Thursday, October 17, 2013

Shocktober Revisited: Four Reasons (Friday the 13th Edition)

It's been a while since the Cap'n did a "Four Reasons", and we certainly learned a bit during our mini-Friday the 13th marathon, so I thought I'd share a few of them with you, under the auspices of "Four Reasons You Should Consider Watching the Jason Films Again":

1. Misdirection - We tend to think of the Friday the 13th films as fitting the "slasher" mold perfectly: character types are set up who are easily predictable as "oh, they'll die. he'll die. she's totally dead" and then play out accordingly. However, by the second Friday the 13th film (and the first we watched), director Steve Miner is already fucking with those rules.

There are a bunch of counselors introduced in Friday part 2, and only a handful of them die. Many of the ones Jason kills probably don't even deserve it - the dude in the wheelchair, his would-be girlfriend, the crazy old man. Okay, the skinny dipper and her jerky, clothes stealing, boyfriend probably deserved it, but the hippie kids didn't do much worse than wandering over to Camp Crystal Lake. They weren't even having sex there, because a cop made them go back to their camp! For his trouble, what does the cop get? Killed! And he was on Jason's side of the argument: close the camp down.

The most egregious break in "slasher movie" rules is that the "Prankster" type lives by virtue of the fact that he NEVER GOES BACK TO THE CAMPSITE! He stays at the bar when Ginny and Paul go back. We never see him again, but I suspect that fucker lived a long and productive life of playing stupid pranks on people, like having their cars towed or providing Jason with spears to murder people. This, I strongly suspect, is why Shelly gets it the way he does in Friday part 3 - it's justice being visited upon him for something he had nothing to do with, which brings us to reason number 2...

2. For Critical Analysts, there might be a hint of Antisemitism in the first four films - I'd have to watch the first one again to be perfectly sure about this, but certainly for parts 2-4, you do yourself no favors by being Jewish in a Friday the 13th film. Every character who looks vaguely of Abrahamic descent in these films is destined to an undeserved punishment from Jason. Worse still, they're often the ones who aren't doing anything that breaks slasher movie "rules". Only Shelly really does anything wrong by being the prankster, but the girl in Part 2 dies for having a crush on Wheelchair dude, and the girl in part 4 should, by all counts, be the "Final Girl', down to the fact that I can't account for what happens to her in the film.

I'm not necessarily saying Jason is pro-Nazi in the Friday the 13th films, but it's the only really consistent thread we noticed through the early films about who does and does not die. If you wanted to go way out into the realm of speculation, one could argue that based on his last name, Corey Feldman's character goes insane at the end of part 4, but even I admit that's pushing it a bit...

3. Shameless Product Placement Undermined by Tiggling Jitties - This pertains specifically to the hippie couple in part 2. For some reason, every time there's a prominently placed corporate sign (Exxon, Coca Cola) in the background, the foreground is consumed by the bra-less antics of hippie girl, who is almost always jiggling. It doesn't matter if she's running or just standing still - it's like the living embodiment of an Aqua Teen Hunger Force line, "Commence the jiggling!"

In some ways, it undermines the shameless product placement philosophy of the early 80s. Not to mention that despite the fact that she's constantly bra-less or just wearing a bikini top, hippie girl never joins the ranks of slasher movie "gratudity". Friday the 13th part 2 manages to undermine both cliches of the 80s in this regard, and it's pretty funny.

4. The early Fridays look much better than Jason X - Until we put Jason X on at the end of the night, I never would have argued that a grainy, beat up, low-budgeted product of 1981-84 could look better than a film from 2002. Alas, it is so. The one thing that's consistent from the beginning of Jason X to the end of Jason X is how cheap it looks. How we never noticed this, I don't know, but in retrospect I can now understand why there was no Jason XI. Shot on what looks like cheap digital on sets that look like they were borrowed from television, X wears its very low budget on its sleeve.

That being said, it's still a fun movie. Not a great movie, and you definitely don't want to compare it to the early Friday the 13ths - as we discovered - because despite the "meta" nature of most of the film, the pacing isn't as good, there's very little surprising about suspense, and not one of the characters really deserves to live to the end. Jason doesn't even kill two of them directly, although he does (by proxy) kill thousands of people in a space station.

At any rate, while I do recommend Jason X, it's probably better to watch it in the context of Jason Goes to Hell as part of the New Line era of Vorhees films, before Freddy vs Jason and Platinum Dunes got a hold of the character. The earlier films, by comparison, do manage to look pretty good by utilizing actual locations and considerably better camerawork. I really never thought I'd say that, but these are the things you learn during these mini-thons.

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