Soaked in blood, mud and bits of seaweed, the iconic horror villain Jason Voorhees has died and resurrected several times throughout his time as the hockey-masked killer of the Friday the 13th series, appearing in 12 films over 42 years. In that time, Jason has taken down a total of 157 unfortunate victims, from Camp Crystal Lake to New York City, every time taking aim at young teenagers with a fondness for sex.
For fans of the iconic slasher movies of the 1980s, this truth will surely come as no surprise, as the rules of surviving a classic Friday the 13th, Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street movie have long been defined. In Wes Craven’s subversive horror flick, Scream, the seasoned genre filmmaker even outlines explicit guidelines for survival, including never saying “I’ll be right back”, refraining from using drink or drugs, and, of course, never having sex.
In slasher horror movies, celibacy is your greatest tool for survival, with the concept of the ‘Final Girl’, created by the film scholar Carol J. Clover and her book Men, Women, and Chain Saws, embodying this key characteristic. In her analysis of this character trope, Clover describes the Final Girl as being “boyish”, “unfeminine” as well as, crucially, sexually “not available”.
Unfortunately for such characters, but fortunately for the murderous Voorhees, friends of such Final Girls aren’t so restrained, showing off their sexual desires on countless occassions to the delight of the villain. This isn’t because Voorhees is a prude, or even a genophobe, instead, the villain’s real hatred of sexual intercourse goes back to his original demise, when the summer camp councillors failed to notice him drowning as a child as they were too busy getting cosy in a cabin.
Having taken this stance across the course of 12 films, however, Voorhees has become something of an anti-sex conservative figuire, despite such never being the intentions of the original filmmaker. In reality, Voorhees is just a killer without remorse, with the actor of the third film in the franchise, Richard Brooker, being told by director Steve Miner, “Don’t come to me and ask what your motivation is—because you have no motivation. You’re just a mindless killer” as remembered in Crystal Lake Memories.
Even still, the connotations of Voorhees’ sexual adversion give purpose to his murders, with the history of the slasher genre having long been appreciated in the context of youthful rebellion in the late 20th century. Whilst some consider Jason to be a representation of some sort of demon, punishing young people for these sins, others see a victim who suffered as a result of sex.
Such certainly creates an interesting dynamic, in which the villainous Jason Voorhees can come to represent a violent societal uprising, a figure of repressed masculinity, or indeed, nothing at all. After all, it’s important to consider that throughout the series, the role of Jason’s mother remains a foreboding shadow over his life and legacy as a villain, with the second film in the series revealing that he cannot let go of his mother, physically or mentally, keeping a shrine to her corpse in his hut.
Long-considered a key aspect of the character, the image of Jason as a man who shared a close relationship with his mother allows him to be considered an emasculated villain, deprived of his masculinity. Such also plays into Clover’s theory that the lack of femininity of the Final Girl works in parallel to the emasculated killer, writing, “[the killer’s] masculinity is severely qualified: he ranges from the virginal or sexually inert…and is spiritually divided (“the mother half of his mind”)”.
Clearly, there’s more to Jason than a machete, hockey mask and a thrill of slaughter, with his hatred of sexual intercourse being the tip of the iceberg when analysisng the mind of the mother-loving murderer, and indeed the likes of Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers who often share in such ideals.
Though the slasher era of the ‘80s can easily be brushed over as provocative nonsense, there’s certainly more to the gore than meets the eye.