The ‘Friday the 13th’ films are despised by critics and have been slashed and censored by the MPAA, but Jason Vorhees has been killing teens since the early 80’s. This article takes a closer look at the appeal of the franchise.
At the beginning of Wes Cravens’ subversive slasher-film ‘Scream,’ the killer asks his victim who the killer in the original ‘Friday the 13th’ is. When she answers Jason Vorhees, the killer corrects her by saying that the actual killer is Jason’s mother, Mrs. Vorhees.
It’s a spiteful, yet smart commentary on the franchise. Most people are aware of ‘Friday the 13th,’ yet because of the film’s deliberately interchangeable nature, few can actually tell them apart. Despite this, the franchise lives on in mainstream media to this day.
Since October has finally had a timely Friday the 13th-date, let’s take a closer look at the appeal of the franchise.
Of all of the slasher-franchises from the 1980s, none may have been as prolific or as controversial as this one. The original film was released in 1980, a year after John Carpenters ‘Halloween’ popularized the slasher-genre in America. It was directed by Sean S. Cunningham who hasn’t really made much of a note outside this film. The franchise contains a whopping ten main entries, which was made over the course of just twenty years, one remake from 2009 and one spin-off film from 2003.
All of them places a group of ditsy, horny teenagers on a campground and then proceeds to slaughter them one by one.
As ‘Scream’ implies, the ‘Friday the 13th’ film’s main killer, Jason Vorhee,s wasn’t fully introduced before the second film and he didn’t don his iconic machete and hockey mask before the third. Since then, he has been portrayed both as a hermit, a zombie and in the ninth entry as a weird alien slug.
The films have often rather cynically been called a bargain-basement version of the seminal ‘Halloween.’ In truth though, the franchise has very little in common with Carpenter’s film outside of a silent, masked killer. Hell, the original ‘Friday’ didn’t even have that element.
The original ‘Halloween’ was all about suspense. Michael Myers’ – the killer of the franchise – murders worked more as a set-up to the final stand-down between the virtuous main-girl (or Final Girl), Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Myers. The murders themselves are rather tame.
In the ‘Friday’ films, on the other hand, the killings are the main reason to watch them. This focus places the franchise much closer to the Italian subgenre of the slasher-genre called giallo which was popular in the 70s and early 80s. These films were explicitly about the perverse fixation of the destruction of the body shown from the voyeuristic point of view of the murderer.
In fact, the scenario of a machete-wielding maniac killing teens is taken whole-sale from Mario Bavas’ cult-classic ‘Bay of Blood’ from 1972. The film contains a ten-minute long segment which plays out just like a ‘Friday the 13th’ film. ‘Bay of Blood’ even has a scene, where the killer impales two lovers having sex with a spear, a killing that also appears in ‘Friday the 13th Part 2.’
It is particularly the first four films that highlight focus on the killings. The practical effects in the original and the fourth film – ironically titled ‘The Final Chapter’ – were all made by special-effects wizard Tom Savini, who also made effects for films such as ‘Maniac’ and the original ‘Dawn of the Dead.’ To this day, they are a sight to behold. In the original film, one teenager is impaled by an arrow through the throat, which is all shown on camera.
Sadly, the franchise didn’t keep this high level of production-value up. After the massive success of the fourth entry, the American ratings board, the MPAA, started making it their goal to cut and censor the following films in the franchise as much as possible. That makes a certain amount of sense. Despite or maybe because of their R-rating, the films were clearly marketed towards teenagers. As a consequence, both ‘Part V: A New Beginning,’ ‘Part VII: The New Blood’ and the dreadful ‘Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan’ were all severely cut down with most of the on-screen death-scenes being removed.
It’s completely fair to call the ‘Friday the 13th’ franchise out for being regressive and formulaic. You could even criticize the first one for that. These are, after all, commercial films made to entertain their audience rather than subvert expectations.
Yet the franchise managed to hold a decent standard through its ten-film run even as it changed studios from Paramount to New Line Pictures with the ninth film.
Despite it peaking at around the fourth film, the sixth, ‘Jason Lives!’ is a surprisingly funny comedy, which plays around with genre-tropes ten years before ‘Scream’ did it, while the fifth, ‘A New Chapter’ is a glorious mess with plenty of fun characters.
Its sequels at least didn’t follow the downward spiral of both ‘Halloween’ and ‘A Nightmare on Elmstreet’ sequels did. And it led to plenty of great films which ripped off the franchise, namely ‘Sleepaway Camp’ and ‘My Bloody Valentine.’ So overall, the existence of the ‘Friday the 13th’ films are a net positive in my book.
Just avoid the awful remake.
The ‘Friday the 13th’ films ranked from best to worst: 以下是《十三號星期五》的排行榜（由最好到最爛）：
1: Friday the 13th (1980)
2: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
3: Jason Lives! Friday the 13th Part VI
4: Friday the 13th Part 2
5: Jason X
6: Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning
7: Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
8: Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
9: Friday the 13th Part III 3D
10: Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
即使電影系列《十三號星期五》受到眾多影評的批判、美國電影的審查和喊停，仍然無阻傑森 • 沃爾希斯自八零年代的大開殺戒。本評論將更加貼近觀察這系列的電影。
在衛斯 • 克萊文那顛覆性的兇殺電影《奪命狂呼》中，兇手問他的受害者在《十三號星期五》裡面的殺人犯是誰。當她回答「傑森 • 沃爾希斯」的時候，兇手更正她說真正的兇手是傑森的媽媽 – 沃爾希斯太太。
在八零年代的兇殺電影當中，大概沒有一套能像這個系列那麼多產。電影在1980年發行，剛好是在約翰 • 卡本特的《月光光心慌慌》將兇殺電影種類普及之後的一年。《十三號星期五》由肖恩 • 庫寧漢執導，他除了這套電影之後倒是沒有什麼特色。這個系列多產到在二十年間有十套電影之多，另外在2009年有重制版本並在2003年有一套由其衍生的電影。
從《奪命狂呼》來看，《十三號星期五》的主要殺手傑森•沃爾希斯的角色在第二集沒有被完整介紹；在第三集錢沒有用上象徵式的殺人凶器和曲棍球面具 – 他一直以來都是一個隱居者、喪屍、和在第九集的外太空生物。
《月光光心慌慌》其實構築在懸疑之上 – 主要殺人犯米高•邁亞斯的作案重點都是集中最後在清高的女主、羅莉（潔美•李•寇蒂斯）和邁亞斯之間的最後角力，謀殺本身倒是比較俗套。
事實上，拿著凶器瘋狂起舞然後屠殺年輕人的場景很完整從1972年馬里奧•巴瓦所導演的《血之海灘》取用 – 電影中大概整整十分鐘的一幕就彷如《十三號星期五》一般。 在《血之海灘》有一幕是兇手將一對正在做愛的戀人用矛同事刺穿，同樣出現在《十三號星期五：第二部》。
系列裡面首四部都集中描寫殺人。最明顯的效果就是首部及第四部電影（諷刺的名為《最終章》）全都是由特效神手湯姆•沙維尼創作，他同時也是電影《剝頭煞星》和《活死人兇間》的特效創作者。 在電影裡面，一個年輕人被箭刺穿喉嚨 – 整個場景被完整拍攝，時至今日仍是讓人印象深刻的一幕。
即使電影的發行商在第九部電影從Paramount轉到New Line Pictures，整個系列的水平還是可以接受的。