Friday the 13th – The Legend of Jason Voorhees Reborn
With the remake of the first film on its way to cinema screens soon, what better time to take a look at the Friday the 13th franchise as a whole and the horror icon that it spawned- Jason Voorhees. Considering he was barely even in the original Friday the 13th film, Jason Voorhees has become synonymous with stupid teenagers getting sliced to pieces. Over the course of ten films, one crossover movie, novels, comics and now the remake, the character has earned his place as one of the most popular characters to shed blood in the horror genre. His hockey-masked face stares back at fans from DVD covers, action figures, statues, the printed age and more. But what is the attraction of this lumbering, deformed hick? Probably the fact that he is utterly relentless in the pursuit of his prey. He shows no remorse, no mercy and little in the way of weaknesses (hell, at the start of the ninth film, Jason Goes to Hell, it took the US army to take him apart).
The first three films in the series essentially created a horror sub-genre of their own. Those three films are great examples of horror cinema, and the first one is a true original as it doesn’t carry many of the hallmarks that spoiled the later sequels. Following in their bloody footsteps came a slew of cheap imitations, all playing on the same formula of a bunch of teens in a forest/camp/rural area being hacked to pieces by a madman. The series was apparently laid to rest with the fourth film in 1984. Entitled Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter’, it did end the story of Jason and his killings in some style. Unfortunately, the franchise was resurrected just a year later with the fifth film, ‘A New Beginning’, and with the sixth, seventh and eighth films the series became a shadow of its former self, essentially parodying the earlier films.
After the dire ‘Friday the 13th part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan’, the series moved from Paramount Pictures (who made all of the first eight films) to its new home at New Line Cinema, the company that brought us the Nightmare on Elm Street series and later the epic adaptation of The Lord of The Rings. This was a great move, as it meant the franchise had a fresh set of creators to work on it. The first film in the series created by New Line was the really rather good ‘Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday’, which wasn’t so much a swansong film as a statement of intent. That film ended with the striking shot of Jason’s iconic Hockey mask being dragged into the ground by the clawed hand of Freddy Krueger, from, yup, the Nightmare on Elm Street films that New Line had garnered so much mileage from. That was 1993. It took ten years for the ‘Freddy Vs Jason’ film to ultimately come out, and before that there was to be another film in the series, namely ‘Jason X’, released in 2001.
That tenth film was a fun romp blending horror and science fiction elements into a suitably ludicrous story that saw Jason defeated in the present day and frozen, only to be awoken five hundred years in the future by accident. Jason finally got a makeover during that film, where nanobots rebuild him as a huge, murderous cyborg. The film was ridiculous, but it was great fun to watch. When ‘Freddy Vs Jason’ finally rolled around in 2003, fans discovered a film that was high on action and low on plot or any semblance of a decent script. Years of rewrites will do that, y’know. With that film, which did have its fans, the characters of Freddy Kruger and Jason Voorhees finally lost what little menace they still had, becoming caricatures of the chilling villains they had once been. After Freddy Vs Jason died down, it was clear that the franchises had nowhere left to go other than the remake route. Thus, both Friday the 13th and A ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ had remakes go into production. The first to be released is the new version of Friday the 13th, which, in keeping with remakes of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween, adds new material and elements that were not present in the originals.
For example, Jason Voorhees dons the famous hockey mask in this new remake, and in the original series of films he didn’t get the mask until the third entry. Such digressions from the source material can be forgiven though, as the mask is the thing that most current moviegoers will associate with the Friday the 13th franchise. A horror legend is being reborn, and if this initial remake proves to be popular, we may be looking at the start of a whole new series of films for Jason and the inhabitants of Camp Crystal Lake. With Jason and Friday the 13th being so popular for so long, and Jason Voorhees collectibles, action figures, statues, posters, calendars and more having flooded the market over the last decade, it does look as though the future of the franchise has become a little more promising. The remake of Friday the 13th may not have the impact that the original did, but it is a welcome return to the screen for one of our most beloved movie maniacs. Altogether now: Ch-ch-ch Ah-ah-ah…