This year, the Friday the 13th franchise turns 35 years old. It started with a single, simple slasher that nobody ever thought would turn into the hit that it was. And yet here we are. Friday the 13th established a brand and at the same time created what we consider the modern slasher movie. It has launched a merchandising empire with apparel, lunch boxes, books, comics, toys and collectables and so much more. Whatever you can think of, there’s probably been a Friday the 13th version of it. For some reason, Jason seems to have slightly more staying power than other contemporaries of his era. He has more movies, and he’s even done better at the box office—for the most part—than franchises like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Why is it that we still look at Jason as an icon after thirty-five years? What’s the key to the longevity of this character who’s face we barely ever see, who’s voice we never hear, and who does not do very nice things by and large? The appeal of Jason is primal, it’s cathartic, just to see this absurd and outlandish carnage over the course of twelve movies. But what is it about Jason and his franchise that make him stand out from the crowd? Read on for six things we love about the big oaf.
Jason’s mask is iconic. In some ways, it’s especially iconic considering how long it took to get it. We don’t see the hockey mask until a little over halfway through the third film. But now, especially with how diverse and different each sequel can be, the mask represents a nice constant throughout the series. It’s the one thing that always stays basically the same.The overall appearance.
Let’s think about superhero movies for a minute. In the Iron Man movies, he gets a new armor every single time. Captain America always gets a new suit. Jason is not so different. His look is constantly evolving from movie to movie. This is of course due to various effects artists coming in and working on their own unique designs for the character. I like that the look is never totally constant, that everyone has their favorite Jason design, whether it’s the rotted appearance in The New Blood or the bag-headed Jason in Friday the 13th Part 2.
Jason’s more versatile with his kills than any other slasher. He really loves to switch it up and even though he always goes back to the machete, he doesn’t like to be tied down to a single weapon for too long. This makes for entertaining viewing. He’s killed people with everything from corkscrews to weed trimmers to cryogenic freezing chambers and he’s still continuously inventive with each new outing.
It’s a formula, but it works. Part of what makes the Friday the 13th franchise so rewatchable is that you always know what to expect from it. While we hardcore fans may notice some of the actual filmmaking and surprisingly strong characters in these movies, you still know what you’re going to get. You can sort of turn your brain off and just watch for the carnage.
And at the same time, with its base formula intact, the Friday the 13th series has gone to more unexpected places than any other slasher franchise. This is what some fans hate most about it, but to me, this is part of what makes it so watchable. As a kid I just wanted to see Jason at the camp doing his thing and so I hated entries like A New Beginning, Jason Goes to Hell and even the first two, due to the lack of Jason as I knew him. Now, I rank all of those among my favorites because they add a change of pace, especially when marathoning the whole series.
I think the ultimate appeal of Jason is that he’s a campfire story. He’s an old local legend brought to life and you can never really know everything about him. That leads fans to come up with their own theories—some insane and some that really work—as to how Jason came back from the dead, why he never dies, when he really died to begin with, etc. It’s all guess work, because you never really know. There were rumors that the next movie was going to explain all of that but I think that would ultimately be a very big mistake. The mystique is part of the magic.