In Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, the rampage seems like a celebration of what life has in store for me, before it suddenly stops.
Like everybody there was a point in my life where I had to come to terms with mortality.
For me it was in my early teens and a late night viewing of Jason Lives: Friday The 13th Part VI, which helped ease the deeply embedded childhood fear of death by allowing me to repeatedly observe the encroaching inevitability as it was meted out by the unstoppable brute force of Jason Vorhees.
Vorhees as a scare figure was familiar from school yard mutterings, his name often cropped up alongside Krueger, Myers and Leatherface as a sort of four horsemen of minimally plotted teenage slaughter, I had enough of a gist of what was going on to be able to start at episode six and it proved a fantastic place to begin my weird love/fear affair with the man behind the mask.
A chap called Tommy Jarvis who has clearly had a Vorhees issue in the past decides the best way to lay things to rest is by exhuming Jason’s corpse, giving his hockey mask back and stabbing him with a giant iron rod. In a thunderstorm. The obligatory bolt of resurrectional lightning echoes Shelley’s Frankenstein, then as Jason shambles from the grave Romero’s zombies are recalled and finally after thrusting his hand through a mans chest and donning the mask, Vorhees’ true self is revealed.
Vorhees is a modernised grim reaper; he dresses in black, his iconic machete is a scythe on a shorter stick, his hockey mask is simply a Pop Art drawing of a skull. Most importantly for a grim reaper, he ends life. Everybody’s life. I know now that slasher movies are supposedly cautionary tales, bumping off a range of undeserving stereotypes in order to send a moral message, but back then Vorhees rampage seemed more like a celebration of what life had in store for me, coupled with a nagging reminder of how one day it will all suddenly stop.
You will grow up and get a job, maybe as a policeman, AND THEN YOU DIE. You will hang out with friends, party and have a lot of good times, AND THEN YOU DIE. You will accrue meaningless money, AND THEN YOU DIE. You will have gratuitous sex, AND THEN YOU DIE. You will survive unspeakable psychological trauma, AND THEN YOU DIE.
Okay, not all the life experiences looked like fun (nobody wants to get a job) but the film was sending me a strong message that I’d enjoy myself a hell of a lot before I finally popped my clogs because those teenagers certainly did. As did a lot of other random folk, presumably there was a notice on the production office wall that said ‘make sure somebody dies every five minutes’, because for every mild lull in proceedings a gang of paintballers (you will play competitive team building games, AND THEN YOU DIE) or a drunken janitor (you will aimlessly wander about, laughing to yourself, AND THEN YOU DIE) will get sent stumbling into Jason’s personal space.
I’m not trying to convince anybody that the Friday The 13th movies are good movies because they’re not. Shoddy and plotless, even this one with it’s knowing post modern winks and fourth-wall-breaking shenanigans stands as one of the best of the series but it’s still only a couple of notches above shit.
The hulking figure of Jason Vorhees, however, is an undeniably beguiling one. A personification of everybody’s closest horror, both intriguing and repulsive, I could happily watch him cut swathes through any number of minor soap opera characters. I’ve since gone on to watch him senselessly destroy over 150 lives, each one lived to its fullest.
And so it was I came to terms with the fact that ahead of me was a lot of partying, good times, the possibility of paintball and then I would die. And if, when I take that final permanent blink, I see Vorhees waiting for me then I’ll know exactly what to expect from him.
For more spine-chilling thrills to watch over Halloween, check out our complete 31 days of horror movies list.