I was still waking up early for Saturday-morning cartoons when this film premiered. What I knew of the series came via third-hand bits of lore relayed in wide-eyed playground whispers.
Jason was a hockey-mask-wearing monster who murdered people in brutal, horrific ways. At the video store, the franchise’s iconic box covers with white stencils brandishing bloody blades loomed as gateways to unadulterated terror.
Of course, the films aren’t as scary as my young self believed. They’re not scary at all. But watching them takes me back to days of digging for prizes in breakfast cereals. When a monster like Jason represented the pinnacle of terror.
But of course, he’s not dead.
Jason wakes up, dispatches the morgue staff, then heads back to Crystal Lake to hack through a house of oversexed teens.
The best of the series, director Joseph Zito’s film asserts its originality from the opening shot: a dark, cold, rainy night that’s miles away from the prior film’s sunlit finale. Zito flexes his stylistic muscles early, proffering a POV shot from Jason as he’s wheeled through the morgue. It’s a punk rock response to the prior films’ uninspired staging.
This entry also boasts an entertaining cast of teen victims. They spend much of the film unaware of Jason or any suspicious goings-on. They’re in their own movie, complete with their own sub-plots. Granted, those sub-plots amount to little more than a bad teen sex comedy, but they hold our interest when Jason’s off-screen2.
And when Jason’s on-screen, he’s a juggernaut. An unstoppable, inhuman force of evil. A demon with a machete. Consider how Jason never runs. Running implies chasing. Chasing suggests the possibility of escape. In this film, Jason isn’t an assailant, he’s an inevitability3.
Everything my younger self believed.
- Films two, three, and four happen back-to-back over four days. This entry starts on Sunday the 15th, and ends on Tuesday the 17th. Yet one character is out to avenge his dead sister, who Jason killed in the second film. Said character has been compiling newspaper clippings on Jason since her death. Except, by the film’s timeline, his sister died less than 48 hours ago. Was he scrapbooking during the funeral?↩
- It also helps that Crispin Glover’s performance foreshadows his turn in Back to the Future. His dancing scene almost makes the movie.↩
- As a supernatural inevitability, in addition to asphyxiation, Jason would seem immune to the laws of physics. Consider his going from outside the second-floor window to inside the first-floor kitchen in a matter of seconds without making a sound.↩