Who can forget the Herrmann-esque score, the jump-scares, the chu-chu-chu… ha-ha-ha, and the gruesomely original, in-your-face murder gore?
I saw Friday the 13th upon its release in May of 1980. Carpenter’s Halloween was still fresh in my mind as I had seen a re-release of it the previous fall. There’s no comparison. Halloween is far superior. But something about this step-child of a horror franchise lingers with me… and apparently with pop-culture, as we are to see this week with American Horror Story: 1984.
It wasn’t the first slasher film by a long stretch. That honor began back 1932 with a movie called 13 Women, and there was also Fritz Lang’s M… all the way through the Italian giallo films of the 1960s and 70s—Bava’s Bay of Blood, which was likely the inspiration for Paramount’s and Sean Cunningham’s jinxed holiday cash cow.
But Friday the 13th and most of its sequels did enforce the slasher standard (more than any other) for what we now know as a classic sub-genre of horror films… the why are you alone and doing something stupid in the dark motif? …the here-it-comes suspenseful music cues …The fem-trip (a chased female falling) …the if you have sex your next (to die) …the inventive gory murders with various implements from the kitchen and garden shed … the body count/reveal …the unstoppable, masked killer…
…and the list goes on.
I’m a bit of a purest. I love the original and Part 2 the best (however, my cheese-loving bad-movie side adores Jason X –because it’s IN OUTER SPACE). But Part VI: Jason Lives is also great and features an Alice Cooper soundtrack and… honestly, if I walk by a TV and any part is on I will likely sit down and indulge.
And what about the original? It was very different than the rest in that the killer was never seen or revealed until the end of the movie… AND IT TURNED OUT TO BE JASON’S MOM??!!
I have to say that for a split second I was devastated… so disappointed to find out that the relentless hacker of teenage bodies was none other than a middle-aged woman, an actress from my mother’s generation.
But then that ending… the languid dream sequence, the canoe, Alice drifting on the placid water, her hand delicately touching the water, and… BLAMMO! The resurrected deformed offspring Jason leaps from the water to avenge his mother’s beheading.
That one final jump-scare ushered in legions of fans for 10+ more movies and reboots.
And we knew he would be the lead in the first sequel because Alice told us so:
Alice: The boy. Is he dead too?
Alice: The Boy. Jason.
Alice: In the lake, the one… the one who attacked me. The one who pulled me underneath the water.
Tierney: Ma’am, we didn’t find any boy.
Alice: … then he’s still there.
And he has been… for almost 40 years now, a cherished part in my warped little horror-loving heart.
And now, this week, American Horror Story is paying homage to slasher films of the 80s with AHS: 1984. Will I watch it? Yes. Will I hate it? Probably.
Don’t get me wrong, I want American Horror Story to be great , always have… ever since its inception. Hard-core horror on TV? I’m in. Great ensemble casts? Sign me up. Ryan Murphy, another homo horror-lover? Fellow tribesman here.
The problem is Murphy is inconsistent in all of his offerings. Glee was not always great. However, American Crime Story and Feud were. AHS is that way seasonally… and, for the most part, makes me weary. I do love the witch seasons for their casts and originality. But other seasons are simply over-the-top as if they’re trying to throw every horror trope in to see what sticks. Vampire hotels are enough for a story. Haunted places are enough for a story. We don’t need additional aliens, serial killers, and inbred cannibal families as subplots.
But, yet again, I find myself as drawn in by the commercials as many of you… for nostalgic reasons primarily (which is hilariously sick when you think about it). All of us, remembering our youth… sitting in darkened theaters… jumping with the scares… spilling popcorn… shouting expletives… grabbing our partners… all fixated on that next kill.
Count me in.
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