Wednesday, February 15, 2006

He’s Back! (and by he, I mean Jason Voorhees)

This morning, an interesting story on Yahoo! Movie news caught my eye. According to this article , the Friday the 13th franchise will, once again, be dusted off and reinvigorated, courtesy of none other than yours truly’s favorite Hollywood bad boy, Michael Bay! This will be the TWELFTH chapter in the saga of undead psychopath Jason Voorhees, but apparently will also be a “prequel” to the original Friday the 13th film.

I’m confused about the way that Bay and his merry band of cohorts over at Platinum Dunes are going to handle the plotting for this film. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Jason’s mother, Mrs. Voorhees, responsible for the murders in the original film? In a manner of speaking, the original FTT serves as a prequal to the series in and of itself; it tells the story of Jason’s origins. Will the new film be about some scary thing that happened to Mrs. Vorhees when she was at camp…in the 1950’s? Not that plot and logic have ever been mainstays of the FTT series, and at best the Jason Voorhees mythology is strained. In the first film, we are told that years before Jason had drowned at Camp Crystal Lake at the hand of a couple counselors. His mother, Pamela Voorhees goes on her slashing spree, seeking vengance for his death. However, in the second film, known merely as Friday the 13th: Part 2, it is revealed that Jason had actually survived the incident at the lake, and that he has been living as a hermit in the woods. (Go figure.) Jason had watched his mother’s bloody actions, and after she died, he continued her quest in a blind mission to slay sexually promiscuous teens everywhere.

Looking back on the FTT franchise as a whole it’s interesting to see the many different twists and turns it has taken. The original FTT was released in 1980 and was a huge money maker, considering it’s shoe string budget. As noted above, Jason didn’t really appear as a character until the second film, and didn’t even get his mask and saw until the third film, Friday the 13th: Part 3, which was released in ’82. Initially Paramount had intended to lay Jason to rest in 1984 with Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, which incidentally starred Corey Feldman AND Crispin Glover. But when it did surprisingly well at the box office, in typical studio fashion, decided to resurrect the beast in ’85 with FTT: A New Beginning. In another bizarre trend of non-linear story telling, JV does not even appear in the fifth film. In A New Beginning, it is a copycat murderer, posing as the infamous Jason, that goes on a killing rampage of his own. In 1986, filmmakers tried to revitalize the series with Jason Lives, the sixth film, and one which favored better than the previous installment, perhaps because of its tounge in cheek tone. It is in this chapter of the saga that Jason is established as an undead/zombie type, though there is some debate among fans about this. Having died in “The Final Chapter”, Jason’ s corpse is exhumed, and accidentally reanimates when it is struck by a bolt of lightning. Paramount churned out two more films in ’88 and ’89, The New Blood, and Jason Takes Manhattan. (Jason Takes Manhattan being my personal favorite of the series, because it reaches new hieghts of ridiculousness in cinema.)

At this point the film count was up to nine, but Jason would still not be laid to rest. New Line Cinema purchased the franchise from Paramount, and in 1993, put out the first Jason film in four years (in the 80’s there was a new Jason film every single year, with the exception of ’83 and ’87). New Line’s release Jason Goes to the Hell: The Final Friday, seemed to be another attempt to close out this series with a bang, or at least an attempt at the beginning of the end. Jason dies (again) at the start of The Final Friday, and his spirit goes on to posses several characters throughout, and the film was maligned by many hard core fans. However, the film did end with a psuedo-cliffhanger; a shot showing Freddy’s arm grabbing Jason’s mask into hell. This laid the groundwork for the Freddy vs. Jason concept, which had many horror fans salivating over it.

But fans would not get to cheer at this celebrity deathmatch between the two monsters for another decade. The script for Freddy vs. Jason got caught in its own brand of hell, known as development kind, round these parts for years. In the meantime, Sean Cunningham, who had previously directed many of the FTT features, started working on another project, the tenth film, also known as Jason X, which was released in 2002. The most farfetched of the chapters yet, Jason X was set in the future on a spaceship by the name of Grendel (what a clever literary reference!). The movie proposes that Jason Voorhees had been cryogenically frozen and then accidentally thaws out while on board this ship. There he carries on with his usual sort of bloodletting, before being transformed into an a beefed up titanium robot. Like I said, story, and logical plotting don’t really follow suit in the FTT films.

The last time we were treated to the lovely sight of Jason’s bedraggled hockey mask, was in 2003, when after ten years of indecision on the script, Freddy vs. Jason, was finally released. In this last installment, Freddy manipulates Jason into being his fear monger on Elm Street as he tried to recooperate his own powers, but Jason takes the job two far. The two eventually duke it out over who gets to kill the kiddies. A fairly streamlined story, in comparison to some of the earlier ideas, including one which entailed “Jason being raised from the dead by a teenage girl using the heart of her dead boyfriend, to save her sister from a cult of psychotic teenagers who worshipped Freddy Krueger and were seeking to raise him from hell via a ritual sacrifice.” However, this concept was shelved after Columbine because it was deemed too controversial.

What I want to know is, how is it that this franchise has lived for going on twenty six years? What is it about the crazed undestructible JV, that audiences just can’t get enough of. I understand that the films have made a pretty penny in their day, but they’ve also had their fair share of financial failures. It’s ironic somehow, that just in way that Voorhees can never be killed off, the franchise itself refuses to die, and just keeps on going and going and going. Maybe the better question to ask is why people keep on going to see these movies. Has Jason really transcended the generation gaps to touch the hearts and minds of teenagers for the last two decades and then some? I myself, have never been a huge fan of the Friday the 13th films. I like horror films, and have a tolerance for foolish concepts in the sake of good fun, but the Jason films are just so redundant to me they have become unwatchable. Vorhees isn’t the only immortal killer on the block, and I myself have always been more partial to the Nightmare on Elmstreet films. I still find the original film, the horror classic Nightmare On Elmstreet, to be pretty creepy, and it holds up well over all; even the second and third films have some intriguingly bizarre and disturbing sequences. Also as a child, Freddy always seemed more frightening then Jason; he was a better concieved character. An undead child molester with horrible burn scars who can find and kill you in your dreams? Terrifying. Of course Nightmare on Elmstreet went on to beat a dead horse as well. New Line Cinema, who’s owned Freddy from the start, churned out a total of nine films about Freddy K. There’s something a little depressing to me that these two monsters Freddy and Jason, modern equivalents of enduring figures like Dracula and Frankenstein, have lasted for over two decades each. In part because neither of them has merited as many chapters to their stories as they’ve received and any originality they once had has vanished long ago. But also because Jason in particular, is so spectacularly unoriginal to begin with; he is the product of a studio afterthought more than anything else. Somebody needs to come up with new, better monsters.

According to the Yahoo piece, Bay is wasting no time with silly frills like screenplays and cast. Though the announcement has only been made today, Bay has promised New Line that it will be ready to be released by October 13th. That’s nine months to find a writer, get a script, hire a director, cast actors, shoot the damn thing, edit it and then have it readied for distribution. The more things change, the more things stay the same. It’s clear the quality of this prequel won’t stray from the bar set by the previous, or should I say, latter, chapters.


Blogger Mike said...

Yeah, I thought this week's Lost was weak too.

12:46 PM  
Blogger The New Yorker said...


12:48 PM  

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