Collins’ Crypt: Thoughts On A FRIDAY THE 13th Marathon

BC watches most of a Friday the 13th marathon and only falls asleep twice!

I think I've explained in a previous Crypt that I'm not one for marathon viewing, either TV shows or movies. I can MAYBE do 3 episodes of a really good show, like Lost in its prime, even more if it's a good anthology (peak Twilight Zone would be a good example), but as far as movies go I never even really want to do two entries. If they're a back to back kind of thing like Halloween 1 and 2, or those two Saw entries that take place simultaneously, sure, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't getting bored before the 2nd film even reached its halfway point. Nowadays I usually peg my dislike of the idea on my limited free time (meaning, if I actually have 3-4 hours to watch two very similar movies, I'd rather watch one and then do something else), but even as a kid with nothing BUT free time I found it to be unappealing - I remember trying to watch the Star Wars trilogy when I was like 13 or 14 and giving up on Empire before Lando showed up.

But I'm a sucker for once in a lifetime opportunities, so even though I'm still catching up on sleep from the Halloween all-nighter two weeks ago, there was no way I could pass up the chance to watch the original Paramount run of Friday the 13th movies in glorious 35mm at the New Beverly. I had never seen the original on 35mm, and Part 3 would be in 2D, which would be an interesting way to watch the film with a crowd as there are more "Comin' At Ya!" shots in that film than any other 3D movie in history, I think (even more than the actual movie titled Comin' At Ya!). Plus I knew Devin was going and I wanted to witness his realization that he was wrong about Part 2 in person, which I was sure would happen (spoiler: it didn't). It's never NOT a good idea to watch Final Chapter, and New Beginning... well, even if it would be like 3 am when it started, the ideal way to watch that one is with a crowd. And luckily my good friend Jared Rivet was able to get in line early enough to snag us prime seats at the Bev (2nd row, which has the most legroom but isn't too close to the screen), so along with the pizza and snacks I brought in, and a can of Starbucks espresso shot, I knew I was in good shape for my 9ish hour journey.

Yes, 9 hours - you might notice I didn't mention Jason Lives, New Blood, or Manhattan there. I like to be optimistic about everything, but I knew there was no way I could manage to stay for all eight movies. Even if I didn't have a baby (and sciatica, which flared up right around the time Jason finally got his hockey mask), it'd be too much to ask to stick around when it ended on the two weakest movies of the night. I admit I have a soft spot for Manhattan, but it's also the longest in the original series, which would be like adding an extra hill at the end of a marathon. And watching New Blood is soul-crushing enough - doing it at 6:30 in the morning, with the harsh glare of daylight streaming into the New Beverly's lobby whenever I went out to refill my coffee or stretch my legs, would be akin to torture. Plus I had hosted standalone screenings of those two films in that very venue - I had already had the ideal experiences for both!

As for Jason Lives, I had seen it recently enough, also when hosting it (at the Dismember the Alamo event last year), so I decided in advance that I'd leave on the high note of New Beginning, beating the sun home and getting 2-3 hours' sleep before someone far more unstoppable than Jason Voorhees woke me up (hint: he's only about 1/3 as tall and far easier on the eyes, though nowhere near as quiet). I figured five movies was still more than half, and with 20 years' experience of falling asleep at the movies, I knew even if I tried to finish the Tommy Jarvis trilogy I'd likely be asleep through the whole movie anyway, so why bother staying? I'd rather let the poor sap who sat behind me finally see the bottom of the screen.

So while ideally this would be a full account, I figured it'd still be fun to write about 5/8ths of this once in a lifetime opportunity. I looked around online and couldn't find any evidence of a full 1-8 marathon on 35mm (though there was an epic ALL TWELVE film marathon in London, however it was a mix of film and digital); the first film alone is pretty rarely shown in 35 these days, in fact. My opinion on marathoning hasn't changed much (I thought about Fallout 4 a lot during Part 3, my least favorite of the ones I'd be watching), but I DID notice a few things about the series that had never occurred to me before, as well as a few tidbits about individual entries that I somehow never caught or at least never gave much thought to, so it was definitely worth the experience.   I kept a few notes (and snapped a few pics) during my effort, so please take that (5/8ths) journey with me and see what I found!

(All times approximate)

FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980) - 7:55pm
Trailer reel: pre-Friday slashers! The Town That Dreaded Sundown, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (yes, this trailer had Chainsaw as one word), Black Christmas, and Halloween

Before the first movie, host/hero Phil Blankenship made a surprise announcement - the film was an uncut European print! So it had the WB logo instead of the Paramount one, which I found amusing since the marathon was pointedly only focusing on the Paramount era of the series (New Line took over with Jason Goes To Hell). Still, even if it's only a few seconds of extra gore it was a great way to finally see this one on 35mm. Earlier that day people had been tossing their series ranks around, and I only saw one that put the original first, which is insanity - how can you like this more than any of the ones with Jason?  If anything the knowledge that Jason is the "star" of this series actually helps the first movie, because back in 1980 I can only assume some audience members were rightfully pissed that it's a whodunit where the real killer (Pamela Voorhees) is only introduced moments before revealing herself as the one who has been hacking up these poor horny teens. Worse, it throws in these halfhearted attempts at making it look like other characters are the killer, including Bill (ludicrous, with the first on-screen murder occurring before he was born) and Steve Christy, who they almost instantly establish an alibi for after he drives into town before the murders start up. A lot of whodunits have this sort of thing, a character says they are going fishing or into town for supplies or whatever, so we forget about them until they take their mask off and we realize that their alibi was a lie, but no - Sean Cunningham goes out of his way to show Christy sipping his coffee in the diner, miles and miles away from where we just saw someone die. Anyone watching for the first time now probably knows who the killer is, so it's no big deal, but if this film never had any sequels, we'd be considering it one of the lamest whodunits in history. Best in the series?  Impossible.

Seeing it on the big screen allowed me to see a few things I never noticed before, such as the film's peculiar set dressing. There's a horizontal print above a window (next to the door Alice clumsily barricades) featuring what appears to be some of the first Presidents, and earlier we can see that someone cut out a newspaper clipping about rising oil prices and tacked it on a wall. I also never caught that Ralph was married, something that made me kind of sad when you consider he's one of the film's few survivors, but ended up getting offed in the sequel - had he just left well enough alone, he could have been home, with his what must be a saint of a wife by his side. Oh, and Ned has a paperback copy of The Godfather on his dashboard, just in case Jack (Kevin Bacon) or Marcie (Jeannine Taylor) wanted to read it, I guess.

Something else also dawned on me for the first time - who called the cops at the end? There was no phone to call them, no one was actively being looked for (Ralph presumably had gone home), and we can pretty much cancel out the idea of a neighbor reporting a disturbance. We can just chalk it up to usual horror movie (il)logic, but it also starts a tradition in the Friday series - confusing and/or abandoned endings. In fact the tradition would end (temporarily) with Jason Lives, which has a pretty standard "The killer is dead... but he isn't!" ending that is carried over into the next film. But the first five movies all offer questions that we never get the answer to, or hint at something for the next installment that isn't what they ended up going with. There's a very loose continuity to the series that requires you to "just go with it", and it all starts here, with the film never even bothering to explain if a young Jason really did pull her under or if that was just in her imagination. For the superior Part 2 to work at all, you gotta... well, go with both. Or neither.

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981) - 9:45 PM
Trailer reel: post-Friday slashers! The Final Terror, Just Before Dawn, Madman, and The Burning

As I said, I did not get my wish with this one - Devin still disliked the movie, citing Jason's clumsiness as a major factor. I disagree - clumsy? He's downright ninja-like, finding a way to not only loop a razor wire over an entire tree in order to kill Ralph, but also kill Mark (wheelchair guy) from the front without the guy ever even seeing him.

OK, so Part 2 definitely isn't a perfect movie (as a director, Miner would improve immensely with Part 3, albeit working with a lesser script), but as a quickie redo of the original I think it succeeds with flying colors. Hell, the Jeff character is identical to Kevin Bacon's Jack in every way, right down to getting killed in bed (except during sex instead of immediately after), and, in a rare (only?) instance of scenery continuity in these movies, we even see the same town at the beginning as our heroes make their way to the lake. It also gives us our first taste of Jason in traditional civilization, something we'd very rarely see in the series until Manhattan. He's found Alice, the girl that killed his mother, and claims her as his first victim - the rare case of a revenge-driven slasher who actually kills the person he has the beef with (instead of killing all of her friends, then failing to kill his only real target). The hundreds of people who died since are just sort of a bonus for him, if you think about it. I also notice that they carefully never show his full size in these scenes, which would have helped clarify a long standing debate about Jason's nature. If he really DID pull Alice under as a boy (having somehow stayed 11 years old for 22 years), he'd still be about the same size when he kills her here, 2 months later - and he'd only be around 16 for the main part of the film. Obviously he's a grown man, which would point to the "there was no boy" theory, but if he wasn't just chilling in the lake where the hell was he for 20+ years? It's comical how flimsy this is anyway; it's even funnier when watching back to back.

But even with Jason more or less established as the killer early on (with Paul's "I wanna give it to you straight about Jason" story), there are still some of Part 1's bizarrely half-assed attempts at red herrings, including one I never noticed before - Paul has the same plaid shirt that Jason wears. Again the idea that he could be the killer is impossible, as Miner cuts more than once to him and the others in town at a bar while Jason is murdering the six teens who stayed behind, but I guess if you pick up on this little detail as an oblivious, first time viewer it might be fun to think about Paul (the series' most hilarious character, I think) as the murderer for a few scenes before the editing proves it can't possibly be the case. However, it would certainly explain one of the film's other reprises from the first one: people with no peripheral vision! In the first movie there's a POV shot from Mrs. Voorhees as Alice walks right by her, and here Jeff and Sandra walk right past Jason without noticing him at all. If it was Paul, it wouldn't be strange for him to be hanging around - but a guy with a bag over his head and almost certainly holding a large killing implement should have at least earned a cursory glance.

Another odd thing about Paul is that no one knows if he lives or not. Of all the confusing endings in the first five Friday movies, this one's the nuttiest, with Ginny (goddess Amy Steel) surely surviving but no hard answer on Paul's fate. This even carries over to the third film, where in a SINGLE SENTENCE they refuse to decide if he's dead, claiming Ginny as the lone survivor of a massacre that killed eight others (the cop*, Ralph, and the six counselors make up that eight, so Paul would be the ninth victim). However, we DO know that this movie has the highest survival rate of any Friday, as a whole bunch of folks, including resident prankster Ted, go off to the bar (with Paul and Ginny, the only two to go back to camp), inadvertently saving themselves.

FRIDAY THE 13th PART 3 (1982) - 11:35pm
Trailer reel: 3D movies! The Man Who Wasn't There, Jaws 3D, Spacehunter, and Amityville 3D, which hilariously has a disclaimer stressing that it's not a sequel to the previous (and superior) Amityville films.

As I mentioned, Part 3 is not exactly my favorite of this bunch, and the print is pretty faded to boot, so I purposely don't fight off the sleepiness that is creeping in, though I end up seeing probably around 2/3s of the film anyway. Knowing that its effect won't take hold right away I crack open my (still cold!) can of Starbucks, figuring it, along with the nap I take before it kicks in will be enough to stay awake for the rest of the night. But before I settle in for a snooze I skip the film's interminable recap of Part 2 (which is now cropped (poorly) due to Part 3 being in 2.35:1 when all of the other films are 1.85:1), opting for some fresh air and also to take the pictures that break up this massive wall of text. I also help catch a guy who was trying to sneak into the theater for the sold out event, one of only two such assholes that were encountered during the night, per Phil. It's admittedly not difficult to sneak into the Bev in between movies as no one is checking tickets or anything, but you just assume no one will do that because it's stealing from an independent theater that is trying to put on great programming. If you did sneak in and didn't get caught, congrats on being a scumbag!

Anyway, I sleep through the notorious flashback scene where Jason may or may not have raped Chris, the female protagonist, but I caught all of the weird hints about it leading up to this sequence, and I am convinced now more than ever that there was definitely something sexual about whatever Jason did to her all those years ago. The key hint is early on, when her friend mentions sex and then immediately apologizes to her, as if she forgot that sex is a taboo subject to discuss in front of Chris due to the incident. Less of a hint is her weird relationship with her boyfriend (?) Rick, because their vague, seemingly tense history is another Friday tradition I never picked up on before but was pretty clear in my first marathon viewing. In the first three films our Final Girls have some sort of unspoken issue with the male leads (Steve Christy, Paul, and now Rick), with "give me another chance" type conversations taking place about a relationship that as far as we know, hadn't even existed until it was awkwardly brought up. It's obviously the screenwriters' attempt to add a little dimension to the characters by making sure we understand that they existed long before they drove to Crystal Lake, but the vague way these conversations are written inadvertently makes them more interesting than anything that they do in the present.

Two other things stick out in this one for the first time. One is that Ali comes back to life during the climax (only to be cut down immediately), giving Chris an escape opportunity... and she has no idea who he is. Her character never encountered Ali and his pals, nor did she even talk to Shelly or Vera about it as far as I know, so if you think about her POV of that moment it's kind of hilarious. The other is another "only during a marathon" bit to pick up on - Jason grabbing one of his wounds as he limped in pursuit. While Jason Lives is acknowledged as the birth of the undead, zombie Jason, he sort of has to be dead in Final Chapter too, given that Chris buries a machete pretty far into his head here. So this is the last time we see him as a regular guy (well, besides the disfigured face and the frighteningly quick balding process, having lost his full head of hair since the day before), and it's kind of endearing to see him actually react normally to a sizable wound.

Less endearing, but oddly charming in its own way, is seeing all of the film's stupid 3D shots in 2D. When the movie is in 3D, the shots of people endlessly/awkwardly thrusting baseball bats, yo-yos, laundry poles, and popcorn in our face are kind of fun, if excessive - but in 2D they're just sort of surreal. The crowd still "whoaaaas" as if they were still in 3D, and it somehow makes them less unbearable. Still, I'd be interested in seeing a "2D cut" of the movie where all that stuff is trimmed or cut entirely so that we're not constantly being reminded that we're missing out on the film's raison d'etre. On that note, I also never noticed how long some of the takes are; Miner is hardly a classic filmmaker but he knew how to shoot 3D, avoiding quick cuts or anything that would give the viewers a headache.

FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER (1984) - 1:20am

Phil has ceased with the trailer reels and had his last raffle, so this starts off the real hardcore portion of the evening. Having napped a bit during 3 I hope that I will stay awake for all of Final Chapter, and I do, probably thanks to the Starbucks, and the additional cup of (hot) coffee I purchase from concessions during one of the film's slower scenes.  Not that there are many of those; Final Chapter is my favorite of the series, and also the first one I saw - a fact I recall during the movie while also thinking that the 4th Halloween was the first of that series that I saw, and how the two share other similarities (like a paramedic being spooked by having to deal with the killer's "dead" body, and an ending that suggests the young hero will be the killer next time, only for that not to happen).

It's also one of the very few movies that scared me enough to shut off as a kid; I had already seen it when I was 7 or 8 but I remember being 10 or 11 and watching it up in Maine, where we stayed at a family campground for chunks of the summer. Having grown too big for the RV's bunk bed, I slept in a tent that was set up behind the vehicle, and it'd be pretty dark back there by the time I went to bed (even though the tent was practically touching the RV it was so close, it was still a good 20-25 foot walk in the dark, with the tent being between the RV and... GULP! The woods!). Anyway, on this particular evening in the summer of 1990 or 1991 I got as far as Teddy's death when I became convinced Jason (or someone very much like him) was outside. And so I did the most logical thing -  I shut the film off and raced to my tent, knowing that if I could just get inside and zip up the flap I'd be safe. Nearly 25 years later I'm still not sure what the stupidest part of that memory is.

In what I think was my final "marathon realization" of the evening, I noticed that the film, as the three before it, had fades to white instead of the more common black. I don't believe this technique was employed in New Beginning or any of the films that followed, and with 1-4 telling (more or less) one complete story I kind of like that they shared this little motif. Otherwise, all the things I never noticed were specific to this film, weird since this was the 3rd or 4th time I had seen it theatrically, let alone VHS/DVD viewings. For starters, Jason apparently kills Doug twice - when Sara finds him he's sort of slumped over the shower:

But later when Trish finds his body, he's impaled to the wall:

Also, while I've always noticed that Jason either teleports or found some People Under The Stairs-style tunnels in that cabin to work with (because he keeps going up and downstairs without anyone noticing), this is the first time I realize that it was probably an editing decision, not bad scripting. As it plays out, he kills Terri outside, and then somehow makes his way into the kitchen (past Teddy) to kill Jimmy. Then, from upstairs he kills Tina FROM OUTSIDE, before once again returning downstairs to finally kill Teddy. Then he goes up to kill Sara and Doug before heading down into the basement to wait for Rob. It would all work if Jimmy and Tina's deaths were swapped, as you could assume he climbed up a fire escape or something (after killing Terri), entered through the window he just threw Tina out of, and then made his way down to the kitchen to kill Jimmy. Maybe it didn't flow as well, necessitating a change that they hoped no one would notice, or maybe, as Devin would remind myself and Jared more than once throughout the evening, nobody gave a shit in the first place.

Oh, I noticed this before but I'd like to bring it up anyway - it delights me to no end that they go out of their way to pick up where Part 3 left off, but it seems that they forgot that Part 3 was picking up directly from Part 2. The idea that this could be taking place on a Friday is insane; one of the series' fansites has most of it occurring on a Monday, as this and the previous two films each take place over 2-3 days and have no gaps in between (news reports helpfully remind us that no time has passed). This also confuses the Rob character somewhat; he comes off as someone who has been tracking Jason for quite some time and even has old newspaper clippings on his person, but he's seeking revenge for his sister who died only four days before his introduction. No funeral? This oversight is funny enough when watching the movies on their own; it's downright hilarious when seeing them play out back to back.  But it also reinforces what a go-getter Jason was during his first real killing spree. Fuck Star Wars, if you want an epic trilogy watch Fridays 2-4 and witness a guy wipe out nearly 30 people over the course of six days.

FRIDAY THE 13th: A NEW BEGINNING (1985) - 3:05am (roughly? I forgot to note this one)

And here it is! The absolute best entry of this series to watch with a crowd. Not the best movie (I slot it 5th for the series), but even the better ones don't quite come to life the same way this one does. Despite the 3 am start, this movie's sleazy and weird quirks get the crowd howling; I take particular pride in hearing my friend Matt - who was baffled by my appreciation and put it near the bottom of his list - admit how much better it is when you're seeing it alongside 200 other pairs of eyes. Also, unless you count the anonymous kids who burn to death or drown on Manhattan's cruise ship (off-screen), it's got the highest body count of the first eight films, so that also adds to its appeal (and probably gives folks some much needed energy).

That said, there was no new insight to gain from watching it this way; since it's a pseudo Jason and not even on the lake (first film in the series where no one goes into the water, in fact), the only tie to its past is Tommy Jarvis from Final Chapter, played by a different actor and clumsily set up to be a possible suspect. But as any Friday fan knows, whodunit mysteries are not this series' strong suit, and one of the many crowd highlights of this one is hearing the howls of laughter during Roy's bizarre "I thought you were talking about me!" moment that might as well have ended with him putting the mask on in front of the audience. A drifter character named Ray is introduced as a potential murderer, but he is killed almost instantly after that, and director Danny Steinmann (RIP) doesn't even try to peg anyone else as the impostor. And it carries on the series' unusual approach to revenge; Roy is set off when his estranged son is murdered, but even though he's gotta be in the nearby lockup Roy leaves his son's killer alone and kills everyone else instead. The killer (Vic Fadden) is never even mentioned again, save for a weird bit of graffiti in Demon's outhouse (cue "Ooh, baby").

Despite a refill of coffee I doze off for a bit, missing Junior and Ethel's deaths (boo) and a bit of the chase, but I'm fully awake for my favorite part - near the very end, when a cop explains to Pam why Roy was killing everyone. Along with the gibberish motive ("God only knows why Roy kept it hidden all these years..." - what?), he pulls out a newspaper clipping of Jason... that includes a closeup picture of him in his hockey mask!  Not from when he was "dead" on the slab or anything, he's in a full action pose.  I hate fan fiction, but if someone wanted to write a full story about THAT brave photojournalist, I will read it instantly and donate to the author's favorite charity.

At this point the programmers have stopped doing trailer reels AND breaks between the films, with New Beginning's closing Paramount logo leading right into the one that tops Jason Lives. This is where I make my escape, grabbing my now cold pizza and bag of other uneaten snacks and making my way out before I get sucked into Lives' awesome opening sequence and end up staying for the movie anyway. I talk to Phil for a bit outside and try to get him to tell me what the prize is for people who make it all the way through, but unsurprisingly he will not spill (I suspect if Phil was showing a documentary about my own father during a secret lineup marathon, he still wouldn't tell me about it beforehand - he's unbreakable!).  I later discover that it's a pretty sweet keychain.

I am envious of the folks who stayed; not just because of the collectible item but the fact that they were able to do it at all.  Phil says around 1/3 of the crowd was still there when Jason drowned in New York's nightly toxic waste flooding, which is far more than I expected (I figured the one-two punch of New Blood and Manhattan would be too much for all but a handful of hardcore fans).  It's not likely to ever happen again (at least, not there, and thus probably not all on 35mm), so it would have been downright honorable to make it all the way through.  But I saw enough to know that while he's still way wrong on Part 2, Devin got one thing right - as a whole, the series works better than the others.  I mean, if you watch the first 8 Halloweens back to back you're gonna get a completely unrelated entry and then two separate continuities, and watching the Nightmares in one go is just gonna make you realize how terrible 5-6 are if you were previously a fan (Dream Master probably won't look too good either).  No, of the big 80s horror hero franchises, Jason is the only one who you should stick with for half of a day - take it from someone who thinks watching two episodes of Breaking Bad back to back counts as "binge watching".

Thanks to Phil Blankenship and the New Beverly for putting on this great event!

*When Ginny finds Mrs. Voorhees' head, we see the cop's body next to Terry's - if the cops missed these two while finding the others at the main house (including Ralph, I guess), the math would still be off - they'd only have found seven bodies (including Paul), not eight.

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