Friday the 13th Part I: Andrew Watches Friday the 13th
A few weeks ago, Netflix expanded its Watch Instantly library, and I began a Super Secret Project. I would watch several entries from the Friday the 13th franchise, and provide you all with a five-part series about it, aided, of course, by my insightful commentary and biting wit.[ref] No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Insightful commentary and biting wit may not be available in all areas. [/ref] One reason for doing this was my worry that those of us who study movies closely often get wrapped up with just the Alleged Classics, at the expense of what everyone else watches. I was also inspired while writing up this post, about David Bordwell and suspense. I noted that many horror films aren’t all that scary, because they rely more on surprise than suspense. But my sample of horror films was severely limited. [ref] Halloween, Jaws, The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity… I’m probably forgetting some. [/ref] Thus this project was born.
The entries I watched, which I hope were representative of the whole series, were as follows: Parts I and II (the originals), Part IV, The Final Chapter (supposedly one of the best- it wasn’t), Parts V, A New Beginning, and IX, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (supposedly two of the worst- hoo boy), and the New one, from 2009.
Let’s make something clear right now: These are terrible movies on just about every level. Shot quickly and cheap, and aiming for our lowliest interests, no one is trying to make anything other than a pile of money. If you enjoy these movies, or found them scary, however, don’t worry. I won’t judge you. It’s not like they’re byproducts of Seltzer and Friedberg.
I've heard critics complain that these movies are misogynistic[ref] That’s “hatred of women,” for anyone who doesn’t speak Greek. [/ref]. Me, I'm not so sure. Misanthropic,[ref] “Hatred of people in general,” also Greek, for anyone keeping score. As in, The aloof behavior of cats often comes across as misanthropic. [/ref] definitely. There is a focus on the girls taking their clothes off, but the gender distribution of victims is fairly equal. I will also point out that every producer, director and screenwriter in this franchise is male. The nudity seems more like an Author Appeal than an excuse to later "punish" the girls for being naughty!
We can also dispense with the idea that these films present a “conservative social commentary,” in that the sexy teenagers who get laid and use illicit substances are all “punished” by villain Jason Voorhees. Even if you can make this reading (in spite of the several “virginal Final Girls” who contradict it), this kind of moral message is not being received by the audience. [ref] Roger Ebert, in reviewing Part II, remarks that several young gentlemen in front of him were moved by a woman undressing to chant, “We want boobs! We want boobs!” [/ref]
Are we really surprised to see a genre already obsessed with transgressing taboos in depictions of violence also begin to push boundaries in the depiction of sex and drugs? Death, as a consequence is, largely absent [ref] I'll talk more about this in Part III. [/ref]: The kids suffer a brief surprise and are promptly forgotten. These movies are no more effective at curbing bad behavior than Abstinence-Only Sex Education.
I do have some reservations about the end result, which encourages gleeful enjoyment at others' suffering, but this is all protected by the First Amendment. What I have a problem with is their designation as horror films. I expect them to be scary. Which they aren't. Not by a long shot. For this, I label them failures.
Follow me to Part II, and let's find out why.