On Friday, February 13th, Jason was back. And I was so there, dudes. I mean, sort of. I didn’t make it to the theater until Saturday, February 14th. But I’m slow like that.
It’s a tradition that began when I was a pissed and dejected teenager, and it’s one that continues today in my weary and dejected thirtysomethings: Whenever a new Friday the 13th movie is released, I line up and buy my ticket. Eagerly. Since 1986, with the release of Part VI: Jason Lives, my unholy cinematic ritual has been interrupted only once. When Jason X came out in theaters, I was serving home detention for one of my numerous drunken misdemeanors. And my case officer felt that my desire to see a slasher movie was not a valid reason to let me out of the house. Of course, I didn’t really expect him to. But I made my request to him anyway, in a distinctly half-joking tone.
“But it’s Jason in outer space,” I whined. “I can’t miss that! C’mon and go with me. I’ll even buy your ticket.”
My case officer studied me, quite rightly, as if I were an imbecile. “Don’t piss me off.”
Well. It made the DVD release that much sweeter, I suppose.
According to the Associated Press, the new Friday the 13th movie “nailed” (groan) the #1 box office spot for its opening weekend, pulling in an astounding $42.2 million. Pretty impressive for a thirty-year-old fright franchise. It pleases me that horror’s hardest-working homicidal maniac has butchered his way to the top of the mountain once again. And the new F13 is, in my opinion, one of the best.
It isn’t the sort of thing you mention when you introduce yourself to someone: “Hi, my name’s Milo, and I’m a Friday the 13th fan.” Matter of fact, it isn’t something I mention to people very much at all. Sometimes when I’m watching a F13 movie and realize how much I’m enjoying it, I feel like I should walk outside and apologize to a total stranger. My rational adult mind tells me I’m too intelligent to enjoy such brainless nonsense. But deep inside of me, there’s still a little boy who used to dismember G.I. Joe action figures with firecrackers. And that little boy looks on Jason’s works and calls them good.
The term “guilty pleasure” was practically invented for Friday the 13th and other films of its kind. Made on the cheap, devoid of substantial plot, filled with atrocious acting, and often downright incoherent, the never-ending saga of Jason Voorhees is almost totally free of redeeming qualities. It’s one of pop culture’s purest junk foods. So when I say the newest Jason flick is one of the best, I suppose that’s like congratulating a homeless guy for not stinking too much. But the film is good black fun, a mean-spirited thrill ride that knows what it is and suffers no pretensions of being anything more. Once in a while, it’s exhilarating to surrender to something so unapologetically stupid.
After my regrettable absence during Jason X’s theatrical run, I would not be denied the new F13 reboot. (Don't get me started on Freddy vs. Jason. Just don't.) I went to the theater nice and early so I could claim a good seat. There were fifteen minutes to waste before the movie began and only a handful of people were in the theater as I walked in. An oldies station was playing over the cinema’s sound system. I heard the Beatles caterwauling in prime nasal harmony: "All you need is love!" they demanded.
As a person sitting down to watch a Friday the 13th movie, the incongruity of this song was not lost on me.
Stranger still: It may sound unbelievable, but this particular fan of Jason Voorhees often carries a pocket-size version of Dhammapada: The Sayings of the Buddha. I am not a practicing Buddhist--or a practicing anything, for that matter--but I do enjoy reading the Buddha’s teachings. They have a calming effect on the out-of-control whirligig that is my psyche. Even if the effect is momentary and illusory, I’ll take what relief I can get.
I flipped open the Dhammapada and squinted my eyes in the dim light of the theater. The oldies station was playing Tom Jones now. “It’s not unusual to be loved by anyone,” Tom declared.
Better than a thousand hollow verses
Is one verse that brings peace.
Some bored teenagers across the aisle were throwing popcorn and M&M’s at each other. One boy called another boy a “Fuckin’ pussy.” “Bring it, faggot!” was the reply.
It is better to conquer yourself
Than to win a thousand battles.
A few minutes passed this way. Then a very tall young man sat down directly in front of me. It was immediately obvious that I would be staring at the back of his head throughout the movie. Sigh. I stood up and moved to a different seat, grumbling profanities to myself.
Set your heart on doing good.
Do it over and over again,
And you will be filled with joy.
Finally, the lights went down and the previews began. First up was a glimpse of the forthcoming adaptation of Alan Moore’s brilliant Watchmen comic. The loud, flashy preview did nothing to sway my cynical opinion that this movie is a terrible idea fueled by simple greed. There is zero chance that a two-hour movie will be able to capture the depth that Moore layered into his original story. As the preview ended, I made up my mind to skip the movie entirely.
As the rich merchant with few servants
Shuns a dangerous road
And the man who loves life shuns poison,
Beware the dangers of folly and mischief.
The next preview was for a Disney movie starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. In this film, the Rock is teamed with a pair of excessively cute kids who (I guess) also happen to be aliens. The preview featured a lot of family-friendly explosions and wisecracking. I think the movie’s title had something to do with a Magic Mountain? Or was it Space Mountain? I could look it up, of course. But why would I?
Do not be reckless.
Or you will swallow fire
And cry out: “No more!”
After that was a sneak peek at Confessions of a Shopaholic. I was going to make some snide comments about this preview as well, but I just…don’t want to talk about it. My capacity for cinematic horror has its limit.
At last, the New Line Cinema logo appeared onscreen, appropriately drenched in crimson red. (Cue the music: Ki-ki-ki, ma-ma-ma…) And it didn’t take long for matters to take shape, as a group of horny teens entered the Crystal Lake woods in search of a marijuana crop. As darkness fell, they set up camp and were soon engaged in the usual behavior of getting drunk, getting stoned, and fucking like beasts. They had heard the legend of Jason Voorhees, but didn’t believe it was true. Of course.
But bad men move unseen
Like arrows in the night.
Soon, a beautiful, naked brunette was tied up inside of her sleeping bag and roasted alive over a roaring campfire.
But the fool in his mischief forgets
And he lights the fire
Wherein one day he must burn.
The flame-broiled girl’s boyfriend returned to the scene, screamed in terror, and then stepped into a bear trap that Jason had carefully placed nearby. The boyfriend gaped in shock at the mangled red meat of his ankle. And, understandably, he screamed some more. But not for long.
All beings tremble before violence.
All fear death.
All love life.
And so it went. Arrow through the skull. Machete to the head. Screwdriver to the throat. I settled into my seat and let out a contented sigh. For me, watching Jason ply his trade was like slipping on that old pair of jeans with the ripped knees and frayed pockets. Familiar and comforting. Most of the people in the audience were teenagers, and I watched with amusement as many of them yelped, howled and cheered at all the proper moments. But, for me, the best moment was Jason’s discovery of his trademark hockey mask. After slipping it on for the first time, he stepped in front of a mirror and took a long look at himself in the dust-covered glass.
When the world dissolves
Everything becomes clear.
I offered a loud “YEAH!” and several others in the audience echoed my sentiment.
Satisfied with his new look, Jason picked up his machete and went back to work. Audience approval would not have mattered to him. He is beyond such concerns. Faceless, voiceless, calm, focused. It occurred to me that if Jason could only get rid of that one nagging earthly desire to kill all human beings, he would be very Zen indeed.
I pondered this notion briefly, until I watched Jason impale a big-breasted blonde onto the antlers of a very large deer trophy. And I decided that nirvana might be too much to expect of Jason Voorhees. But, like the rest of us in the theater that night, he’s only human.
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