As I probably said, I’m quite busy at the minute. But I like to write to relieve the stress. So I wrote this. It’s about the Friday The 13th movies, being a dad, the implacable march of time and the Friday The 13th game on PS4. It’s of limited interest, except to students of the pointlessly self-indulgent. But that's never stopped me before!
Anyway, this… The aims here were:
a) Loosen up the old juices for a big piece of seriously dull work I have to do. b) Write about the Friday The 13th movies without getting distracted by the "kills." c) Stretch my weedy mental muscles bit and look at a video game. d) Be horribly maudlin.
You can read it if you want.
FRIDAY THE 13TH or Bonding Through Bloodshed
1. The Introductory Bit
Last night I watched my eleven year old son smash down a door with a machete and proceed to stamp a woman’s face into a roaring fire until she stopped moving. Yeah, that new Friday The 13th PS4 game is certainly pretty, uh, Friday The 13th-y. Obviously my son didn’t do that because I am a responsible parent. But let’s just pretend I’m not…let’s just go with thought experiment here. Bearing in mind of course that this is all made up (particularly bearing it in mind if you work for Social Services) and that my kid never really played this 18 rated video game. Or indeed watched those 18 rated movies. But, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Can I get a rewind…
2. Parent of the Year
Reeeeeeeeeeeeeee….Ka-CHUNK! Fun Fact: Tuesday night is Boy’s Movie Night in Kane Towers. (But not really, right?) As he nears pubic escape velocity the amount of time I have left to share with my son, “Gil”, dwindles daily. Being a Yorkshireman by birth I have to walk around making Charles Bronson look like Rip Taylor, but on the inside I get a bit fretty and sweaty as the sands of time slip through my gnarled strangler’s hands. So, in short, the race is on to stockpile some goodwill memories to see me through the next two decades in which “Gil” will hate me with all the heat and intensity of a furnace in a dream-inhabiting undead child molester’s basement. (And still expect me to give him money, naturally.) Apples not falling far from the tree and all that, we have found common cause in horror movies and are currently slogging our way through the Friday The 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street movie sequences. As any modern parent knows you start out making sure they just watch age appropriate stuff, Thomas the Tank Engine, Bear In The Big Blue House etc, moving up through Pixar movies, all the good, responsible, Gregory Peck of parenting shit but eventually, somewhere along the way you take your eye off the ball and you find yourself sat watching, well, your eleven year old son smash down a door with a machete and proceeding to stamp a woman’s face into a roaring fire until she stops moving. In a video game, anyway. If he’s doing that in reality, hoo boy, you’ve got problems!
3. Roads Not Taken, Films Not Watched
I gave up on Elm Street after the 3rd movie back in 1987 and have never watched any Friday 13th, so the last few weeks have been a cinematic education. "Child is father of the man" as Wordsworth ("My Heart Leaps Up") has it. And I like to think William Wordsworth would also have enjoyed watching John Saxon die in a scrap yard (Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) or Crispin Glover dance like a freak (Friday 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter). But then I like to think all kinds of things. One of the things I like to think is how terrible the Friday the 13th movies are. That’s not the snobbery of the cineaste either; they are just really shitty movies. Hey, this is a man who found something to like in The Video Dead (1987) and that one with Rutger Hauer and the underground dwarves (Bleeders (1997)); a man who, let’s face it, is still in awe that in a world as terrible as this one something as beautiful as Lifeforce (1985) exists. I don’t have a high critical bar, is what I’m saying. And yet, all that said, it isn’t until the 5th instalment that the Friday 13th movies start to even merit the word “competent”. I’m not going into the Elm Street ones, because I’m leading up to the Friday the 13th PS4 game, c’mon that’s basic; work with me here people!
4. Deep in the Woods
So, back at the Camp (Crystal Lake): Full disclosure: the Kane (Hodder) Boys skipped the first Friday The 13th (1980) since it wasn’t on our streaming service(s) but that was okay, because Friday The 13th Part 2 (1981) looked like it was basically Part 1 but with Jason instead of (no spoilers). It seemed like even less of a loss once I found out Part 1 was directed by Sean Cunningham, who started off with a couple of “white coaters” (i.e. skin flicks where the action is preceded by someone in a white coat like a doctor wears, pretending what you are about to see is of some scientific interest. Which it is: the science of boners). Cunningham had produced Wes (Nightmare on Elm Street; links within links!) Craven’s Last House on the Left (1972) and after Friday The 13th he seems to have primarily, but not exclusively, pursued producing. With Part 2 Cunningham drafted in his pal Steve Miner. Steve Miner would, due to inertia, also direct Part III and later redeem a career which also included the timeless blackface “comedy” Soul Man (1986) with Lake Placid (1999).
4. Jason Voorhees Sets Out His Stall
Friday The 13th Part 2 though was Miner’s first directing job, and I imagine most of the actors were first timers too, because if you read around the subject (like I have because, why not? I should spend my time doing something useful? I don’t think so.) it turns out that Friday The 13th movies are a bunch of cheap shit knock-offs of the sublime Halloween (1978), knock-offs which Paramount made via a production offshoot which allowed them to get first option on these low risk high profit certainties. The low budgets were achieved by shooting wherever it was cheapest (even Canada) getting (mostly) first time directors and actors who were just glad of the work, and by pretending not to be Paramount productions they could do an end run round the Unions (naughty, naughty!) With Friday 13th it’s very much a case of – get ‘em made! And get ‘em made quick and cheap! The franchise still hasn’t found its feet yet with Part 2, but these frugal rules are well to the fore. Jason doesn’t even have his iconic hockey mask yet! Just a flour sack with one eyehole punched out. (The difficulties encountered by Steve Daskewisz/Warrington Gillette playing Jason with a head encumbered by prostheses, a sack, and with one eye shut probably necessitated the move to a hockey mask. You know, so they could bloody see what they were bloody doing.) As with any Friday The 13th movie the plot’s Hitchcockian in its complexity and depth. Unfortunately I mean Barry Hitchcock, my postman. There’s a bunch of teens and they get killed. The End. There are real human beings acting in in it, but they aren’t acting very well and so the star is really Carl Fullerton’s splatter FX, much of which seems to have been removed in the NetFlix versions, either that or people got their knickers in an uproar about really very little in 1981.
5. Jason Voorhees vs. Willard
Despite the thrifty tendency of the producers I guess they must have chucked some money at Friday the 13th Part III (1982) at least, because it was originally in 3-D. This isn’t ever cheap, necessitating as it does special cameras and sets e.g. the building of a lake which could only be shot from one angle due to its reliance on forced perspective. More importantly than all that technical shit Brian dePalma fans get dizzy over, Jason gets his iconic hockey mask in Part III; otherwise…pretty terrible stuff. And it pains me to say that about a movie in which someone’s head is squeezed so hard their eye pops out. After a remarkably long (for the series) two year gap we get Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984). Underneath its massive porky pie (i.e. lie) of a title is the same old shit but it adds a family in the house across from the doomed partying teens. It also rains a lot in this one which the director, Jospeh Zito, probably regretted because filming in the rain is a ball ache by all accounts. Zito would go onto direct Invasion USA (1985) and Red Scorpion (1988), neither of which are my cup of tea but you may like. This one is most notable for Crispin Glover's “dance” and the soul chilling sight of a tiny Corey Feldman in a bald wig chopping up Jason with a machete like he’s a disobedient lump of spam.
6. Jason Voorhees Draws The Line At Flies
Friday The 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985) picks up the Tommy Jarvis story with him now looking less like a tiny Corey Feldman and more like a tall John Shepherd, newly ensconced at a halfway house for the mentally troubled. Hi-jinks ensue. The director Danny Steinman started directing in hardcore porn (High-Rise; but not High-Rise (2016), I’m guessing) and this particular Friday The 13th was his last movie; he died in 2012. I think we should probably leave that there. Credit where credit’s due though, this one tries something different; it tries to be a murder mystery, but unfortunately forgets the mystery bit because there aren’t any clues. Luckily someone explains it all at the end, although it might have been an idea to make a film where that wasn’t necessary. You have to be Psycho (1960) to get away with that shit and Friday the 13th Part v: A New Beginning is no Psycho. It is a pain in the arse to type though.
7. Jason Voorhees Tries New Things
As is Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986), which is of note to film scholars as the first of the series where I started, not enjoying them as such, but, maybe, not minding them as much. Excitingly, the director, Tom McLoughlin, had previously played not only the monster in Prophecy (1979) but also voiced a robot in Disney’s Black Hole (1979). 1979 was certainly a banner year in the McLoughlin household! Helmed by an ex-mime with such a great B-movie pedigree it is little wonder then that Part VI is a gleefully silly corpse fest which never stops throwing gore and abysmal elbow jostling jokes at the viewer. Tommy Jarvis returns, but this time he’s the capable actor Thom Mathews (Return of The Living Dead I (1985) and II (1988)). Tommy accidently resurrects Jason and is thus responsible for everyone who dies during the movie, is certainly one way of looking at it. It’s a lot of stupid fun. Mostly it has the good sense to keep moving, there are far too many longueurs in the previous instalments. John Carl Buechler, who had provided FX for the fantastic schlocker From Beyond (1986), delivers Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988), and this is the last one we lads have watched thus far, and…well, it’s…um, different. It’s basically Jason vs Carrie (1976) with a bunch of teens and a shithead of a psychiatrist stuck in the middle. Most of the endings thus far have been rushed if not plain incoherent affairs, but this one has the best, lengthiest and most satisfying final smack down. Probably because a girl with psychic powers is a bit more of a match for an undead killing machine than a girl with, say, a potato peeler. No matter how feistily she wields it.
8. The Wisdom Gleaned
So, many, many wasted hours later I have come to several conclusions. For a bunch of horror movies the Friday the 13th sequence are astoundingly low on scares; I’ve been tenser at family barbecues. (But since these often devolve into shouted abuse and angrily wielded kebab spike that’s probably fair enough, they can be quite harrowing affairs). Secondly, the careers of the directors of the movies are often more interesting than anything that happens on screen. Finally, and no I don’t think this speaks well of me, the stupider they get, the more I like them. My favourites are Part VI, which keeps pratfalling into ham-fisted parody and Part VII which has a telekinetic teen psychically battling the reanimated corpse of a homicidal maniac. You can’t get much dumber than that, but it turns out to be surprisingly entertaining. So, I’m giving Friday the 13th Parts II to VII a thuggishly wielded corkscrew right in the OKAY!
9. The Games We Play Are a Window into Our Souls
From what I can tell this Friday 13th game on the PS4 is not a bad game. It’s probably a better game if you like Friday The 13th movies, since at root it’s just a fiercely violent hide’n’seeker. It’s online only, and since I don’t do online I’ve had to watch it over my son’s beatific shoulder. (Or have I? See above.) They’ve promised a single player update somewhere down the pike, so fingers crossed! In its current incarnation then, in essence, a group of up to 7 camp counsellors have to evade Mrs Voorhees’ little angel. I would imagine cooperation pays off in what the Kidz call “asymmetrical multiplayer matches”. This means that, like yours truly, the gameplay is unbalanced. The balance clearly favouring the player incarnated as Jason Voorhees, the implacable, unstoppable and immortal killing machine. By way of contrast other players are stick limbed teens armed with thoroughly inadequate weapons. (Actually Jason is both stoppable and killable, but you can find out how to do that yourself). You can customise your character’s wardrobe and skills by spending points earned in gameplay. But why wouldn’t you want to wear a jumper draped over your shoulders like the villain in a Greg Rucka comic? Alas, you don’t get to choose who (i.e. Jason or counsellor) you manifest as in-game; although you can set a preference I am shaky on how much this affects anything. Being Jason is the most fun, so obviously you’ll spend most of your time being a teen. That’s not as much fun, but you can still do things besides crawl under a bed and cry until a spear suddenly smashes through your sternum from above. I mean, you can actually do that but it’s probably unwise.
Counsellors can win by evading Jason for a set time limit (survive the night!) or escaping via boat or car (after refuelling and fixing them; time consuming tasks) or they can call the police and meet them at a roadblock after some time has passed. If you find a radio set you can also use it to call in Tommy Jarvis. He’s actually a player who dies and gets to come back into the game, which gives players a reason not to just strut off in a tizz when killed. Unfortunately this is adult Tommy Jarvis from Part VI (voiced by Thom Mathews!), not the tiny Corey Feldman Tommy Jarvis from Part IV. (My son assures me with all the certainty of an eleven year old child that no one likes the Tommy Jarvis in Part V and that’s why it isn’t that Tommy Jarvis, dad.) There’s a selection of maps, but they all looked pretty much the same; they all look like a camp in the woods. But that’s the nature of the beast. You were expecting perhaps, space? Jason in space, do me a favour! As if! David Cronenberg’s more likely to make a cameo than Jason being in space. (Bit of fan humour there!) Less thrillingly, in order to get the bits you need to start the car or boat you do have to basically open every drawer in every room in every cabin. This is dispiritingly akin to trying to find your son’s favourite fidget spinner in his astoundingly cluttered bedroom. In-game it’s a bit more exciting, because out there somewhere Jason is lumbering about with a mad on. Actually, in reality it’s even more terrifying because there’s usually My Sweet yelling at me about how that child’s going to have to learn to pick up after himself, and if he didn’t waste time watching horrible shit with his idle father the kid might find the time to tidy up so you could actually fucking find something sometime, and why are you looking for it anyway, make him look for it, what’s he going to do when he moves out, ring you up to come over and find his fidget fucking spinner..? Um, yeah, so it can be a bit boring at times but it sure heats up when Jason lurches into view and starts trying to pull your arms off.
Jason has all the fun, in short. There are six different playable Jasons taken from the movies, some of which can only be unlocked by levelling up. But that’s at present. Updates and Downloadable Content mean many more could be added, which ratchets up the potential fun for fans. Recently the servers collapsed under the weight of demand, and stayed deader than Jason Voorhees for a couple of days. Turns out that despite the recognition factor of the licence this is actually an indie game, so the demand kind of took them aback. When it came back up there were some freebies as apologies, and one of these was the purple NES Videogame Jason, complete with accompanying retro toon. The same kind of customisability goes for the counsellors too; I heard recently that they are trying to get permission to port in the Gloria Charles character from Part III, so y’know, one day we might well be steering a tiny Corey Feldman around Camp Crystal Lake. What dreams may come! The different Jasons have different appearances, but also different ability weighting, so it’s not just cosmetic changes you get if you plump for Maggoty Jason. Jason can also warp (i.e. move Flash Fast) up to counsellors to replicate how in the movies they never get away despite the fact he barely ever breaks out of a determined lope, which is clever. But best of all Jason gets cool kill moves you can unlock. My favourite Jason-Kill is where he smacks a pick axe into a teen’s head and then revolves the head using the pick axe as a lever until the head pops off like the lid off a shook-up Coke®. That probably took more computing power and programming skill than it took for us to get a man on the moon. Life; it’s all about priorities, isn’t it?
I missed some nuances but I think you get the gist. There’s a lot of love evident in the game; my son delighted in pointing out to me all the stuff he recognised from the movies he and his soon to be hateful father had sat through. And as unbalanced as the gameplay may be, as a group experience it can evidently be a pretty fun time. There may be hormonal trouble ahead but I’m pretty sure I’ll take solace in the echoes in my memory of my son shouting at his mates that “He’s coming! %^&&! He’s got Barry! EEE! Barry’s head came off! Run! That undead %^&$ is coming!” Sentimental fool that I am, I give Friday the 13th the PS4 game a GOOD!
NEXT TIME:Who the Hell knows?