By Jeffery X Martin
This article first appeared in a slightly different form on BrutalAsHell.com, February 3rd, 2011.
Once upon a time, there was a boy who drowned. He was eleven years old. Then a girl magically dreamt him back to life! When his birthday came, the boy wasn’t twelve years old. He was in his mid-twenties and as big as a defensive end. He had become an adult in less than a year! That’s magic! He went to visit the girl who dreamt him back to life. He brought her a surprise gift, which he thoughtfully put in the refrigerator. The girl walked into the kitchen and found her present in the icebox. She screamed! And then the boy shoved an icepick through her temple into her brain. Her body shook and spasmed uncontrollably. She probably shit herself. The boy dropped her body on the floor and walked away.
I’m sure you’ve recognized this fairy tale by now. It’s the opening gambit to Friday the 13th, Part 2, the movie that introduced audiences to the moralistic superhuman killing machine known as Jason Voorhees. He’s an icon, for sure, loved by the populace as much as you can love a deformed serial killer.
There is a problem, though. The Jason that we all know and love can’t exist. The logic set forth in the Friday the 13th Universe dictates that he cannot exist. He is a machete carrying time rift. So just for shits and giggles, let’s go down this particular rabbit hole and see which camp cabin we end up in.
The first Friday the 13th starts in 1958. The little subtitle thing says so. You can also tell the era because the camp counselors are sitting around singing, “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore” instead of anything by Umphrey’s McGee. Just because it’s the Fifties doesn’t mean teens don’t want to commence to fucking! Horny Boy and Twat Girl are the first two kills of the movie as an unseen Mrs. Voorhees introduces them to abstinence education in the form of a very sharp blade. Oooh… someone’s been cut off.
Let’s do some math.
According to Freddy vs. Jason, Jason was eleven years old when he drowned. That means Jason drowned a year before the opening of Ft13, which would have been 1957. Camp Crystal Lake closed the following year after the murder of the camp counselors was discovered. Since Ft13 was released in 1980, we can deduce that Camp Crystal Lake was reopened twenty two years later.
The opening sequence of Friday the 13th, Part 2, neatly wraps up the first movie by disposing of Alice, the first movie’s Final Girl. According to the obligatory “let’s tell tales around the campfire” sequence in Part 2, Alice was offed two months after the end of the first movie. Let’s deal with that. The first time we really see Jason is in flashback as Mrs. Voorhees imagines what it must have been like to see her son drown. After that, we see him near the end of Ft13, leaping out of the water like a trained whale and grabbing Alice by the neck, pulling her out of the canoe and into the lake. He is a boy. A horrid, moss-covered boy. He is not the black coveralls wearing behemoth that tracks Alice down, apparently by smell, and gives her a sideways lobotomy in her own kitchen. It’s only been two months. I don’t care how many chicken nuggets you eat; you’re not going to get that big that fast, especially when you’re a DEAD CHILD.
Let me state that again. Jason is a dead child.
The rest of Part 2 takes place five years after Alice is killed. More counselors come to Crystal Lake to open another camp. Not Camp Crystal Lake, but a different camp. A camp close enough to the ruins of Camp Crystal Lake that a couple of the new counselors can walk to it. How stupid do you get to be and still be a camp counselor? Is there a negative IQ test these people take?
Now hold on to Occam’s Razor, because here comes the retcon.
Around the campfire, the Legend of Jason Voorhees is told by Paul, the head counselor. Paul posits that Jason has not drowned at all, but has been living in the forest all this time. He also says that Jason saw his mother beheaded that night and is now seeking his revenge.
How many more ways could this not work?
Dead children do not see their mothers get beheaded unless there’s a heaven with those coin operated binoculars you find on the observation decks of tall buildings. But even if Jason hadn’t drowned, why the fuck would he have lived in the forest for a year? His mother worked at the camp. Why wouldn’t he just go home? “Mommy, I want a towel and an apple!” No eleven year old is going to Rambo himself, off in the woods, when his mother is literally right there with food and a warm bed.
Also, dead children do not seek revenge unless they are Japanese girls who have been pushed down a motherfucking well.
Paul ends the campfire by saying, “Jason drowned, Mrs. Voorhees was killed and Camp Crystal Lake is off limits.” Well, two out of three ain’t bad, but he’s got the first two absolutely right.
Fast forward about twenty minutes and Paul and his little fuck-buddy, Ginny, are at a bar discussing the potential existence of Jason-squatch.
Ginny says, “What if there is some kind of boy beast running around Camp Crystal Lake?”
Ah… the “what if” bomb. What if my knees could bend backwards, like the aliens in The Arrival? What if George Harrison’s ghost is appearing to virgins in Bangladesh and trying to ethereally feed the poor? “What if” is the best way to completely circumvent things, like stated facts. Established truths. Like the fact that Jason is dead. He drowned when he was eleven. If there’s a “boy beast” running amok on the shores of Crystal Lake, he’s one of the counselors.
Ginny says, “He’d be grown by now, right?”
No. Dead children don’t grow. In fact, they shrink. That’s where baby skeletons come from.
Ginny says, “He must have seen the whole thing happen.”
No. Not at all. He’s a dead child. He didn’t see shit.
Ginny says, “He must have seen his mother get killed, all just because she loved him.”
I don’t think that’s an accurate description. I think she got killed because Alice was trying to save her own skin from the crazy butch lady who had already killed everyone else in the camp.
“Wasn’t that what her revenge was all about? Her sense of loss? Her love for him? Her sense of rage about what she thought must have happened? He must be out there right now, crying for her return, her resurrection!”
And there’s the crux of the retcon. Mrs. Voorhees was wrong the whole time! Jason didn’t die. He went swimming and, while out in the water, decided it would be fun to become Lucan, the Wolf Boy, and live in the woods for a while. He then was able to retrieve his mother’s body, including her severed head (because what police department would need the corpse as part of their murder investigation?), and build a Dead Mommy Shrine in the ruins of a cabin at Camp Crystal Lake. This, along with memories of the overly judgmental and moralistic words of his mother, turned him into an inhuman killing machine.
That’s some pretty heavy action FOR A FUCKING DEAD CHILD.
Look: I have a lot of problems with Friday the 13th, Part 2. The biggest problem is the fact that it exists. The logical, and potentially more fun way to have gone with the sequel, would have been to make Alice the killer. She’s traumatized, probably not so big on camping anymore and she can swing a machete like Sonny Landham in a Colombian rainforest. That would have been awesome. That way, Paramount could have still had their cheap little pick-up franchise but it wouldn’t have had to insult the intelligence of every human being who saw the first movie.
Jason is an icon. Jason made hockey masks fashionable (although not until Part 3-D). Jason is also Santa Claus. The Easter Bunny. Aslan. His existence is ridiculous and wrong and the fact that we, as movie fans whose brains ostensibly work, did not call bullshit on that when we had the chance is disheartening. No wonder we sit and lament the state of horror today. With that one simple move, our acceptance of Jason as a Dickies wearing killdozer, we taught Hollywood that we were willing to swallow pure shit as long as we got to see a nipple or two. It was a lesson they learned well, and one the horror community has been trying to unlearn ever since.