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From Crusty Little Kid to Superhuman Zombie – The Muddled History of Friday the 13th‘s Jason

Hey, did you hear that they’re remaking Friday the 13th? OMG, I know, right? There are news items left and right as the cast is slowly being revealed: Bright-eyed star here, that person from that one show there… Heck, even Jason has a face now: Derek Mears, the kinda weird looking dude from the Hills Have Eyes 2 remake. “But wait,” you’re saying, “Surely that Derek Mears fellow is a grown-up. In the original film, wasn’t Jason a crusty little kid living on the bottom of Crystal Lake?” Why yes, observant reader, he certainly was. Hmm.

See, that Jason Voorhees is a tricky character. Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers are pretty straight-forward: One is a child murderer who was killed by a mob of angry parents and now he’s some sort of magical burnt-up-looking guy who can kill you in your dreams, while the other is, you know, the embodiment of pure, soulless evil. Yes, I realize there was all that Thorn crap in Halloween 5 and Halloween 6, trying to give Michael a reason for being so bad, but quite frankly I’m ignoring that stuff. Jason, though, he’s got a muddled history.

Jason’s Backstory
In Part One, we learn that as a boy he drowned in Crystal Lake because some camp counselors were too busy necking to save a boy in trouble. All this sent Mama Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) on a killing spree, until she eventually lost her head going mano-a-mano with Alice (Adrienne King). The infamous ending of the film, of course, features Alice lolling about dreamily in a rowboat, her troubles over… until the crusty body of Jason rises from the lake and, in horrifying slow motion, pulls Alice under.

Now, I don’t fancy myself a scientist by any stretch of the means, but still — I’m pretty sure that whole idea is kind of impossible. So what gives? I think it’s safe to say that Alice had a bad dream, plain and simple, brought on by one really terrible night. But what of Jason in subsequent films?  Did he walk up off the floor of Crystal Lake like a ten-year-old zombie and then suddenly age into a grown man with superhuman strength? No, nothing like that. Ginny (Amy Steel) lays it all out for us in Friday the 13th Part 2: Jason never drowned. His near-death experience scared him, however, and ran off into the woods to live his life as a man of the Earth. Why would he do this? Well, as Ginny puts it, our Jason is little more than a “frightened retard.” He didn’t know any better!

The Ginny Theory
The Ginny Theory is fully supported in Parts Two through Four. Jason has a house…the dude built a house! A house with a shrine to his dead mom! And let’s not forget, Jason was motivated early on in his career by the death of his mother. At the beginning of Part 2, Alice is home alone in her apartment when in comes Jason for the avenging, putting mom’s shriveled head in Alice’s fridge and using an ice pick to even the score. Are you with me on the repercussions of that opening scene? Jason was mad. Jason wanted revenge. Jason figured out where Alice lived, went to her house, and killed her in her own kitchen! Yes, early on in the series, Jason was just a guy with a bag on his head. Not a guy to be trifled with, to be sure, but he certainly wasn’t a superhuman zombie. He could think and read a phone book.

In fact, he probably would have returned to his little lean-to in the woods and been satisfied to live out his days munching on berries and befriending small woodland creatures if those pesky kids hadn’t returned to Camp Blood. Parts Two through Four of the saga take place within days of each other, and Jason is still very much just a guy, although he eventually trades in the bag on his head for his trademark hockey mask — and, despite the flurry of activity with all these teenagers mucking about, Jason still found time to shave between Parts 2 and 3. He takes an axe to the face and a machete to the shoulder, but eventually 12-year-old Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman) takes Jason down once and for all in The Final Chapter.

Jason’s Return
At least, that is, until Part 6, where the series goes haywire and Jason is resurrected for the first time.  After that, all bets are off: Jason is, in fact, some sort of superhuman zombie who grows increasingly goopy and gross with each film installment. Yeah, he can be killed — he is killed at the end of each movie, but he can be brought back quite easily, as he is at the beginning of each subsequent film. That’s the key, ya dumb teenagers–quit bringing him back!

He’s been to New York City, he’s been to outer space, he’s battled Freddy and telekinetic teens, and he’s gotten into countless wacky adventures over the years.  Where will 2009 take him, and will he just be a vengeful, frightened boy living in a handmade shack in the woods, wearing a bag over his head?  Will he keep it simple? I certainly hope so.

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