Sunday, March 19, 2006

Friday The 13th: A Study In The Evolution Of The Screen Slasher Part 2 (March 2006)

Now, if you've read Friday The 13th: A Study In The Evolution Of The Great Slasher Part 1 you'll know that I wrote about the inception of Jason from an idea to the immortal killing machine that he later became in the first half of his career. Having now recently watched Parts 5 through 8, I will continue this discussion of his evolution, or some may say, myself included, his devolution.

To pick up where we left off, just one year later (1985), another Jason pops up in Part 5, but fans hated this one so much that the producers seemingly pretended it never happened, so like a bad memory, we ignore it and jump right into Part 6 (1986).
Continuity aside, this is the film that is THE emergence of our classic image of Jason Voorhees. He's dead with maggots and dust, dug up and electrocuted back to life, picking up his old mask and heading back to Crystal Lake, back to counselors, back to old school sin collecting. Early in this new permutation of the 'mindless undead', Jason shrugs off attacks he was never faced with in any of his other films, namely guns and car accidents. This new Jason however doesn't seem all that concerned about the innocent anymore, he kills the girl who comforts a child by telling her to pray, though the children still don't suffer, as you knew they would be spared. Interesting to note is that this shift in physical status with Jason's rebirth has also made him grow more evil, contextually. Irregardless, this is the Jason we all know and love, the invincible hack and slash king. Jason is clearly no longer a man, he's a force, but even more negative than before.

In 1988, two years later (a long stretch for this series), we bring Jason back again in Part 7, where things really start to get wild. A psychic with telekinetic powers wakes him up. He's bigger, grosser and even tougher, and like in Part 6, the one responsible for his awakening has to undo that which they have wrought, presenting a curiosity-killed-the-cat / careful-what-you-wish-for redemption / forgiveness theme. Given that in these last two films Jason is undead and more malignant (the victims are sometimes more innocent), the blame sits more on the instigators than on the once simply-territorial Jason.

In 1989's Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan, Jason is still a grand undead killer, though his awakening is accidental, he isn't attacked by his victims with great destructive force as previous, though he has begun to take on a personality, introducing my claim that the writer has devolved our beloved psycho. When Jason awakens he is cackling evilly, though never previously has he ever made a sound. He continues to hunt down sin, but he is less territorial in Manhattan, seemingly choosing the Crystal Lakers to the punks in the streets, to whom he shows his face so that they leave him alone, rather than attacking. In this one he also, rather than slaying the two people locked in an embrace as he always has done in the past, spares the woman from an attempted rape by picking up the punk and destroying him and his accomplice while she runs to safety. I personally would like to forget that this Jason is part of the mythology, though it does blatantly reinforce the sin versus innocence themes ever present throughout the entire series.

After all is said and done, I've noticed that this series is very mutable. The characters change, the directors too, but (except for Part 8) the music is always the same (and done by the same man). The classic "CHH...Chh...chh... AHH... Ahh...ahh" stalking sound is in every single one of the films, keeping the fear and suspense as rich to the mind as it was the first time. I would think that this is what we will always remember as the best of these films because it's original, it's consistent, and genuinely frightening.

Overall this series rates an average of 51% in my books, which is terrible. Parts 1 through 4 were more enjoyable averaging at 57%, and given that this is horror that's good enough for me, though I genuinely had trouble with parts 5 through 8. Jason himself as a force, an archetype of the things that go bump in the night, peaked at number 4, and perhaps they should have left it at that.

I hear they're revisiting this series and making a prequel to the original. This is set to come out in 2007, and I'm sure it'll be pretty decent, though the director looks a bit like a nobody...