With those few syllables, a very low budget, and buckets upon buckets of brightly colored fake blood, producer/director/writer Sean S. Cunningham laid the foundation for what has got to be one of the most ridiculously profitable film franchises in history. Between 1980 and 1989, watching Jason Voorhees hack people to bits was an almost annual ritual for filmgoers of a certain age and temperament, and though the ’90s and early aughts weren’t as kind to the series, Friday the 13th has undergone a bit of a renaissance this year, thanks to the Platinum Dunes-produced reboot that scared up a $90 million worldwide gross, and Paramount is celebrating by reissuing the first eight films on DVD and/or Blu-ray. They passed me over for the first installment (don’t they know who I am?), but sent chapters II through VI, plus the reboot, so I’ve spent the last week or so reliving my Camp Crystal Lake memories with a series of Deluxe Edition discs. It’s been an exhausting journey, but now it’s over, and I’m here to tell you about it.
Though I was only six when the first Friday the 13th debuted in 1980, the series quickly attained enough pop culture clout to attract the fascination of grubby young boys all over America, and by the time Lar Park Lincoln used her telekinetic powers to dredge Jason’s corpse from Crystal Lake in 1988’s Part VII: The New Blood, the lumbering, hockey-masked killer had already been on a first-name basis with me and my friends for several sequels. I was never much of a slasher fan, but there was always something undeniably fascinating about the Friday films; inspired directly by John Carpenter’s Halloween, they were proudly crass and cynical, and they never earned the kind of critical respect enjoyed by peers like A Nightmare on Elm Street and the first Poltergeist, but as each of those franchises withered away, Jason continued lumbering on. Hell, even Halloween had to take most of the ’80s off after the producers fucked things up with Halloween III: Season of the Witch, but not Jason — no matter how desperate his handlers grew, he kept popping up on the big screen. He went to Manhattan in ’89, Hell in ’93, and all the way to outer space in 2002. He even managed to drag Freddy Krueger out of retirement for 2003’s Freddy vs. Jason.