Monday, October 25, 2010

FRIDAY THE 13TH? Or How I stopped worrying and learned to love the Jason

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the Friday the 13th film series for a long time. As someone who actually lived through the 1980s (barely) I harbored a strong dislike of the films because they were the epitome of dumb/stupid horror. Cheap, obvious, sloppy and pandering to the lowest common denominator in an effort to simply provide graphic violence with as little skill or art as can be applied these movies insulted me. Where was the character? Where was the atmosphere? Where was the craft that makes a good screen boogeyman the thing of nightmares? To me at the time Friday the 13th films were everything pointless in horror. Anyone can barrel onto screen and sling blood & guts enough to make an audience wince and gasp- that takes no skill and got no respect from me. So I spent the 1980s and early 1990s with my nose in the air, sniffing pompously at the lowbrow heathens that ran off to pay good money to see a mute, moronic killer machete another group of slutty teen campers into compost material. But then came 1993 and New Line’s JASON GOES TO HELL.

Paramount had finally run the Friday series into the ground with the 8th installment and was willing to sell off its dried up cash cow. With its Elm Street series in similar disrepair New Line saw this as the perfect way to keep big bucks flowing into the company’s coffers with cheap horror productions. Now- it must be said that most fans of the Friday series hate the New Line films with a passion best reserved for a mortal enemy. The fact that I love them and that their fun nature opened my eyes to the joys of the dumb/stupid horror of the first eight movies reflects more on my own prejudices as a film fan then on anything else. After all- I get a major kick out of badly produced horror films from the 1940s through the 1970s so maybe it was just a matter of time before I learned to love the 1980s version of poorly thought out scare-fests. Maybe I just needed enough time to pass to look back the 80s with some nostalgia to enjoy the bad hair, dumb clothes and obnoxious personalities typical of the times. Or maybe I’ve just developed a taste for watching crappy actors get an edged weapon shoved through their skulls. The fact that 'real' fans of the films hate the New Line movies has always struck me as stupid beyond belief but that's an essay for another time.

At any rate, I loved watching JASON GOES TO HELL in 1993 but it was not because of the film itself- it was because of the circumstances. I was living a desultory post college life in middle Tennessee and one of the few perks of my rather destitute life was a great group of friends that included some folks who worked in a local movie theater. On occasion (in other words- as often as possible) they would invite us in for an after hour screening of a film and we always brought along liquid refreshments to add to the fun. So it was with several friends and several gallons of beer we settled in to watch a free midnight showing of JGTH. We had a blast! Not because the film was great but because we had great fun with it. My late friend Jack kept up a steady commentary bits of which I still to this day can hear when rewatching the movie. I nearly shot beer out of my nose when, after the second or third kill scene, Jack exclaimed “Why have they cut out all the gore? That’s the only reason anybody goes to see these damned things in the first place. It’s like porn without sex!” Good times. It was on that night that the seed of my eventual acceptance of the Friday films was planted. I learned to have fun with the ideas even if the ideas were often moronic.

The good news is that now I enjoy most of the film series as a kind of slasher film time capsule of a decade of sloppy excesses. They are dumb/stupid for the most part - although I would say that JASON X is actually smart/stupid – but that can just add to the fun. And who wasn’t making bad or stupid choices in the 1980s? Whew! Look at the hairstyles and clothing for God’s sake! Excess and dumb/stupid was everywhere.

Oh! And the good thing is that the uncut version of JASON GOES TO HELL is now readily available on the same DVD along side the theatrical version. If Jack were alive today I’d try to get him to watch the bloodier cut just so we could see what we missed in 1993. And to see if he could get me to sneeze beer this time.

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