Tag Archives: friday the 13th

Shemps, Tommy Jarvis, & the Modern Prometheus!

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Welcome back! I was just about to start talking about the headscratcher that was Friday the 13th: A New Beginning. Hope your nails are trimmed.

For all intents and purposes, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter was meant to be the last movie in the series. After all, Jason took a pretty good machete whack to the temple in the third act. Then bald little Tommy Jarvis thought he’d hack away at Jason while he was down until nothing was left but a pile of Hamburger Helper. I mean, it wasn’t subtitled The Final Chapter for no reason. This was it, people! But director Joe Zito, being the good sport that he was, left the film open-ended: as the final bit of music starts to swell, the camera pans in on an emotional Tommy Jarvis hugging his sister Trish – they’re the only survivors. Suddenly, boom, Tommy’s face goes slack and his eyes blast open, and he stares, dead-eyed, into the camera. Into our souls. Does this mean Tommy Jarvis would spiritually inherit the unstoppable urge to kill from Jason Voorhees, the man he’d just murdered?

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Kinda. Not really, though.

See, producers and writers of A New Beginning were convinced that Jason was actually dead, they just needed an idea of where to take the series from there. Certainly, bringing Jason back from the dead was too ludicrous of an idea to even consider. Zombie Jason? That’s just crazy. Perhaps they hadn’t thought about the fact that Jason had apparently drowned as a child and was therefore already…

Anyway, they didn’t think Jason could come back. To be fair, Friday the 13th Part 2, Friday the 13th Part 3, and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter are all supposed to take place over the same weekend, if you follow the timeline correctly. So there wasn’t anything necessarily other-wordly about Jason at this point. He was just a killer who took some massive abuse during the course of one week, and was finally stopped by Tommy Jarvis.

It’s important to note that at this point, the ‘undead killer’ trope hadn’t become a thing yet. It was 1985: Michael Myers was officially dead in a hospital fire; Leatherface was still a year away from a sequel – as far as anyone knew, he was still dancing and spinning out on some desolate Texas road; Freddy had just made his debut the year before, and his sequel wouldn’t be released until 8 months after A New Beginning. There was no Chucky. No Jigsaw. No Candyman. So in 1985 dead was dead. And Jason? He was dead.

But instead of following the Tommy Jarvis-as-Jason storyline, they decided to do two things:

  • first, revisit that mental hospital script they rejected for Friday the 13th Part 3. Fine, solid idea.
  • The second thing they did, however, left fans with a bad taste in their mouths and caused some of the lowest ticket sales in the series at that point.

So what did they do that was so offensive? They used a fake Jason. Like how The Three Stooges used a fake Shemp to fill in for some of the scenes after the real Shemp died. Not cool, Paramount.

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Halloween III: Season of the Witch doesn’t feature Michael Myers, but at least they didn’t have some guy walking around in a white William Shatner mask, only to pull it off in the final act and go, “Ha! I’m not Michael Myers!” – which is exactly what happened in A New Beginning. So you can understand fans feeling a little cheated.

The opening to Halloween: Resurrection (that’s “Part 8” for those keepin’ track) did try a similar stunt: Jamie Lee Curtis thinks she decapitates Michael Myers at the end of the previous film (effectively permanently ending the series), but wait a second! Turns out the real Michael Myers had crushed some poor schmuck’s voicebox and slapped that familiar mask on him instead. So Jamie Lee just ended up killing some random dude. It was an utterly implausible move, even for a series where the bad guy had been shot, stabbed, burned, buried, and somehow still kept coming back for more. I mean, we the audience can only suspend our disbelief so much.

Even A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge hopped on the ‘surrogate killer’ train, almost immediately – with young protagonist Jesse committing all of the murders, with Freddy only occasionally popping up towards the end of the film.

Hell, now that I’m thinking about it, three of the Friday the 13th films don’t feature Jason as the primary killer: the original, this one, and Jason Goes to Hell! What the hell is going on?!

What A New Beginning lacked in a Jason it made up for in sex and violence. The late director Danny Steinmann had gotten his start in porno; apparently the sex and nudity in A New Beginning had to be toned down — but the censors saying your horror film has too much nudity, it’s like telling Willy Wonka his factory has too much chocolate.  And a new precedent had been handed down to Steinmann: there must be a kill every 8 minutes. And it shows. There are random characters popping up out of nowhere, only to be killed off in the same exact scene they first appear. Like two greasers, one of who is dressed like Marlon Brando from The Wild One:

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There’s a lot wrong with the flick – it feels the most unsure of itself and definitely felt like the first time the studio and money providers had interfered too much. But I suppose they did the best the could with the script that had. Who knows, man.

Mark Venturini and Miguel A. Núñez, Jr. appear briefly in the film (Núñez, Jr. has one of the most memorable scenes I’ve ever seen in a horror film; a scene I quote – or sing, rather – still today.) Núñez, Jr. and Venturini would appear together later the same year in the immortal Return of the Living Dead, alongside Thom Matthews who would go on to play Tommy Jarvis in Friday the 13th: Jason Lives. Hey, speaking of!

So the fans weren’t having the fake Jason thing. And the film ended on a similar note as the previous one – Tommy Jarvis could still potentially turn into a Jasonesque killer with the next sequel.

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But thankfully, Paramount came to their sense and told Jason Lives director Tom McLoughlin, “Bring back Jason.” Jason Lives would be the first time in the series where Jason was accepted to be a fully resurrected dead guy (aka “zombie”.)

The Halloween series had to change its course due to a similar fan backlash. Viewers flocked to the theater for Halloween III and left asking, “Hey, where was Michael?” And so, with Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Michael…well, he returned. And he’s been the focal point since.

McLoughlin, in my opinion, was a good choice to revitalize the Friday series. And even though this film was the first one that didn’t break the $20M mark, I still feel his approach brought a freshness and a self-awareness to the series, something it desperately needed.  In fact, Kevin Williamson (writer of Scream) not only admitted Jason Lives was a huge influence on Scream and its style of referential horror humor, but McLoughlin was initially offered to direct the film (Wes Craven would eventually take the position.)

One of the many references the film makes is comparing Jason to the story of “Frankenstein”.

  • Jason is brought to life via lightning rod/electricity (as was Frankenstein’s monster)
  • This was the first (and only) Friday the 13th film to feature children at the camp (and we know how the monster treats little kids [especially little girls who play by the lake])
  • Tommy Jarvis initially tries to burn Jason’s corpse at the start of the film, and again at the end of the film (Frankenstein’s monster hates fire)
  • There is a gas station in the film named “Karloff’s”

There are plenty of other in-jokes and references, and they only add to the film. And A New Beginning may have had its Shemp, but Jason Lives has a triple decapitation that would make Moe Howard proud.

But as mentioned above, despite being an intelligent, fun, revitalizing entry in the series (and actually enjoyed by the critics) the film failed to make an impact on audiences, as is usually the case with films that are ahead of their time (just look at April Fool’s Day.)

McLoughlin was forced to leave the film open-ended, just in case Paramount wanted to bring Jason back for another one. And they would. And they did.

Join me for tomorrow’s article, “Psycho vs. Psychic, Kane Hodder, & Jason at Sea”, which covers both Friday the 13th VII: A New Blood and Friday the 13th VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan!

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Hockey Masks, the 3D Boom, & Final Chapters!

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There was a time, long before CGI (and modern 3D techniques), where placing a piece of red cellophane in front of your left eye and a piece of blue cellophane in front of your right eye was the zenith of stereoscopic technology. And that methodology stuck for over 50 years. Seriously – that was it, man.

I remember being 7 years old and seeing Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare in the theater. The film was released in 3D – well, parts of the film were in 3D – but going into the movie you got these cool little cardboard glasses. Whenever one of the 3D parts was about to happen, there would be a little dialogue at the bottom of the screen that said, “Please put on your glasses now”. I was so afraid that if I wore the glasses during parts that weren’t 3D, I’d damage my eyes, just screw ’em up beyond repair. That was one of the most thrilling moviegoing experiences of my life.

Looking back now, as a jaded adult – sure, the movie kinda stinks. And being excited by that type of technology now would be like freaking out over a flip-book. But at the time, in 1991, it was a goddamn epiphany.

But the early days of 3D film were no treat. In order to pull off the effect, two prints had to be projected simultaneously – and be perfectly in sync. Otherwise, audiences would just see a blurry haze of colors and shapes. Due to its time consuming and cost-ineffective nature, the golden age of 3D films (the 50s and early 60s) was brief.

However, come 1981, 3D films became the craze once again. In fact, 20 3D films were released in a 3-year period. And horror took full advantage.

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Originally, producers hadn’t planned to do Friday the 13th Part 3 in 3D. Instead, they did what they’d been doing from the beginning and decided to rip-off another film for inspiration, this time Halloween II, which had come out the previous year. The third installment of the Friday series was supposed to take place in a mental hospital, where Ginny – the final girl from Part 2 – was holed up. Jason would hack down any doctors or orderlies that got in his way until the final showdown between he and Ginny. Funny enough, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (which would be released 5 years later), did take place in a mental hospital. I do love the tenuous strings that connect all these films together!

Interestingly, there was initial discussion of filming Halloween II in 3D; (producer Debra) Hill said:

“We investigated a number of 3D processes … but they were far too expensive for this particular project. Also, most of the projects we do involve a lot of night shooting—evil lurks at night. It’s hard to do that in 3D.”

That anecdote is coincidental because, just last year, there was talks of a third installment to the Halloween reboot – and producers wanted to do it in 3D. While news surrounding the sequel has been scant, there’s reason to believe the 3D plans have since been quashed.

But back to Friday the 13th Part 3: once the Friday producers saw how much Comin’ At Ya! – the first 3D film of the 80s – made at the box office, they knew what they had to do.

Friday the 13th Part 3 was apparently a pain to make – blocking, setting up cameras, harsh lighting, multiple takes – all due to the 3D cameras they were using. It also cost a fortune just get into theaters, as Paramount had to pay to equip them with the extra prints and projectors. That one hang-up alone cost an estimated $8 to $10 million extra dollars. Of course, it made all that money back and then some.

But Friday the 13th Part 3 is historic for reasons other than being filmed in 3D:  it’s the first time Jason wears his iconic hockey mask. 

At the end of Part 2, Jason’s bag (which he wore over his head) had been torn up and was therefore no good. So for the entire first half of Part 3, Jason walks around without a mask.

Enter afro-ed merry prankster Shelly Finklestein (sounds a bit like ‘Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’, no?). Shelly has at his disposal an endless supply of goofs and gags that he uses to torment his friends with. Things like fake knives, meat cleavers, and scary masks. His friends think he’s a jerk, but as Shelly puts it, “Being a jerk is better than being a nothing.” Oddly, he also has a hockey mask stashed in his bag of pranks. After Shelly is killed, Jason takes the mask – and the look would become synonymous with the name ‘Jason Voorhees’ for the rest of the series.

Now, producers claim their inspiration for Jason’s masked look came from when they were doing make-ups tests: they were lazy and didn’t wanna apply the make-up to the actor playing Jason, so instead just threw a hockey mask on him, and boom, a legend was born. But I call bullstuff.

A hockey masked killer would show up twice before Friday the 13th Part 3 – one as early as 1974. That film was Act of Vengeance:

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The next time it popped up was when Part 3 was being filmed, in the movie Alone in the Dark:

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I explored this obsessively in another article (actual, two articles), but I’m saying here and now: considering how blatantly derivative the F13 series is, I ain’t buyin’ their mask story. But I reluctantly digress. At least Part 3 had that kickass opening disco tune.

The ending of Friday the 13th Part 3 was supposed be just that: the end. There were no intentions of making a fourth film. In fact, the end of Part 3 mirrored the end of the original film exactly – with corpse popping out of the lake and grabbing our final girl, only to have it turn out to all be a dream. But just as they couldn’t help themselves that first time around, producers decided yet another sequel was necessary, and thus Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter was released.

So convinced that this was actually, really, truly going to be the final Friday film, original special effects artist Tom Savini agreed to come back just to kill off the monster he’d help create. Producer Frank Mancuso Jr. saw that the slasher craze was starting to settle down, and he didn’t want to be pigeonholed as simply a ‘horror producer’, so with financiers and even Paramount Pictures having his back, Mancuso Jr. decided to finally send Jason to Hell. Yeah, right.

Look, as I mentioned in the intro, I saw Freddy Krueger get killed off for good, too. (And in 3D, to boot!) The movie was called Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, for Pete’s sake (sorry, Pete). I’ve seen the book closed on all the big ones. I watched an underground bunker collapse on Leatherface, sealing his fate. He didn’t make a peep for years. And I saw Michael Myers perish in a hospital fire.

When asked in a 1982 interview – after the release of Halloween III: Season of the Witch – what happened to Halloween main characters Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis, John Carpenter answered:

“The Shape is dead. Pleasence’s character is dead, too, unfortunately.”

But money talks, baby. It screams. And when you can make a profit of $30M off a little a slice-and-dice, it’s kind of a no-brainer.

Also Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter introduced Tommy Jarvis. And he was just gettin’ started!

Join me tomorrow for my next installment, “Shemps, Tommy Jarvis, and the Modern Prometheus”!

(For more on this week’s series, check out my prior installment, “Killer Moms, Sequelitis, & Bagheads”!)

Killer Moms, Sequelitis, & Bagheads!

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I remember hearing that story when I was younger, the one about the mom who was filled with such maternal adrenaline after witnessing her kid get trapped under a car, that she was able to lift the car off her kid all on her own. Apparently, a mother’s love for her child is a powerful and scary thing – so best of luck to you if you happen to put their child in harm’s way…or worse.

During the mid and late-70s, there was sort of a boom when it came to psychotic-and-overprotetctive-moms in film. It started overseas with the Italian giallo film Deep Red (1975) (this is interesting because the giallo movement would be a direct influence on the American slasher craze, especially the early Friday the 13th films. Deep Red and Friday the 13th share another random bit of trivia: at the end of Friday, after Mrs. Voorhees gets a little taken off the top, we see her hands ball up into fists; these are actually special effects assistant Taso Stavrakis’s hands. Conversely, the closeup shots of the female killer’s hands in Deep Red, clad in black leather gloves, were performed by director Dario Argento.)

The killer mom trend continued with Carrie (1976), The Brood (1979), and Mother’s Day (1980).

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All of these films saw the mother either:

  • being driven to kill because someone had wronged their child
  • being driven to kill because their child had wronged them
  • birthing hideous, tumor-like growths that develop into little murderous albino kids (that’s The Brood)

Then in 1980, Friday the 13th was released – a little low-budget film that was intended to cash in on the success of the ultimate low-budget slasher, Halloween. For those of you visiting from another planet, the film is about a mother who avenges her child’s death by killing off the counselors at the camp he drowned many years before.

But as for a sequel? There weren’t plans. The film was meant as a stand-alone. Here’s what Friday writer Victor Miller had to say about the film:

“I took motherhood and turned it on its head and I think that was great fun. Mrs. Voorhees was the mother I’d always wanted—a mother who would have killed for her kids.” Miller was unhappy about the filmmakers’ decision to make Jason Voorhees the killer in the sequels. “Jason was dead from the very beginning. He was a victim, not a villain.”

In addition to Deep Red and Halloween, Friday the 13th ripped an idea from another infamous horror flick, Carrie. No, not the pig’s blood. I’m talking about the final dream sequence. In fact, the idea of Jason appearing at the end of the film was initially not used in the original script, and was actually suggested by makeup designer Tom Savini:

“The whole reason for the cliffhanger at the end was I had just seen Carrie, so I thought that we need a ‘chair jumper’ like that, and I said, ‘let’s bring in Jason.'”

The final scene from Carrie was actually inspired by the final scene in Deliverance, but alas that’s how the world of horror goes: reduce, reuse, recycle.

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 According to Victor Miller, Jason was only meant as a plot device and not intended to continue on his mother’s grisly work. But then sequelitis struck, and well, we all know how that goes.

The initial ideas for a sequel involved the Friday the 13th title being used for a series of films, released once a year, that would not have direct continuity with each other, but be a separate “scary movie” of their own right. If that sounds familiar to you horrorhounds, it’s because Halloween (the film Friday was originally trying to emulate) was toying with the same concept. This is what Tommy Lee Wallace, director of Halloween III, said about the Halloween sequel and future of the series:

“It is our intention to create an anthology out of the series, sort of along the lines of Night Gallery, or The Twilight Zone, only on a much larger scale.”

Friday producers insisted that the sequel have Jason Voorhees, even though his appearance in the original film was only meant to be a joke. And so, in 1981, Friday the 13th Part 2 was released. Halloween II was released just five months later.

Like the dead teens from the first film, the proposed sequel was already busy creating another heap of casualties: the entire team that had created the original. No one came back – not director Sean Cunningham, not writer Victor Miller, nor special effects maestro Tom Savini. Director Steve Miner came on board to take over, with Ron Kurz writing (Kurz had done uncredited writing on Friday the 13th.)

For Jason’s big screen debut, the production team decided to model his character after the killer from The Town That Dreaded Sundown by throwing a burlap sack over his head.

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This ‘baghead’ look actually became popularized back in 1957, in the first episode of Perry Mason, “The Case of the Restless Redhead”. Coincidentally, 1957 is the same year of young Jason Voorhee’s supposed drowning.

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Since the release of Friday the 13th Part 2, the look would become synonymous with scary villain and would pop up in horror films like The Strangers, Triangle, and even westerns like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

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The look was even the basis for the semi-parody mumblecore film, Baghead, starring indie darling Great Gerwig.

Friday the 13th Part 2 would ‘borrow’ from the giallo movement once again. Two of the more memorable scenes – one including a machete to the face, the other seeing two lovers speared simultaneously – were lifted directly from Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood.

This was the first and last time Jason Voorhees had any sort of motivation for his killings, and therefore the last time he’d be portrayed as an empathetic character. The series began tragically – a boy drowning, his mother avenging his death, and then that same boy later avenging her death. But as with most franchises (especially A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween), the future sequels lose sight of what the characters original motivations were. But when your villain is 8 or 10 sequels deep, you’re bound to muddy the waters a bit.

Join me for my next installment where I visit the next two Friday the 13th sequels, with “Hockey Masks, the 3D Boom, & Final Chapters”!

Great Horror Scores!

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Another day, another confusing article title. Hopefully no one misunderstood the heading to mean “my favorite pieces of horror swag that I have procured through various means”. No, friends, when I say score I’m talkin’ music, baby! Instrumentals and soundtracks.

Look: we all know John Carpenter and Goblin are the masters. They’re untouchable. Through the combination of their musical efforts, they’ve single-handedly (or ‘zit double-handedly?) changed the landscape of horror and exploitation scores: their long-lasting and far reaching influences can even be heard today in films like Drive, The Guest, and the Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross collaborations on The Social Network and Gone Girl. They’ve even influenced the new age of Bandcamp musicians such as Carpenter Brut and Umberto. In fact, I’d include The Social Network OST on this list if it were technically a horror movie because that score is so damn intense I find it almost nauseating (especially the opening track, good lord.)

The other two heavy hitters are, of course, Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho and John Williams’ Jaws. Both are perfect scores for perfect films — they’re spooky, eerie, tense, and unrelenting.

With that being said, here are a few of my personal favorites – ones that I think are actually really scary and that elevate the movies themselves from spooky to downright terrifying. Oh, and CLICK THE PIC to listen to a sample of the score!

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Who’d of thought a waltz could be scary? Somehow Elliot Goldenthal managed to pull it off: never has a 3/4 time signature stirred up such feelings of dread. Pet Sematary is a devastating movie about the loss of a child, not being able to cope, and the repercussions that go along with not being able to let go. So when interstitial pieces of a haunting and airy children’s choral fade in and remind you of the toddler’s death, you just wanna bury your head under a pillow. Combined with swelling strings and out-of-tune plinking piano, the score is all at once heart-wrenching and horrifying.

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The unsettling score from The Shining was made using a combination of four different composers. Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind composed the main score including the opening theme, which is freaky enough on its own. But when you toss in a few symphonic pieces by Béla Bartók and Krzysztof Penderecki, you no longer feel safe – it feels as though anything could happen. The Bartók pieces used in the film are lilting, wavering, string-driven pieces that often have a dream-like (or rather, nightmare-like) quality about them, bouncing between quiet thumping upright bass and huge, jarring strings that sound like a flurry of angered bees. In a way, they have almost a cartoonish feel to them, like they’re being conducted by Raymond Scott in Hell.

And the Penderecki pieces? Forget it. You will not hear more disturbing, bothersome pieces of music than those created by he. They’re chaotic, clanging, disjointed, screeching, claustrophobic, dizzying. You actually feel like you’re running from a madman when you’re listening to them. The influence of his unpredictable and unsettling style of music can be felt in many horror scores since – in fact, Harry Manfredini claims it was a Penderecki piece that inspired him to create the iconic “ki ki ki, ma ma ma” sound effect that has become synonymous with the Friday the 13th series. How about that?

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Children’s toys, African instruments, pitchforks dragged across tables – all were used to create the rattling and unpleasant score, which was ‘composed’ by director Tobe Hooper and Wayne Bell. Hooper states in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre documentary The Shocking Truth that he was essentially misusing the instruments – forcing them to create sounds they weren’t originally intended for, and boy, he gets some freaky sounds to come out of those instruments. And using a farm implement to create sounds for the farm-set movie? Pretty meta stuff.

Much like the fate that befalls the group of youths – wherein they find themselves isolated and stranded on unfamiliar territory – we as the listener are affected in a similar fashion, with the score creating other-worldly sounds we can’t possibly believe were made in any conventional way, leaving us confused, terrified, and alone.

And let us not forget that iconic screech from the opening of the film, aka “the camera sound effect” – possibly the most horrifying sound committed to celluloid. (It would later be used in the opening of Marilyn Manson’s cover of I Put a Spell on You.)

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Composer Howard Shore and director David Cronenberg have had a long working relationship, with Shore composing music for all but one of Cronenberg’s films. And while almost all of his collaborations with Cronenberg have produced big, bright symphonic strings with perfectly placed shrieks and stabs, the score for Videodrome is singular and unlike any of his other compositions: it’s understated, throbbing, buzzing and humming with glitchy computerized vocals and stifled screams. Shore has the ability to morph his sound, to mold it to the images we see onscreen – an ability to compliment the visuals – and nowhere is that more apparent than here. James Woods, star of Videodrome, described Shore as “the Bernard Herrmann of the synthesizer”- that should tell you all you need to know. It’s creepy as hell. Lastly, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t inspired by the burgeoning industrial music scene – and if it didn’t inspire future industrial bands, as well.

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Philip Glass is great at composing music that is at once both sad and unsettling. Working mostly with piano and organ, he has the incredible ability of creating feelings of unease and foreboding, usually layering the repetitious sounds until a wall of insanity has been erected. His work also utilizes fast-paced calliope sounds (and in the case of Candyman, music box twinkles and choral voices) set to a bobbing rhythm, making you feel as though you’re on a carnival ride that’s spinning out of control.

I think the general consensus for Glass’s work on Candyman is that it’s a goddamn masterpiece, and I’m in full agreeance. But Phil was a little sore over his participation in the movie: when asked to score the film, he was under the impression it was going to be more arthouse than the standard slice-and-dice slasher flick it actually turned out to be. He was so put off by the film upon its release that he witheld his consent for the release of the recordings until 2001. But he wasn’t so discouraged as to not score any other horror films: in 1999 he rescored the entire original 1931 Dracula to great effect.

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Last but not least, John Harrison’s entire Creepshow score! The music Harrison created for the film manages to be simultaneously scary and playful – much like the horror comics the movie was paying homage to. Harrison also created the music for George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead, and he knocked that score outta the park, too! With Creepshow, he mixes urgent piano, swelling and ominous synths, choir vocals, schoolyard taunts, hallucinatory voices, and other random bits like evil laughter and thunder to create the most wonderful mix-bag of a score. It fits the movie so well that you really need to listen to it sans visuals to appreciate all of the nuances it has to offer. Composers of indie horror flicks nowadays may try to recapture the magic that these types of scores created back in their heyday, but it’s a Herculean task that, in my opinion, has not been matched since. Musta been something in the water back then. Who knows.

Before I end my tempo tirade (my musical mania, my soundtrack shill, etc.), I wanted to include two minor bits of music from other flicks that I enjoyed. Specific songs versus whole scores. First up, this track from the 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes. Perhaps out of context it won’t do much for you, but I assure you it’s perfectly placed within the film. There’s a reason it sounds like an alarm: it signals the end of any normalcy for the characters in the film.

Quick side rant: The use of a pop song (or non-threatening tune) used to create unease in either a horror trailer or horror film. In Hills case, they used “California Dreamin’” by The Mamas & The Papas in the trailer, and Webb Pierce’s yodeling country ditty “More and More” in the film. I can’t say for certain that The Hills Have Eyes (2006) was the first horror film to use an anachronistic song to create an unsettling vibe, but I can’t think of any others off the top of my head prior to Hills that used this technique. But plenty of other horror films would use (see: abuse) this trope: The Strangers (Joanna Newsom), You’re Next (Dwight Twilley), Texas Chainsaw 3D (Mark Lanegan’s cover of the Nick Lowe tune), Insidious (Tiny Tim). Hills was even ripped off by its own sequel — Devendra Banhart’s “Insect Eyes” was used in the trailer. Alright, end rant.

The final tune I wanted to include was “Hurdy Gurdy Man” by Donovan, on the soundtrack from David Fincher’s Zodiac. Apropos that it’s the last song I included, as it’s the last song in the film. As the film comes to a close, leaving more questions than answers, and those tremolo-laden vocals fade in…you’re assured a serious case of the goosebumps, trust me.

Well, that’s all my ramblin’ for now. Hopefully this article introduced you to some killer stuff you hadn’t heard before, or inspired you to do further research on the artists and composers I talked about!

The Case of the Confusing Mask

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Any horror fan worth their salt will recognize the perplexing American poster/box cover art from the 1985 bomb Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning:

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What makes this such a head-scratcher — and should be obvious from the above image — is that the mask used on the cover is not the mask Jason wears in the film, or any Friday the 13th film. This has always stuck with me but I never cared to do much digging. Until now.

So where to start? Cracking the code required a perfectly worded Google search. Here’s how I started my exploration:

“Friday the 13th V mask”. “Friday the 13th V mask box cover”. “Friday the 13th V alternate mask”. “Friday the 13th V plastic mask”. “What’s up with Jason’s mask on the cover of the Friday the 13th V box?” No luck.

Checked Ebay. Checked the official Friday the 13th franchise site. Nothing, nada. What I did find was everyone was confused about why this mask graced the cover of Friday the 13th part V and confounded as to where it came from.

Googling “plastic hockey mask” brought me to an actual hockey equipment site where I discovered a few interesting things. First, the mask used in ‘Garden Tool Massacre’ from The Blob (1988). Turns out it’s a junior-sized goalie mask and also incredibly inexpensive:

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Also found the mask from Alone in the Dark. This same mask can be found in other movies like Waxwork II: Lost in Time and Halloween H2O, and was the same mask used by the wrestler Lord Humongous (not to be confused with Lord Humungus, the Mad Max character – more on that in a sec):

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tumblr_inline_njq4ydeGAr1qg31yktumblr_inline_njq4ygupIO1qg31ykBut back to the mask I was on the hunt for.

In 1981, one year after Friday the 13th was released, the sequel to Mad Max — Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior — was released. The film introduced us to a memorable post-apocalyptic villain, Lord Humungus. While not the first time a hockey masked maniac would appear on film (I believe that honor goes to Act of Vengeance; see my other article), as far as I know, this is the first time that this specific cheapo Jason knock-off mask makes an appearance in film history. Remember: Friday the 13th not only didn’t feature Jason Voorhees as the killer, it didn’t feature the famous hockey mask until its second sequel.

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The character of Lord Humungus (with a little altered spelling) would directly inspire the wrestler “Lord Humongous” (see B&W pic above). Speaking of wrestling: despite Lord Humongous using a different mask than Lord Humungus, the cheapo knock-off mask in question would be used by another wrestler. In 1983, the Friday the 13th-inspired Canadian wrestler “Jason the Terrible” (seen with a young Owen Hart) used the mask as part of his ensemble. Note the hole placement: same mask.

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Two years later, in 1985, the mask graces the cover of the poster/box for Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning and causes a lot of  horror fans to say, “Huh?”

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In 1987, the mask makes another appearance on film, this time in Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol. They painted it red for some reason, despite being a total homage to Jason Voorhees (the character of Tackleberry is seen chainsawing his way out of a body bag while wearing the mask.)

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In 1989, Christmas Vacation was released, and in a classic scene involving bickering neighbors we see the cheapo hockey mask being used (alongside a chainsaw) once again to recall the Jason Voorhees imagery:

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1991: the video game Pit-Fighter is released. It was one of the first to use live-action footage to animate the game, something that would reach the heigh of its popularity with Mortal Kombat. But what does this have to do with the mask? The game makes a direct reference to Lord Humungus. While the mask design is too pixelated to know for sure (it was the 90’s, give it a break), the character design is clearly modeled after the Mad Max baddie – so we’ll count it.

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In 1993, PCU came out. In the final scene of the film, the lead character “Droz” (played by Jeremy Piven) slaps on a hockey mask. And as far as I know, this is one of – if not the – last time this specific cheapo hockey mask makes an appearance on film.

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So that brings us up to speed. My search for this elusive mask continued. Searching “plastic hockey mask” brought up a result I almost overlooked. Mixed in with all the pictures of hockey masks was a singular airsoft paintball mask -that’s right paintball – not hockey. When compared to the aforementioned mask style, it’s a pretty damn close match:

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The eye holes are a bit bigger and the airholes may not be completely punched out, but note the ridges that cross the mask as well as the hole placement. Spot on!

Even dragging pics of the mask into Google image search doesn’t bring up any revealing results. The last and closest thing I could find to the actual mask was on a film memorabilia site. It was listed among other horror stuff, all from the same user but none of it seemed to be for sale.

tumblr_inline_njq53mMUwT1qg31ykI left the website link on the pic so you can search his stuff if you’re interested. I wanna point out that this was listed as an actual prop from the movie, and also labeled “vintage”, but I question the veracity of both those claims.

And that’s where my search dead ends, folks. I have followed every trail until it went ice cold. I Googled every possible combination of words, hoping to nail the magic amalgamation that would unlock the mysterious mask door and finally set me free. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. And so, for now, the answer remains hidden, the riddle unsolved. But the search continues…

UPDATE: After posting this article on Twitter, it was pointed out to me that the mask in question is vintage Cooper goalie mask. And sure enough, it is:

tumblr_inline_njq544dJDz1qg31ykGod bless the internet. Now if only I could get the 16 hours I spent writing this article back. You win again, Jason!

13 Times Pop Culture Referenced Jason Voorhees

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Something that excited me growing up a movie-obsessed kid was seeing film characters and pop culture things referenced in scenarios they weren’t intended for. I can’t explain it, but the discovery of parody and satire had a sublime effect on my developing brain – it showed me that everything kind of exists in the same universe and that anything is possible really. Whether it was Wayne Campbell asking someone at a stoplight if they had any Grey Poupon or Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator popping up in a Tiny Toon Adventures episode, it didn’t matter – it all somehow made sense in this wide, wonderful, referential world of pop culture. And if you understood what they were referencing, it was like you spoke a secret language. To a little kid, learning all this was super thrilling. But what was really exciting and special to me was whenever horror was referenced. As a neo-gorehound, and the only youngster in the tri-state area allowed to watch horror movies whenever he wanted, I felt like catching these little nods was even rarer and more arcane (and therefore more special) than your typical pop reference. And it was always strange yet exciting to me that these bloody, violent, horrific movies were popping up in things intended for younger audiences, like cartoons. Who can forget Leatherface in Daffy Duck’s Quackbusters?

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Last week, I saw Nick Meece post a picture on his Tumblr with the caption “That time Leatherface and Jason appeared on Married… with Children.” And sure enough, there they were being parodied in all their bloody glory. And seeing it reminded me of something else — last month saw the debut of a new McDonald’s commercial that included an animated Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees putting their differences aside, all in the name of fast food. It got my brain churning and grinding, and all these memories of Jason and his infamous hockey mask being used outside of the Friday the 13th series came flooding back into my head. So in honor of this, the most memorable of all horror holidays – second only to Halloween – I thought I’d revisit 13 times (clever, I know) that I remember pop culture using Jason’s image to evoke pangs of nostalgia (at least for us diehard types.) Presented in no particular order!

tumblr_inline_njq2shKVZU1qg31ykI’m gonna kick the list off with my favorite Jason inclusion, which may be the most obscure. In 1988, Triaminic (the company that makes cold medicine for kids) released a video cassette called Kid Safe: The Video. The point of the video was to teach kids about what to do and what not to do if they’re ever left home alone. Stuff like don’t drink your parents booze, don’t stick metal items in a toaster, and only call 911 in an emergency. Second City alum Andrea Martin plays the little girl who’s left home alone, and she breaks every rule only to eventually learn her lesson. By the end however, there is one lesson she does abide by: not to answer the door for strangers. As the video wraps up we hear a knock on her door, which she proudly ignores. As she walks away smiling, the camera pans outside – and who do we see knocking at her door? Jason Voorhees! He’s also joined by a martian, a werewolf, a mummy, and a witch. Jason even shrugs and says, “Ah, well…” I had this video as a kid and watched it religiously. I loved it. It also has cameos by Meshach Taylor and Joe Flaherty as his ‘Count Floyd’ character. But what I didn’t realize until recently is that the video was written, produced, and directed by Stuart Gordon! How cool is that? Unfortunately, I no longer have this video in my possession, but thankfully someone just recently uploaded the full thing to Youtube. I highly suggest checking it out if you haven’t seen it!

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The Arsenio Hall Show. I’ve seen this image brought up many times, so I know it’s alive and well in the hip collective consciousness. But as the child of parents who actually watched Arsenio every night (woof, woof, woof, woof!), I remember this happening in real-time. And I was still young enough to be thinking, “Hey, that’s reallyJason Voorhees on this TV show. The same Jason I’ve seen in all those movies!” Re-watching the clip, hearing how excited the audience is (literally screaming), my appreciation for the early days of burgeoning pop TV soars. I don’t mean to get sentimental, but it was a time before TV was as dumb and jaded as it is now. Having a completely silent guest on a talk show? Just having Arsenio do the talking the whole time? There’s no way they could or would do that now. Nevermind the fact that Arsenio is ‘interviewing’ a fictitious movie character known for slaughtering teenagers instead of an attractive new star promoting their latest film. That was a rare occurrence, one that thankfully lives on through the internet. Major props to Arsenio for pulling that idea off.

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The Simpsons are no stranger to using Jason Voorhees on their show. Over their 550+ episodes, Jason has shown up 5 times (tied with Freddy Krueger, as seen above.)

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But besides using the actual Jason Voorhees character several times, the first time they referenced the character was in Season 5, in an episode where Bart is being hunted by Sideshow Bob a la Cape Fear. Homer is seen, hockey mask on his face and chainsaw in hand, screaming the memorable line: ”BART-DO-YOU-WANNA-SEE-MY-NEW-CHAINSAW-AND-HOCKEY-MASK?!” What makes this so noteworthy is the fact that it is one of the numerous times pop culture makes reference to Jason by pairing a hockey mask with a chainsaw – despite that fact that (as of this writing) Jason Voorhees has never used a chainsaw. I’m not sure if this is a way for companies to get the idea of Jason across while not violating any image copyrights, or if it’s sort of a horror portmanteau used to evoke images of other horror icons, such as Leatherface. Whatever the reason is, there are a lot more hockey mask/chainsaw combos that are included on this list.

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This is not an old memory from my childhood. This is a pretty recent and wonderful use of Jason. It’s for the pop punk song “I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore” by The Menzingers, and I love it. The song is totally catchy and the video – which sees Jason trying to overcome his homicidal tendencies so he can meet a girl – is a blast! It fits the lyrical content perfectly, and it’s just a really funny, really well done video overall. It was directed by Whitey McConnaughy (no relation to Matthew, that I’m aware of) who directs music videos and commercials, and was part of the Jackass camera crew at one time. And see what I said about the chainsaw connection? Just another example.
There was another very similarly plotted music video released after this one by another pop punk band called Common Shiner. I much prefer The Menzingers song and video, but it’s available on Youtube, so check it out if you’re curious.

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Dude. Listen. MTV used to be so. fucking. good. So incredibly fun, and smart, and cutting edge, and creative. I haven’t watched MTV in near a decade, so I can’t speak for what it’s like now. All I know is, I stopped watching because it stopped being all those things I just said it was. I’m sure I sound like some grumpy old man, pining for the days of yore. But MTV was perfect. If it were the 90′s and I was trapped on a desert island that had cable and only had three channels to pick from, MTV would be #1. No doubt.

Included in its awesome 90s line-up, MTV had two awards shows each year – one for music and one for movies. They ran much looser than actual award shows. I’m not even sure if they still do them, but back in the day they were incredibly enjoyable. The first year they aired The MTV Movie Awards, they awarded the “Lifetime Achievement Award” to Jason Voorhees. Before they brought him onstage, they showed a montage of all his kills on a big screen set to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”. The audience went apeshit, and I was grinning so hard that my cheeks hurt. After Jason comes up to receive his award, however, it’s revealed that it is actually Jon Lovitz under the mask. God I miss the 90s.

tumblr_inline_njq2x9FPK31qg31ykSeeing Jason Goes to Hell in the theater was like my generation’s Kennedy assassination. The event was a thing of such magnitude, such a long-lasting, enduring memory, that the senseless murder of our 35th president is all I can compare it to. Sure, Jason is onscreen for like 10 minutes the whole movie. And yeah, it was lame that he doesn’t actually kill that many people. And sure, it was incredibly dumb (not to mention borderline insulting) that, in the end, Jason turns out to be inhabited by serpent demons (?) and is ‘finally killed’ by a mystical dagger. All that shit blows. But when Freddy Krueger’s glove popped out of the ground at the end of the movie – the Freddy Krueger of A Nightmare on Elm Street fame – and dragged Jason’s hockey mask down to hell, you could hear an explosion in the theater from everyone’s collective minds being fucking blown. Sure, nowadays if something liked that happened, no one would even blink twice. They’d be hopping on their keyboards to shit all over the idea. But in 1993, it was pure whatthefuckery. Freddy had supposedly been killed in 1991′s Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. And now here he was, popping up in the supposedly last Friday the 13th movie? To say there was a buzz among the horror community would be an understatement. For years after that, people were wondering what was going to come of it. I remember talking to the dudes who ran my local video store some six years later, exchanging theories and rumors. We all heard different things. Little did we know it would still be four more years before the world would get the mediocre if nonsensical Freddy vs. Jason. Like I said, everything in the world of pop culture exists within the same universe. And seeing that glove grab that mask in ’93, that was a beautiful thing. I’ll always have that.

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Before Rotten Tomatoes, before IMDB, before message boards and forums, before the internet was even a twinkle in Al Gore’s eye, renting horror videos was a crapshoot. The odds of you picking out some low-budget stinker versus some underground classic was about the same as if you just closed your eyes and chose at random. You maybe read reviews in the paper, in magazines. Mostly it was word of mouth. But the greatest factor – albeit it a sneaky tactic – in determining if you rented a fright flick was the box art. Now, I could go on and on about that, but that’s a different article for another day. The point is, as a kid who was obsessed with the Holy Trinity – Halloween,A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th – I would’ve bought/rented/watched anything involving those creeps, any chance I could get. So when I saw the box cover for Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers one day while perusing the horror section, you can understand why I immediately rented it and ran home to watch it:

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Freddy AND Jason? AND a chainsaw, so that Leatherface guy is probably in it, too? This was easily going to be the greatest movie ever made. Or not. Maybe a close second. Needless to say, it doesn’t star those dudes. Although two campers in the movie do dress up like Freddy and Jason to scare the much more terrifying Angela Baker. To be fair, I owe my interest in the Sleepaway Camp series to this box cover – it led to me seeking out the original soon after – so in a way, I guess it did its job.

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Like Mant! in Matinee, Mosquito in Popcorn, Groundhog Day in The Monster Squad, or Stab in Scream, the 1988 remake of The Blob had its own ‘film within a film’: Garden Tool Massacre. It’s a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek ode to the slasher craze that was on its way out the door when this film was released. Y’know, your basic slice and dice. Even though not much of GTM is shown, it’s a tiny but enjoyable detail – one that was appreciated by this little psychopath-in-the-making when he first saw it. Notice again we see the pairing of the hockey mask and chainsaw. And there’s still more of that to come. And check out that weird hockey mask! What a beaut.

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I don’t remember when this DirecTV ad came out – I think about a decade ago. I’m fairly certain it was the first time Jason and Freddy were used in a commercial to sell something (besides Freddy promoting his own product – a hotline number – way back in 1988). And it’s cool, even if it is shilling cable TV. I recall being amped when I first saw it, the giddiness of my inner six year old being woken up, like it was the first time I’d seen Jason on TV. Of course, that was just the beginning. Since then, Jason Voorhees has been used in several commercials – here and abroad – to promote everything from the fast food I mentioned earlier to electronics no one needs or wants. Jason loves Radio Shack and their 3D printers. (I wonder if that was an incredibly clever nod to Friday the 13th III, or just a lucky accident? I’m gonna go with the latter.)

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I’m not an Eminem fan, but I dug when he started rocking the Jason look. The marriage of horror movies and rap goes back to Will Smith and The Fat Boys each releasing their own respective singles that gave a nod to Freddy Krueger (the latter song, “Are You Ready For Freddy” can be found on the Nightmare on Elm Street 4 soundtrack.) But the inclusion of horror movie imagery seems to be a more recent development. Even Marshall Mathers thinks Jason uses a chainsaw:

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In 1989, Jason got his own Friday the 13th video games on NES, but the gameplay was confusing and repetitive, and Mr. Voorhees himself was suspiciously clad in a blue mask and purple jumpsuit. But hey, it was 1989. Even worse, however, was the Friday the 13th computer game that preceded it in 1985. But hey, it was 1985. The strange thing is that in between then – in 1988 – the game Splatterhouse was released, and it was not only easier and more enjoyable to play, but it featured a Jason Voorhees mock-up that was more accurate than the other games based on the actual character. With each sequel of the game, the design changed to make the character look less and less like Jason. But it didn’t end there. While I’m not incredibly familiar with Splatterhouse, I was familiar with the 1993 NES gem Zombies Ate My Neighbors, which I rented more than a few times from Carnival Video (it had direct competition across town – Circus Video. But Carnival Video had the upperhand – they had an old-timey popcorn cart and a quarter operated game where you could win plastic eggs filled with prizes.) Zombies Ate My Neighbors featured a character with – you guessed it – a hockey mask and chainsaw. I loved that game. Look at how cool one of the two leads is: skull shirt and 3D glasses!

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Now, the Hockey mask/chainsaw thing is in tons of games. House of the Dead, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, was even referenced in Virtual Boy Wario Land.

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(And even though it’s not the Hockey mask/chainsaw combo, I still needed to include Kid Chameleon because of how badass the cover art is.)

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Every cartoon ever. As I mentioned in the intro (which seems like ages ago at this point), cartoons loved to inject imagery of the Jason archetype. I’ve included just a small sample below, but the idea of a “hockey-masked, chainsaw-wielding maniac” has been used in many, many animated shows. My first memory of this popping up was around the same time I saw Daffy Duck’s Quackbusters (see: intro), in the animated special Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation. While on a roadtrip to a theme park, the toons pick up a hitchhiker who turns out to be an escaped convict. At some point, the hitcher slaps on a hockey mask and busts out the Black & Decker. The caricature also popped up in the animated Bugs Bunny short Box-Office Bunny:

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and most recently was paid homage to in ParaNorman:

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“Bend over and I’ll show you.” There was nothing more exciting to me than watching this movie with my family around the holidays, and them saying “Hey Joe, look! Jason!”, knowing full well about my love of horror movies (though I’m sure it was more likely that they actually called him “Freddy”, an endearing and stupid but common parent mistake.)

The final entry on this list – Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation – is special for a few reasons. First: chainsaw/mask combo. Second, the type of hockey mask they used. This mask is so recognized and used so often, yet it’s so hard to track down a version of it anywhere online. In fact, it caused some obsessive searching and a little bit of madness on my end. It’s such a unique mask and worth so much exploration that I’ve dedicated an entirely NEW article to it, which you can read HERE.

Before I wrap this up, I think it’s interesting to point out that the really crazy part about Jason Voorhees’ recognizable and enduring image is that he wasn’t even the first horror villain to use a hockey mask. He was the third.

In 1974, the exploitation flick Act of Vengeance aka Rape Squad was released. In it, the antagonist wears a hockey mask. At one point, the police bring in a line-up of guys for the victims to look at. And they’re all wearing hockey mask. Tell me if any of these villainous people look familiar:

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A movie with five Jasons. Pretty trippy. The next movie with a hockey-masked villain was Alone in the Dark. Look at this guy:

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Alone in the Dark was filmed before Friday the 13th 3 (the debut of Jason’s mask) but F13p.3 just happened to beat Alone in the Dark to the theater by a couple months.

And well, the rest – as they say – is ha-ha-ha-ch-ch-ch-istory.