Friday the 13th: Premarital Sex, Collateral Damage and the Legacy of Slaughter

Friday_the_thirteenth_movie_posterI might as well admit it — I enjoy teen slaughter movies.

This probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

I think this love of mine for premarital-sex-and-drug-use-punishable-by-an-axe-to-the-head is okay is long as I’m not out there slaughtering teens myself.

Angeline, God bless her soul, has watched endless slasher films with me. Mario Bava’s template film Bay of Blood, the original My Bloody Valentine and the 3D version (which we enjoyed on Valentine’s Day 2007), The Prowler, Prom Night, Graduation Day, Halloween, Happy Birthday to Me, Black Christmas, The House on Sorority Row,  Don’t Go In the Woods Alone, The Forest, The Initiation, Slumber Party Massacre 1 and (God forbid) part 2, Sleepaway Camp et al, and countless more.

Now my wife is a great lover of horror films, but she’s not wild about slashers. Particularly not slashers with teenagers getting hacked to bits. Angeline, God bless her soul, asks me: “Why teens?”

So I try to explain.

She was smart and pretty and confident as a teenager.  She had a good high school career.  I, on the other hand, well … didn’t.  So maybe there’s some element of fantasy in it — seeing some richy-pants babe get a spear in the eye or some asshole jock get a machete in the face.  Maybe that’s why those films were so popular, you know. Maybe a bunch of social outcasts  were seeing that stuff and saying, Hey man, I can really dig this! And, who knows, maybe those films spoke to deeper fears.  If you do bad things the bogeyman will get you.  You’ll be stalked in the night and pay for your sins.

Granted, the philosophy of the Friday the 13th movies is inconsistent at times. But I’m willing to accept some collateral damage.

Clearly, God wants Jason to go on purging the world of sin!
Clearly, God wants Jason to go on purging the world of sin!

I had a worn out Memorex VHS tape with Friday the 13th parts 1, 2, and 3 on it when I was a teen.  I think I recorded them off The Movie Channel during some kind of horror movie marathon. Back then, mainstream horror was all that really made it on cable — if you wanted Italian gaillo or serious gore and quirky monster mayhem, you had to go to Rick’s Flicks.

I watched them so much the picture was grainy and the dialogue was all muffled. (That tape is now probably a melty glob in a landfill somewhere, just waiting to be brought back to life by a lightning strike.) Over the past couple of years I picked up the first few on DVD and started watching them again — background noise for when I exercise at home. That was when I started muttering the characters’ lines before they did and realized I had them memorized. I even watched parts 6, 7, and 8 when they were on Netflix streaming recently.  While these later movies showed quite a bit less blood and imagination, they were still kind of fun.

I guess Friday the 13th is kind of like a comfort food for me. All empty calories, and no real benefit whatsoever, but something about the franchise just makes me feel content.

A few years ago I started reading some of those Point Thrillers and Archway YA horror novels published by the truckload in the late-1980s and 1990s.  Some of them stink, but some of them are really great.  I have a huge collection of those things now and pull some out to read on Sunday afternoons now and then.  So when I discovered there were some Friday the 13th YA novels (four of them, written by Eric Morse), I took to eBay like a bloodhound. Got ’em.  Read ’em.  And hey, these things are fun, too.  Really.  In fact, I’d venture to say a couple of the books are better than the later movies.  Reading them was like watching new Friday the 13th movies in my head. Since the sex was implied, and violence was all in my head, these were as heavy as they could get, all considered.

Can’t forget the old TV show, either, which ran from 1987-1990.  Although all that TV show really did was borrow the franchise name and go on its merry way with nary a burlap-bagged, hockey-masked serial killer in sight.  An old man who made a deal with the devil dies (didn’t see that one coming?), leaving his niece and nephew to deal in antiques that have special curses and supernatural attributes. It was okay, I guess.  I watched a few episodes back when Chiller was getting started with programming.  Not overly compelling, but not the worst thing on TV.

A brief aside, I recently came across a stack of the show’s soundtrack on LP still in their original shrink wrap. I bought one — at only $1.99 per record how could I refuse? — and listened to it at home.  It’s actually kind of cool.  Akin in some ways to the quirky charm of the Tales from the Darkside soundtrack (the TV show, not the movie).

Friday13th_Series_SoundtrackLP
Friday the 13th: The Series, Soundtrack LP (1987)

Fact of the matter is, I love campy horror from my era, so even stuff that others (namely my kids) think is cheesy beyond reason or just plain bad brings me a great deal of joy.

So, tonight I think I’ll have to put on my Camp Crystal Lake – Camp Counselor T-shirt, pop some corn and some beers and see if I can’t find something worth watching. Something with lots of empty calories.

How could you hate a movie that’s spawned so many great blogs, anyway? How many other film franchises have spawned so many greatest kill lists?

That’s what I thought.  I rest my case.

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