Friday, February 13, 2009
Camera Obscura: Jason Eats The Box Office Alive
It's going to be a monster weekend at the box office for Jason Voorhees. So let me begin this movie post with the simple warning from the first "Friday the 13th" film in 1980 ... "You're doomed. You're all doomed."
Box office returns have always been hefty when the nation is in Economic Hell. And returning after 29 years as a cash cow, Mr. Voorhees and his murderous mythos will slay the box office once again. I know kids who are skipping school to see it today, adults who have been planning for months to gather at the ticket booth, and the ads promoting this movie have been everywhere. Technically speaking, this is the 12th Jason movie. The series sort of stopped when Jason X concluded, but then we had the kabuki-style theatrical fountains of crimson streams with "Freddy vs Jason" (his 11th appearance) so this is number 12. I am pretty sure they are already working on the 13th Friday the 13th.
I was there at the beginning (as I always am) when not Jason, but his mom slashed and hacked her way thru carnal camp counselors in the first movie, though a moldy, rotten, water-bloated boy-Jason arose from the waters of Camp Crystal Lake by the movie's end. Because, like Spring, like the time-traveling Groundhog Day, Jason rises eternal. It's his basic charm - that and a hockey mask and a machete.
I do want to suggest you enjoy the musings and writings at The McClane Tirade, as Matt is one of the most faithful fans of the movie series I've ever met. He takes such loopy joy in the horrible plots and contradictions, and has a vast knowledge of characters and timelines. He just re-posted his 2007 piece on the movie series and it's a great read. Here's a sample of his "Friday the 13th: Best Chronology Ever!"
"It's a simple fact that Friday the 13th has the MOST jacked up, inconsistent, insane chronology in the history of serial cinema. Characters are all over the map, times are changed up and rearranged and consistencies are thrown out the window for really piss-poor plot devices. Sometimes, perhaps directors and writers just forget things. Maybe they don't bother with research, or... watching...the...previous... films? Maybe they actually just didn't give a damn and decided to do it their own way.
When Paramount sold the rights to the entire franchise to New Line Cinema sometime around 1990, it was pretty apparent that the powers-that-be straight-up didn't give two bowls of monkey crap WHAT they did with these characters. It's conceivably a very remote possibility that they might have even PLANNED for it to end up this way.
Whatever the case may be, it's worth taking a look and breaking some of this down. I feel that in most films, this kind of blatant factual disregard for continuity would be a huge hindrance—and the distractive nature of such things would generate more hatred than Sheriff Garris hated Tommy Jarvis for checking out his daughter in Friday the 13: Jason Lives—but in this case, I believe it's absolutely ingenious comedy."
Matt has a real knack for pointing out the awful hilarity in these movies -- for proof, just check out the clip he included from "Jason Takes Manhattan", the 6th movie, and the 'boxing match' between Jason and a character named Julius. As Matt advises, "You may want to go ahead and watch that again, just in case you thought I made it up, or you were dreaming, or maybe ate some bad hot dogs or something and imagined it. Go ahead, induldge."
Also worth a peek, something I mentioned last Halloween, was Cinematical's Friday the 13th Obsessive-Compulsive Guide, wherein this jewel of observation occurs:
"Finally, and most disturbingly, four of the 10 films feature men wearing Daisy Duke shorts. Was this acceptable in the 1980s?"
Indeed. You can chart much American fashion thru these movies. I'm not saying it's a great experience, but it is there, from feathered haircuts to nano-bots.
Take the tour at the all-modern Friday the 13th website and blog, so you can just be, you know, all modern and stuff.
And if you are asking "is this movie going to be any good?", well you haven't been paying attention. I will say that the folks who are re-booting this series also attempted a re-boot of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" which was bad, bad, bad. Of course, TCM is not in the same class as Jason's movies, though it might appear to be. TCM was and is different and about 7 years ahead of Jason. In other words, the new production team - or let me call his name, Michael "Can't Make A Movie Worth A Crap" Bay - has a pretty dreadful history, which will likely add to enjoyability of the remake.
Let me twist the machete a little before we leave Jason to the cinema history books.
After you go see it, after you watch the DVD collections and laugh at it all, there is another movie horror fans and Jason fans should watch next. It too is a remake, and released last year, called "Funny Games." Here too are some relentless killers on a lakeside community. And they can't be stopped. But I guarantee you the experience of watching "Funny Games" will become nearly unbearable and a true test of your endurance (and one you will likely regret competing in). In a way, director Micahel Haneke made his movie especially for fans of violence/slasher/revenge movies.
And he does not like you.
It's a movie that you dare people to watch and it will leave you in a bad, bad way. That's what a scary movie should do. Jason is just a comedian.