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?
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!
I’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!
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
Seeing 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.)
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:
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!
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.
(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.)
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:
and most recently was paid homage to in ParaNorman:
“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:
A movie with five Jasons. Pretty trippy. The next movie with a hockey-masked villain was Alone in the Dark. Look at this guy:
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.