If you grew up in the eighties more likely than not you were affected by the haunting whispers of ki ki ki…ma ma ma… Parents cringed and groaned, prom queens shrieked and clung to biceps, while Teenage America sat in theaters transfixed on nearly an annual basis throughout the decade stuffing popcorn down their throats while waiting for the next Grand Guinol-esque display of bloodshed on the silver screen.
John Carpenter's "Halloween" forever changed the face of horror. Moreover, its birthed faceless harbingers of death covered by cryptic cranial shields served to taunt—and eventually create brand name recognition equivalent to a Batlogo or Punisher skull on the chest—audiences at the ready to cheer on their gory romps. So long as a few chicks got nekked, the snobs and doofuses were more reprehensible than their viewers and the blood flew gratuitously, Generation X was weaned on sanguinary celluloid pacifiers, the guiltiest offender being the infamous and delightfully silly Friday the 13th series.
Granted, the franchise stopped being scary after the first film since we'd already grown accustomed to the idea of a human spook in the woods chasing down people we'd either want to have sex with or simply see removed from our sight in a forthright and nasty spectacle. Friday the 13th after Betsy Palmer became less of a nailbiter series in which a very real psychosis was first tapped and exploited via Palmer's immortal mommy dearest, Pamela Voorhees. Once her prodigy in prowling Jason set foot in Times Square, the writing was on the wall and further subject to the depths where no man has gone before.
The minute a lumbering "mongoloid" first clad in suspenders, flannel and a potato sack over his head miraculously surfaced from the dead to hack and slash oversexed and laced out teens, the more the Friday the 13th films became idiot savant faire. Suspension of disbelief was critical to keeping the Friday faith, particularly if you're to string the events of the second to fourth films which are written to be in day chronological order. Forget the fact Jason is huger in the third film and in an entirely new set of clothes. Forget the stringy hair you see on Warrington Gillette is remiss on Richard Brooker in a time shift relayed to be all of a single day. The rampage of Jason Voorhees was omnipresent regardless of time continuance. So long as the girls got hotter and willing to peel their tops off, so long as the guys grew hornier and more inexperienced and so long as Mr. Voorhees, former tenant of a watery grave grew more impenetrable, plot and continuity had virtually no place or reason for being.
On a personal note, I remember going to see most of the Friday films in the theaters beginning with the nefariously titled fourth film, The Final Chapter. I was 14 and somehow able to get not only myself into an R-rated show, but my entire neighborhood clan as my hypothetical wards. That alone was a thrill ride, and I soaked my victory up during the fourth Friday by being utterly obnoxious in the theater and ironically becoming the life of the party to a laughing crowd who encouraged my antics more than not. When there was nudity on display, yours truly would make "boingie" noises and receive gracious chuckles from the crowd. When Crispin Glover left his mouth agape like the hopeless nerd he was portraying in the film, I would yell "duhhhhhh!" More laughter. You get the picture.
The point is that Friday the 13th and all of the slasher flicks we flocked to see during the eighties were ritualistic gatherings of gore geeks where even the jocks and face people came to bear witness the barbaric cruelty flung upon the screen. It was one of the few areas growing up as a teenager where it was considered even ground, at least until the fights broke out in the parking lot behind the theater. But for an hour and a half we were all on level terms because we were fascinated with a madman in a hockey mask who treated his horror business like it bore stakes on the creativity scale. Beheadings, garrotings, guttings, throat slashes, amputations, facial chops, slams against trees, eye gougings, all of it was some sort of sick and twisted game of Killer's Monopoly when it came to Jason Voorhees.
His Name Was Jason is a celebration of nearly thirty years' worth of Voorhees mayhem, particularly in light of a new kickstart to the franchise due out this February. Reportedly back-to-basics at Crystal Lake with an overview of the first four films rolled into one, the new Friday the 13th will undoubtedly have Jason fans—old and new—scrambling to reconnect with that primal urge that painted their playful psyches crimson, while introducing a modern day legend to a new breed of horror fans who have had all that their peers enjoyed before them reimagined and remade for their interest.
This documentary, hosted by gore maestro (and effects king of the first and fourth Fridays) Tom Savini, is chock full of the series' best and less so moments, given testimony by a slew of participants from the directors of the films to the various actors who have played Jason over the years to the grown-up rabble of Voorhees' victims. Joining the fun are horror journalists and external directors and actors such as Hatchet director Adam Green, Sleepaway Camp's Felissa Rose (forever known as the female Jason), Joe Lynch, director of Wrong Turn 2 and Fangoria editor Tony Timpone.
Faces of Friday's past such as Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Amy Steel, John Furey, Larry Zerner, Lar Park-Lincoln, Darcy DeMoss, Debi Sue Voorhees (yes, there's real people bearing the harrowed name), Camilla and Carey More, Elizabeth Kaitan, Shavar Ross, Bonnie Hellman and Judie Aronson, plus many others recount their memories as Jason's aggrieved. The illustrious Palmer (who still looks fabulous and very Pamela Voorhees-like) presents a graceful sovereignty to His Name Was Jason. She will tell you she only did the original Friday the 13th because she was broke and needed a car, only to find herself years later one of the most beloved faces of horror and even she is at a loss to Mrs. Voorhees' popularity despite embracing it. Adrienne King reveals her heart-wrenching story of why she vanished from the scene after getting drilled in the temple during the opening segment of Friday the 13th Part 2. King was stalked by a fan of the first film to such extremes as breaking and entering and being held at gunpoint. Her narrative is perhaps more disturbing than anything ever shown in the Friday series and as she reveals her artwork in the bonus section, you can see the literal anguish King had to contend with at the cost of being a scream queen for the ages.
The bonus features in His Name Was Jason are more than plentiful as we get the points-of-view of all of the directors and the Jasons in the series. Finally the secret of who really played the bulk time of Jason in the second film is revealed, while Kane Hodder, universally embraced by fans as the Jason reveals his thoughts about being tossed over in favor of Ken Kirzinger in Freddy vs. Jason. We also get to know the new Jason, Derek Mears quite intimately in the documentary as well as the bonus features. Quite the gentle giant, it appears, Mears talks about what it was like donning both the sack and the hockey mask and being expected to hit his slashing marks on cue, not to mention admitting to crashing into various obstacles during takes on the new film.
When all is said and done, the remake this year of Friday the 13th comes at a time when we can accuse Hollywood of having no ideas with which to keep its tender flowing. The fact we've had to endure almost all of our beloved slasher films being redone for a new generation is hopeless, but then again, if you look at the history of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy and The Wolf Man, these timeless Universal creations have undergone new treatments by the decade. So too must be the fate of our Jasons and Freddies and Michaels, it appears. At the very least, His Name Was Jason is a terrific ride back in time to a more naïve decade that still finds solace for those who lived it and obviously want to be there again in the new millennium.