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  • Joshua Britton

I Dream of Jason

Updated: Sep 14, 2021

The AMC Fearfest was hosting a Friday the 13th marathon. I left the television on out of morbid curiosity. Although I didn’t know which one, I’d been haunted by a Jason movie for decades. At one point in my late teens, I had made the lofty goal to train myself not to react poorly to movie horror violence after I embarrassed myself watching Scream with a girl a year or so earlier. I began the callous-building process with the original Friday the 13th, but afterward I lost interest because it was stupid. Now, as I approached thirty, my curiosity was renewed, but for a different reason.

On an actual Friday the 13th when I was ten years old, several of us tented out in the backyard of a friend’s house. We weren’t superstitious kids; we went out of our ways, sometimes, to walk under a ladder, to step on cracks, to cross a black cat, or to throw rocks at a reflective window that could pass as a mirror.

But I was particularly on edge that evening because several hours earlier I had seen a bloody fraction of a Jason movie. I suppose I’d known about the horror character named Jason, and I suppose I’d known that there were a bunch of Jason movies and that this was one of them. It was showing during the middle of a sunny afternoon in a friend’s living room—where I had seen a lot of movies I shouldn’t have—and in the presence of a half-baked parental unit. We’d gone outside to play shortly after, and later on we were treated to Country Ice Cream where I was advised for some reason not to get a milkshake. As disturbing as the movie had been—and it had been REALLY disturbing—we seemed to be ok.

But now it was dark.

I was a somewhat but not overly sensitive child, and this movie contained the most upsetting sequences I’d ever seen—killings by the Jason character with a blowtorch, another by hedge trimmers, as well as an old-fashioned knife-slitting of a throat.

The murder that stuck with me the most, though, was not committed by Jason. A fat guy was eating a popsicle which was melting all over his hands and face, and he got some of the stickiness on the hanging laundry. Nearby, a tough and humorless guy was chopping wood with an axe, growing ever more annoyed with the loquacious chub. As I think back on it, of course the guy with the axe was going to kill the fat pathetic guy, but at ten, it was devastating to see.

As we lay in our sleeping bags, Chris mentioned the movie first. Greg, the youngest of us by close to two years, was the first to whimper, suspecting that somebody was out there. And Matt, in whose backyard we were tenting—well, Matt’s older brother was actually named Jason, and who actually did put on an old-style hockey mask and storm into the tent, freaking us all out so badly that we had to sleep inside the house with the lights on.

It couldn’t have been more than twenty-five minutes of the movie, but I had nightmares about it for years. My older sister somehow got wind of how disturbed I’d gotten from the movie, and she used to whisper Jason’s “ki ki ki ma ma ma” sound effect to torture me.

As I approached thirty, I viewed this FearFest marathon on AMC as an opportunity for closure. I had often wondered which Friday the 13th it had actually been. I knew it wasn’t the original, as that was the only one I’d seen in full. I saw from the TV listings that we were partway through the second, and it didn’t seem familiar. Nor was it the third, I soon learned. I ruled out Jason Goes to Hell, Part 9, because I remembered being horrified by its movie poster in the rental store after I had already been freaked out by whichever I’d already seen. I ruled out Jason Takes Manhattan, which was Part 8, because I didn’t remember any big buildings.

Part 4, The Final Chapter, the first to have a subtitle, however unimaginative it was, turned out to be kind of fun. It starred an actor I was actually familiar with in Crispin Glover, who would later play George McFly in Back to the Future, as well as Corey Feldman, soon to star in The Goonies and Stand By Me. It became apparent early on that The Final Chapter was not the one, either. Still, I was gratified that Feldman lived, one of only two survivors, unless you also counted Jason, who, even though Feldman’s sister killed him, kept coming back to life every movie.

Part 5 was released less than a year after The Final Chapter and had an even weaker subtitle—A New Beginning. Corey Feldman’s character was now ten years older, played by an older no-namer, and was still traumatized from the killing spree he witnessed as a kid. Now in his late teens, he was receiving psychiatric help at a halfway house.

And suddenly I realized, this is it! This is the one that’s been haunting me for twenty years! There’s the fat guy with the sticky fingers, and the guy who axes him. There are all those killings I’d rewatched as nightmares over and over, including a the tightening of a belt around a guy’s eyes, killing him that way. I doubted that that last one would have actually worked, but in general, as I sat watching, it seemed that while the murders in the earlier movies relied almost exclusively on a blade, A New Beginning was much more creative, lame title notwithstanding.

It was the middle of the day, just like when I was ten. I wasn’t bothered as much this time. Rather, I was struck by how much potential this particular installment of the franchise had, and how good it could have been. It actually had a solid premise, although I couldn’t get over why they never seemed to make sure Jason was really dead—like cremate him or behead him. But it turned out the killer wasn’t Jason in Part 5, after all, but a copycat. That made it better, I felt.

I don’t have nightmares about Friday the 13th anymore. I no longer involuntarily see images from it simply by closing my eyes. I can’t say for sure if the marathon had much to do with it, although I suspect it probably did a little. I think the days of me being freaked out long-term from something I’ve seen in a movie—and there were other instances—are gone. I did not continue with the marathon after I finished A New Beginning, and I still haven’t seen Jason Lives, The New Blood, or Jason Take Manhattan. I retain an interest in watching those latter three, as well as rewatching the earlier ones, but a passive interest.

Very passive.

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