People ask me all the time who the next Jason, Michael or Freddy will be. I tell them there’s a better chance of a Glenn Miller-hip hop genre emerging on pop radio than ever seeing the likes of our favorite killing machines from the ’80s. They were a product of a very special time in horror cinema. The best we’ve been able to come up with since then is Saw. A puppet and dying old dude really don’t shiver me timbers.
You see, what’s missing today is the experience of it all. With the exception of the first Halloween, these flicks weren’t masterpieces. They were great excuses to head to the movie theater in droves and act like teens in a world where adults didn’t dare intrude. All we wanted to see was 90 minutes of pre-marital sex, maybe a flash of nudity, some drinking and a joint or two followed by an unstoppable killer disposing of bodies in unique and sometimes amusing ways. It was pure pandemonium and sublime bliss.
My favorite was and still is old Jason Voorhees. I can watch Friday the 13th movies on a continuous loop and never grow tired. Is it because they’re great? Hell no. Some of them are downright dreadful (that’s right, I’m looking at you, Jason Goes to Hell!). For me, each time I pop one on, I’m taken back to that moment in time when I trudged down to the theater, met my friends and went apeshit for an hour and a half.
I’ll share an example and show why watching movies at home or in today’s theaters can’t come close to delivering the same experience. Touch my machete and let’s tumble back in time…
It was 1986 and I had just graduated high school. My friends and I decided to pack as much fun as we could into that summer, before we had to buckle down for college. Little did we know, the kind of fun we had in college made high school hijinx look like a day on the set of Captain Kangaroo.
There was an indoor mall in White Plains, New York where we’d kill the hours, especially on hot days. We’d loiter around stores, especially the comic book and record shops, eat about seven meals at the crappy food court and hit on every girl who passed by. Most of those girls were bright enough to give us an eye roll and walk away. As far as lotharios went, we were as smooth as cobblestone.
On this particular hot August Friday, we had decided to spend a day AND night in the mall because Friday the 13th Part VI : Jason Lives, had just come out. You couldn’t buy your tickets early back then, so you had to make sure you were close by to get on line as early as possible. We figured we’d kill the day in the mall, head to the lower level around six and grab our tickets for the 7:00 showing.
We spent most of the day in the record store, the manager never pestering us to actually buy anything. He was too busy doing bumps of coke in the back room. My two friends and I couldn’t stop loudly speculating about the various ways Jason would kill people in this latest installment. We got really creative and gross, much to the dismay of the “normies” around us looking for Barry Manilow’s latest album.
With an hour to go before show time, we piled into the glass elevator, filled with blood lust yet giddy as school girls. The doors opened and our eyes bugged out of our heads.
The entire lobby outside the theater was packed to the gills with teens. It looked like the mob outside a Judas Priest concert. No one was over the age of twenty. We took our place in the back of the line. People kept swarming in until the line was out the door.
The box office opened and cheers went up, along with a lot of hooting and hollering. It was pure madness, but in a fun, grown-ups-would-never-understand way. After twenty minutes or so, we got our tickets, stopped for popcorn with buttery topping (whatever the hell that is) and soda and headed into the theater.
Holy shit, it was bedlam!
The theater was packed. Popcorn and candy was flying everywhere. I honestly believe that theaters gave ushers (remember them?) the night off for these movies. I mean, what was the sense of trying to control that kind of mayhem?
Luckily, we found three seats near the front. Not optimal, but beggars can’t be choosers. The back of my head was pelted by a steady barrage of popcorn. When I looked around, I saw that every seat was taken, but kids were still streaming in. The theater oversold it, as they often did back in the day.
Two exceedingly attractive girls stopped outside our row and gave a forlorn look.
“Maybe we should leave,” the brunette with a feathered roach clip in her hair said.
“But I really want to see this,” the blonde with braces sighed.
Taking a bold chance, I said, “You can sit here.”
Now remember, hitting on girls with zero shame or game was our way of life.
The blonde looked at me as if I’d dropped down from the ceiling.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. What a creep. I was a teenage boy with enough hormones to fuel the space shuttle. Sue me.
To my utter surprise, she said, “Okay!”
Yeah, just like at Camp Crystal Lake, girls had hormones, too.
Suddenly, I had a hot blonde on my lap, the brunette on my friend’s. I offered my popcorn and she fed me some of her Twizzlers.
The lights dimmed. The blonde settled into me. My heart was racing, and it wasn’t because I was scared of Jason.
Everyone cheered at the opening credits as if their lives depended on it.
Cut to the graveyard scene and girls are shrieking even when nothing is happening. People are chanting, “Jason! Jason! Jason!”
The sound is cranked up to eleven. When lighting strikes, the whole theater shudders. Boys and girls jump, then laugh, scream, and throw stuff.
Fifteen minutes in, the girl on my lap turns to me and says, “You wanna make out?”
Holy cannoli, yeah!
We spent the next seventy minutes or so making out, coming up for air to watch a kill or throw Twizzlers at the people behind us. It was the single greatest movie experience of my life.
When the movie ended, everyone ran out in a mad rush, boys pretending they were Jason, girls screeching and giggling. In the crazy rush, I lost sight of the blonde girl, never to see her again. Or even learn her name.
We then bought tickets for the next show to watch it all again. It was the same raucous experience, minus the hottie on my lap. No matter, that time around, I got to see all of the fun stuff I’d missed.
You can’t get that from watching a movie on Netflix of Blue-ray or On-demand. No sir. And try acting like that in a theater today and the place will be swarming with cops, old people like me bitching about all the money they spent to watch a movie only to have it ruined by these damn out of control kids.
And that’s why Jason is dead. I wonder if the people who just pulled the plug on the latest Friday the 13th movie realized that. Sure, they might have made a passable Jason kill-fest, but they’d never capture the magic he had back in the day. Jason lives, but somewhere at the bottom of a lake, sealed in the amber of the ’80s.
Hunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal—he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. You can follow his madness at huntershea.com.