Three Fridays: A Comparison of ‘Friday the 13’ – Finale

For the past few decades, Hollywood has increasingly remade or rebooted its more famous stories at an ever-increasing rate. While this can be attributed to cashing in on brand-name recognition or nostalgia (or creative bankruptcy, as some might say), it does allow us to see how a story can be told in two different ways, for better or worse. Sometimes the remake is an almost straight-up copy, while the other goes for a radically different interpretation. Even rarer is the example of one story told more than twice, or even three times (how many Spider-Man origin stories do we have, now?). The original ‘Friday the 13th’ falls into that elusive category.

Over the past three weeks, we’ve taken a look at the three adaptions of Jason’s origin story. If, by chance you missed them, here’s some handy links:

The 1980 film

The 2009 remake

The 2019 comic

When comparing all three, one major factor keeps coming up: When you take away everything connecting the stories to the franchise at large, they are largely generic slasher tales: Everything else about them, the remote location, young adults being picked off one by one, a mysterious killer, the final girl, etc. can be found in any horror, slasher, or thriller. But what elevates the 1980 and 2019 versions is their killer, Ms. Voorhees. Unlike so many other slasher villains (including her son), she elevates herself not by being a bloodthirsty savage with an absurd body count, but by being a sympathetic killer, a mother consumed by grief and rage who wants both vengeance and to spare other children from the stupidity of horny camp counselors.

Thus, the ultimate takeaway from the original ‘Friday’ is the importance of giving our killers more motivation beyond, ‘kill, kill, KILL!’ Unless we’re writing inhuman monsters like a shark, an alien, or an elder god from a forgotten faith, it’s imperative to give them a relatable objective. Maybe they’re killing to avenge loved ones, or to get revenge on those who wronged them. They might kill because they’re mentally ill and believe they’re pleasing their overcontrolling parents. Maybe they’ve come from the future to kill all those who will one day be part of a dictatorship that rules the world. Perhaps they’re killing to prevent people from finding an ancient and dangerous artifact that could destroy the world. Or maybe they’re convinced they’re doing God’s will and killing people they think God hates.

Whatever the reason for embarking on a murder spree, giving killers a motivation we can understand helps us make them stand out, even if the story they’re in is typical and unremarkable. There will always be room for killers who are unknowable forces of pure evil (Michael Meyers comes to mind), but those who we can help our readers identify with will stay with them long after the killings end.

Three Fridays: A Comparison of ‘Friday the 13th’ – Part 3

Four months ago, I had no interest in the Friday the 13th series. Yes, I had seen ‘Freddy vs Jason’ on a whim, and I knew that Jason was a near-invincible zombie killer who had slaughtered hundreds of horny teenagers over the years, but that was the extent of my knowledge and interest in his movies. But as I mentioned in my overview of the 1980 movie, I came across a fan-made adaptation of said film. Out of curiosity, I gave it a try, and was hooked, making me curious to see how it compared to the film and the 2009 remake. Today, we’re going to take a look a this adaptation: A fan comic re-imagening the events of ‘Friday the 13th’:

F13Cover

Click here to read the comic

This comic, created by artist David Hopkins – a furry artist best known for his long running web comic, ‘Jack’ – immediately stands out because the cast are no longer human, but anthropomorphic animals. But don’t let the sight of cute cartoon animals in people clothes fool you: This is easily the bloodiest take on the original ‘Friday’ story. Much like the 1980 movie, the comic tells the origin story of Jason Voorhees and his mother. And, like the best remakes, it takes the original story and reinterprets it in interesting ways. Here, there’s no twenty-year gap between Jason’s death and his mother’s rampage, and unlike the 1980 and 2009 films, where Jason only pops up after Pamela is killed, both of them work together throughout the story to kill counselors, acting like a ghoulish version of Bonnie and Clyde. The other, most significant addition to this take on the story is it’s religious tone: While Jason’s survival was unexplained in the original film, his resurrection here is due to Pamela making a deal with the devil to bring him back to life (in a smart move, the devil is never heard or seen, making him an unseen menace).

The compressed timeline and supernatural elements gives this version of ‘Friday’ refreshingly different from the original, but what elevates it above being a simple slasher story is how most of its focus is on Pamela Voorhees. While she infamously only appeared in the final act of the original film without any foreshadowing, the comic makes her the main character instead of the counselors, letting us learn much more about her: In this interpretation, Pamela is a former member of a group of devil worshippers who eventually left and became a Christian, who then suffers from a horrific crisis of faith when Jason dies, and then backsliding when her pleas to God to bring Jason back aren’t answered.

This expanded focus on Pamela turns her from an already compelling and relatable character into a complex, fascinating individual who is bloodthirsty and ruthless, deeply loving, misguided, and even regretful about what she’s done. It’s easy to understand and related to her pain and goals for vengeance, even as she kills innocent counselors in truly horrific ways.

F13080clr150

Yet, despite all the horror and the gore here, there’s a strong undercurrent of innocence and tragedy here: there are no true villains in the story, only victims. Yes, Pamela stabs, burns, impales, and disembowels teenagers, but only to bring her son back, and ensure that no other children will die from the counselor’s stupidity. The counselors, while having severe lapses in judgement, aren’t evil and care about the kids under their care. Jason becomes a killer, but only at his mother’s urging. And in the end, Pamela has a moment of clarity about what she’s done, but dies and is damned. Jason loses his mother, and Alice is left shell-shocked and a nervous wreck. No one wins, and everyone suffers, turning ‘Friday’ into a tragedy of poor choices, suffering, and loss… but, you know, with cartoon animals!

While I prefer this comic over the 1980 and 2009 films, it does have a few missteps: At one point, Pamela tells Jason that they can kill everyone in the world, which doesn’t make much sense for a woman who initially only wanted to leave Crystal Lake with Jason, and then wanted to get revenge on a specific group of individuals for letting Jason die. Pamela’s famous scene, where she seems to channel Jason while trying to kill Alice doesn’t make any sense here: the film implied that Pamela was losing her mind, but in the comic Jason is right outside the building, making the line and Pamela’s seeming possession unnecessary and confusing.

Still, despite these missteps, this adaptation of ‘Friday’ elevates itself above standard slasher fare by focusing on Pamela and giving her a depth and richness that the films haven’t. Coupled with the grotesque, bloody kills, tight focus, and good pacing, this re-imagining of Jason’s origins is, in my opinion, the best of the three ‘Friday’ origin stories. If you’re looking for a slasher story with an uncommon depth, or a great ‘Friday’ tale, this will easily satisfy that need.

F13024clr150.jpg

Now that we’ve taken a look at all three of Jason’s origin stories, all that remains is to done final summary of them all and see what lessons they offer for the writer, a task we’ll dive into next week.

If you’d like to see more of David Hopkins’ work, you can visit his Furaffinity page here. If you’d like to read his JACK webcomic, you can do so here.

(All art on this page is posted with permission from Mr. Hopkins)

Three Fridays: A Comparison of ‘Friday the 13th’ – Part 2

When I finished taking a look at the original ‘Friday the 13th’ last week, I hoped that the 2009 remake would offer a new twist or angle on the story, or perhaps a new idea that would add to the Jason mythos. And at first glance, it sounded like the movie had everything going for it: a bigger budget, a bigger scope, and including elements from the first few films. Thus, with the disappointment of the original still fresh in my mind, I started the remake, hopeful that I’d get a more exciting version of Jason’s origins.

After a very quick recap of Pamela’s attempt to kill horny teenagers at Camp Crystal Lake, ’13th’ wastes no time in getting to the basics: young adults head out to a remote lake, get drunk, get high, get naked, have premarital sex, and die at Jason’s hands. A familiar formula, but it isn’t a bad thing. I was impressed at how quickly the film got to the killing, and it was quickly made clear that Jason doesn’t mess around: in the span of a few minutes, he wipes out everyone in the small group of horny, drug-seeking young adults in gruesome fashion, including bear traps, machetes, and a particularly horrible, drawn-out death for an unfortunate young woman in a sleeping bag.

And then the opening title appeared; I had been so sucked into the opening act that I was shocked to realize that the film hadn’t even started yet! Now excited, I watched as the movie started up, glad to see that things were going well.

An hour and a half later, I watched the end credits, crushed at being disappointed once again.

As a modern remake and reboot for the Friday the 13th series, ‘Friday’ is a return to the classic elements of the franchise: Camp Crystal Lake, Jason killing with his machete, and his eventual defeat at the hands of a lone, young woman, all in an attempt to leave behind the over-the-top silliness that the franchise became known for, culminating in Jason’s trip to outer space, and facing off against Freddy Kruger. A little housecleaning isn’t a bad move in and of itself: When a series heads back to its roots, it’s a chance for a clean start, and to introduce the series to new fans while honoring what came before and keeping series traditions for the returning fans.

Sadly, however, ‘Friday’s attempts to strip away the over-the-top elements of the franchise also takes away much of what made Jason memorable. Yes, he may have become ridiculous in his later outings, but a demonically-possessed, cyborg zombie Jason is far more interesting to watch, especially when he uses his superhuman durability and strength to perform wildly inventive kills. But by removing the silliness and Jason’s enhanced abilities, ‘Friday’ unfortunately turns itself into a routine slasher movie. As with the original, if we were to take away Jason and Camp Crystal Lake, there would be little left to distinguish itself from its peers: Most of the kills – which revolve around being stabbed, slashed, and impaled with a machete, shot with an arrow, or being stabbed with various items – feel routine and unimaginative (with the exception of the aforementioned sleeping bag kill). The story feels routine, and aside from his new ability to run, Jason himself feels like almost any other slasher villain in hundreds of other horror movies: Just a normal man in a mask who’s strong and tough to kill.

When the credits were rolling, I was struck by how I had to focus to recall any memorable moments that stuck with me, those, ‘that was so cool!’ scenes that we love sharing with our friends later on. To my surprise, the only thing that stuck with me was that I like how the main character, Clay, is a person with a strong, believable reason to go to the hunting grounds of a serial killer (he’s looking for his missing sister), and that, even better, he manages to find and rescue her… until Jason bursts out of the lake at the end of the movie, presumably killing her, and making his whole quest pointless.

While I was hopeful that the 2009 remake of ‘Friday’ would correct the mistakes of its predecessor, I was disappointed to find that it was little more than your typical horror flick, one that happened to have Jason Voorhees in it. It did have a faster pace, more action, more kills, and more of everything to keep our attention (I didn’t fast-forward through it), but there was nothing particularly memorable about it.

But not all is lost; there exists one more version of Friday the 13th, a fan-made version that, in my opinion, tells the best version of Jason’s origin story. Come back next week, where we’ll take a look at this adaptation, which isn’t what you’d expect.