Friday The 13th Dominates Summer

Jeff Rovin finally got his wish.

I received his book How To Win At Nintendo Games 3 as a stocking stuffer in 1991, and I always remembered reading his analysis of the Friday the 13th game on NES. His criticism was that the game could have been more fun if players controlled Jason and stalked the counselors, and he even made the comparison to the Atari game The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Good stuff for 1991, well before The Angry Video Game Nerd managed to create such an amazing canon for old video games and old horror movies on the internet.

The recent launch of the Friday the 13th game has been a success. Sure, the game has a few bugs, but the spirit of the film is there. The camp ground looks outstanding and some of the locations (such as Packanack Lodge) look as though they’ve been masterfully recreated from the films. The counselors fit into a “breakfast club” kind of stereotype, each with their own abilities. For example: the nerdy counselors are great at fixing the car or the phone, but slow at running whereas the athletic counselors are great at running away but stink at repairing things. Even better, several of the counselors are great recreations of characters within the films. Tommy Jarvis looks just like he did in part VI Jason Lives, nerdy girl Deborah is based on Maddie from Part VII The New Blood, beautiful Jenny is based on Cris from Part III, preppy douche Chad is based on Russel from Part VII, punk girl A.J. Mason is based on Violet from Part V The New Beginning, and booty-shorts Tiffany is based on Tina (but they gave her Terry’s shorts) from Part IV The Final Chapter. Great stuff.

Players will also be randomly selected to play as Jason with the ability to choose which Jason to play as. All his looks from the familiar entries in the series are selectable. Just like in the movies, the Part VII “rotting” Jason is the best looking one. Jason has different abilities based upon which movie the player chooses. Jason from Part 2 has the familiar sack on his head and can run while Jason from part VIII Jason Takes Manhattan has the ability to walk through doors and walls, smashing them to smithereens. Counselors run around Camp Crystal Lake at night trying to find parts to repair the phone, car, or boat. Repairing the phone allows counselors to call the police and opens up an exit on the map, repairing the car or boat allows for an escape by street or strait. Some other great ideas incorporated from the films are the misty graveyard from the opening scene in Part VI Jason Lives, and the shack that houses Pamela Voorhees’s head from Part II. Female counselors feeling bold can raid the shack and steal the sweater and use it to confuse Jason, just like Ginny did in Part II. Even the sleeping-bag-against-the-tree kill is included in the game. Friday the 13th fanatics have a lot to like about the game thanks to all the great fan service.

The game makes for some very cinematic moments, especially for a player that is skilled at playing as a counselor or as Jason. The music and mood of the game are fantastic. It’s no wonder that gamers are currently addicted to this new game. The Friday the 13th films and the Jason Voorhees character are more than horror-cult icons, they are the best example of a contemporary American movie monster and franchise.

So with all the recent interest in Friday the 13th, it seems inevitable that there should be a new film to capitalize. It’s been roughly eight years since the last film, which was something of a reboot. It included a modern retelling of the death of Jason’s mother Pamela Voorhees (an emulation of the end of the first film), and it was done exceedingly well. The first few moments of the film involve an unnamed female counselor (wearing a Camp Crystal Lake shirt) reluctantly chopping off Mrs. Voorhees’s head. There’s rain and excellent storm effects, and it all looks especially fantastic because it is in black-and-white. These first few moments are the best moments of the entire reboot. It is a good movie, but it is missing something. I recently rewatched it, and figured out the missing ingredient.

Friday the 13th fans have never really had a film that focused on Camp Crystal Lake. The first couple films explicitly state that the camp is reopening after the original murders, but they never explore the camp as being open and fully functional. The sixth film is the only exception. In the sixth film, the camp has been renamed and there are kids, but too much of the story and the screen time is dedicated to the police, so Camp Crystal Lake isn’t a big part of the story Every other Friday the 13th film gets away from the camp and usually takes place at a vacation destination cabin somewhere on the lake. An ideal Friday the 13thfilm should be more about Camp Crystal Lake. The Camp Crystal Lake logo, like the Jurassic Park logo, should be everywhere. Also, an effort should be made to have the counselors look like actual teenager for a change. Usually, the actors look like they are in their mid-to-late 20’s, which prevents the film from being taken seriously.

There were a couple of ideas being kicked around recently for the latest in the Friday the 13th franchise. One idea that seems to be dominating the conversation is to turn the franchise into a tv series. I hate this idea. Friday the 13th is meant to be experienced on the big screen with gruesome special effects and nudity. Putting it on tv would result in a large-scale watering-down of all the elements that make the films memorable. The other idea that was kicked around was to have Friday the 13th be a “found footage” horror movie like The Blair Witch Project and The Last Broadcast, but this idea is too gimmicky. The only good idea that emerged was to have the film take place at Camp Crystal Lake during the winter, giving the film an interesting new aesthetic. Workable, but ultimately, Friday the 13th needs a solid installment that is about camp counselors at Camp Crystal Lake during peak operation. It seems like a no-brainer, but it’s never been done properly and it hasn’t even been seriously attempted.

Get back to basics. Friday the 13th is about a summer camp that is haunted and has a very familiar urban legend. Keep the focus on the counselors.