacon’s neck with an arrow from under the bed! This is my point, the orange, perma tan kids are not the stars and that is entirely why their drippy pop tart characterisation works. You are not meant to care what happens to them, indeed, you are supposed to focus on how they are dispatched. Jason Voorhees is a film legend and his ability to come back time and time again ensures that the Friday the 13th films are lifted from bad films to cult status. Take Voorhees out of the films and you do, I agree Ryan, have a load of rubbish films that really are awful. Like all anti hero’s, their presence and status ensures that the films are tied together. It is the legend of Freddie Krueger that keeps the Nightmare on Elm Street series alive (reboot aside, shudder) likewise the same is true for the Friday the 13th franchise.
We love to love a bad guy, and Voorhees is the ultimate bad guy. Devoid of emotion, aside from some lingering images of his mother, and sexual drive. His only reason for being is to kill anyone that gets in his way and, perhaps driven by his treatment at Camp Crystal Lake, the more he is stopped the more he becomes unstoppable. There is a reason there are so many twitter accounts in his name, so many cosplaying artistes and so many attempts to keep the franchise going. You cant keep a good man down, I love Jason Voorhees. Yet my concern is that they are very much of their time, of the eighties you might say. I love the eighties and anyone that takes more than a cursory glance over my horror watch list will find this to be true. John Carpenter, Bava and Argento all made some stunning contributions to horror in the eighties. Here was a period where the gore was plentiful, vibrantly coloured and just gloriously excessive, it reflected the eighties be it culturally, financially or even in musical taste.
Which brings me to Harry Manfredini, the composer of the Friday the 13th scores. Iconic and simply sublime, Manfredini’s work stands with the greats. “Ki,ki,ki,ma,ma,ma” everyone recognises it and it just is so effective within the films. The phrase was a modulation of “kill her mummy” very appropriate for Voorhees, wouldn’t you say? Unlike most other horror films, Manfredini uses silence rather than the normal musical sting or build when a shock is about to occur. This in itself is genius and totally wrong foots the audience you just don’t hear it coming, and it was intended that way! Manfredini’s work is as much a part of Friday the 13th as Voorhees himself and one cannot write an article enthusing about them without bowing a gore soaked head to the man.
At the end of the day its all about opinion and Ryan is entitled to his, but I disagree with him. Friday the 13th as a horror film franchise deserves every ounce of its cult status. They stand in history as films that focused on high body count and Voorhees activity rather than plot. This is a bold move! But it works because of the character of Voorhees and the impressive set pieces. The acting ability of the other contributors doesn’t matter as the only thing that really matters is do they die well? I really can’t think of another film which so deliberately cuts across my belief that gore for gores sake does not a good horror film make. Voorhees must live forever and every Friday that falls on the 13th day of the month will ensure he does!
Follow David Martin on Twitter as @Ventspleen2014
Photos from Wikipedia and IMDB