Friday the 13th Obsession
I am not sure when Friday the 13th became an obsession. I saw the first film in 1981 when cable first came to our neighborhood. I was ten years old at the time. Horror was new and scary. I loved the rush. Part II came on cable shortly after. I remember being so into it that I swear I saw someone with a hood over their head pass by, outside the window, in broad daylight. It freaked me out, yet I was addicted. Part 3 was in 3D at the theater in 1982. I begged my mother to take me and she was going to. At the Almeda AMC, her boyfriend put a stop to it and forced us to see E.T. instead. I was devastated and had to wait until VHS to rent it in 2 dimensions. 1984 was the year I got a video membership at a gas station and could rent horror films 24 hours a day—a twenty-four hour nightmare like the tagline of the original movie. My mom took me and a friend to see The Final Chapter and it was amazing—the ultimate slasher film of the time. That fall, I secretly tore down a small movie poster, one with the bloody mask and other VHS covers of the previous films, from the gas station to bring home and hang on my bedroom wall. I also discovered Fangoria magazine and began to see gore pictures that were not in the final cut of the films. In 1985. The New Beginning continued the tradition. When I saw it for a second time on VHS in the fall, I related to the main character Tommy who was in a half-way house after being locked up as I had similarly been in rehab that year. I use to record horror film trailers off of TV and caught the early ones of Jason Lives along with the Alice Cooper video for “He’s Back” on MTV. Theses went hand in hand with my VHS horror collection of three recorded films per tape in SLP format. The New Blood had a surprise radio spot that hyped me up in 1988 and being older I went with a group of friends and saw it at the I-45 Drive-IN. There is nothing liking hearing ki-ki-ki-ma-ma-ma coming from a hundred car speakers while walking to the concession stand. Jason Takes Manhattan had the coolest teaser trailer and disappointed in the theater in 1989. (Although, it has grown on me over time.) While on television, Friday the 13th The Series, with no Jason, kept my interest with its possessed antiques, deal with the devil, and Robey’s hair. So it was interesting to see John D. LeMay from the TV series as the lead in Jason Goes to Hell along with the bloodiest picture ever in Gorezone in 1993. The R-rated cut was a letdown, but the unrated VHS did not disappoint. The films were getting long in the tooth and time went on. I had the first nine on laserdisc to tide me over. In the late 90’s the internet took off. I discovered a horror message board and petitions for releasing Friday the 13th 7 uncut grew long with signatures. I began to wonder what was missing from all of the Paramount films. Articles in magazines would discuss bits and pieces that were no where to be found. There was always hope. Jason X came out in 2002 after a long purgatory. I saw it in the theater and found it a mixed bag with some good parts and some low-fi sci-fi. Although, the trailer with Drowning Pool’s Bodies was dope. The following year Freddy Vs. Jason came out and was a huge hit despite questionable casting and iffy CGI. (I once had a 35mm trailer that got lost in a move.) In 2008, I was working as an extra, in a sailor suit, for Robert Rodriguez’s kid’s film Shorts and saw the call notice for Friday the 13th which was also filming in Austin. I booked the job and drove to a call time at a public park. I was hyped passing Crystal Lake Productions signs with arrows leading to set. Images of seeing Jason on set or possible being covered in fake blood swam in my head. Ultimately, I was disappointed—the hype dashed—that the shots the second unit crew filmed were of a bunch of us extras running from nothing. I think the sole reason they filmed it was to get a Texas tax credit. It said stand-in on my check, so I got an IMDB credit on a Friday the 13th film which was bittersweet. The following year the remake (actually Part 12) came out and was cool yet lacking in fun. Regardless, I do look forward to Part 13 one day.
I think one of the reasons films I grew up with as a kid seem different is age and life experience. When I was a teenager gore was cool. Seeing a bright red arterial spray had impact. The times were different and there was a lot of censorship. The MPAA butchered the films for family consumption and the Religious Right got Friday the 13th The Series cancelled by bombarding their sponsors with their so-called values. The things forcibly cut out of these films long ago would easily get an R-rating today. Now, a film can show a ton of blood and gore and most of the time it has little impact on a desensitized society. Perhaps a middle ground is needed.
I mention my past excitement and nostalgia because on October 13th, 2020 the Friday the 13th Collection was released by Scream Factory including all the available unrated footage and extras that have seeped into existence on physical media over the years. I am stoked again. Horror films have shaped my youth and adulthood. It feels good to have one more spin down memory lane. My obsession, like Jason, is long buried but not dead.
New York City ten years after Jason Takes Manhattan.