The true horror of Friday the 13th: Panting. Heart racing. Clothes stiffened from the mud, blood, piss, and sweat they’re undoubtedly saturated with. ‘What was that?’ you think, back into the trunk of a nearby oak attempting to stifle your breathing. The image of those sad eyes that float behind that tattered mask-like halogens on a jeep. Silence. Just silence in the still woods. The creak of a branch under the toe almost forces a squeal, you spread yourself thin looking to your right hoping to get another look. You lean in a little further. You see where you fell, spraining your ankle, and nothing else. You relax into your place finding yourself under the shadow, and drippings of everyone’s favourite swamp zombie. With a singular swipe, your role as cannon fodder number seven is over, and the audience cheers.
The ‘Friday the 13th’ franchise is my favourite of the slasher subgenre. Not only did it perfect all the tropes we know and love but the shift in perception throughout the series is genius. Part one and two are serious horror films; we identify with the campers, we feel when Alice sees her mutilated friends, or when Ginny screams for Paul. But by the fourth-fifth-sixth instalment that relationship is broken and we’re just shovelling corn in our gobs cheering on the behemoth as he bashes the girl in the sleeping bag against the tree. The true Horror of Friday the 13th isn’t the images but the change it had on our perception of them, from disgust to delight.
We have become monsters. Romans at the colosseum. It’s quite impressive how this change occurred without any of us knowing. When did we stop being scared? Now, when I say this I’m not speaking to those try-hard faux horror fans that go into a movie trying not to be scared, where’s the fun in that? You go for the experience. I feel we stopped experiencing true fear when Alice died. Her death in Part 2 is not only thrilling and had audiences at the edge of their seats but the acting from Adrienne King is intense (mainly because she was experiencing similar threats and stalking from an unstable fan who later recreated this scene in her sister’s home). After Alice, we never really meet another character that we feel as connected with, obvious exclusions of Shelly, Reggie and Corey Feldman’s Tommy Jarvis. That inconsistency of relatable or even likeable character (hell I can’t think of one memorable victim in the Platinum Dunes movie) impacts the audience’s reaction and the overall impression of the film. Sometimes they’re scary, sometimes unsettling, sometimes funny, but they’re always an experience. From Crystal Lake to hell, space to our dreams, the Friday the 13th series has commanded the genre with inconsistent quality, but always with fun at the forefront.