Halloween Series: Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th, Friday The 13th Part II, Friday The 13th Part III, Freddy Vs Jason)

Like Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees is pretty much one of the great horror icons, maybe even one of the great film icons. He’s starred in over 12 movies and murdered over 100 people. So just what is it that makes him such a horror icon?

Jason Voorhees was born to Pamela Voorhees who worked as a cook at Camp Crystal Lake summer camp. The young boy was afflicted with horrific birth defects which led to his mother keeping him away from other children except when she worked at the Camp where, because of a lack of babysitter, she brought Jason with her. Jason was teased and bullied horrifically and eventually drowned whilst attempting to prove he could swim. Pamela was distraught and blamed the camp counsellors who were too busy having sex and smoking pot to notice her drowning child. One night Pamela snuck back into camp and murdered several counsellors, an act which resulted in the closure of the camp. Whenever an attempt to re-open the camp was made, Pamela would butcher just enough people to stop it, in memory of her son. Eventually though she is decapitated (As seen in the original Friday The 13th) in front of Jason, inspiring him to take up murder.

He’s like Norman Bates on steroids

Jason is perhaps the most tragic of all horror icons. As a child he is horrifically disfigured and later bullied for it, which results in him trying to prove himself to the other children by swimming the lake in a vain attempt to make friends, How is that not the most tragic thing in the friggen world? Pamela is almost justified when she murders those counsellors, we can at least see where she’s coming from. This a woman who has lost the son she doted on for the past 12 years, the only positive thing in her life, due to the uselessness of her younger colleagues. Pamela Voorhees deserves nothing more than our sympathy. Jason, like his mother, is also a font for pity. As previously mentioned he’s bullied, sheltered and physically deformed but the boy watches his own mother, the only human contact he had, get beheaded and don’t think that didn’t fuck him up. He has a shrine to his mother where he keeps her severed head, it’s not been a great life so far and Jason knows it. There’s a scene in Freddy vs Jason where Freddy Krueger shows Jason his death and it is beyond heartbreaking and it explains why the guy is scared of water, like Freddy’s fear of fire, it’s what killed him  Jason is a monumentally tragic character.

So yeah, we know he’s a pitiable character but what about fear? Well I guess the obvious thing is the fact he murders people but, again, there is far more going on. Jason is a pretty bulky guy and his size is pretty intimidating. He’s obviously physically capable of taking hits and dishing out damage and that comes across throughout the films. His immortality is another important aspect of Jason’s character. He cannot be killed, no matter what they do to him, he lives. The details of it aren’t entirely clear but there are films when he’s riddled with bullets, stabbed, blown up and has entire houses fall on top of him. He’s nightmarish in that sense because you know nothing can stop him, you can have an entire army behind you and still fail completely. It also links in nicely with the environment. Camp Crystal lake is a decrepit camp in the middle of a forest, which is often very foggy, with a cold, gloomy lake. Woodland is scary at the best of times, you never know what’s behind the next tree and it’s often easy to get lost, fog just extapolates all that fear. Not only do your chances of getting lost shoot up to 100% but you can’t see more than 4ft in front of you. You’ll get lost in the forest and then hear twigs snapping, Jason could be just about anywhere. The lake is also pretty creepy. Not only did a child drown in there but, like all large bodies of water, do we know what’s at the bottom?

Early reports indicate that it may be this man’s conscience

I’m sure we all get this eerie feeling when a piece of seaweed strokes our leg in the ocean and our imaginations run wild. Lakes and oceans are big places and when the water isn’t especially clear there could literally be any number of things down there. The actual camp in itself is creepy because it’s symbolic of the death of childhood innocence. A boy is killed and the camp closes down, any attempt to re-open it is met with murder. The teenagers in the original film are just good kids, they aren’t the usual slasher movie whores. The original Friday The 13th is built around the death of childhood innocence. Also there’s the practical fact of the camp being old, abandoned, in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by woodland. There is no escape. I guess there’s also something inherently terrifying about Jason simply because he died young. Not only is  the idea of a premature man-child slaughtering people on a whim scary but there’s a theme of bullying. What if s kid we teased as a child ends up like Jason? What if we end up bullying someone to death? These are pretty uncomfortable questions and Jason Voorhees takes them to the extreme. His costume and weapon are also pretty important when discussing his character. He has this shabby overcoat and several T-shirts underneath with dark work jeans. They all seem to blend in with the forest pretty well, he becomes a part of the environment. His hockey mask is what everyone remembers though. Obviously you have the idea of the hockey mask hiding his disfigurement and the fact that we know what’s under there but you aren’t allowed to see so tension builds and your imagination runs wild with you. Hockey is a pretty dangerous game and Jason pretty much encompasses that brand of physical violence.

I guess we should also talk about the fact Jason is silent. It makes him far scarier because it removes humanity from him. Speech is one of the things that defines the human race and Jason lacks it, coupled with his size and murderous personality and he’s far more like a classic monster than a man. Finally, Jason’s weapon of choice, his machete. It’s a huge knife that he uses to literally slice people in half and it’s perfect for him. Huge and brutal.

Jason Voorhees is one of the more tragic horror icons. The epitany of the cruelty of children coupled with an infantile mind, an insatiable appetite for violence and murder, a heavy persistence and a setting reflective of the death of innocence.


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