Thursday, March 12, 2009

His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th

Crap. If I keep this up, this blog is going is going to turn into yet another Friday the 13th site. Okay, after this post there will be a moratorium on slasher-related postings. Besides, I just got Quarantine from my company's nifty free video rental service. I'll try to put together something clever for that. Anyway, this one is on His Name Was Jason, the recently released documentary on the F13 series.

I love horror-themed documentaries. I'm the kind of guy who watches the special features on DVDs, who goes to conventions and asks all the nerdy questions, and who loves to pick apart the stories I love and see what makes them tick. Horror, with all it's wonderful taboo-breaking charm, always has the most fascinating behind-the-scenes stuff going on. Sometimes you pull back the curtain and find the backstage logic distasteful (I'm looking at you, See No Evil), but by and large I really enjoy these glimpses into the construction of the genre.

Anyone who's ever read Peter M. Bracke's Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th (and if you're a fan, you really should) will find HNWJ to be similar in form and scope. A bunch of former Jasons and former victims chat about their experiences, their memories, and what being a part of the F13 legacy has meant for them. As you can imagine, the movies are made by a bunch of amateurs, shooting late at night in uncomfortable locations. Tempers flare, mistakes get made, the wrong people get credit for things, and somehow out of all of this chaos a movie gets made.

The whole endeavor is hosted by the ever-charming Tom Savini, who frames the interviews with amusing little skits, chatting with the viewer as some poor girl runs for her life. Each segment is split into general themes, talking about the production, the effects, the character, and the impact on their lives. There's a lot of stuff covered, and nobody ever stays on camera long enough to get boring.

One of the things that struck me was the amount of sympathy the cast had for Jason. When you go back and read interviews with stuntmen who assumed the role early in the series, it's pretty clear that the filmmakers weren't too interested in what makes Jason tick. As the series wore on and Jason became the star of the show, a sort of internal life grew from the character's patchwork origins. Now he's become victim-as-villain, an outsider avenging his mother's death and his social banishment. This aspect of the character is a big part of his appeal, as opposed to the more ethereal and distant Michael Myers.

Anyway, if you're one of those goofballs who would find a two hour long discussion of a B-movie boogeyman interesting, go check this one out. Side note: controversial F13V director Danny Steinmann has some iiiinteresting violence-as-impotency theories going on. Also Kane Hodder, once my childhood icon, is starting to creep me right the fuck out.

No comments: