Happy Friday the 13th - The Many Guises of Jason Voorhees
Jason Voorhees is a household name, there’s no arguing. Everyone may be familiar with the summer camp slasher’s iconic look as far as the hockey mask goes, but it’s a lot harder to find a definitive consensus on Mr. Voorhees’ most successful incarnation. It changes as often as the weather, and much more dramatically, to boot.
So we’re taking another look back at Friday the 13th - this time from the perspective of our main man’s getups from the past thirty years. Like any enduring movie monster, he’s had his ups and downs. Moments we love and others we’d like to forget. From mongoloid Jason to that mongoloid remake, we’ll leave no face unmasked as we travel the bumpy road of my own personal favorite movie villain in the hopes of documenting what worked, and what didn’t. Which movies got it right, and which ones are we ashamed to show our friends?
For better or worse, it’s all here.
Friday the 13th (1980)
Was it real? Alice’s nightmare? We all know that Crystal Lake’s finest never found any boy, and the conception behind this long night at Camp Blood was never intended as set-up for a sequel. Jason was a glorified plot device that was never supposed to be more than the reason for the killings. Regardless, his last-minute jolt left audiences on a high note, quickly becoming one of the original Friday the 13th’s most memorable moments.
And his look is … pretty unnerving. Draped in seaweed and spouting one over-sized cranium complete with drooping facial features, no one ever said anything about Jason being a mongoloid boy! Which begs the question: If the canoe tip was all part of Alice’s dream, how in the hell did she know that Jason was ‘special’? Yes, we assume that’s what Mrs. Voorhees was going to say during her crazed diatribe (”He was … he wasn’t a very good swimmer!”), but it never got that far. Certainly not far enough for Alice to deduce the child’s reduced mental capacity if the canoe jump were, in fact, a figment of her imagination.
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Despite what I argued above, it’s no secret that Jason was a nightmare within the context of the original Friday. But with its success it became time to explore the most obvious avenue available: making him real. As such, we’re treated to a real cool type of Jason Begins (at least, it feels this way when looked at in the series’ milieu) scenario in which our slasher is somewhat uncharacteristic (calling Alice, tracking her to her home, etc.) in his vengeance. He’s also prone to accidents (watch out when standing atop old chairs, never know when they’re going to crack!) and some really bad decisions (maybe wait until the cop has driven past, before darting out into the road and inadvertently leading him to your secret lair!) throughout the course of his first actual venture.
It’s understandable that a newcomer to the series might be taken aback by the admittedly odd look of “Sackhead Jason” (lovingly referred to as the Country Bumpkin by an old friend and slasher mentor): the potato sack, the overalls, etc. But nothing is quite as jarring as when the killer’s face is revealed in the post-climax “sting” scare.
Red scraggly hair, fiery scruff, severely rotten teeth and one hell of a gumline: this is the look of a bumpkin whose life has been lived entirely in the solitude of wilderness.
Friday the 13th – Part III (1982)
Picking up exactly where Friday 2 ended, it takes a smarter man than I to figure out what the hell happened here: not only does Jason sprout several inches, but he apparently shaved off his hair – perhaps in an effort to elude the authorities (fooling them into thinking those counselors were killed by that other deformed mongoloid, perhaps?) and decided that his choice overalls were suddenly passé.
It’s why he stops off at the local convenient store, lifting some new pants and a shirt (and why do they fit him? Harold wasn’t exactly his body type) before sulking off to Higgins Haven (just in time to greet a few new arrivals who apparently hadn’t heard about the bloodbath across the lake) where he eventually lands his signature mask. While there was plenty to love about the Country Bumpkin, this is a much more imposing look for Mr. Voorhees. One that’s heightened by the film’s unmasking, which gives us this:
In the grand scheme of Jasons, this is among the creepiest. He’s always grinning - like he’s absolutely delighted to be terrorizing our already mentally fragile heroine – and there’s real glee in his eye when he kills. Jason was angrier elsewhere, perhaps scarier elsewhere as well, but there has never been another performance as evil as this! Kudos to Richard Brooker for pulling it off and leaving a lasting mark.
Friday the 13th – The Final Chapter (1984)
After the drastic disregard in continuity between parts 2 and 3, it was nice that Joe Zito’s The Final Chapter could be bothered to maintain stricter continuity with the previous film. In fact Tom Savini’s work on Friday 4 ranks among his best, with a truly frightening Jason design that took everything that came before and ramped it up.
Before talking about the face, let’s look at the mask: battered, bruised, damaged, awesome. The center red chevron is fading, the bloodied axe wound from part 3 looks messy and painful. Best of all? Those thick, long and nasty fingernails. No wonder he’s able to rip Peter Barton’s face off with relative ease … his nails are so disgusting that Coffin Joe might even be appalled. And that’s nothing when compared to the series’ greatest unmasking sequence:
It’s the stuff of nightmares. Warped flesh, nasty teeth (complete with a fang or two, unpictured), and another sardonic grin that tells us more about the character than all of the scripts combined. Jason’s a man on a mission. He loves killing and won’t be stopped. And that makes him absolutely terrifying.
Friday the 13th Part V – A New Beginning (1985)
Of course, anyone who knows the series know that Jason was stopped – albeit briefly – for this stellar and underrated entry in the franchise (that’s right) that witnesses an impostor behind the mask.
Considering it was a grief-stricken (and deadbeat) dad behind the blue chevrons, it makes sense that “Jason” equipped himself with a completely different look. Taking a page from the handbook of Michael Myers, our slasher dons a nifty blue jumpsuit and goes through the trouble of encasing his head in a faux bald mask – simply in the hope of confusing his victims (and audience) into believing that the genuine article was butchering the lingering residents of Crystal Lake.
Of course, the “surprise” twist is a bit of a letdown for the purposes of this article:
It’s just a regular dude. Roy Burns. I still want to know where he got that bald mask, and why he bothered if he was planning on killing every single person at Pinehurst. Of course, the ultimate irony being that if Roy had just manned up and been a father to Joey (the poor fat kid whose unlikely murder is ground zero for the killings), this whole tragedy could’ve been avoided. But then we wouldn’t have had A New Beginning, and I would not have been okay with that.
Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
For some reason fans were “upset” that Friday 5 featured a fake Jason, as if the presence of an exact copycat that looks the same, and even exceeded the real deal’s body count record, wasn’t good enough for them. Regardless, Jason was jolted back to life for the sixth (and, for my money, best) installment in the franchise.
“Zombie” Jason has been a bone of contention with some of the old school purists (those who caught every single one of these in the theaters since 1980), although I can’t find much reason to contest the direction the series was taking at this point. Our resident slasher was chopped to pieces at the end of The Final Chapter so it was either resurrect him this way or disregard the events of the last two flicks. Personally, I’m glad this was the route they chose.
This incarnation may be overlooked by the spectacular make-up showcase of the next movie, but I personally find this Jason to be the coolest of all the “undead” versions. Credit director Tom McLoughlin for outfitting the entire flick with an atmospheric Hammer-esque vibe (especially that opening) – which is exactly why this Jason is a lumbering Frankenstein-ish creation, complete with cobwebs and the surge of lightning that brought him back:
As for the brief “unmasking” (occurring at the very beginning for a change), it’s pretty standard rotting corpse stuff. But on the whole, this Jason is dripping with classic monster nostalgia. The perfect complement to the rollercoaster that is Jason Lives.
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
The natural progression from Jason’s watery grave. John Buechler’s ghastly creation is perfection: the exposed spine and rib cage, the busted chain dangling around his neck and this face:
Not much else to say about this one. Brilliant FX work.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
And after two innovative designs that took Mr. Voorhees from a pissed off mongoloid to an undead monster, laziness finally set in. This takes Buechler’s work and turns it into a grade-z variation. From the sludge-lathered clothing that conveniently looks to obscure detail (or lack thereof) to this monstrosity of an unmasking:
What else needs to be said? With part VIII Jason was reduced to looking like a Madball (specifically, that mummy that everyone growing up in the 80s seemed to have). His face is so soft and mushy that the filmmakers might’ve just slapped a hockey mask on a burnt and wilted marshmallow for as good as this looks.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the sheer ridiculousness of Jason Takes Manhattan, from disappearing passengers on a massive cruise ship to New York City sewers flooding with toxic waste every night at midnight, but the one thing that’s impossible to overlook is the shoddy make-up efforts. If there was a constant in these films, it should’ve been Jason’s look. He is, after all, the reason people showed up to see these films. Why’d he get such a raw deal, Paramount?
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
The raw deal didn’t get any less raw in this, the first of three New Line Cinema “Jason” productions. But at least they didn’t skip on his look again, giving us an even more brazen design consisting of a faded silver hockey mask melting into his head.
Fan speculation wonders if it wasn’t Jason’s exposure to New York’s river of toxic sludge that caused him to mutate. It’s a worthy supposition although it’s more likely they just didn’t want to touch that film’s ending with a ten-foot pole, deciding instead to change up the character’s appearance for what was originally going to be his final sendoff.
I like this look as a monster design even if it seems too outré for the young boy who drowned at camp all those years ago.
Jason X (2002)
This is a pretty “standard” look for the masked one. More subdued than JGTH and boasting more of a direct resemblance to Kane Hodder than ever before (complete with his hair, at least in the prologue). He looks great when masked. Unfortunately this is briefly glimpsed:
Of course, it’s really the Sideshow Collectibles sculpt here that makes this stand out as terrible (but look what they were working with!). And this design is notable for a few disappointing reasons: where’s the previous battle damage? No axe wound, no bullet hole (and that was one movie ago!) and, worst of all, why is his goddamn left eye back? It was destroyed at the end of The Final Chapter. Lazy, folks. Just lazy.
Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
And then there’s this movie. Which seems to have been made by Freddy people without any regard for Friday the 13th fans. Jason lumbers around without any sense of menace, most of the kills are unimaginable and then there’s this:
Since we don’t actually see his face this time (just his mouth), it’s hard to tell exactly what he looked like. But again, the battle damage is absent from the mask (and Jason sports two eyes beneath that mask – gah!), and somebody explain to me when Jason decided to put a jacket on over his shirt? Do zombies get cold?
Friday the 13th (2008)
Sure, this is a “remake”, but it plays a lot like a sequel. And for everything that’s wrong with it (I hated this film), Jason looks pretty decent when he’s wearing that mask. Sadly, the brain trust at Platinum Dunes failed to deliver fans a proper unmasking sequence (odd, considering they claimed to “really study” the first four films before making this). But this is floating around out there:
Kind of a decent updating of his look from way back in part 2. The gimp eye, malformed skull, straggly hair and disgusting teeth all gel in a way that makes me wish the filmmakers had put some effort into making the movie any good. A damn shame
Twelve movies. Twelve looks. Some great, most good, some terrible. Which are you favorites, and why?
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