Day 82, No. 82. Jason Voorhees

Friday the 13thHAIRCUT 100: Day 82, No. 82. Happy Halloween! In honour of this special day, the Haircut 100 salutes Jason Voorhees: mass murderer, movie maniac, supernatural psycho, guardian of Camp Crystal Lake and loving son to Pamela: ridding the world of promiscuous and dope-smoking teenagers since 1980. Signature weapon: machete. Jason is one of the icons of stalk ’n’ slash, evolving quickly after the appearance of Michael Myers in Halloween (1978), claiming absolute ownership of that other all-important, superstitious red-letter day, Friday the 13th (his birthday). The common root for both characters is ‘Leatherface’ from Tobe Hooper’s original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – the definitive silent mask-wearing killer – and Mario Bava’s Giallo masterpiece Bay of Blood (1971). As the Cook whispers to Jason in the old Topps’ Jason Versus Leatherface comic by Nancy Collins, David Imhoff and Jeff Butler (1995): ‘I can’t tell you how happy I am to see you an’ Leatherface hittin’ it off!  I can tell by lookin’ at you y’all have, you know, lots in common!’

I think there’s also a more traditionally gothic case to be made – as I’ve argued elsewhere – as both Jason and Michael Myers recall Glenn Strange’s silent and looming portrayal of Frankenstein’s monster for Universal, while Adam Marcus, the director of  Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993), said at the time: ‘This movie is just Jaws. Jason is the shark waiting to eat teenager’s legs off. That’s his only purpose.’ Fair point; I have an old Dark Side review of the video re-issue of Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986) that simply reads: ‘The body count is as follows: machete for two, impaling on a spear, broken bottle in throat, 360 degree head twist, bare fist through stomach, and assorted stabbings and decapitations,’ while my DVD of Freddy vs. Jason (2003) has a ‘Go straight to a kill’ option on the main menu, leaving one in little doubt as to the essentially Grand Guignol nature of these things. And why not?

Jason was created by the screenwriter Victor Miller, the producer Sean S. Cunningham (who had previously worked with Wes Craven), and the make-up and FX guru Tom Savini, names that form part of professionally inter-connected pool of talent that was responsible for a positive renaissance in horror in the 1970s and 80s. The character has always been the focal point of the Friday the 13th movies, but it’s worth noting that the first film’s killer was his mother, schizophrenically avenging his death as a child. Jason was depicted as a Down’s Syndrome child lost in Crystal Lake in a dream sequence that hinted at a possible resurrection. In Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981), Jason appears as a murderous adult disguising his disfigured face with a pillowcase, only picking up his trademark hockey mask in the third movie in 1982. He has been played by ten actors, the role most closely associated with Ari Lehman, who played Young Jason in the original movie, and the stuntman Kane Hodder, who has donned the mask four times. The series was given an atmospheric reboot in 2009, but after the original movie, my personal favourites are the kinky sci-fi entry Jason X (2002) which includes half the cast of Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda and a cameo from David Cronenberg, and Freddy vs. Jason – the one we’d all been waiting for – in which Jason kicks Freddy’s arse. ‘You’re going to Camp Blood, ain’t ya? You’ll never come back again. It’s got a death curse!’ And don’t bother running. Somehow he’ll always catch up.

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